Chapter 8: The Sin of Pride
Is the Gravity of the Sin of Pride Recognized?
In prior chapters we noted our living prophets warning to repent of the sin of pride, and the Lords admonition to beware of pride, lest ye become as the Nephites of old. We also quoted a number of Book of Mormon scriptures wherein the Lord, Nephi and Moroni prophesied that pride would be almost universal among the Gentile members of the Church during these last days. (see Appendix IV)
It is suspected that usually people pay little attention to admonitions against the sin of pride because its gravity and the severity of the penalty is not understood. Furthermore, the victims of the disease seem incapable of recognizing that they are afflicted. In this chapter we desire to discuss the nature of this sin and the eternally fatal consequences which result therefrom. In order to do so properly, it seems necessary to consider the relationship between pride and the desire to exercise unrighteous dominion.
Humility, Freedom and Joy, Versus Pride, Slavery and Misery
The Book of Mormon states the whole purpose of existence in this simple sentence: Men are that they might have joy. (2 Ne. 2:25) But this supreme goal is possible only to those who enjoy freedom; hence the primary object of life should be to know and do those things necessary to obtain that liberty without which joy is impossible. We obtain liberty for ourselves by seeking the freedom of others. We do this only if we are humble enough to love our neighbor and seek to help him.
On the other hand, one who is proud cannot be free because his pride causes him to exercise unrighteous dominion which, according to the law of the harvest, causes him to forfeit his freedom. This in turn [p. 46] causes misery. Let us consider these truths more fully.
Why Is Free Agency Necessary?
It is submitted that one of the most profound philosophical concepts one will ever understand is that, it must needs be that there is an opposition in all things. (2 Ne. 2:11) Unless there is a possibility of choosing eternal torment, one cannot choose eternal joy. Thus the whole purpose of life depends upon freedom of choice.
Satan and His Followers Chose to Destroy Freedom of Choice
The first exercise of agency of which we have record is that of Christ and Satan in the pre-earth life. It seems strange that the alternatives they were choosing between was whether or not freedom of choice should even exist. In light of the conclusions drawn above, that there can be no joy without misery, and that neither is possible without freedom to choose, it seems incredible that anyone would propose a plan which would destroy the whole purpose of existence. No one has ever accused Satan of being stupid. Why then did he choose misery?
It also seems strange that in choosing to destroy free agency, Satan and his followers deliberately elected to forfeit their own. Surely they knew of the eternal law of the harvest: that as we do unto others, so shall it be done unto us. The fate they chose for themselves is horrible beyond description.
They shall go away into everlasting punishment, which is endless punishment, to reign with the devil and his angels in eternity, where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched, which is their torment
And the end thereof, neither the place thereof, nor their torment, no man knows;
Wherefore, the end, the width, the height, the depth, and the misery thereof, they understand not, neither any man except those who are ordained unto this condemnation. (D&C 76:44, 45, 48)
If the consequences described above were known to Satans followers, how was it possible that: [p. 47]
. . . a third part of the hosts of heaven turned he (Satan) away from me (the Lord) because of their agency. (D&C 29:36)
Perhaps we lack a full explanation of the reason for their decision. Nevertheless the information given by the scriptures regarding Satans basic character, and also the knowledge we have of the character of those who choose to follow his plan in this life, may give us the information we seek.
Why Satan and His Followers Sought to Destroy Free Agency
We obtain some understanding of Satans character from the account found in the fourth chapter of the Book of Moses wherein we are told that he sought to destroy the agency of man and to obtain Gods power. (Moses 4:3) His lust for honor and power is also mentioned by the Lord in D&C 29:36.
But that scripture which most clearly reveals his insensate lust for power, honor, and glory, is the one which describes his attempts to induce Moses to worship him. It so fully reveals his true nature that he inspired wicked men to remove it from the records so he could keep his insane desire to be worshipped hidden from the world. The Lord however made the deleted information available again through the prophet Joseph Smith:
. . . Satan came tempting him, saying: Moses, son of man, worship me. And it came to pass that Moses looked upon Satan and said: . . . get thee hence, Satan; deceive me not . . . I will not cease to call upon God, I have other things to inquire of him; for his glory has been upon me, wherefore I can judge between him and thee. Depart hence, Satan.
And now, when Moses had said these words, Satan cried with a loud voice, and ranted upon the earth, and commanded, saying: I am the Only Begotten, worship me.
And it came to pass that Moses began to fear exceedingly; and as he began to fear, he saw the bitterness of hell. Nevertheless, calling upon God, he received strength, and he commanded, saying: Depart from me, Satan, for this one God only will I worship, which is the God of glory.
And now Satan began to tremble, and the earth shook; and Moses received strength, and called upon God, saying: In the name of the Only Begotten, depart hence, Satan.
And it came to pass that Satan cried with a loud voice, with weeping, [p. 48] and wailing, and gnashing of teeth; and he departed hence, even from the presence of Moses, that he beheld him not. (Moses 1:12-22)
This scripture is quoted this extensively so that it will be seen that Satans pride, his desire to be worshipped, completely consumes him. So filled is he with envy and a lust for power and glory, that he is utterly incapable of contemplating any other goal or worrying about the terrible consequences to himself. He completely loses control of himself when his demand to be worshipped is refused.
He and his followers are what the scriptures call vessels of wrath. (D&C 76:33) They are so filled with hate that there is no room for anything else. In one sense of the word they are insane because the only thought processes of which they are capable are those directed toward gratifying their pride and inducing others to worship them.
This loss of ability to utilize ones intelligence to consider and act upon laws which must be obeyed to obtain freedom and joy, is perhaps the most fearful of all the consequences of pride. It is the penalty imposed upon those possessed of a lying spirit. Satan has been called a liar from the beginning. Not only does he deceive others, but himself as well. He is a pitiful victim of his own insensate desire to pervert the truth.
If this analysis of Satans character is correct, then it is understandable why he would try to destroy free agency. By so doing he magnifies himself in his own eyes. He enlarges his kingdom and increases his power. He brings into captivity more followers and compels them to worship him, thus gratifying his all-consuming lust for glory and dominion.
In so doing, Satan provides that opposition to good which is necessary in all things. Just as God cannot lie, Satan cannot promote the truth. Just as God is love, Satan is hate. Just as the Lord seeks to make men free, Satan seeks to make them slaves.
The Choices We Made in the Pre-mortal Sphere
God, the Father, being in control, made it possible for His spirit children to choose between these two opposing leaders and philosophies in the pre-existence. Even though the consequence was that a full one- third part chose evil, the necessity of making the choice available [p. 49] was unavoidable. Nothing either good or evil could have happened otherwise. (2 Ne. 2)
A second very large group whose exact size is impossible for us to determine, so conducted themselves in the pre-earth life that they were entitled to come to earth, obtain bodies, and then go to the Celestial Kingdom without being further tempted by Satan. This fact was revealed to the prophet Joseph, and he described it thus:
And I also beheld that all children who die before they arrive at the years of accountability are saved in the celestial kingdom of heaven. (D&C 137:10)
Now let us consider more closely the character of those of us who come to earth, obtain bodies, and must once again be subject to the temptations of Satan. Even though we chose Christ and rejected Satan in the pre-existence, almost all of us are afflicted with pride and a disposition to follow Satans plan. Here is the scripture which declares this to be so and describes the consequences we suffer as a result thereof:
Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?
Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world and aspire to the honors of men that they do not learn this one lesson
That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness;
That they may be conferred upon us it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, . . . Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man. (D&C 121:34-37)
Our Pride May Be Costing Us That Which We Value above All Else
It is most apparent that the tendency to be proud and to destroy free agency varies from person to person. But if we accept the foregoing scriptures as true, we are compelled to admit that these Satanic dispositions are so strong and difficult to overcome in almost all of us, that of the many called, only a few of us will be chosen. Or to state the matter [p. 50] otherwise, when given the chance to choose between Christ and Satan here on earth, our weaknesses are such that we will choose Satan to such an extent that we unfit ourselves to exercise the power of the priesthood in the next life.
Like Satan, our pride blinds us to our own self-interest. Our hearts are set so much upon the things of this world and the honors of men that we either are incapable of recognizing, or refuse to recognize, that in seeking for them, we are losing the right to exercise the power of the priesthood. Also like Satan, we will stoop to the exercise of unrighteous dominion to obtain them.
Pride is a disease which causes spiritual blindness. It prevents its victim from even recognizing he is iii. Because of the very nature of the malady, recovery is impossible as long as one is afflicted because repentance requires humility.
There are some vitally important truths regarding the acquisition and retention of knowledge which are involved here. The Lord God Almighty in His infinite wisdom, love and mercy dispenses justice to each of His children with an even hand. Although we may not be able to recognize this fact now, the time will come when we will. (Mosiah 16:1) Through the workings of the spirit He grants each that portion of the truth we are able to understand and live. (Alma 29:8) If one receives and obeys such truths, the Lord increases his understanding with each advance toward the light. As Alma explains the matter:
. . . and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full. (Alma 12:10)
On the other hand,
. . . they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell. (Alma 12:11)
If we understand that by the words they will harden their hearts, Alma was referring to the proud, then the terrible consequences of this sin become apparent.
The results which flow from the operation of this basic law regarding the acquisition and retention of knowledge are the only ones which [p. 51] are either possible or beneficial. The things of God are understood only by the spirit of God, which spirit can influence only those who are humble and obedient. Also, since he who sins against the greater light receives the greater condemnation, the operation of the law mercifully spares us punishment to which we would otherwise be subject.
Some may have difficulty recognizing the operation of this law either in their own lives or in the lives of their associates, and may thus doubt the justice of God. In pondering this matter it is well to remember that in dispensing justice the Lord does not immediately punish every sin and reward every virtue. To do this would largely destroy free agency, eliminate the need for faith, and prevent the development of character. Rewards and punishments are postponed so that we can make choices under circumstances which permit us to be enticed to do good or evil without an absolute knowledge of the consequences of the choice. Lehi provides this insight:
Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other.
. . . (men) have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given. (2 Ne. 2:16, 26)
It should also be observed that this delay in inflicting punishment also permits a probationary period for repentance.
PrideThe Worst of All Sins?
If it is pride which leads one to become a son of perdition, then it must be considered as the worst of all possible sins. Also, as we shall note as we study Nephite history, time after time it led to enforced priestcraft which in turn caused those who practiced it to commit the unpardonable sin of shedding innocent blood. And finally, if it is causing almost all bearers of the priesthood to lose the priesthood, it should be regarded as one of the most common and fearful of the sins we are able to commit.
Pride leads to many other sins. It causes us to be idolatrous and to spend our time seeking for the things of this world and the honors of [p. 52] men. Because of the feelings of superiority it engenders, we find it impossible to love our neighbor as ourself. Rather than wanting to serve others, we believe it their duty to serve, praise, and honor us. We find it difficult to share our means except possibly for the purpose of being praised for having done so. Because of pride we deny ourselves the guidance of the Holy Ghost.
Pride has many sources. It can arise from ones feelings about his wealth, education, status, position, birth, appearance or achievements. Accomplishments in any field of endeavor such as music, science, sports, academics, writing, speaking or acting may produce feelings of superiority. It also seems to be a disease which is highly contagious because today, according to the prophets and the scriptures, it afflicts almost everyone.
What must We Do to Repent?
Of course humility is the only possible cure for the sin of pride and, according to the prophet Jacob, here is the manner in which the remedy must be applied:
And whoso knocketh, to him will he open; and the wise, and the learned, and they that are rich, who are puffed up because of their learning, and their wisdom, and their richesyea, they are they whom he despiseth; and save they shall cast these things away, and consider themselves fools before God, and come down in the depths of humility, he will not open unto them. (2 Ne. 9:42)
How many are willing to voluntarily cast away their honors and their riches, come down in the depths of humility, and consider themselves fools before God? Jacob says the Lord will not open unto us until we do. Must calamity come before repentance is possible? Mormon states it to be a general rule that the only thing which will bring repentance and humility is great tragedy. (Hel. 12:1-3) [p. 53]