Is Pride the Only Sin?

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Can all sins be reduced to just one sin:  pride?  Is pride essentially the root cause of all sins?

Pres. Benson’s talk, Beware of Pride clarifies that the comparison is what makes it pride, not where you see yourself in the comparison.  Pride is the opposite of the first and great commandment (and the second which is like unto it), to love God and your fellow man; he calls it the fundamental sin.

Opposition to God may be manifest by the following symptoms:

  • Limiting God’s influence in your life through lack of faith, lack of willingness, lack of supplication, over-analysis or disbelief in whatever contradicts your preconceptions.
  • Refusing to draw near to God or to be open to spiritual experiences.  Trivializing the spiritual experiences we have or trying to argue them away.
  • Seeking for signs to prove the existence of God or His will.  Spiritualizing non-spiritual matters (e.g. having a testimony of folklore or cultural matters).

Opposition to our fellow men includes things like:

  • Needing to be right or to belittle whatever is different.  Being contentious.  Being easily offended.  Trivializing others’ spiritual experiences, views, tastes or intellect because they differ from yours.
  • Pitting any measuring device against others (intellect, opinions, works, wealth, talents, tastes, heritage, righteousness).  Self-justification and rationalization can follow.  Those who are prideful have a hard time learning from others.
  • Caring what people think of you (social or cultural benefits), not what God thinks of you.  Doing things for the sake of appearance.  Being inauthentic or dishonest with others.  The prideful don’t want to admit they don’t know something or made a mistake.

Pride is a sin that can readily be seen in others but is rarely admitted in ourselves (just like both Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy are blinded by their own pride). 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.

Both the orthodox and heterodox can fall prey to this sin, working mothers and SAHMs alike, gay Mormons and straight Mormons, leaders and lay members.  Mastery over one’s pride can take a lifetime.  Consider these manifestations of pride:

  • Both anti-authoritarian behavior and authoritative behavior are prideful. A proud person hates the fact that someone is above her or him and resists that authority. A proud person in authority hates the fact that someone is not recognizing her or his authority and pushes all the more.
  • Both the self-righteous and the critical are prideful. A person who believes he is more righteous than another is guilty of pride.  A person who scorns the self-righteous person as a hypocrite (not as genuine as I am) is also guilty of pride.
  • Both the offender and the defensive are guilty of pride. Arguing and contention are symptomatic of pride, whether one initiates it or attempts to prove one’s superiority over the other person.  It distances us as siblings in Christ.
  • Both the rich and the poor can be prideful. The prideful put their heart on riches, whether they have them (and keep them) or don’t have them (and covet them) or judge those who don’t share them.
  • Both the intellectual and the unlearned can be prideful. The intellectuals feel superior to those who know less or have less curiosity, while those who scorn the intellectuals may be equally guilty of pride if they judge intellectuals as less faithful or valiant than they are.

Pres. Benson warned that pride was the great stumblingblock for the church.  This talk was delivered in May of 1989, almost 20 years ago.  How is the church doing?  Have we become more or less prideful?  And does the b’nacle foster the sin of pride or just reveal what is already there?  Can we overcome pride or is it just part of human nature?  Discuss.

Comments 10

  1. Very enjoyable and thought provoking post. He who is without “pride” may cast the first stone? 🙂
    I believe that this life is a process in which we have to stip away our pride, layer by layer until one day the will of the child is swallowed up in the will of the father.
    I am a child of God. And if I am, then that means everyone on this earth is too. I try to treat all I come in contact with, with this in mind. This is not merely lipservice, like so many of us give, but I truly believe this in my heart.
    C.S. Lewis said: “It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, it at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.” (The Weight of Glory, 14-15)

  2. Pres. Benson’s talk on Pride is one of my favorites of all time mainly because, we all suffer from it in one form of another. I also remember trying not to use the word “pride” in my usual conversation lest I would be guilty of pride itself. That might be a bit overblown, but nonetheless, it helped me to think where I was in the whole pride picture.

    In the last week’s SS lesson, this was a big part of it since the Nephites and some Lamanites had the same problem (Helaman chapter 6-12). In fact, the BOM is such a good example of the Pride Cycle occurring over and over again, maybe the sub-title should have been “The Pride Edition.” Because Mormon’s abridgment includes the cycle over and over again.

    I think the best we can hope for is to recognize in ourselves, prideful conduct, admit it and try to eliminate it. When you reach some point in your spiritual maturity, I guess pride goes away.

  3. Sin stems from agency. JS explains that vanity (pride) is an integral part of agency:

    Satan was generally blamed for the evils which we did, but if he was the cause of all our wickedness, men could not be condemned. The devil could not compel mankind to do evil; all was voluntary. Those who resisted the Spirit of God, would be liable to be led into temptation, and then the association of heaven would be withdrawn from those who refused to be made partakers of such great glory. God would not exert any compulsory means, and the devil could not; and such ideas as were entertained [on these subjects] by many were absurd.

    The creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but Christ subjected the same in hope all are subjected to vanity while they travel through the crooked paths and difficulties which surrounded them. Where is the man that is free from vanity? None ever were perfect but Jesus: and why was He perfect? Because He was the Son of God, and had the fullness of the Spirit, and greater power than any man. But notwithstanding their vanity, men look forward with hope (because they are “subjected in hope”) to the time of their deliverance.

    (Joseph Smith, TPJS, pg. 187)

  4. Post

    I often think that eliminating sin (as described by ETB above) would be the most important step toward enlightenment that a person can make. Imagine how much better our lives would be and the church would be without it:
    – there would be no reinforcement of formal authority (puffing people up) and no criticizing of those authorities (bringing them back down)
    – there would be no focus on conformity and no need to be viewed as unique among the membership; no one would care about these things
    – no one would care if anyone made more money than they did, and no one would care if someone didn’t have as much; wealth would cease to be a “sign” of the righteous
    – no one would consider someone more or less righteous because of what calling they had; and no one would aspire to callings
    – SAHMs wouldn’t think they are superior or inferior to working mothers, and working mothers wouldn’t think they are superior or less valued than SAHMs; everyone would be a sister
    – prayers and talks that are designed to make someone look smarter or more Mormon would be done away with; instead we would hear honest prayers of the heart.
    – everyone would admit they are just doing their best; no one would hide their sins or their doubts, and instead they could all just share what they do have.

    Those are just a few of the things that would be different. Can you think of more?

  5. Hawkgrrrl–nice job. I enjoyed reviewing the ubiquitous sin of pride.

    The thought I had when I finished reading your post is that if all sin can be reduced to one word: pride, then righteousness, the antithesis of pride can be reduced to one word: charity.

    And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

    (Book of Mormon | Moroni 7:45)

  6. Probably is the fundamental sin. Pt Benson seems to have been under prep during his entire life for that talk and the BoM message against the sin of pride.

    And I personally think that it was Satan’s only real sin in that pre-world council. From that one sin came all the others he invented over the years.

    About that Benson talk, I’ve often wondered why it isn’t edited into a new section in D&C. Its certainly important enough and over the years it seems to have been shelved by the church, since there is little reference to it at times. And no, I doubt we as a church have gotten any better here, if anything we have become more prideful which does concur with those prophesies about society just before the Second Coming.

    “And does the b’nacle foster the sin of pride” … certainly, when bloggers start to censor opinions they don’t agree with!

  7. Pingback: Points of Interest #30 « Mind, Soul, and Body

  8. If pride is the “sin of the Saints in the latter days,” then how come there hasn’t been more of an emphasis on identifying the pontential causes of pride within the church?

    When the Word of Wisdom was revealed to Joseph Smith in 1833, the church was built around the very concepts of that particular revelation. Two years later, the first three verses of D&C 89 were added to clarify that the Word of Wisdom was not intended to be required of the saints, and not meant to act as a constraint to even the weakest of members. Yet today many members become inactive because they are too weak to follow the Word of Wisdom, at which point active members accuse them of being too pridefull for refusing give up their wicked ways and return to the fold.

    This may be true in many cases, but who is more guilty of pride here? The inactive member who is not strong enough to follow the law, or the active member who doesnt realize that the law wasnt intended to be a law in the fist place? When the Word of Wisdom became required of the Saints 10 years later (a direct contradiction of D&C 89:1-3) Satan exploited the misunderstanding by creating a rhetorical situation for both active and inactive members to inevitably be guilty of pride to some degree.

    Do you think the leaders of the church will ever consider looking into the Word of Wisdom as a potential root of pride in the last days? Highly doubtful…and I bet the reocurring theme can speak for itself as to why not. One thing all members should take into consideration (especially those born under the Word of Wisdom law) is why do they really abide by those rules? Do they do it out of fear for their membership status and temple recomends, or do they do it for the spiritual growth promised to those who see the wisdom in following when they know they don’t have to? It becomes pretty hard to follow for the right reasons when it is a required mandate, and if people refuse to question the deep seeded motive behind their actions, then they are vulnerable to they worst kind of pride immaginable…the invisble pride. Just something to ponder.

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