The central metamessage in all Church curricula may be that the answers to life’s challenges are found in the scriptures and the counsel of modern prophets. All of our lessons are strongest when they are organized around key scriptural stories or teachings—especially the doctrinal speeches in the Book of Mormon. Yet some of our faulty cultural assumptions sneak into our classes and curricula.
While preparing a lesson from an older manual, I ran into a suggestion for cultivating charity. According to the lesson, we must “learn to love ourselves.” The suggestion seems entirely sensible in a culture that celebrates self-esteem. The American dogma is that we must love ourselves before we can love anyone else. Unfortunately the self-esteem movement is now in bad standing in the psychological community and the once-sensible suggestion is badly dated. More timeless suggestions might be taken from the scriptures.
The great Book of Mormon chapter on charity suggests that the preconditions for charity are meekness and lowliness of heart (Moroni 7:44). Further the Lord suggested that we must lose ourselves in order to find ourselves (Matthew 10:39; 16:25). This losing of ourselves is quite different from loving ourselves.
King Benjamin, Moses, and Ammon are united in testifying that we must believe in Christ rather than ourselves. We are nothing without the divine influence.
Charity is a focus on loving and blessing others; self-esteem is a focus on loving and blessing ourselves. The scriptures recommend the former and condemn the latter.
Some gospel scholars might argue that the ancient command to “love thy neighbors as thyself” justifies love of self. James Faulconer shows that the idea is at odds with the rest of scripture
( http://jamesfaulconer.byu.edu/selfimag.htm ) and is not defensible.
It is always wiser to trust the word of God than passing cultural fads.