Pride Goeth Before Destruction…
I have spent the last couple of weeks gazing at ruggedly high mountain peaks, wide and unforgiving high deserts and wild rivers with currents flowing beyond the power of any man. I have wondered at the beauty of God’s creations and found myself in awe of its majesty and magnificent power. A high mountain can make the strongest man humble, a dry desert can bring the most resilient man to his knees, and a treacherous river can sweep anyone with currents unknown to the abyss of disaster. The pioneers knew too well the challenges and risks associated with all of these, the danger of thumping one’s chest in prideful irreverence to the power of creation and nature, all God’s handiwork, always to be respected.
Today we cross engineered bridges spanning treacherous waters, pass for hours through desert areas with ice chests filled with chilled bottled water, and over high mountain ridges at 65 miles per hour in a 329 horsepower vehicle with hardly an effort, but we need be cautious in proclaiming some pride in achievement. As we learned most recently, an unexpected blizzard can arise in the course of our travels and change our day, and anyone else’s who would challenge nature’s God without respect. A storm, a quake, erosion, plague, drought, or any other natural occurrence can change the course of a day or even human history. A man’s or a nation’s pride can not overcome the power of what will be, even if by understanding or inspiration we can perhaps make it less painful or costly.
In Proverbs 16:18-19 we read, “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall. Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.”
My daughter Lucy and I were recently discussing the late 19th century philosophy of social Darwinism. The idea that natural selection should render a son or daughter of God to a station in life strictly by virtue of DNA or birth is both repugnant and un-American, not to mention in violation of one of God’s greatest gifts to us, the immutable law of agency.
Our conversation invariable led us to the pride cycle of the Nephites in Book of Mormon times, and especially to the days of 4 Nephi when pride arose among the people one final time leading to a 200 plus year journey to destruction. They went from being said of as “there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness; and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God,” to “there began to be among them those who were lifted up in pride,…” (4 Nephi 1:16,24).
The scripture in verses 24 through 26 goes on to tell of these falling people that they participated in the “wearing of costly apparel, and all manner of fine pearls, and of the fine things of the world. And from that time forth they did have their goods and their substance no more common among them. 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.” Only time without repentance was needed for this cycle to develop into sorrow and destruction for an entire nation, that once was the happiest people on earth. All because of pride, a nation was lost.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint President and once U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ezra Taft Benson is quoted as saying,
“Pride is concerned with who is right. Humility is concerned with what is right.”
President Benson went on to teach, “Pride is essentially competitive in nature. We pit our will against God’s. When we direct our pride toward God, it is in the spirit of ‘my will and not thine be done.’ As Paul said, they ‘seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s’ (Philip. 2:21). The proud make every man their adversary by pitting their intellects, opinions, works, wealth, talents, or any other worldly measuring device against others.”
Of pride C.S. Lewis wrote, “Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. … It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone.” (Mere Christianity, New York: Macmillan, 1952, pp. 109–10.)
President Benson further taught that pride is the enemy of the gift of agency. “When pride has a hold on our hearts, we lose our independence of the world and deliver our freedoms to the bondage of men’s judgment. The world shouts louder than the whisperings of the Holy Ghost. The reasoning of men overrides the revelations of God, and the proud let go of the iron rod.”
An apostle, Elder Quentin L. Cook, taught that we need to “strive to be a Zion people who are of one heart and one mind and dwell in righteousness.” This council would be wisely accepted and adopted by individuals, families, congregations, communities, nations, and by all people, uniting in the great family of our Father in Heaven.
As President Benson taught,
“Pride is the great stumbling block to Zion. Yes, pride is the universal sin, the great vice. The antidote for pride is humility—meekness, submissiveness. It is the broken heart and contrite spirit.”
I have heard a good friend of mine say many times, “One should not have to blow out somebody else’s candle to make his own look brighter.” Indeed, pride is a destroyer of unity, peace, harmony, freedom, security, and most especially love.
We have all been guilty of the sin of pride. It takes many forms and manifests itself in many ways, but it all leads to danger and sorrow. I have many times taken on mighty rivers with my kayaking paddle in hand. I have thought myself to be wise and strong against wild currents. One time not so long ago a current and lack of humility in the face of nature’s power nearly took me to a watery grave, and it was only the hand of God and His voice that delivered me. I have been delivered from my own foolishness by His gentle and mighty hand more than I think I know. His guiding hand and call for us to come with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, is just what we need to avoid the sin and peril of pride.
May we be a Zion people, a people who see each other as the sons and daughters of God, brothers and sisters. May we recognize our own weakness and not lift our heads in avarice or pride. May we recognize the blessings of God as what they really are, blessings, not the power of our own hand, talents or intelligence to obtain or achieve. It is my prayer that we will love our fellow man and not see color or station in how we judge worth or worthiness of the abundance that we have received. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.