They Will Not That the Lord Should Be Their Guide

While abridging Nephite history, and giving yet another account of the Nephites falling into a state of wickedness, Mormon pauses to lament the general spiritual fecklessness of the Nephites (and humanity more broadly).   

“O how foolish, and how vain, and how evil, and devilish, and how quick to do iniquity, and how slow to do good, are the children of men; yea, how quick to hearken unto the words of the evil one, and to set their hearts upon the vain things of the world! Yea, how quick to be lifted up in pride; yea, how quick to boast, and do all manner of that which is iniquity; and how slow are they to remember the Lord their God, and to give ear unto his counsels, yea, how slow to walk in wisdom’s paths!” (Helaman 12:4-5)

“Behold, they do not desire that the Lord their God, who hath created them, should rule and reign over them; notwithstanding his great goodness and his mercy towards them, they do set at naught his counsels, and they will not that he should be their guide. O how great is the nothingness of the children of men; yea, even they are less than the dust of the earth. For behold, the dust of the earth moveth hither and thither, to the dividing asunder, at the command of our great and everlasting God.” (Helaman 12:6-8)

Questions:

-Do you ever feel spiritually unstable? Are you ever taken aback by dark corners in your soul that have somehow formed and festered?

-Why is it often difficult to let God guide (rather than letting evil influences creep in and take control)?

-Are repentance, obedience to God’s commandments, and gratitude powerful spiritual stabilizers?

Because of the Pride of Their Hearts They Were Left in Their Own Strength and Were Afflicted and Smitten

The prophet Mormon defines the attitudes and actions that lead a people to destruction. The list below pulls directly from some of Mormon’s words and translates others, describing the kind of wickedness that leads to destruction, into more contemporary terms.

“…This great loss of the Nephites, and the great slaughter which was among them, would not have happened had it not been for their wickedness and their abomination which was among them; yea, and it was among those also who professed to belong to the church of God. And it was because of the pride of their hearts, because of their exceeding riches, yea, it was because of their oppression of the poor, withholding their food from the hungry, withholding their clothing from the naked, and smiting their humble brethren upon the cheek, making a mock of that which was sacred, denying the spirit of prophecy and of revelation, murdering, plundering, lying, stealing, committing adultery, rising up in great contentions…And because of this their great wickedness, and their boastings in their own strength, they were left in their own strength; therefore they did not prosper, but were afflicted and smitten and driven before the Lamanites…” (Helaman 4:11-13)

Questions:

-How many of the above items are engaged in, on a wide scale, in the United States (and in other countries)?  

-How many who profess to belong to the church of God engage in these wicked actions and attitudes?

Sanctification Comes from Yielding One’s Heart to God

The prophet historian, Mormon, tells of a time in Nephite history where true followers of Christ drew closer to Him despite being mistreated by their fellow church members.

“…In the fifty and first year of the reign of the judges there was peace also, save it were the pride which began to enter into the church—not into the church of God, but into the hearts of the people who professed to belong to the church of God—And they were lifted up in pride, even to the persecution of many of their brethren. Now this was a great evil, which did cause the more humble part of the people to suffer great persecutions, and to wade through much affliction. Nevertheless they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling of their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God.” (Helaman 3:33-36)

Questions:

-How can one be filled with joy even while passing through great difficulties in life?

-Would this group of people have obtained deep purification and sanctification of their hearts without the persecution they experienced?

-Are there worldly powers (including political forces) today that are tempting some in the Church to become prideful and despise others in the Church? -How vital is humility in ensuring one does not end up on the wrong side (i.e. prideful side) of inter-Church divisions?

Be Sober

Alma teaches his son about how a missionary for Christ should conduct him- or herself.

“…Now, as ye have begun to teach the word even so I would that ye should continue to teach; and I would that ye would be diligent and temperate in all things. See that ye are not lifted up unto pride; yea, see that ye do not boast in your own wisdom, nor of your much strength. Use boldness, but not overbearance; and also see that ye bridle all your passions, that ye may be filled with love; see that ye refrain from idleness. Do not pray as the Zoramites do, for ye have seen they pray to be heard of men, and to be praised for their wisdom. Do no say: O God, I thank thee that we are better than our brethren, but rather say: O Lord, forgive my unworthiness, and remember my brethren in mercy—yea acknowledge your unworthiness before God at all times. And may the Lord bless your soul, and receive you at the last day into his kingdom, to sit down in peace. Now go, my son, and teach the word unto this people. Be sober. My son, farewell.” (Alma 38:10-15)

Questions:

-How does bridling one’s passions open the way for a person to be filled with love?

-What does it mean to be sober (in the more general sense of the word)?

See That Ye Have Faith, Hope, and Charity, and Then Ye Shall Always Abound in Good Works

Alma teaches those who have entered the baptismal covenant that they should be submissive to God and kind to their fellow mortals. He also instructs them to ask for God’s help when in need and that the key to abounding in good works is faith, hope, and charity.

“…Be humble, and be submissive and gentle; easy to be entreated; full of patience and long-suffering; being temperate in all things; being diligent in keeping the commandments of God at all times; asking for whatsoever things ye stand in need, both spiritual and temporal; always returning thanks unto God for whatsoever things ye do receive. And see that ye have faith, hope, and charity, and then ye will always abound in good works.” (Alma 7:23-24)

Questions:

-Is it possible to be humble, submissive, gentle, easy to be entreated, temperate, and full of patience and long-suffering if the sin of pride has not been eradicated from one’s soul?

-Why will someone who has faith (in Christ), hope (in Christ) and charity (like Christ) abound in good works?

If Ye Are Not Stripped of Pride Ye Are Not Prepared to Meet God

Alma declares the absolute necessity of removing pride from one’s soul in preparation to meet God.

“…Are you 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)

Questions:

-What is pride? (click “pride” link above)

-Why is pride so detrimental to our relationship with God (and our standing at the Day of Judgment)?

-How can pride be stripped from one’s heart?

With One Glance of His Eye He Can Smite You to the Dust

When addressing the unrighteous pride and persecution of others that the Nephites were beginning to take part in, Jacob tries to help them understand their true position in relation to God. In so doing, Jacob declares the following.

“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, that ye would listen unto the word of his commands, and let not this pride of your hearts destroy your souls!” (Jacob 2:15).

Questions:

-How many believe in a Being this powerful—one that could (if He wasn’t as patient as He is) obliterate humanity with the glace of His eye?

-Do you believe God has eyes to glance with? Or, do you believe He is without body parts, passions, etc.

Prideful Hearts and Persecution Bring the Judgments of God

The prophet Jacob teaches his people that being prideful, being materialistic, and mistreating others (attitudes and actions that are often closely tied together) are not minor offences in God’s eyes

“…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 you suppose that God justifieth you in this thing? Behold I say you nay. But he condemneth you, and if ye persist in these things his judgments must speedily come unto you.” (Jacob 2:13-14)

Questions:

-What are some of the judgments of God that have been brought upon the people of the earth due to selfishness and prideful class distinctions.

-Is the prideful swagger that some use to cope with life (and prop up their self-esteem) acceptable to God?

They Will Not Search Knowledge, Nor Understand Great Knowledge, When It Is Given unto Them in Plainness

After teaching about the first principles and ordinances of the gospel—including faith in Christ, repentance, baptism, receiving the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end—Nephi laments the tendency in many to “look past” or ignore the greatest and most basic truths.

“…I am left to mourn because of the unbelief and the wickedness, and the ignorance, and stiffneckedness of men; for they will not search knowledge, nor understand great knowledge, when it is given unto them in plainness, even as plain as word can be.” (2 Nephi 32:7)

Questions:

-How many lack spiritual knowledge because of unbelief, wickedness, and prideful stubbornness?

-Why do we often make things more complicated than they need to be when it comes to our spiritual welfare?

Wo Be unto Them That Revile Against That Which Is Good and Say That It Is of No Worth

The prophet Nephi warns of serious consequences for those who do not humble themselves before God and His commandments in the last days.

“O the wise, and the learned, and the rich, that are puffed up in the pride of their hearts, and all those who preach false doctrines, and all those who commit whoredoms, and pervert the right way of the Lord, wo, wo, wo be unto them saith the Lord God Almighty, for they shall be thrust down to hell! Wo be unto them that turn aside the just for a thing of naught and revile against that which is good, and say that it is of no worth! For the day shall come that the Lord God will speedily visit the inhabitants of the earth; and in that day that they that are fully ripe in iniquity they shall perish.” (2 Nephi 28:15-16)

Questions:

-How many understand (or believe) that humility toward God is necessary for spiritual survival?

-Why would those who are steeped in the beliefs of elite intellectual circles and those that are wealthy be more likely to be prideful and “revile against that which is good?”

-How many would intentionally teach false doctrine? How many would resist the Holy Ghost in what they taught if it allowed them to stay in good standing with their intellectual peers?

-How many are willing to see sexual sin in terms of how God defines it (rather than how most of our contemporary societies define it)?

-How much of the suffering, evil, and depravity in the world is due to the perverting of the “right way of the Lord?”

-Are the groups that revile against that which is good further consolidating themselves (through the social “echo chamber” effect) into a state where they are fully ripe in iniquity?