In an address drawing together Book of Mormon and other scriptural teachings regarding pride, President Ezra Taft Benson called it "the universal sin, the great vice" (1989, p. 6). He characterized its central feature as "enmity—enmity toward God and enmity toward our fellowmen" and defined "enmity" as "hatred toward, hostility to, or a state of opposition." He observed that "pride is essentially competitive in nature," arising when individuals pit their will against God's or their intellects, opinions, works, wealth, and talents against those of other people (p. 4). He warned that "pride is a damning sin in the true sense of that word," for "it limits or stops progression" and "adversely affects all our relationships" (p. 6).
The scriptures abound with admonitions against pride. "Pride goeth before destruction" (Prov. 16:18). Pride felled Lucifer (cf. Moses 4:1—3; 2 Ne. 24:12—15; D&C 29:36; 76:28) and destroyed the city of Sodom (Ezek. 16:49—50). In the closing chapters of the Book of Mormon, the prophet Mormon wrote, "Behold, the pride of this nation, or the people of the Nephites, hath proven their destruction" (Moro. 8:27). Three times in the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord uses the phrase "beware of pride," including warnings to Oliver Cowdery, the second elder of the Church, and to Emma Smith, the wife of Joseph Smith (D&C 23:1; 25:14; 38:39). The Lord has said that when he cleanses the earth by fire, the proud shall burn as stubble (3 Ne. 25:1; D&C 29:9; Mal. 4:1).
While most consider pride a sin of the rich, gifted, or learned looking down on others, President Benson warned that it is also common among those looking up—"faultfinding, gossiping . . . living beyond our means, envying, coveting, withholding gratitude . . . and being unforgiving and jealous" (1989, p. 5).
God has commanded the Saints to "seek to bring forth and establish the cause of Zion" (D&C 6:6). When Zion is established, its people will be "of one heart and one mind" and will dwell together in righteousness (Moses 7:18). But "pride is the great stumbling block to Zion" (Benson, 1989, p. 7). Pride leads people to diminish others in the attempt to elevate themselves, resulting in selfishness and contention.
The proud love "the praise of men more than the praise of God" (John 12:42—43) and fear the judgment of men more than that of God (cf. D&C 3:6—7; 30:1—2; 60:2). They do not receive counsel or correction easily but justify and rationalize their frailties and failures, making it difficult for them to repent and receive the blessings of the Atonement. They have difficulty rejoicing in their blessings, because they are constantly comparing them to see whether they have more or less than someone else. Consequently, they are often ungrateful.
The antidote for pride is humility, "a broken heart and a contrite spirit" (3 Ne. 9:20, 12:19). Men can choose to do those things that will foster the growth of humility: they can choose to confess and forsake their sins, forgive others, receive counsel and chastisement, esteem others as themselves, render service, love God, and submit to his will (Benson, 1989, p. 7). By yielding "to the enticings of the Holy Spirit," the prideful individual can become "a saint through the atonement of Christ" and become "as a child, submissive, meek, humble" (Mosiah 3:19; cf. Alma 13:28).
Benson, Ezra Taft. "Cleansing the Inner Vessel." Ensign 16 (May 1986): 4—7.
———. "Beware of Pride." Ensign 19 (May 1989): 4—7.
Burton, Theodore M. "A Disease Called Pride." Ensign 1 (Mar. 1971): 26—29.
Reed A. Benson