My Come, Follow Me studies for this week took me to Helaman 1-6. These chapters have an over abundance of what is described as “the pride cycle” that is evident in much of the Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ. As I studied, I wanted to know why pride is so deadly and how it was identified as such.
I learned that pride is one of the seven most deadly sins. These seven sins are discussed throughout the scriptures, but there is no place in the scriptures that makes this statement: “These are the seven most deadly sins.” This site states that in the late sixth century, Pope Gregory 1 listed seven categories of sin: pride, envy, wrath, gluttony, lust, sloth, and greed. It also says, “Almost every sin can be placed in one of these seven categories” and that “pride and selfishness are related to each of the seven and are viewed as the root causes of all sin.”
I then wanted a definition of pride and found this one on the Internet: “A feeling of deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired.” I wanted to know what the Prophets and Apostles said about pride, so I went to a classic address titled "Beware of Pride" and given by President Ezra Taft Benson in the April 1989 General Conference. Here is his definition of pride from a prophet of the Lord.
Pride is a very misunderstood sin, and many are sinning in ignorance. (See Mosiah 3:11; 3 Ne. 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 Ne. 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.
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.”
Now that we know what pride is – hatred toward God and our fellowmen – we are ready to discuss the pride cycle. I found a presentation about the pride cycle by Come, Follow Me Insights from Book of Mormon Central to be quite interesting. This presentation was given by two professors at Brigham Young University (BYU) named Taylor and Tyler. This pride cycle goes as follows: Prosperity leads to Pride (the gateway sin) leads to Sin leads to Destruction leads to Sorrow leads to Humility leads to Repentance leads to Blessings leads back to Prosperity.
Tyler explained that this cycle describes a terrestrial lifestyle cycle. People in this cycle are never really good and never really bad. They prosper, become prideful, suffer, repent, and are blessed. However, people sometimes get caught in the downward part of the pride -- Pride – Sin – Destruction – Sorrow. Their sorrow does not lead to humility but to more pride. They continue to cycle through the lower part of the pride cycle until they are destroyed. Tyler called this the telestial lifestyle cycle.
Tyler also explained that there is a celestial lifestyle cycle. People prosper, and they express gratitude to God for their many blessings. They stay humble and repent of their sins immediately. They are blessed, and they continue to prosper. The pride cycle is usually shown in a circle or oval shape and often has a little difference in wording.
I remember sitting in a Sunday School class discussing the pride cycle and asking the question why people and societies continue to go through the cycle. I could not understand how people went from being righteous to being wicked in a year or two. The instructor asked me if I had times where I was living the gospel and times when I was not doing as well. Of course, I answered yes – but I did not go from righteous to wicked in a matter of months. A sister in the class commented, “That is because you check yourself. You do not wait for the bad things to happen before you humble yourself and repent.”
The sister’s comment opened my eyes to understanding that people do not have to go through the entire pride cycle before changing directions. We can stay in the celestial lifestyle cycle by checking ourselves and getting back on the strait and narrow covenant path.
The scriptures, both the Bible and the Book of Mormon, shows the people going through the pride cycle over again. The Book of Mormon tells of two civilizations that prospered and went through the pride cycle for thousands of years before being destroyed. However, it also tells us of a group of people who lived in righteousness for 200 years – before letting pride lead to their destruction.
The Bible tells us of Enoch who prophesied and taught his people for hundreds of years before they became so righteous that the entire city of Enoch was taken up into heaven. They stayed humble, repented of their sins, were blessed, and prospered without ever falling into the lower parts of the cycle. This story tells us that people and societies can avoid destruction by staying humble. Pride is a deadly sin because it leads to more sin and destruction.
Helaman 5 tells of Helaman’s teachings to his two sons, Nephi and Lehi. In verse 12, Helaman gives us the secret to avoiding pride.
12 And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fail.
When we build our foundation on the rock of Jesus Christ, we will be spiritually strong enough to defend against the attacks of Satan. When we are humble enough to depend on God, He will protect us and bless us.
President Benson said that the key to avoiding pride is to 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.” He also said, “Pride is the great stumbling block to Zion. I repeat: Pride is the great stumbling block to Zion.” Pride causes us to stumble, whereas humility brings power from God.