This post is selections from a paper I wrote for my Book of Mormon class at BYU.
President Ezra Taft Benson defined the central characteristic of pride as enmity – “enmity towards God and man. Enmity means hatred towards, hostility to, or a state of opposition.”The Book of Mormon is a perfect case study of the causes and consequences of pride. Class distinctions showed Nephite enmity towards their fellow men, and their willful disobedience to the commandments was a state of opposition to God. Repeatedly, the prophets warn the people of pride, and repeatedly they fall because of their pride.
As I read through 4 Nephi and the fall of the Book of Mormon Zion, I realized that pride has a lot to do with setting yourself apart, thinking that you are better than those you associate with. That’s why the Nephites began to wear costly apparel. They thought they were better than the poorer people they were forced to share their goods with. I thought to myself: Do I feel this way? Do I see myself as better than the people I’m around every day? Lately, I’ve been considering transferring from BYU to another university in Utah or out of state. My justifications for wanting to transfer came to mind as I read 4 Nephi. It was like Heavenly Father was saying, “Why do you really want to transfer? Do you really feel like this isn’t where you want to be? What are your real motives?
It was a humbling moment. My desire to transfer came because I don’t like the environment here and it doesn’t feel like I belong here. That dislike had turned to enmity for the University because of its narrowness of thought and ideas, its limits on my behavior, and the self-righteousness I saw in others. My disdain towards BYU began to affect my attitude towards the Church. Its people began to irritate me to the point of making going to church a chore. Heavenly Father was trying to help me recognize that pride had gotten hold of my heart and teach me that if I didn’t let it go, there were going to be some pretty serious consequences – my soul was at stake, not just my academic career.
In the October General Conference, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said,“At its core, pride is a sin of comparison, for though it usually begins with ‘Look how wonderful I am and what great things I have done,’ it always seems to end with ‘Therefore, I am better than you.’ When our hearts are filled with pride, we commit a grave sin, for we violate the two great commandments. Instead of worshipping God and loving our neighbor, we reveal the real object of our worship and love—the image we see in the mirror.”
Through my study of the Book of Mormon, I have learned the powerful consequences of pride and recognized pride in my own life. Elder M. Russell Ballard gave his talk “Learning the Lessons of the Past” for me. He said, “You don’t have to spend time as a Laman or a Lemuel in order to know that it’s much better to be a Nephi or a Jacob. You don’t have to follow the path of Cain or Gadianton in order to realize that ‘wickedness never was happiness’…Learning the lessons of the past allows you to walk boldly in the light without running the risk of stumbling in the darkness.”
Learning from the fall of the Nephites was crucial for me to learn about myself if I was to avoid the same tragic end. When we allow pride to take hold of us, it leads us off the path of happiness towards greater darkness and additional sin. The Nephites were destroyed because in their pride, they would not hearken to the counsels of a prophet of God. Each of us, myself included, run the same risk. None of us are immune to the sin of pride. Hopefully, I learned from the lessons of the past. Pride can and will only lead to unhappiness in the end. That is what the Lord is trying to teach me.