Essentially, pride is a “my will” rather than “thy will” approach to life.
—President Ezra Taft Benson
Cleansing the Inner Vessel
President Ezra Taft Benson
President of the Church
In Conference Report, Apr. 1986, 3, 5–6; or Ensign, May 1986, 4, 6–7
Watchmen—what of the night? We must respond by saying that all is not well in Zion. As Moroni counseled, we must cleanse the inner vessel (see Alma 60:23), beginning first with ourselves, then with our families, and finally with the Church.
A prophet of God stated, “Ye shall clear away the bad according as the good shall grow … until the good shall overcome the bad.” (Jacob 5:66.) It takes a Zion people to make a Zion society, and we must prepare for that. …
May I now discuss a subject of grave concern that deserves deeper development than we have time. It is the subject of pride.
In the scriptures there is no such thing as righteous pride. It is always considered as a sin. We are not speaking of a wholesome view of self-worth, which is best established by a close relationship with God. But we are speaking of pride as the universal sin, as someone has described it.
Mormon writes that “the pride of this nation, or the people of the Nephites, hath proven their destruction” (Moroni 8:27). The Lord says in the Doctrine and Covenants, “Beware of pride, lest ye become as the Nephites of old” (D&C 38:39).
“Humble Yourselves before God”
Essentially, pride is a “my will” rather than “thy will” approach to life. The opposite of pride is humbleness, meekness, submissiveness (see Alma 13:28), or teachableness.
In the early days of the restored church, the Lord warned two of its prominent members about pride. To Oliver Cowdery, He said, “Beware of pride, lest thou shouldst enter into temptation” (D&C 23:1). To Emma Smith, He said, “Continue in the spirit of meekness, and beware of pride” (D&C 25:14).
The great and spacious building which Lehi saw was the pride of the world where the multitude of the earth was gathered. (see 1 Nephi 11:35–36.) Those who walked the straight and narrow path and held onto the word of God and partook of the love of God were mocked and scorned by those in the building. (see 1 Nephi 8:20, 27, 33; 11:25.)
“The humble followers of Christ” are few (2 Nephi 28:14).
Not My Will But Thine
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 manifest in the spirit of contention.
Was it not through pride that the devil became the devil? Christ wanted to serve. The devil wanted to rule. Christ wanted to bring men to where He was. The devil wanted to be above men.
Christ removed self as the force in His perfect life. It was not my will, but thine be done.
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.
Humility responds to God’s will—to the fear of His judgments and the needs of those around us. To the proud, the applause of the world rings in their ears; to the humble, the applause of heaven warms their hearts.
Someone has said, “Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man.” Of one brother, the Lord said, “I, the Lord, am not well pleased with him, for he seeketh to excel, and he is not sufficiently meek before me” (D&C 58:41).
The “Learned, and the Rich”
With pride, there are many curses. With humility, there come many blessings. For example, “Be thou humble; and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answer to thy prayers” (D&C 112:10). The humble will “be made strong, and blessed from on high, and receive knowledge” (D&C 1:28). The Lord is “merciful unto those who confess their sins with humble hearts” (D&C 61:2). Humility can turn away God’s anger. (see Helaman 11:11.)
Must Cleanse the Inner Vessel
My beloved brethren and sisters, as we cleanse the inner vessel, there will have to be changes made in our own personal lives, in our families, and in the Church. The proud do not change to improve, but defend their position by rationalizing. Repentance means change, and it takes a humble person to change. But we can do it.
We have made some wonderful strides in the past. We will be lengthening our stride in the future. To do so, we must first cleanse the inner vessel by awaking and arising, being morally clean, using the Book of Mormon in a manner so that God will lift the condemnation, and finally conquering pride by humbling ourselves.
We can do it. I know we can. That we will do so is my prayer for all of us. God bless you for all the good you have done and will be doing. I leave my blessings on all of you and do so in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, amen.
Beware of Pride
President Ezra Taft Benson
President of the Church
In Conference Report, Apr. 1989, 3–7; or Ensign, May 1989, 4–7
My beloved brethren and sisters, I rejoice to be with you in another glorious general conference of the Church. How grateful I am for the love, prayers, and service of the devoted members of the Church throughout the world.
May I commend you faithful Saints who are striving to flood the earth and your lives with the Book of Mormon. Not only must we move forward in a monumental manner more copies of the Book of Mormon, but we must move boldly forward into our own lives and throughout the earth more of its marvelous messages.
This sacred volume was written for us—for our day. Its scriptures are to be likened unto ourselves (see 1 Nephi 19:23).
The Sin of Pride
The Doctrine and Covenants tells us that the Book of Mormon is the “record of a fallen people” (D&C 20:9). Why did they fall? This is one of the major messages of the Book of Mormon. Mormon gives the answer in the closing chapters of the book in these words: “Behold, the pride of this nation, or the people of the Nephites, hath proven their destruction” (Moroni 8:27). And then, lest we miss that momentous Book of Mormon message from that fallen people, the Lord warns us in the Doctrine and Covenants, “Beware of pride, lest ye become as the Nephites of old” (D&C 38:39).
I earnestly seek an interest in your faith and prayers as I strive to bring forth light on this Book of Mormon message—the sin of pride. This message has been weighing heavily on my soul for some time. I know the Lord wants this message delivered now.
“Beware of Pride”
In the premortal council, it was pride that felled Lucifer, “a son of the morning” (2 Nephi 24:12–15; see also D&C 76:25–27; Moses 4:3). At the end of this world, when God cleanses the earth by fire, the proud will be burned as stubble and the meek shall inherit the earth (see 3 Nephi 12:5, 25:1; D&C 29:9; Joseph Smith—History 1:37; Malachi 4:1).
Three times in the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord uses the phrase “beware of pride,” including a warning to the second elder of the Church, Oliver Cowdery, and to Emma Smith, the wife of the Prophet (D&C 23:1; see also D&C 25:14; 38:39).
God’s Definition of Pride
Pride is a very misunderstood sin, and many are sinning in ignorance (see Mosiah 3:11; 3 Nephi 6:18). In the scriptures there is no such thing as righteous pride—it is always considered a sin. Therefore, no matter how the world uses the term, we must understand how God uses the term so we can understand the language of holy writ and profit thereby (see 2 Nephi 4:15; Mosiah 1:3–7; Alma 5:61).
Most of us think of pride as self-centeredness, conceit, boastfulness, arrogance, or haughtiness. All of these are elements of the sin, but the heart, or core, is still missing.
The central feature of pride is enmity—enmity toward God and enmity toward our fellowmen. Enmity means “hatred toward, hostility to, or a state of opposition.” It is the power by which Satan wishes to reign over us.
Enmity toward God
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” (Philippians 2:21).
The proud cannot accept the authority of God giving direction to their lives (see Helaman 12:6). They pit their perceptions of truth against God’s great knowledge, their abilities versus God’s priesthood power, their accomplishments against His mighty works.
Our enmity toward God takes on many labels, such as rebellion, hard-heartedness, stiff-neckedness, unrepentant, puffed up, easily offended, and sign seekers. The proud wish God would agree with them. They aren’t interested in changing their opinions to agree with God’s.
Enmity toward Fellowmen
The proud make every man their adversary by pitting their intellects, opinions, works, wealth, talents, or any other worldly measuring device against others. In the words of C. S. Lewis: “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).
In the pre-earthly council, Lucifer placed his proposal in competition with the Father’s plan as advocated by Jesus Christ (see Moses 4:1–3). He wished to be honored above all others (see 2 Nephi 24:13). In short, his prideful desire was to dethrone God (see D&C 29:36; 76:28).
Consequences of Pride
The scriptures abound with evidences of the severe consequences of the sin of pride to individuals, groups, cities, and nations. “Pride goeth before destruction” (Proverbs 16:18). It destroyed the Nephite nation and the city of Sodom (see Moroni 8:27; Ezekiel 16:49–50).
It was through pride that Christ was crucified. The Pharisees were wroth because Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, which was a threat to their position, and so they plotted His death (see John 11:53).
Saul became an enemy to David through pride. He was jealous because the crowds of Israelite women were singing that “Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands” (1 Samuel 18:7; see also 18:6, 8).
King Noah was about to free the prophet Abinadi, but an appeal to his pride by his wicked priests sent Abinadi to the flames (see Mosiah 17:11–12). Herod sorrowed at the request of his wife to behead John the Baptist. But his prideful desire to look good to “them which sat with him at meat” caused him to kill John (Matthew 14:9; see also Mark 6:26).
Fear of men’s judgment manifests itself in competition for men’s approval. The proud love “the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:42–43). Our motives for the things we do are where the sin is manifest. Jesus said He did “always those things” that pleased God (John 8:29). Would we not do well to have the pleasing of God as our motive rather than to try to elevate ourselves above our brother and outdo another?
Some prideful people are not so concerned as to whether their wages meet their needs as they are that their wages are more than someone else’s. Their reward is being a cut above the rest. This is the enmity of pride.
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 (see 1 Nephi 8:19–28; 11:25; 15:23–24).
Manifestations of Pride
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 (see 2 Nephi 9:42). 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.
Disobedience is essentially a prideful power struggle against someone in authority over us. It can be a parent, a priesthood leader, a teacher, or ultimately God. A proud person hates the fact that someone is above him. He thinks this lowers his position.
Selfishness is 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.
Pride results in secret combinations which are built up to get power, gain, and glory of the world (see Helaman 7:5; Ether 8:9, 16, 22–23; Moses 5:31). This fruit of the sin of pride, namely secret combinations, brought down both the Jaredite and the Nephite civilizations and has been and will yet be the cause of the fall of many nations (see Ether 8:18–25).
Another face of pride is contention. Arguments, fights, unrighteous dominion, generation gaps, divorces, spouse abuse, riots, and disturbances all fall into this category of pride.
Contention in our families drives the Spirit of the Lord away. It also drives many of our family members away. Contention ranges from a hostile spoken word to worldwide conflicts. The scriptures tell us that “only by pride cometh contention” (Proverbs 13:10; see also Proverbs 28:25).
The proud do not receive counsel or correction easily (see Proverbs 15:10; Amos 5:10). Defensiveness is used by them to justify and rationalize their frailties and failures (see Matthew 3:9; John 6:30–59). 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.”
If we love God, do His will, and fear His judgment more than men’s, we will have self-esteem.
“A Damning Sin”
Pride is a damning sin in the true sense of that word. It limits or stops progression (see Alma 12:10–11). The proud are not easily taught (see 1 Nephi 15:3, 7–11). They won’t change their minds to accept truths, because to do so implies they have been wrong.
Pride adversely affects all our relationships—our relationship with God and His servants, between husband and wife, parent and child, employer and employee, teacher and student, and all mankind. Our degree of pride determines how we treat our God and our brothers and sisters. Christ wants to lift us to where He is. Do we desire to do the same for others?
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 (see Mosiah 18:21; D&C 38:27; 105:2–4; Moses 7:18).
The Cost of Pride
Think of what pride has cost us in the past and what it is now costing us in our own lives, our families, and the Church.
Think of the repentance that could take place with lives changed, marriages preserved, and homes strengthened, if pride did not keep us from confessing our sins and forsaking them (see D&C 58:43).
Think of the many who are less-active members of the Church because they were offended and their pride will not allow them to forgive or fully sup at the Lord’s table.
Think how temple work would increase if the time spent in this godly service were more important than the many prideful pursuits that compete for our time.
The Universal Sin
Pride affects all of us at various times and in various degrees. Now you can see why the building in Lehi’s dream that represents the pride of the world was large and spacious and great was the multitude that did enter into it (see 1 Nephi 8:26, 33; 11:35–36).
Pride is the universal sin, the great vice. Yes, pride is the universal sin, the great vice.
Humility: The Antidote for Pride
The antidote for pride is humility—meekness, submissiveness (see Alma 7:23). It is the broken heart and contrite spirit (see 3 Nephi 9:20; 12:19; D&C 20:37; 59:8; Psalm 34:18; Isaiah 57:15; 66:2). As Rudyard Kipling put it so well:
(“God of Our Fathers, Known of Old,” Hymns, no. 80.)
Choose to Be Humble
God will have a humble people. Either we can choose to be humble or we can be compelled to be humble. Alma said, “Blessed are they who humble themselves without being compelled to be humble” (Alma 32:16).
Let us choose to be humble.
We can choose to humble ourselves by rendering selfless service (see Mosiah 2:16–17).
We can choose to humble ourselves by getting to the temple more frequently.
Let us choose to be humble. We can do it. I know we can.
The Great Stumbling Block to Zion
My dear brethren and sisters, we must prepare to redeem Zion. It was essentially the sin of pride that kept us from establishing Zion in the days of the Prophet Joseph Smith. It was the same sin of pride that brought consecration to an end among the Nephites (see 4 Nephi 1:24–25).
Pride is the great stumbling block to Zion. I repeat: Pride is the great stumbling block to Zion.
We must yield “to the enticings of the Holy Spirit,” put off the prideful “natural man,” become “a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord,” and become “as a child, submissive, meek, humble” (Mosiah 3:19; see also Alma 13:28).
That we may do so and go on to fulfill our divine destiny is my fervent prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.