4 Nephi (b) – Pride’s downward spiral

After two hundred years of happiness and prosperity, the people of Lehi begin their downward spiral. It begins with pride, which is a subtle evil that can creep into our lives so easily. It is dangerous and destructive, as the Book of Mormon history shows repeatedly. We must beware (be aware) so that it does not creep into our lives and do the same to us.

In 201 AD, “there began to be among them those who were lifted up in pride, such as the wearing of costly apparel, and all manner of fine pearls, and of the fine things of the world.” (24)

And from that time forth they did have their goods and their substance no more common among them.

4 Nephi 1:25

This marks the beginning of the end. Fine worldly things became more important than people. Those material possessions separated them and lifted up many to think they were better than others.

And they began to be divided into classes; and they began to build up churches unto themselves to get gain, and began to deny the true church of Christ.”

4 Nephi 1:26

This should concern us in our day, because if you look around (and look inward) it’s easy to see pride everywhere—in our government leaders, in our pop culture celebrities, in ourselves. When we divide ourselves from others (classes, tribes, political parties) and think we are better than the other group, we stand on dangerous ground. This kind of behavior and attitudes put the Nephite nation on a slop to destruction.

Can we not learn from them and stop this downward spiral?

Pride began their downfall, and if we do not root it out of ourselves first, we cannot help unite our families, communities, or nations together in a constructive way. Pride destroys. It never leads to good outcomes.

Pride does not look up to God and care about what is right. It looks sideways to man and argues who is right….

Pride is characterized by ‘What do I want out of life?’ rather than by ‘What would God have me do with my life?’ It is self-will as opposed to God’s will. It is the fear of man over the fear of God.

Chapter 18, Beware of Pride, Teaching of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson (2104), 229-40

This article had further insights into pride. If we study these, and pray for the Spirit to humble us, we can see more clearly where pride hides in our own hearts, and then use the Atonement of Jesus Christ to root it out.

Pride is a sin that can readily be seen in others but is rarely admitted in ourselves. Most of us consider pride to be a sin of those on the top, such as the rich and the learned, looking down at the rest of us. There is, however, a far more common ailment among us—and that is pride from the bottom looking up. It is manifest in so many ways, such as faultfinding, gossiping, backbiting, murmuring, living beyond our means, envying, coveting, withholding gratitude and praise that might lift another, and being unforgiving and jealous….

Selfishness if one of the more common faces of pride. “How everything affects me” is the center of all that matters—self-conceit, self-pity, worldly self-fulfillment, self-gratification, and self-seeking….

The proud do not receive counsel or correction easily. Defensiveness is used by them to justify and rationalize their frailties and failures.

The proud depend upon the world to tell them whether they have value or not. Their self-esteem is determined by where they are judged to be on the ladders of worldly success. They feel worthwhile as individuals if the numbers beneath them in achievement, talent, beauty, or intellect are large enough. Pride is ugly. It says, “If you succeed, I am a failure.”

Chapter 18, Beware of Pride, Teaching of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson (2104), 229-40

One way I have seen pride seducing myself and others in subtle, almost invisible ways, is on social media. When I’ve posted anything and a certain post gets a lot of likes or shares, that validation can be heady…and toxic.

An author friend of mine once said that she did not like to read any reviews after the first month she released a book. She moved on to write her next book and gave no more heed to either the negative reviews or the glowing reviews. Both were toxic, in her opinion. I wondered how glowing reviews could be toxic, but as I’ve observed ranting political posts on Facebook (for example) get hundreds of shares and tons of like-minded commenters validating that person’s post and opinions (often phrased in mean-spirited, divisive personal attacks on the other side), I have come to see the danger that positive validation gives people. I have been seduced by it. You write something that others praise you for and share and you naturally feel that you are wise or smart or even better than others. When it has happened to me, I haven’t been aware of it at first. It’s only as I look back and search inwardly that I realize how subtly pride creeps into our hearts.

Beware…or better put, be aware of pride’s subtle, toxic poisoning affect. It works gradually and naturally, so if you’re not paying attention, you won’t even notice how it’s infecting you. But it infects all of us, in different ways.   

Pride is a damning sin in the true sense of the word. It limits or stops progression. The proud are not easily taught. They won’t change their minds to accept truths, because to do so implies they have been wrong. …

Pride fades our feelings of sonship to God and brotherhood to man. It separates and divides us by “ranks,” according to our “riches” and our “chances for learning.” (3 Nephi 6:12) Unity is impossible for a proud people, and unless we are one we are not the Lord’s.

Chapter 18, Beware of Pride, Teaching of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson (2104), 229-40

God wants a humble people. Either we can choose to be humble ourselves, or we can be compelled to be humble. Let us choose to be humble.

We can choose to humble ourselves by conquering enmity toward our brothers and sisters, esteeming them as ourselves, and lifting them as high or higher than we are….

We can choose to be humble ourselves by receiving counsel and chastisement.

We can choose to humble ourselves by forgiving those who have offended us.

We can choose to humble ourselves by rendering selfless service.

We can choose to humble ourselves by going on missions and preaching the word that can humble others.

We can choose to humble ourselves by getting to the temple more frequently.

We can choose to humble ourselves by confessing and forsaking our sins and being born of God.

We can choose to humble ourselves by loving God, submitting our will to His, and putting Him first in our lives.

Chapter 18, Beware of Pride, Teaching of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson (2104), 229-40

Now, back to the Nephites. After 200 years of peace, Satan infects the people and gets control of their hearts. There “were many churches which professed to know the Christ, and yet they did deny the more parts of his gospel, insomuch that they did receive all manner of wickedness, and did administer that which was sacred unto him to whom it had been forbidden because of unworthiness.” (27)

Basically, anything goes. Come as you are (we believe that), but then they took it too far and said, stay as you are. Don’t change. It doesn’t matter what you do. These types of churches with their false philosophies “did multiply exceedingly because of iniquity.” (28) The hard-hearted try to lock up the disciples of Christ (the three apostles that were transfigured), “but by the power of the word of God, which was in them, the prisons were rent in twain, and they went forth doing mighty miracles among them.” (30)

Miracles don’t sway hard hearts though.

Miracles only ticks off the wicked more. They actually seek to kill them, just like the Jews sought to kill Jesus in Jerusalem. They cast the disciples “into furnaces of fire, and they came forth receiving no harm.” (32)

This people, who had actually seen the Christ, listened to Him, prayed with Him, are now spiraling into sin. Only three generations since Christ came, and their society is falling apart. Everything good is being destroyed. It makes me want to cry, because I know what is going to happen to them—and I want them to stop and repent—turn away from the utter destruction they are heading toward. These last few books of the Book of Mormon break my heart every time. These were real people. Christ loved them. Even though I don’t know them, I love them and ache for their end.

When the bad people cannot harm the three apostles, they turn their anger on the other followers of Christ and “did smite upon the people of Jesus; but the people of Jesus did not smite again.” (34)

Two hundred and thirty years have passed. The wicked have multiplied and there is a great division among the people. The Nephites—which are made up of many divisions among them—Jacobites, Josephites, etc—are those who mostly believe in Christ and His teachings. The Lamanites are everyone else, “and they did not dwindle in unbelief, but they did willfully rebel against the gospel of Christ; and they did teach their children that they should not believe, even as their fathers, from the beginning, did dwindle.” (38) 

Another fourteen years pass away, “And the more wicked part of the people did wax strong, and became exceedingly more numerous than were the people of God.” (40)

Two hundred and sixty years pass away, “and it came to pass that the wicked part of the people began again to build up the secret oaths and combinations of Gadianton.” (42) Even among the righteous, they begin to dwindle because of pride in their riches, “and [they] become vain like unto their brethren, the Lamanites.” (43) And from this time the disciples began to sorrow for the sins of the world.” (44)

There are not many righteous, humble followers of Christ left. That’s why this book breaks my heart, and continues to do so to the bitter end.

Three hundred years pass away—266 since Christ visited—and “both the people of Nephi and the Lamanites had become exceedingly wicked one like unto another.” (45)

What caused the church to dwindle so fast?

Seventy years earlier, there was still a strong church presence. Now, there is practically nothing. Pride played a major part. It bushwhacked the church.

305 years after Christ’s birth, Amos, son of Amos, son of Nephi, dies, and his son, Ammaron, keeps the record. At 320 years, “Ammaron, being constrained by the Holy Ghost, did hide up the records which were sacred—yea, even all the sacred records which had been handed down from generation to generation, which were sacred—even until the three hundred and twentieth year from the coming of Christ.” (48)

And he did hide them up unto the Lord, that they might come again unto the remnant of the house of Jacob, according to the prophecies and the promises of the Lord.”

4 Nephi 1:49

This short book shows 286 years of history among the Nephites and Lamanites. A spiral from complete happiness, unity, and prosperity to prideful hate, division, and rejection of all that is good.

This spiral is happening right now. We cannot change others, but we do have the power to choose to stop this spiral in our own lives. And if enough of us stop the spiral into pride, we can make a difference for good in our families, our communities, and even the whole world.

Choose humility. Choose Jesus Christ.

 ~~~

Resources:

Come Follow Me manual – Book of Mormon 2020

Ezra Taft Benson, Beware of Pride, 1989

If there is anything virtuous, lovely or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these comments.

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