“Beware of Pride”

Ed J. Pinegar, Richard J. Allen
One of Satan’s greatest tools is pride: to cause a man or a woman to center so much attention on self that he or she becomes insensitive to his Creator or fellow beings. It is a cause for discontent, divorce, teenage rebellion, family indebtedness, and most other problems we face… .
In the scriptures there is no such thing as righteous pride. It is always considered as a sin. We are not speaking of a wholesome view of self-worth, which is best established by a close relationship with God. But we are speaking of pride as the universal sin, as someone has described it. Mormon writes that “the pride of this nation, or the people of the Nephites, hath proven their destruction” (Moroni 8:27). The Lord says in the Doctrine and Covenants, “Beware of pride, lest ye become as the Nephites of old” (D&C 38:39). Essentially, pride is a “my will” rather than “thy will” approach to life. The opposite of pride is humbleness, meekness, submissiveness, or teachableness (see Alma 13:28)… .
Pride does not look up to God and care about what is right. It looks sideways to man and argues who is right. Pride is manifest in the spirit of contention. Was it not through pride that the devil became the devil? Christ wanted to serve. The devil wanted to rule. Christ wanted to bring men to where He was. The devil wanted to be above men. Christ removed self as the force in His perfect life. It was not my will, but thine be done (see Mark 14:36; Luke 22:42).
Pride is characterized by “What do I want out of life?” rather than by “What would God have me do with my life?” It is self-will as opposed to God’s will. It is the fear of man over the fear of God… .
Humility responds to God’s will—to the fear of His judgments and to the needs of those around us. To the proud, the applause of the world rings in their ears; to the humble, the applause of heaven warms their hearts. Someone has said, “Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man.” Of one brother, the Lord said, “I, the Lord, am not well pleased with him, for he seeketh to excel, and he is not sufficiently meek before me” (D&C 58:41)… .
As we cleanse the inner vessel, there will have to be changes made in our own personal lives, in our families, and in the Church. The proud do not change to improve, but defend their position by rationalizing. Repentance means change, and it takes a humble person to change. But we can do it. (Ezra Taft Benson, The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988], 435–436)

“Pride, the Great Sin”

C. S. Lewis’s recognition of the legitimacy of a “self” that is grounded in Christ also comes with a warning: “The moment you have a self at all, there is a possibility of putting yourself first—wanting to be the centre—wanting to be God, in fact. That was the sin of Satan: and that was the sin he taught the human race.” Perhaps the most meaningful counsel given in all of his writings is contained in Lewis’s warnings about pride: “The essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.”
On 30 January 1930 Lewis wrote to his friend Arthur Greeves and told him that though he felt he was being supported in overcoming anger and immorality, he was alarmed concerning his own pride. Lewis wrote:
“I have found out ludicrous and terrible things about my own character. Sitting by, watching the rising thoughts to break their necks as they pop up, one learns to know the sort of thoughts that do come. And, will you believe it, one out of every three is a thought of self-admiration: when everything else fails, having had its neck broken, up comes the thought, ‘what an admirable fellow I am to have broken their necks!’ I catch myself posturing before the mirror, so to speak, all day long. I pretend I am carefully thinking out what to say to the next pupil (for his good, of course) and then suddenly realize I am really thinking how frightfully clever I’m going to be and how he will admire me … when you force yourself to stop it, you admire yourself for doing that. It’s like fighting the hydra… . There seems to be no end to it. Depth under depth of self-love and self-admiration… . Pride … is the mother of all sins, and the original sin of Lucifer.”
Latter-day Saints will remember President Ezra Taft Benson’s landmark address entitled, “Beware of Pride,” wherein our dear prophet quoted C. S. Lewis in warning the membership of the Church concerning “the sin of pride.” Though President Benson and Professor Lewis both described the manifestation of pride where we look “down on things and people,” President Benson articulated another: “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 Nephi 9:42). There is, however, a far more common ailment among us—and that is pride from the bottom looking up.”
Lewis alluded to the bidirectional nature of pride when he taught that Satan always delivers heresy in pairs: “He always sends errors into the world in pairs—pairs of opposites. And he always encourages us to spend a lot of time thinking which is the worse. You see why, of course? He relies on your extra dislike of the one error to draw you gradually into the opposite one.”
Elder Dallin H. Oaks shares this challenging insight on “pride from the bottom looking up” in his life:
“A few months after my calling to the Council of the Twelve, I expressed my feelings of inadequacy to one of the senior members of my quorum. He responded with this mild reproof and challenging insight: ‘I suppose your feelings are understandable. But you should work for a condition where you will not be pre-occupied with yourself and your own feelings and can give your entire concern to others, to the work of the Lord in all the world.’
“Whenever we focus on ourselves, even in our service to others, we fall short of the example of our Savior, who gave himself as a total and unqualified sacrifice for all mankind. Those who seek to follow his example must lose themselves in their service to others.”
Pride from the bottom looking up and the top looking down. Lewis taught that if we think ourselves not guilty of pride “it means [we] are very conceited indeed.” Lewis further taught: “The real test of being in the presence of God is that you either forget about yourself altogether or see yourself as a small, dirty object. It is better to forget about yourself altogether.” (Daniel K. Judd, in Andrew C. Skinner and Robert L. Millet, eds., C. S. Lewis, the Man and His Message: An LDS Perspective [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1999], 65–67)

Commentaries and Insights on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 1