Chapter 18: Beware of Pride
Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson, (2014), 229–40
During 2015, LDS members will be studying the latest manual published by their church, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson. We will evaluate this book regularly, chapter by chapter, by showing interesting quotes and providing an Evangelical Christian take on this manual. The text that is underlined is from the manual, with our comments following.
Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson
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.
In the premortal council, it was pride that felled Lucifer, “a son of the morning.” (2 Ne. 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 Ne. 12:5; 25:1; D&C 29:9; JS—H 1:37; Mal. 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 25:14; 38:39.)
Perhaps Joseph Smith ought to have been warned about this very same issue, as pride is something he certainly had even at the end of his life. Consider the following, as recorded in History of the Church 6:408-409:
Come on! ye prosecutors! ye false swearers! All hell, boil over! Ye burning mountains, roll down your lava! for I will come out on the top at last. I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him; but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me yet. You know my daily walk and conversation. I am in the bosom of a virtuous and good people. How I do love to hear the wolves howl! When they can get rid of me, the devil will also go. For the last three years I have a record of all my acts and proceedings, for I have kept several good, faithful, and efficient clerks in constant employ: they have accompanied me everywhere, and carefully kept my history, and they have written down what I have done, where I have been, and what I have said; therefore my enemies cannot charge me with any day, time, or place, but what I have written testimony to prove my actions; and my enemies cannot prove anything against me.
Someone may ask, what is the context? I suggest you look this up for yourself here. This sermon was recorded in May 1844 as a “testimony against the dissenters at Nauvoo.” Someone might suggest that Smith’s attitude was no different than Paul, who “boasted” in 2 Corinthians 11:16ff regarding his status. The circumstances were much different. Paul never claimed he was able to do a work that John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did. Rather, in comparing himself with the “super-apostles,” Paul was providing his credentials. (My Bible’s subheading to this section reads “Reluctant Boasting.”) And then, in chapter 12, Paul deals with the “thorn in the flesh.” Jesus told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Paul concludes that section by stating the following in verses 9 and 10:
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
I also want to point out that, in that same talk, Smith told an outright lie recorded on page 411 when he said, “What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find one.” The fact is, at the time he said this and just a month before he died, Smith didn’t have just seven wives. Instead, he had at least 33 wives! In fact, the Gospel Topics essay published on the LDS website in late 2014 says that Smith had between 30-40 wives! (For more information on that Gospel Topics essay, see here.) We encourage you to look through www.JosephsWives.com to see what a whopper Smith told!
The central feature of pride is enmity toward God and our fellowmen.
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.
If this is the case and pride is “always considered a sin,” then what about Joseph Smith’s words as listed above? Do we have any indication that Smith repented of his sin?
The proud cannot accept the authority of God giving direction to their lives. (See Hel. 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.
Once more, I ask, what should do we do about Joseph?
Pride is manifest in many ways.
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 Ne. 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.
Something that a Latter-day Saint ought to consider is the pride many Mormons have in going to the temple. To be able to attend a Mormon temple, a temple recommend is required. What does a person need to do to receive this special identification? First, he or she must be considered worthy. He or she must be a tithe-payer; if not, restitution must be made. Also, no hot drinks are allowed to be imbibed, the person must be sexually pure, the Sabbath must be honored, and other requirements are also necessary. It’s all based on merit and “personal worthiness.”
I have never been a Latter-day Saint, nor have I attended the LDS temple, but I can only imagine the pride that must be inside a person who realizes he or she is considered by the “Church” as “worthy,” a place where most other Mormons are unable to attend. The Church promotes a pride that is not easily overcome.
Pride results in secret combinations which are built up to get power, gain, and glory of the world. (See Hel. 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.)
Temple Mormons learn “secret” handshakes and receive new names, which they’re not allowed to divulge. What happens in the temple stays in the temple. Truly, this attitude fosters pride.
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.” (Prov. 13:10; see also Prov. 28:25.)
The scriptures testify that the proud are easily offended and hold grudges. (See 1 Ne. 16:1–3.) They withhold forgiveness to keep another in their debt and to justify their injured feelings.
The proud do not receive counsel or correction easily. (See Prov. 15:10; Amos 5:10.) Defensiveness is used by them to justify and rationalize their frailties and failures. (See Matt. 3:9; John 6:30–59.)
I have heard Mormons say many times that “contention is of the devil.” While there are wrong types of contention, there are also righteous parts. Some Mormons will not listen to anyone who disagrees with their theology, which suggests that they don’t want to entertain any opposition to their faith. However, disagreeing with someone is not “contention.” In fact, the Bible says “contend for the faith delivered once for all unto the saints.” (Jude 3) The proud are indeed easily offended and hold grudges. I urge my LDS friends to not allow this potential attitude to interfere hearing what is said by those with whom they might disagree. The proof is in the pudding. Beware of pride.