By ERIN MARTIN
Selfish behavior affects individuals as well as society, said Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles during the Saturday afternoon session of General Conference.
“Cultural decline is accelerated when single interest segments of society become indifferent to general values once widely shared,” Elder Maxwell said.
People have an obligation to notice genuine, telltale, societal signs because both leaders and followers are accountable for what happens when cultures decline and morals disintegrate, he said.
“Much more is required of followers in a democratic society wherein individual character matters so much in both leaders and followers,” Elder Maxwell said.
A society in which people are busy looking out for “number one” can build neither brotherhood nor community, he said.
Elder Maxwell Sat. p.m.
“Each spasm of selfishness narrows one’s universe that much more by reducing his awareness of, or concern with, others,” he said.
Some of the early signs of selfishness are building up self at the expense of others, claiming credit, being glad when others go wrong, resenting the genuine successes of others and taking advantage of one because of his words, he said.
Elder Maxwell said indulgent individualism is like goldfish in a bowl congratulating themselves on their self-sufficiency, never minding the food pellets or changes of water they’re given.
“By focusing on himself, a selfish person finds it easier to bear false witness, to steal, and covet, since nothing should be denied him,” he said.
Selfishness causes people to be discourteous, disdainful and self-centered, and worse, while withholding from others needed goods, praise, and recognition, Elder Maxwell said.
Consequences of selfishness are not only temporal but also ultimate, impacting people individual salvation, he said.
“Selfishness is the detonator of all the cardinal sins,” he said.
Some of the selfish wrongly believe there is no divine law, creating their own situational ethics. This leads to terrible perceptual and behavioral blunders, Elder Maxwell said.
“One of the worst consequences of severe selfishness … is this profound loss of proportionality, like straining at gnats while swallowing camels,” he said.
Elder Maxwell said the severely selfish use others but do not love them. When severely selfish people are no longer little in their own sight, everybody else shrinks, he said.
“In daily discipleship, the many ways to express selfishness are matched by many ways to avoid it,” he said.
Elder Maxwell said unselfishness is best cultivated in the family and performing church duties.
“There will be no spouse or child abuse when there is unselfish `love at home,'” he said.
To avoid selfishness, Elder Maxwell said to seek meekness, to filter thoughtfully or to ask inwardly whose needs one is really trying to meet, and to let the Spirit impel worthy ideas.
“The unselfish are also more free,” he said.