I continue my study of teachings and the travels of the Apostles of Jesus Christ, and I finished 2 Corinthians today. I came across one of the teachings of the Apostle Paul that intrigues me. It reminded me of an experience I had a few years ago while sitting in a Sunday school class and discussing the pride cycle in the Book of Mormon.
As any student of the Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ knows, the Nephites went through the pride cycle fairly rapidly. The same is true of the Old Testament and the Israelites, so the Nephite experience was nothing new. The pride cycle consists of four basic steps: (1) Righteousness and Prosperity, (2) Pride and Wickedness, (3) Destruction and Suffering, and (4) Humility and Repentance.
During this discussion I questioned how the Nephites could go through this cycle so rapidly. It seemed that they were righteous one year and wicked the next year. I could not understand how they moved so far so quickly. When I asked my question, the instructor asked a question in return. He wanted to know if my righteousness was on a constant level or if I had my ups and downs. I replied that I too had my ups and downs, but I did not have the wild swings that we were studying. A sister in the back of the room said, “That is because you check yourself before you go too far astray.” That simple sentence answered all of my questions. I remembered that experience today when I read 2 Corinthians 13:5.
Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove our own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?
Paul was teaching the Corinthians to examine themselves. He wanted them to discover where they stood in relationship to the gospel of Jesus Christ. In other words, he wanted them to check themselves. Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles discusses Paul’s teachings in a General Conference talk not too many years ago.
All of us should answer these challenges for ourselves. Where is our ultimate loyalty? Are we like the Christians in Elder Neal A. Maxwell’s memorable description who have moved their residence to Zion but still try to keep a second residence in Babylon? [See A Wonderful Flood of Light (1990), 47].
There is no middle ground. We are followers of Jesus Christ. Our citizenship is in His Church and His gospel, and we should not use a visa to visit Babylon or act like one of its citizens. We should honor His name, keep His commandments, and `seek not the things of this world but seek … first to build up the kingdom of God, and to establish his righteousness (“Teachings of Jesus,” Ensign, Nov. 2011, 93).
Elder Maxwell and Elder Oaks call it “Zion” and “Babylon.” President George Albert Smith called it God’s territory and Satan’s territory. He often repeated the following counsel that he learned from his grandfather, George A. Smith.
There is a line of demarcation well defined between the Lord’s territory and the devil’s territory. If you stay on the Lord’s side of the line, you will be under his influence and will have no desire to do wrong; but if you cross to the devil’s side of that line one inch, you are in the tempter’s power, and if he is successful, you will not be able to think or even reason properly because you will have lost the Spirit of the Lord.
So, as we examine ourselves and check our positions, we have to ask ourselves where we are in relationship to the line of demarcation. Are we staying far away from the line and deep in the Lord’s territory, or are we moving towards the line of demarcation and maybe even trying to straddle it? We have the responsibility to check ourselves and must do it often to stay safely in the Lord’s territory.