About two years after the dramatic sign of the Savior’s birth, the Gadianton robbers began to swell in numbers once again. Many of the Nephites joined their ranks, which was disappointing but not surprising, since the Nephites had previously built up and supported this corrosive organization (Helaman 6:37-38). But the Lamanites, too, who had previously made every effort to eliminate it, were now losing many of the younger generation:
And there was also a cause of much sorrow among the Lamanites; for behold, they had many children who did grow up and began to wax strong in years, that they became for themselves, and were led away by some who were Zoramites, by their lyings and their flattering words, to join those Gadianton robbers.3 Nephi 1:29
I’ve been thinking today about Mormon’s description of these young Lamanites: “They became for themselves.” He seems to be offering an explanation for their irrational decision to abandon their families and join an organization dedicated to disrupting their society.
“They became for themselves”—so they were previously for something else. Perhaps they were previously more attuned to the needs of others or contributing to causes which transcended their own needs and desires. But over time, they began to forget the needs of others and focus more and more on their own needs. When that happened, their perspective contracted, they became susceptible to the deception of flattery, and their judgment was clouded.
Elder Neal A. Maxwell explained how selfishness narrows our perspective:
In spite of its outward, worldly swagger, such indulgent individualism is actually provincial, like goldfish in a bowl congratulating themselves on their self-sufficiency, never mind the food pellets or changes of water“‘Repent of [Our] Selfishness’ (D&C 56:8),” General Conference, April 1999
Elder Maxwell provided the following suggestions to avoid selfishness:
- Before making a decision, ask yourself, “Whose needs am I really trying to meet?”
- During crucial conversations, count to 10 before saying something that might not be constructive.
- Let your ideas have a life of their own instead of “oversponsoring” them.
Today, I will remember Mormon’s warning about these young Lamanites and will avoid “becoming for [myself].” I will let my priorities be guided by the needs of my family, my team at work, my church congregation, and my community, not by my own ego. I will remember that a broader perspective and wiser decisions come from contributing to a cause larger than my own self-interest.