“He Began to Be Lifted Up in the Pride of His Heart and to Wear Very Costly Apparel”

Brant Gardner

As with virtually all incidences of unrighteous wealth or pride in the Book of Mormon, it is first manifest in the wearing of costly apparel. We saw this as early as Jacob, Nephi’s brother (Jacob 2:13). When the Nephites begin to drift from the ways of the Lord two hundred years after Christ’s appearance in the America’s, the first sign of that drift that is noted is the wearing of costly apparel (4 Nephi 1:24).

This intimate connection between unrighteous pride and expensive clothing has an dramatic correlation in Mesoamerican economics. To understand this connection more fully, let’s look as the nature of wealth in Mesoamerica:

“ The Maya used commodities both in their raw state and as worked objects for money. These currencies included jade and other green stones; flint and obsidian, in both worked and unworked forms; other precious stones and minerals; spondylus (spiny oyster) shells; cacao beans; lengths of cotton cloth, both in plain weave and made into clothes; spices; measures of sea salt; birds and their feathers; animal pelts; forest products such as dyes, resins, incense, and rubber; wood in both worked and unworked form; and ceramics, especially beautifully painted elite wares.

People at all levels of society used these currencies within their communities as well as in the markets and fairs. Farmers and villagers could use their crops and handicrafts to barter for or buy other goods for use in their daily lives or in special rituals, such as marriages, funerals, and house dedications.

People throughout Mesoamerica wore these currencies as jewelry and clothing to display the wealth and enterprise of their families.”(Schele, Linda, and Peter Mathews. The Code of Kings. Scribner, 1998, p. 19).

The costly apparel was one of the most obvious ways in which a Mesoamerican would display their wealth. As Schele and Mathews note, they wore it. Thus the connection between costly apparel and the sins of pride were dramatic and direct. Subtler, however, is the necessity of trade to obtain those goods. The interaction with other people who might be deemed to be “better” because of their displayed wealth would allow for not only the importation of style, but of other understandings of the way things “ought to be.” The costly apparel not only displayed wealth which highlighted social differences, but also indicates that there was a continued influence in Nephite society that probably included much more than just fashion and accessories.

Multidimensional Commentary on the Book of Mormon