Chapter 1: Why a need for Zion?
The Obstacle to Building Zion
Pride, our vain ambition D&C 121:37
“Behold, are ye stripped of pride? I say unto
you, if ye are not ye are not prepared to meet
God. Behold ye must prepare quickly; for the
kingdom of heaven is soon at hand, and such
an one hath not eternal life.” (Alma 5:28)
Two Churches only
An angel declared to Nephi; “...Behold there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth.” (1 Ne. 14:10) At first glance we might think that the angel is speaking of the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and all other Churches, but a closer look at the writings of Nephi might reveal otherwise.
We might remember that the Lord taught “...Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5) Being born of water requires priesthood authority and brings us to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but there is another element that we might neglect, which may be equally if not more important, and that is being born of the spirit. We have discussed the process in the previous chapter of how through humility and “faith unto repentance” we become “born of the spirit.” There may be those who are born of the water and not yet born of the spirit. But there are those that Nephi observed in a later vision, which to some extent were born of the spirit, and yet have not been baptized into the Church:
“Yea, they have all gone out of the way; they have become corrupted. Because of pride, and because of false teachers, and false doctrine, their churches have become corrupted, and their churches are lifted up; because of pride they are puffed up… and they persecute the meek and the poor in heart, because of their pride they are puffed up...and because of pride, and wickedness, and abominations, and whoredoms, they have all gone astray save it be a few who are the humble followers of Christ; nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men.” (2 Ne. 28:11-18) We observe that there are some among the different sects who are “humble followers of Christ” who only lack some direction and baptism by priesthood authority. Which of the two Church’s would these humble followers of Christ belong to? And if we, as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, are not humble, which of the two Church’s do we belong?
Alma delivered these disturbing words to the members of the Church in his day: “Behold, are ye stripped of pride? I say unto you, if ye are not ye are not prepared to meet God. Behold ye must prepare quickly; for the kingdom of heaven is soon at hand, and such an one hath not eternal life...O ye workers of iniquity; ye that are puffed up in the vain things of the world, ye that have professed to have known the ways of righteousness nevertheless have gone astray, as sheep having no shepherd, notwithstanding a shepherd hath called after you and is still calling after you, but ye will not hearken unto his voice! Behold, I say unto you, that the good shepherd doth call you; yea, and in his own name he doth call you, which is the name of Christ; and if ye will not hearken unto the voice of the good shepherd, to the name by which ye are called, behold, ye are not the sheep of the good shepherd. And now if ye are not the sheep of the good shepherd, of what fold are ye? Behold, I say unto you, that the devil is your shepherd, and ye are of his fold; and now, who can deny this? Behold, I say unto you, whosoever denieth this is a liar and a child of the devil.” (Alma 5:28,37-39) Thus if we are not stripped of pride, as Alma points out, we are actually of the fold of the devil, and only the humble followers of Christ are the true members of His fold.
Lehi and Nephi beheld the vision of the Tree of Life representing the attitudes or desires of the world. They saw the path with the rod of iron leading to the Tree. We learn from Lehi: “And after I had traveled for the space of many hours in darkness, I began to pray unto the Lord that he would have mercy on me, according to the multitude of his tender mercies.” (1 Ne. 8:8) Nephi and Lehi both saw a path and a rod of iron leading to the Tree of Life, which rod of iron represented the scriptures or the word of God through his prophets. What would the path then represent? The path must be humility and repentance for: "Behold he sendeth an invitation unto all men for the arms of mercy are extended towards them, and he saith: Repent, and I will receive you. Yea, he saith: come unto me and ye shall partake of the fruit of the tree of life; yea, ye shall eat and drink of the bread and the waters of life freely;" (Alma 5:33,34) They saw the path with a rod of iron which if we humbly follow will lead us to the Tree of Life, which fruit of the tree represents “...the love of God [or charity] which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore, it is the most desirable above all things.” (1 Ne. 11:22) Lehi said: “...I beheld that it was most sweet, above all that I ever before tasted. ...And as I partook of the fruit thereof it filled my soul with exceedingly great joy; wherefore, I began to be desirous that my family should partake of it also; for I knew that it was desirable above all other fruit.” (1 Ne. 8:11,12)
The Lord declared in latter-days: “Behold, this is my doctrine-whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church. Whosoever declareth more or less than this, the same is not of me, but is against me; therefore he is not of my church. And now, behold, whosoever is of my church, and endureth of my church to the end, him will I establish upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them.” (D&C 10:67-69) It is evident that only the truly penitent before God are of his Church for; “…God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” (James 4:6.)
The Great and Spacious Building
Concerning the “great and spacious building” we are told: “...Behold the world and the wisdom thereof...And it came to pass that I saw and bear record, that the great and spacious building was the pride of the world; and it fell, and the fall thereof was exceedingly great. And the angel of the Lord spake unto me again, saying: Thus shall be the destruction of all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, that shall fight against the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” (1 Ne. 11:35,36)
We observe that both the great and spacious building, and the great and abominable church, are an attitude of pride, for Nephi records: “But behold, if the inhabitants of the earth shall repent of their wickedness and abominations they shall not be destroyed, saith the Lord of Hosts. But behold, that great and abominable church, the whore of all the earth, must tumble to the earth, and great must be the fall thereof. For the kingdom of the devil must shake, and they which belong to it must needs be stirred up unto repentance, or the devil will grasp them with his everlasting chains, and they be stirred up to anger, and perish; For behold, at that day shall he rage in the hearts of the children of men, and stir them up to anger against that which is good.” (2 Ne. 28:17-20)
In modern revelation the Lord warns the members of the Church: “Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen? Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men...but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man...We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.” (D&C 121:34-38)
We know that the Lord is talking specifically to the members of the Church for he says; “...they do not learn this one lesson-That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness...No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile”. (Vrs.36,39-42) So we see that the difference between being called and chosen, is whether we have pride or humility in our stewardships, and use correct principles in leadership. It is pride that makes us judicious in our own eyes, that we do not need the help of the Lord.
As Jesus taught the parable of the sower He told of different groups of interesting seeds. The last two are of particular importance. One “…fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.” It is interesting that the seed that fell among thorns did not fall away but only “becometh unfruitful,” it was the same rich soil as the fruitful yielding soil, yet it did not bear fruit, why? Because of “…the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word.” (Matt. 13:7,8,22) It is pride or desire for riches that can make us unfruitful.
What is so wrong with pride? It was pride that brought about the rebellion of Lucifer, his desire to ascend to the throne of the Father, as Isaiah recorded: “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.” (Isaiah 14:12-15.)
President Benson, in his revealing talk on pride stated:
Pride is a very misunderstood sin, and many are sinning in ignorance. 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. 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.’ As Paul said, they ‘seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.’ Our will in competition to God’s will allows desires, appetites, and passions to go unbridled. The proud cannot accept the authority of God giving direction to their lives. 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. Another major portion of this very prevalent sin of pride is enmity toward our fellowmen. We are tempted daily to elevate ourselves above others and diminish them. 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. He wished to be honored above all others. In short, his prideful desire was to dethrone God.… 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. 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.” (Ezra T. Benson conf. Report April 1, 1989)
“Hardness of heart”, seeking to “excel” (D&C 58:41), doing our works to be “seen of men,” (Mat. 6:1-4) our ego, and our desire for possessions in order to impress others, or when we dress to get attention, or want others to think of us as great, these are also main elements of pride. They are meant to bring glory or attention to us, and they become things that we seek or worship in opposition to an “eye single to the glory of God”.
It is pride which will make us “...wise in [our] own eyes and prudent in [our] own sight.” (Isa. 5:21, 2 Ne.15:21) Because of pride the Lord informed the leaders of the Jews: “...the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.” (Matt. 21:31) Jesus said of the Jewish leaders: “...their works they do for to be seen of men...” (Matt. 23:5) Again the Lord condemned the Jewish leaders as hypocrites: “...for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess...for ye are like unto whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness.” He pointed out that the solution to this situation is simple, through faith and repentance “...cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.” (Mat. 23:25,27,26)
The term priestcraft is also used often in the Book of Mormon to represent pride, Nephi gives this definition: “...For, behold, priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion. Behold, the Lord hath forbidden this thing; wherefore, the Lord God hath given a commandment that all men should have charity, which charity is love. And except they should have charity they were nothing...” (2 Ne. 26:29,30) Thus we see that this priestcraft is also defined as pride and it is in opposition to the fruit of the Tree of Life or charity, for when we are filled with pride we think only of ourselves, and are not truly concerned with the welfare of others.
We can see the affects of priestcraft in Jesus day for Jacob informs us as to why the Jews would crucify Jesus: “…because of priestcrafts and iniquities, they at Jerusalem will stiffen their necks against him, that he be crucified. ” (2Ne. 10:5) It is this pride that prevented the Jews from accepting Jesus when He was among them. They wanted to be important in the eyes of the people. They “love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues.” (Mat. 23:6) In the parable of the wicked husbandmen, the Lord taught that it was this pride that also led to the slaying of the prophets of God, for when they came to “receive the fruits” of the vineyard, “…the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another.” Finally the heir was sent and they said among themselves, “…this is the heir; come, let us kill Him, and let us seize on His inheritance. And they caught Him, and cast Him out of the vineyard, and sloe Him.” (Matt. 21:33-41) What is the fruit or inheritance that the husbandmen sought? It was the honors of men, or glory for themselves, in place of an eye single to the glory of God.
Alma encountered a man by the name of Nehor, which taught that leaders of the people should become “...popular; and they ought not to labor with their hands, but that they ought to be supported by the people.” Alma’s worry was that if it were enforced among the people it “...would prove their entire destruction.” Nehor was put to death but “...nevertheless, this did not put an end to the spreading of priestcraft through the land; for there were many who loved the vain things of the world, and they went forth preaching false doctrines; and this they did for the sake of riches and honor.” (Alma 1:3,12,16) It is this pride that brings apostasy from the correct, and true principles of the gospel. We observe others in the Book of Mormon such as Korihor, while though the power of God had proved to him that he was wrong, yet if the curse were lifted and his voice restored he would “…again lead away the hearts of this people.” (Alma 30:55)
The difference between the Church of the Devil and the Church of the Lamb of God, between priestcraft and an eye single to the glory of God, or being just called to position or chosen of the Lord, is the difference between pride and humility. We cannot pursue the Great and Spacious building and be on the path to the Tree of Life at the same time, in other words we cannot seek our own glory and to glorify God at the same time. For, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” (Matthew 6:24.) When we pursue the Great and Spacious building we desire for ourselves, our attitude is “gimmie gimmie gimmie.” But if our heart is on the Tree of Life, our desire will be to give, we will seek riches “…for the intent to do good—to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted.” (Jacob 2:19.)
Pride and Humility
The principles of pride and humility have a common thread from the beginning to end of the Book of Mormon. We see shortly after leaving Jerusalem, Nephi and Laman have a conversation in which Laman claimed “...that the people who were in the land of Jerusalem were a righteous people: for they kept the statutes and judgment of the Lord, and all his commandments, according to the law of Moses; wherefore, we know that they are a righteous people; and our father hath judged them...” (1 Ne. 17:22)
If the people followed the Law of Moses and commandments what was the problem? The dilemma was that their heart was upon riches rather than upon God. Notice that when Nephi and his brothers took their riches to try to purchase the brass plates, “...that when Laban saw our property, and that it was exceedingly great, he did lust after it, insomuch that he thrust us out, and sent his servants to slay us, that he might obtain our property.” (1 Ne.3:25)
In addition we see that Laman and Lemuel’s hearts were in the same place as Laban’s, they did not want to “...leave the land of their inheritance, and their gold, and their silver, and their precious things, to perish in the wilderness...And they were like unto the Jews who were at Jerusalem, who sought to take away the life of my father.” (1 Ne. 2:11,13) Their possessions were their God! And so Nephi answers, God “...loveth those who will have him to be their God.” (1 Ne. 17:22,40)
Jacob fully understood this principle when he taught: “...when they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish. But wo unto the rich, who are rich as to the things of the world. For because they are rich they despise the poor, and they persecute the meek, and their hearts are upon their treasures; wherefore, their treasure is their god. And behold their treasure shall perish with them also...And whoso knocketh, to him will he open; and the wise, and the learned, and they that are rich, who are puffed up because of their learning, and their wisdom, and their riches-yea, they are they whom he despiseth; and save they shall cast these things away, and consider themselves fools before God, and come down in the depths of humility, he will not open unto them. But the things of the wise and the prudent shall be hid from them forever-yea, that happiness which is prepared for the saints.” (2 Ne. 9:28-30)
After the death of Nephi, there were some who were being lifted up in pride. Jacob, after warning of their destruction if they continued on the same course, explained the basic principles that we should keep in mind in the building of Zion: “Think of your brethren like unto yourselves, and be familiar with all and free with your substance, that they may be rich like unto you. But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God. And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good-to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted.” (Jacob 2:12-19)
King Benjamin's address was meant to show that; “...men drink damnation to their own souls except they humble themselves and become as little children, and believe that salvation was, and is, and is to come, in and through the atoning blood of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent. For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father... And they viewed themselves in their own carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth. And they all cried aloud with one voice, saying: O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified; for we believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who created heaven and earth, and all things; who shall come down among the children of men. And it came to pass that after they had spoken these words the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience, because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ who should come, according to the words which king Benjamin had spoken unto them.” (Mosiah 3:18,19, 4:2,3)
Zeniff revealed one of the main reasons why there is crime, for he speaks of the Lamanites: “Now they were a lazy and an idolatrous people; therefore they were desirous to bring us into bondage, that they might glut themselves with the labors of our hands; yea, that they might feast themselves upon the flocks of our fields.” (Mosiah 9:12)
We learn of King Noah, that after the death of his father Zeniff, “...he put down all the priests that had been consecrated by his father, and consecrated new ones in their stead, such as were lifted up in the pride of their hearts. Yea, and thus they were supported in their laziness, and in their idolatry, and in their whoredoms, by the taxes which king Noah had put upon his people; thus did the people labor exceedingly to support iniquity.” (Mosiah 11:5,6)
When Abinadi stood before Noah and his priests, he asked of them: “...what teach ye this people? And they said: We teach the law of Moses. And again he said unto them: If ye teach the law of Moses why do ye not keep it? Why do ye set your hearts upon riches?.. But now Abinadi said unto them: I know if ye keep the commandments of God ye shall be saved; yea, if ye keep the commandments which the Lord delivered unto Moses in the mount of Sinai, saying: I am the Lord thy God, who hath brought thee out of the and of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other God before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing in heaven above, or things which are in the earth beneath. Now Abinadi said unto them, Have ye done all this? I say unto you, Nay, ye have not. And have ye taught this people that they should do all these things? I say unto you, Nay, ye have not.” (Mosiah 12:27,28,33-37)
Mormon gave this account, of the members of the church, at about 90B.C.: “And when the priests left their labor to impart the word of God unto the people, the people also left their labors to hear the word of God. And when the priest had imparted unto them the word of God they all returned again diligently unto their labors; and the priest, not esteeming himself above his hearers, for the preacher was no better than the hearer, neither was the teacher any better than the learner; and thus they were all equal, and they did all labor, every man according to his strength... And now, because of the steadiness of the church they began to be exceedingly rich, having abundance of all things whatsoever they stood in need-an abundance of flocks and herds, and fatlings of every kind, and of precious things, and abundance of silk and fine-twined linen, and all manner of good homely cloth. And thus, in their prosperous circumstances, they did not send away any who were naked, or that were hungry, or that were athirst, or that were sick, or that had not been nourished; and they did not set their hearts upon riches; therefore they were liberal to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, whether out of the church or in the church, having no respect to persons as to those who stood in need. And thus they did prosper and become far more wealthy than those who did not belong to the church.” (Alma 1:26,29-31) We see that the promise of the Church leaders today is that we will receive blessings as we give a generous fast offering.
“...In the eighth year of the reign of judges, that the people of the church began to wax proud, because of their exceeding riches, and their fine silks, and their fine twined linen, and because of their many flocks and herds, and their gold and their silver, and all manner of precious things, which they had obtained by their industry; and in all these things were they lifted up in the pride of their eyes, for they began to wear very costly apparel.
“Now this was the cause of much affliction to Alma, yea, and to many of the people whom Alma had consecrated to be teachers, and priests, and elders over the church; yea many of them were sorely grieved for the wickedness which they saw had begun to be among the people.”
Alma grieved over the church as it’s members became lifted up in pride and there entered into the church, contentions, persecutions, envyings, strife, malice “…even to exceed the pride of those who did not belong to the church of God... and the wickedness of the church was a great stumbling-block to those who did not belong to the church; and thus the church began to fail in its progress.
“...Alma saw the wickedness of the church, and he saw also that the example of the church began to lead those who were unbelievers on from one piece of iniquity to another, thus bringing on the destruction of the people. Yea, he saw great inequality among the people, some lifting themselves up with their pride, despising others, turning their backs upon the needy and the naked and those who were hungry, and those who were athirst, and those who were sick and afflicted.
“And now it came to pass that Alma, having seen the afflictions of the humble followers of God, and the persecutions which were heaped upon them by the remainder of his people, and seeing all their inequality, began to be very sorrowful; nevertheless the Spirit of the Lord did not fail him.”
Alma stepped down as chief judge, “...that he might preach the word of God unto them, to stir them up in remembrance of their duty, and that he might pull down by the word of God, all the pride and craftiness and all the contentions which were among his people, seeing no way that he might reclaim them save it were in bearing down in pure testimony against them.” (Alma 4:6-15,19)
Alma questioned and taught of those who had followed his father: “And now I ask of you on what conditions are they saved? Yea, what grounds had they to hope for salvation? What is the cause of their being loosed from the bands of death, yea, and also the chains of hell?...a mighty change was also wrought in their hearts, and they humbled themselves and put their trust in the true and living God. And behold, they were faithful until the end; therefore they were saved.” (Alma 5:10,13)
Then he asked his listeners: “...have ye spiritually been of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts? Do ye exercise faith in the redemption of him who created you? Do you look forward with an eye of faith, and view this mortal body raised in immortality, and this corruption raised in incorruption, to stand before God to be judged according to the deeds which have been done in the mortal body?...Or otherwise, can ye imagine yourselves brought before the tribunal of God with your souls filled with guilt and remorse, having a remembrance of all your wickedness, yea, a remembrance that ye have set at defiance the commandments of God?...I say unto you, ye will know at that day that ye cannot be saved; for there can no man be saved except his garments are washed white; yea, his garments must be purified until they are cleansed from all stain, through the blood of him of whom it has been spoken by our fathers, who should come to redeem his people from their sins...Have ye walked, keeping yourselves blameless before God? Could ye say, if ye were called to die at this time, within yourselves, that ye have been sufficiently humble? That your garments have been cleansed and made white through the blood of Christ, who will come to redeem his people from their sins? Behold, are ye stripped of pride? I say unto you, if ye are not ye are not prepared to meet God. Behold ye must prepare quickly; for the kingdom of heaven is soon at hand, and such an one hath not eternal life...Behold, he sendeth an invitation unto all men, for the arms of mercy are extended towards them, and he saith: Repent, and I will receive you. Yea, he saith: Come unto me and ye shall partake of the fruit of the tree of life; yea, ye shall eat and dink of the bread and the waters of life freely;” (Alma 5:14,15,18,21,27,28,33,34)
Only after great effort, there were some whose names were blotted out because of pride: “And it came to pass that whosoever did not belong to the church who repented of their sins were baptized unto repentance, and were received into the church. And it also came to pass that whosoever did belong to the church that did not repent of their wickedness and humble themselves before God-I mean those who were lifted up in the pride of their hearts- the same were rejected, and their names were blotted out, that their names were not numbered among those of the righteous.”(Alma 6:2,3)
Again, Nephi, the son of Helaman, spoke these words about the reason that crime takes place: “O, how could you have forgotten your God in the very day that he has delivered you? But behold, it is to get gain, to be praised of men, yea, and that ye might get gold and silver. And ye have set your hearts upon the riches and the vain things of this world, for the which ye do murder, and plunder, and steal, and bear false witness against your neighbor, and do all manner of iniquity. And for this cause wo shall come unto you except ye shall repent. For if ye will not repent, behold, this great city, and also all those great cities which are round about, which are in the land of our possession, shall be taken away that ye shall have no place in them; for behold, the Lord will not grant unto you strength, as he has hitherto done, to withstand against your enemies.” (Hel. 7:20-22)
When the Lord appeared to the descendants of Lehi, He chose twelve disciples, then He began to teach: “...blessed are they who shall believe in your words, and come down into the depths of humility and be baptized, for they shall be visited with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and shall receive a remission of their sins...blessed are the poor in spirit who come unto me...blessed are all they that mourn...blessed are the meek...blessed are all they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness...blessed are the merciful... blessed are all the pure in heart...blessed are the peacemakers...blessed are all they who are persecuted for my name's sake...blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake;” Then the Lord continued: “And behold, I have given you the law and the commandments of my Father, that ye shall believe in me, and that ye shall repent of your sins, and come unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Behold, ye have the commandments before you, and the law is fulfilled. Therefore come unto me and be ye saved; for verily I say unto you that except ye shall keep my commandments, which I have commanded you at this time, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (3 Ne. 12:2-11, 19,20)
In following these principles the people then established a society in the Americas like that of Zion, about which it is written: “and it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people. And 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. There were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God.” (4 Ne. 1:15-17)
But sadly the Lord predicted the downfall of this great society: “But behold, it sorroweth me because of the fourth generation from this generation, for they are led away captive by him even as was the son of perdition; for they will sell me for silver and for gold, and for that which moth doth corrupt and which thieves can break through and steal. And in that day will I visit them, even in turning their works upon their own heads.” (3 Ne. 27:32)
Mormon records the dismal account: “And now, in this two hundred and first year there began to be among them those who were lifted up in pride, such as 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.” (4 Ne. 1:24,25)
Then we read Mormon's remorse for his nation: “Behold, my son, I will write unto you again if I go not out soon against the Lamanites. Behold, the pride of this nation, of the people of the Nephites, hath proven their destruction except they should repent... for I know that they must perish except they repent and return unto him. And if they perish it will be like unto the Jaredites, because of the willfulness of their hearts, seeking for blood and revenge.” (Moroni 8:27, 9:22,23)
What do we know of the teachings to the Jaredites? “And they were taught to walk humbly before the Lord; and they were also taught from on high.” (Ether 6:17) But their society departed from the teachings of the Lord; “And now there began to be a great curse upon all the land because of the iniquity of the people, in which if a man should lay his tool or his sword upon his shelf or upon the place whither he would keep it behold, upon the morrow, he could not find it, so great was the curse upon the land. Wherefore every man did cleave unto that which was his own, with his hands, and would not borrow neither would he lend; and every man kept the hilt of his sword in his right hand, in the defense of his property and his own life and of his wives and children.” (Ether 14:1,2)
We must consider Moroni's sober vision of our day: “Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not, But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing, And I know that ye do walk in the pride of your hearts; and there are none save a few only who do not lift themselves up in the pride of their hearts, unto the wearing of very fine apparel, unto envying, and strifes, and malice, and persecutions, and all manner of iniquities; and your churches, yea, even every one, have become polluted because of the pride of your hearts. For behold, ye do love money, and your substance, and your fine apparel, and the adorning of your churches, more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted...Behold the sword of vengeance hangeth over you; and the time soon cometh that he avengeth the blood of the saints upon you, for he will not suffer their cries any longer.” (Mormon 8:35-37,41)
As we ponder the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, it is interesting the sins that provoked the Lord to send down fire from heaven to consume them: “As I live, saith the Lord God, Sodom thy sister hath not done, she nor her daughters, as thou hast done, thou and thy daughters. Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fullness of bread and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy, and they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good.” (Ezek. 16:48-50)
On another occasion the Lord taught: “...Take heed, and beware of covetousness; for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.” (Lk. 12:15) When the Lord brings again Zion, He says “I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir.” (Isa. 13:12) For “...the worth of souls is great in the site of God;” (D&C 18:10) and that every man’s concern will be his neighbors. (D&C 82:19) Perhaps the greatest use for gold in that day will be to pave the streets. (D&C 110:2)
Beware of the leaven
The Lord warned: “...Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.” (Matt. 16:6) Leaven is yeast that is added to batter and will grow through a whole loaf of bread, and what leaven is the Lord warning about? “...Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” (Lk. 12:1) The word hypocrisy comes from the Greek word hupokrisis, which means deceit, or acting under a feigned part. That is why the Lord condemned the leaders of his day as “...hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess...for ye are like unto whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.” (Matt. 23:25-28) Pride is contagious, it can infect all around with the same attitude if not carefully guarded against, it can spread through a community, ward, or family.
When we read the Lords teaching in the sermon on the mount, we observe this warning: "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." (Matt. 7:21-23)
The Lord later identified who these were whom he denied, they were the five unwise virgins, they are members of his Church, for he taught: “Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said Verily I say unto you, I know you not.” (Matt. 25:11,12) Then we understand the warning of Alma to the members of the Church:
“Have ye walked, keeping yourselves blameless before God? Could ye say, if ye were called to die at this time, within yourselves, that ye have been sufficiently humble? That your garments have been cleansed and made white through the blood of Christ, who will come to redeem his people from their sins. Behold, are ye stripped of pride? I say unto you, if ye are not ye are not prepared to meet God. Behold ye must prepare quickly; for the kingdom of heaven is soon at hand, and such an one hath not eternal life.” (Alma 5:27, 28)
“All the religious world is boasting of righteousness; it is the doctrine of the devil to retard the human mind, and hinder our progress, by filling us with self-righteousness.” (Teachings, p.241)
The Jews portrayed their self righteous attitude when "...the scribes and Pharisees brought unto [Jesus] a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act." They wanted Jesus to make the decision to stone her but Jesus simple reminder quickly stopped them; "...He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her...And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst." How like the stones are our words, it seems our nature is to get pleasure of telling the faults of others.
This woman had not exercised faith and repentance, so Jesus could not declare that her sins were forgiven, but how gentle He dealt with her when He asked: "...Woman, where are those thine accusers? Hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more." (Jn. 8:1-11)
A friend of mine has suggested that it might be the same woman who later came to the Lord in the home of Simon, to wash His feet and plead for mercy. (Lk. 7:36-48)
Joseph had learned early that when we ask in faith that the Lord "...giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not… " (James 1:5) The word upbraid means to reproach, or rebuke. How kind the Savior deals with us when we have many faults that He could upbraid us concerning. Joseph taught:
"How mild the Savior dealt with Peter, saying, ‘When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.' At another time, He said to him, 'Lovest thou me?' and having received Peter's reply, He said, 'Feed my sheep.' If the sisters (and brothers) loved the Lord, let them feed the sheep, and not destroy them." (Teachings p.241)
“Yea, how quick to be lifted up in pride; yea, how quick to boast, and do all manner of that which is iniquity...” (Helaman 12:5) The Lord taught: “Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.” (Matt. 6:1-4)
King Nebuchadnezzar at one time thought of himself as great and thought it was all because of his own ingenuity and work that he had built the great Babylon, but he soon discovered otherwise, for as soon as he boasted the Lord removed his kingdom
“The king spake, and said, is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty? While the word was in the king's mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee. And they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field: they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and seven times shall pass over thee, until thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will. The same hour was the thing fulfilled upon Nebuchadnezzar: and he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles' feathers, and his nails like birds' claws. And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation: And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou? At the same time my reason returned unto me; and for the glory of my kingdom, mine honour and brightness returned unto me; and my counsellors and my lords sought unto me; and I was established in my kingdom, and excellent majesty was added unto me. Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and His ways judgment: and those that walk in pride He is able to abase.” (Daniel 4:30 - 37)
Oh how good it feels to have others think that we are something special or that we are better than others. We can observe that this feeling is wrong for Jesus did not even think of Himself as good: “...A certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good save one, that is God.” (Lk. 18:18,19)
We must be very careful, for when we receive anything from God, whether it is a blessing, an answer to our prayers, or a personal revelation, we want to impress others with our gift. And when we boast Satan takes over telling us that we are more righteousness than others. Jacob wrote: "Wherefore, we search the prophets, and we have many revelations and the spirit of prophecy; and having all these witnesses we obtain a hope, and our faith becometh unshaken, insomuch that we truly can command in the name of Jesus and the very trees obey us, or the mountains, or the waves of the sea. Nevertheless, the Lord God showeth us our weakness that we may know that it is by his grace, and his great condescension's unto the children of men, that we have power to do these things." (Jacob 4:6,7)
We should have the same attitude as King Benjamin when it comes to delusions of grandeur; “And I, even I, whom ye call your king, am no better than ye yourselves are; for I am also of the dust...” (Mosiah 2:26)
Elder Boyd K. Packer taught:
"Occasionally during the past year I have been asked a question. Usually it comes as a curious, almost an idle question about the qualifications to stand as a witness for Christ. The question they ask is, 'Have you seen Him?' That is a question that I have never asked of another, I have not asked that question of my Brethren in the Quorum, thinking that it would be so sacred and so personal that one would have to have some special inspiration, indeed, some authorization, even to ask it.
"There are some things just too sacred to discuss. We know that as it relates to the temples. In our temples sacred ordinances are performed; sacred experiences are enjoyed. And yet we do not, because of the nature of them, discuss them outside those sacred walls. It is not that they are secret, but they are sacred; not to be discussed, but to be harbored and to be protected and regarded with the deepest of reverence. I have come to know what the prophet Alma meant: 'It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him. And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full.' (Alma 12:9-10) There are those who hear testimonies borne in the Church by those in high station and by members in the wards and branches, all using the save words-'I know that God lives; I know that Jesus is the Christ,' and come to question, 'Why cannot it be said in plainer words? Why aren't they more explicit and more descriptive? Cannot the Apostles say more?' How like the sacred experience in the temple becomes our personal testimony! It is sacred, and when we are wont to put it into words, we say it in the same way-all using the same words. The Apostles declare it in the same phrases with the little Primary or Sunday School youngster. 'I know that God lives and I know that Jesus is the Christ.' We would do well not to disregard the testimonies of the prophets or of the children, for 'he imparteth his words by angels unto men, yea, not only men but women also. Now this is not all; little children do have words given unto them many times, which confound the wise and the learned.' (Alma 32:23) Some seek for a witness to be given in some new and dramatic and different way." (That All May Be Edified, Boyd K. Packer ps. 312,313)
This advice was given by Brigham Young:
“Should you receive a vision or revelation from the Almighty, one that the Lord gave you concerning yourselves, or this people, but which you are not to reveal on account of your not being the proper person, or because it ought not to be known by the people at present, you should shut it up and seal it as close, and lock it as tight as heaven is to you, and make it as secret as the grave. The Lord has no confidence in those who reveal secrets, for he cannot safely reveal himself to such persons.” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church, Brigham Young, ps.43,44)
The Prophet Joseph gave this counsel pertaining to our desires to let others know of our accomplishments:
“Let not any man publish his own righteousness, for others can see that for him; sooner let him confess his sins, and then he will be forgiven, and he will bring forth more fruit.” (Teachings, p. 194.)
The Lord warned Joseph early that he must be careful; “For although a man may have many revelations, and have power to do many mighty works, yet if he boasts in his own strength, and sets at naught the counsels of God, and follows after the dictates of his own will and carnal desires, he must fall and incur the vengeance of a just God upon him.” (D&C 3:4)
Cover our sins
In section 121 of the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord warned of the natural tendency of man to "cover our sins." (Vr. 37) We do not like others to know our faults, and through pride we want to cover, or hide our weakness. We sometimes deny, and are willing to lie, that our weakness may not be known. This fear of shame, can inhibit our humility and repentance, yet all should "...believe in Christ, and view his death, and suffer his cross and bear the shame of the world..." (Jacob 1:8)
As it applies to our relationship with our Savior: "By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins-behold, he will confess them and forsake them." (D&C 58:43) So it also applies to our relationships with each other; "...if he or she confess thou shalt be reconciled." (D&C 42:88)Our true humility is demonstrated when we are willing to suffer any humiliation for the celestial kingdom.
We have the Church
There are several ways that we can become puffed up, one is that we think we are better than others simply because we are members of the Lords Church. The Lord taught: "And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more." (Lk. 12:47,48)
The Lord warned in his day "For I say unto you, that except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven." (Matt. 5:20) If we changed this statement to our day it would say: "except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Christians around you, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven."
Joseph was asked the question: "Will everybody be damned, but Mormons?" and Joseph answered: "Yes and a great portion of them, unless they repent, and work righteousness." (Teachings p.119)
Another way that we become puffed up is in our supposed knowledge. There have been many detractors that would set themselves up as a light to the world, who would pick out different doctrines or practices, and stress them, at times claiming that the Church has gone astray, or the leaders have led the Church astray. I would call it the "I know more than the prophet" syndrome.
I have observed that while those who would detract from the leaders of the Church, emphasize doctrine, the true prophets of God teach and accentuate principle. We can also observe the ministry of our Lord and his great attention to principle: "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, Judgment, mercy, and faith; these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel." (Matt. 23:23,24) What are the "weightier matters of the law"? They are "Judgment, mercy, and faith," they are the principles of the Gospel.
What is the main function of the Spirit of the Lord? The Lord says: "...put your trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good-yea, to do justly, to walk humbly to judge righteously; and this is my Spirit." (D&C 11:12) The main purpose than of the Holy Ghost, is not to reveal mysteries of the universe, or obscure or debatable doctrine, but rather to lead us step by step, to teach us principle upon principle, until we reach the Celestial Kingdom.
"It is just as Joseph Smith said to a certain man who asked him, 'How do you govern such a vast people as this?' 'Oh,' says Joseph, 'it is very easy.' 'Why,' says the man, 'but we find it very difficult.' 'But,' said Joseph, 'it is very easy, for I teach the people correct principles and they govern themselves;' and if correct principles will do this in one family they will in ten, in a hundred and in ten hundred thousand. How easy it is to govern the people in this way! ...the streams of life flow from the Great Fountain through the various channels which the Almighty has opened up, and they spread not only throughout this city but throughout the world, where ever there are any Saints that have yielded obedience to the commandments of God." (Journal of Discourses, John Taylor Vol. 10 ps. 57,58)
Even as Samuel stated: "Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and the right way." (1 Sam. 11:23)
What is the solution? We must consider ourselves "...fools before God, and come down in the depths of humility..." and if we do not, "...He will not open unto..." us.(2 Ne. 9:42)
Another way that we become puffed up is because of our possessions. Jacob warned the members of his day: "And now behold, my brethren this is the word which I declare unto you, that many of you have begun to search for gold, and for silver, and for all manner of precious ores, in the which this land, which is a land of promise unto you and to your seed, doth abound most plentifully. And the hand of providence hath smiled upon you most pleasingly, that you have obtained many riches; and because some of you have obtained more abundantly than that of your brethren ye are lifted up in the pride of your hearts, and wear stiff necks and high heads because of the costliness of your apparel, and persecute your brethren because ye suppose that ye are better than they."
"And now, my brethren, do ye suppose that God justifieth you in this thing? Behold, I say unto you, Nay, But He condemneth you, and if ye persist in these things His judgments must speedily come unto you. O that He would show you that He can pierce you, and with one glance of His eye He can smite you to the dust! O that He would rid you from this iniquity and abomination. And, O that ye would listen unto the word of His commands, and let not this pride of your hearts destroy your souls!" And what is the only reason why Jacob says we should seek worldly wealth? "Think of your brethren like unto yourselves, and be familiar with all and free with your substance, that they may be rich like unto you. But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God. And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good-to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted."(Jacob 2:12-16)
In the parable of the sower, I believe that the Lord is trying to get a particular point across that we miss at a glance. Two conditions of soil are mentioned in verses seven and eight, of Matthew 13. One which the seed was received among thorns; "...and the thorns sprung up, and choked them:" The "...other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold." When the Lord explained these two soil conditions, He did not say that ether fell away, only that the seed that fell among thorns "becometh unfruitful,” and what are the "thorns?" and why did he become unfruitful? "He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful." While "...the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty." (Matt. 13:7,8,22,23)
Again Alma warned the people of his day: "And now my beloved brethren I say unto you, can ye withstand these sayings; yea can ye lay aside these things, and trample the Holy One under your feet; yea, can ye be puffed up in the pride of your hearts; yea, will ye still persist in the wearing of costly apparel and setting your hearts upon the vain things of the world, upon your riches? Yea, will ye persist in supposing that ye are better one than another; yea, will ye persist in the persecution of your brethren, who humble themselves and do walk after the holy order of God, wherewith they have been brought into this church, having been sanctified by the Holy Spirit, and they do bring forth works which are meet for repentance-Yea, and will you persist in turning your backs upon the poor, and the needy, and in withholding your substance from them?" (Alma 5:53-55)
Apparently there was a dispute among some brothers over an inheritance at the death of their father, and one came to the Master, asking: "...speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me. And he said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you? And He said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.
"And He spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: And he thought within himself, saying, what shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?
"And he said, this will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.
"But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?
"So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God." (Luke 12:13-21)
Honors of men
Another way we become puffed up is because of position, whether in the Church or elsewhere. The Lord warned: "Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen? Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men...But when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man...We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion." (D&C 121:34-39)
A sad record of this is contained in first Samuel; when Saul was first called he was humble, he felt inadequate to do his duty, this is evidenced by his hiding "among the stuff" (1 Sam. 10:21,22) when he was to be presented. But as he began to serve, pride took over, and the Lord rejected him. Samuel delivered his final words as he saw Saul for the last time: "...When thou wast little in thine own sight, was thou not made the head of the tribes of Israel, and the Lord anointed thee king over Israel?" Samuel recounted to Saul the command of the Lord and his disobedience, then concluded; "For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, He hath also rejected thee from being king."(1 Sam. 15:17-23)
Because of pride, Saul continued to try to hold on to his position as king. And even sought to kill Samuel and anyone that he would anoint, and when he knew that David would be the new king he sought to kill him. (1 Sam. 16:1,2; 18:10-14) Why did the Lord chose David? We see David's humility from this response: "...I am a poor man, and lightly esteemed" (1 Sam. 18:23)
There were those in the early days of the Church who aspired to position and recognition in the kingdom, those who wanted to put themselves up as a light to the Church, who troubled the Prophet Joseph Smith:
President Smith continued by speaking of the difficulties he had to surmount ever since the commencement of the work, in consequence of aspiring men. "Great big Elders," as he called them, who caused him much trouble; to whom he had taught the things of the kingdom in private councils, they would then go forth into the world and proclaim the things he had taught them, as their own revelations; said the same aspiring disposition will be in this Society, and must be guarded against; that every person should stand, and act in the place appointed, and thus sanctify the Society and get it pure. He said he had been trampled under foot by aspiring Elders, for all were infected with that spirit; for instance, John E. Page and others had been aspiring; they could not be exalted, but must run away as though the care and authority of the Church were vested with them. He said he had a subtle devil to deal with, and could only curb him by being humble.
(Teachings p. 225.)
The difference between pride and humility, is the difference between seeking the great and spacious building, and being on the path that leads to the Tree of Life. It is the difference between the church of the Devil, and the church of the Lamb of God. It is the difference between priestcraft, and charity. It is the difference between being called, or being chosen. It is the difference between seeking the honors of men and the praise of the world, or having an eye single to the glory of God. It is the difference between covering our sins, and denying our fault, or confessing our sin, and admitting our fault.
We then learn from the scriptures that there are only a few motivations among men-one being the lusts of the flesh, another desiring power and authority, another the desire for wealth, another for the praise and honors of men. These are all tools of the adversary to divert us from the only motivation that is acceptable to the Lord, which is charity, or the pure love of Christ, that can only be inspired in those who have faith, humility, and repentance.
President Benson instructed:
“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)… 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. Pride is the great stumbling block to Zion. I repeat: Pride is the great stumbling block to Zion. We must cleanse the inner vessel by conquering pride. 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.” (ibid.)