You can read 1 Nephi 12:12-23 here.
Context and General Information
- Nephi is seeing the vision of the tree of life and learning its interpretation.
- Nephi saw many of the fourth generation (from the time of Christ’s coming) of his people pass away in righteousness.
- Nephi saw the multitudes of the earth gathered together.
- Nephi saw his the people of his seed gathered together in war against the seed of his brethren.
- The Angel teaches Nephi the meanings of the fountain of filthy water, the mists of darkness,and the great and spacious building.
- Nephi saw the seed of his brethren – that they overcame his own seed.
- Nephi saw wars and rumors of wars among the seed of his brethren. Many generations passed away.
- Nephi saw the remainder of his civilization dwindle in unbelief. They became a dark, loathsome, and filthy people.
We’ve been studying about the destruction of the Nephites in the past few blog posts. The Savior, after being resurrected, visited and ministered to the people of the Americas. As a result of the visitation from the Savior, the Nephites became one people. They lived in peace. There were no classes, no wars, no wickedness. They were very happy.
This joyful society lasted for about four generations, but then pride crept into the hearts of the people. Soon, they no longer had things in common. Class was reintroduced. Then, it wasn’t long before all manner of evils started to become commonplace again. Sin, wickedness, and pride spread through the people like a wildfire – with devastating effects.
Nephi sees some of this – one thousand years before it will happen. We read:
“And while the angel spake these words, I beheld and saw that the seed of my brethren did contend against my seed, according to the word of the angel; and because of the pride of my seed, and the temptations of the devil, I beheld that the seed of my brethren did overpower the people of my seed.” – 1 Nephi 12:19
The self-destruction of the Nephites
- They became proud.
- This pride set them against God, and they gave into the temptations of the devil.
As I read this verse, I am kind of fixated on that word: Temptations. It has a footnote – to the Topical Guide. I think that I will study a few of the entries here today.
Temptation is a Part of Mortal Life
Even before the foundation of this world, the Lord had a plan – we would come to the earth to be tried and tested.
“And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;” – Abraham 3:25
God created the world and then created Adam and Eve. He set them in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve dwelt in His presence, but there was a condition – they could not partake of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and then remain in His presence.
The Lord then allowed them to be tempted.
Temptation has been a part of our experience always. It is something we should simply accept. When we understand that temptation is a part of our experience, then we can have power over it.
We know that Adam and Eve were tempted, and they fell. This fall introduced death and sin into the world. But it had a positive effect, too – they were able to have children. The plan of salvation would move forward. We could all come to the earth to be tested and tried.
Pride and Temptation
We read in 1 Nephi 12 that because of the pride of the Nephites, they entered into temptation, and then they were overpowered by their enemies. In the Doctrine and Covenants a similar warning is given to Oliver Cowdery:
“1 Behold, I speak unto you, Oliver, a few words. Behold, thou art blessed, and art under no condemnation. But beware of pride, lest thou shouldst enter into temptation.” – Doctrine and Covenants 23:1
Why does pride lead us into temptation? I mean, really – I want to search that. Why does pride lead us into temptation? Because, obviously it does. And, honestly, we don’t even need to know why in order to understand the pattern that when we have pride, we are more easily beset by sin and temptation. However, maybe if we understand the mechanics of it – maybe if we deconstruct it – then we will fight and rage against pride – so that we aren’t led into temptation – so that we don’t wander off, get lost, and become miserable.
I suppose that we first need to understand, really, what pride is. And I know that I’ve already studied this before, but it’s fine. I am feeling that I need to study this, so here we go. I love President Ezra Taft Benson’s explanation of pride:
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. – Ezra Taft Benson
I love this explanation because I think that we often do get stuck on the first paragraph – we think of pride as being some kind of braggart-ly jerk. We think of someone who is conceited and cocky. We might think of an arrogant loud mouth boaster. We may even think of it more subtly – the “rat race” or someone who needs to “keep up with Joneses” by wearing a fancy watch and driving a nice car.
Even in the Book of Mormon, when we read that pride is creeping into the hearts of the people, they are described as wearing fine clothing. And yes – this is a part of pride.
But the jerkiness, the haughtiness, the boastful dude who talks trash to others, the subtle passive aggressive lady who gives back-handed complements, the name dropping, the nice cars, the peer pressure, the politics, the condescension and judgment of others – those are all symptoms. They are correlations, but not the causation of pride.
President Benson teaches more than the little outward symptoms of pride. He gets to the heart of the matter – which happens to be the heart. Pride is enmity toward God. And enmity toward God is anything that causes us to hate Him, have hostility toward Him, or put us in opposition against Him. When we really think of it that way, then we will begin to see that even if driving a supercar isn’t important to us, we may still be suffering from pride.
President Benson also explains:
“Pride is essentially competitive in nature. We pit our will against God’s.” – Ezra Taft Benson
It’s starting to get easy to see why giving into pride will then lead to giving in to other temptations. What chance do we even have to ward off temptation if we already have our wills pitted against God’s?
The first great commandment is to love God. The second is love others. When we allow pride into our hearts – our enmity may be directed toward God, which, of course, is breaking that first commandment. It is also possible to have our enmity directed to others. President Benson taught:
“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. (See Hel. 6:17; D&C 58:41.)
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.)” – Ezra Taft Benson
Does this sound familiar? I wish it didn’t to me. I have often found myself frustrated by the success and joy of others – rather than also joyful for them. This is a form of pride. Left untamed, it can lead to giving into more serious temptations – I mean, really, what is at the root of coveting? Pride. Adultery? Pride. Murder? Pride.
If you keep your hearts pure and full of charity, then you probably won’t go out and commit a gross sin against others. It just won’t be a temptation anymore. Well, actually maybe it will be a temptation. There are always temptations in life. But when we learn to get a handle on pride, then we also won’t succumb so much to temptation.
One more thing about pride. Not only is pride related to enmity, it is also very intimately related with fear. President Benson said:
” The proud stand more in fear of men’s judgment than of God’s judgment. (See D&C 3:6–7; D&C 30:1–2; D&C 60:2.) “What will men think of me?” weighs heavier than “What will God think of me?”
“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?” – Ezra Taft Benson
Sometimes we become at odds against God because we worry more about what others think than what He thinks. When we start worrying about others, we then might be led into temptation – we might say yes when the right thing is to say no, we may think that we need to live outside of our means, we might even be willing to hurt others if that pleases those we fear.
Pride just leads to temptation -plain and simple. If we want to have strength against temptation, then we need to attack it at the root – pride.
Prayer Wards of Pride
Both pride and temptation are thwarted by true prayer. Remember what we learned about pride – it is enmity against God. We have pitted our will against His.
Instead, prayer is an exercise where we align our wills with Gods. In the Bible Dictionary we learn about prayer.
“As soon as we learn the true relationship in which we stand toward God (namely, God is our Father, and we are His children), then at once prayer becomes natural and instinctive on our part (Matt. 7:7–11). Many of the so-called difficulties about prayer arise from forgetting this relationship.” – Bible Dictionary: Prayer
First of all – prayer becomes more natural when we learn the true relationship. Think about pride right now – when we have pride in our hearts, are we remembering that we are children speaking to our loving Father in Heaven. When we understand the being that created us, prayer becomes more instinctive.
“Difficulties” about prayer arise from our own silliness – in forgetting that our Father in Heaven is our Father in Heaven!
Pride – plain and simple. So – when I pray, I need to remember that I am a daughter of God. Which means, He is my Father. Which means that He may have just a little bit more knowledge than I do.
The Bible Dictionary continues:
“Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other. The object of prayer is not to change the will of God but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant but that are made conditional on our asking for them.” – Bible Dictionary: Prayer
When we try to pit our will against God’s – this is pride. When we try to change the will of God – this is pride! We have forgotten who we are and who He is. We have forgotten that He created this world! We have forgotten that His ways are higher than our ways, and that His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. We have become so puffed up and sure of ourselves that we foolishly believe that our knowledge and will to be better than God’s.
Prayer – real prayer – is a way that we can remember our relationship with God and realign our wills with His. It is a way that we can discover His will. (I don’t want to get into this now, but often I think that His will isn’t some specific point by point plan for our lives. We are co-creators. Yet, there is an ideal, and if we seek to understand His will, then we will be much better off!) Prayer can help to ward off pride.
Prayer Helps us Overcome Temptation
This post is rather long, but I want to finish with a few scriptures about the connection between prayer and temptation
One – Matthew 6:13
The Lord’s prayer is a pattern for us to follow. He specifically asks for help – not to be lead into temptation but delivered from evil.
“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.” – Matthew 6:13
I ask for a lot of blessings, and I do plead that the Spirit can be with me, but I’m not sure that I always ask for protection against evil and temptation.
Two – Alma 34:39
“Yea, and I also exhort you, my brethren, that ye be watchful unto prayer continually, that ye may not be led away by the temptations of the devil, that he may not overpower you, that ye may not become his subjects at the last day; for behold, he rewardeth you no good thing.” – Alma 34:39
Not only do we need to pray that we won’t be led into temptation, but we need to pray continually!
I love the phrase, that he may not overpower you. I have to admit, yesterday I was feeling a little overpowered. Overwhelmed. Things go great for a while, and then it’s just hard. And what is the problem – most likely my lack of prayer. I try to pray, really pray, each day. Usually, I’m pretty okay at it. Right now, I’m not living in my own house, I don’t have my own space, so sometimes it is hard for me to find the right time or place to pray in a way that I would really like.
So I get a little casual.
And then, it just adds up and I feel overpowered and overwhelmed. So….PRAY! The Lord will give us the strength or insight that we need so we don’t feel overpowered or overwhelmed. We will be guided on what we need to do to stay the course and be happy.
Three – Matthew 26:41
The Savior spoke the following words to Peter, James, and John after he found them asleep while He suffered in Gethsemane:
“Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” – Matthew 26:41
At first glance, this seems like pretty pointed advice to the three apostles that were accompanying the Savior. Not only that, I kind of understand the plight of Peter, James, and John. Every single night, my husband and I try to watch a little episode of Psych or some other fun TV show. And every single night I fall asleep. Usually, I can’t even make it to the OPENING credits before falling asleep! I can get how it would have been hard for Peter, James, John to stay awake – because my flesh is weak.
And that’s the thing, though. This scripture probably applies to all of us in most situations. My flesh is weak. I need the Lord. I need His help. I am willing, but my flesh is so weak. This isn’t an excuse. It is actually meant as a motivation: PRAY! We can’t do it on our own.
When we pray, we are strengthened by the Lord and His spirit. We calm and clear our minds in thoughtful, humble prayer. We align our wills with His. We can feel the promptings of the Holy Ghost – to know what actions we should and maybe even should not take in life.
Our flesh is weak – and on our own, it is way too susceptible to temptation. But we haven’t been left alone. We have a loving Advocate who pleads our cause for us. However, He can’t plead our cause if we aren’t pleading it, too – in His name. The Lord will make us strong. He wants to make us strong. We just need to humble ourselves and pray.
I needed to read this today and to be reminded. I can see why the word “temptation” was standing out to me. I can see why I needed to study temptation, pride, and prayer. I need to remember to really pray and to really believe that Heavenly Father answers our prayers.
I needed to remember that Heavenly Father does allow us to be exposed to challenges and trials in our lives, but that we aren’t alone. We have His help, His constant companionship.
I needed to remember that His help doesn’t mean that He will navigate rough waters for me, but that He will enable me to do it, and that a big part of this is through prayer. Through prayer I will be able to come off conquer and not be overcome by temptation.
I’m so grateful for the scriptures. I know that they will help us every single day if we will just crack them open and listen to what the Lord wants to teach us. I also know that the Lord is guiding us. Every time I learn something in my personal scripture study, I realize that the Lord truly knows me, is mindful of me, and wants to answer my prayers – but He will not rob me of experience and growth when He does answer them. Understanding this helps to strengthen my faith and trust in Him.
I’m so grateful to know we have a loving Father in Heaven. I’m so grateful to know that we have a Savior who is also pleading our cause for us. I am so grateful to know that we don’t have to travel through our lives alone. I’m grateful to know that there is a way out of temptation. We have One we can turn to, and He’s only a prayer away.