Which is worse, pride or sexual sin?

April 10, 2009 | no comments

Every Mormon knows Jacob’s sermon in Jacob 2 where he condemns unchastity and men who sexually dishonor women. But Jacob begins by preaching against pride.

He tells the Nephites that they are “lifted up in the pride of their hearts.” . He says that “pride” and “being proud in your heart” are “abominable to him who created all flesh.” He is not pulling punches.

But then he says,

And now I make an end of speaking unto you concerning this pride. And were it not that I must speak unto you concerning a grosser crime, my heart would rejoice exceedingly because of you.

He then speaks against unchastity. So according to Jacob, pride is bad but sexual sins are lots, lots worse.

That’s interesting because, well, President Ezra Taft Benson said differently.

He gave a talk famous among Mormons called Beware of Pride. Like Jacob, he’s against it, but he doesn’t say that pride is relatively minor when compared to sexual sin.

In fact, President Benson says that

Pride is the universal sin, the great vice. Yes, pride is the universal sin, the great vice.

President Benson draws heavily on C.S. Lewis, who also thought that pride was the worse sin, certainly worse than unchastity. Remember The Great Divorce? The sinner who is afflicted with sexual sin (in the form of a lizard) is in a bad way, but the sinners who suffer from naked pride are much worse off. The sexual sinner repents and sees his sin turn to glory. The proud sinners do not and are condemned to hell.

Each prophet has a message for his own time, so they can contradict each other. But we should go out of our way to avoid dismissing *anything* we have that came through one of God’s mouthpieces. So how to reconcile the American prophet Ezra Taft Benson with the Nephite Prophet Jacob?

My opinion: the key is in President Benson’s statement that “pride is the universal sin.” Unlike Jacob, he is not talking about pride as one specific kind of sin. He is talking about pride as the common factor in every sin. If President Benson had written Jacob 2, he would have denounced the pride that led the Nephites to get wealth and think well of themselves, but he would have denounced even more the pride that led them to use women as status symbols and tools for the satisfaction of lust.

There’s pride, and then there’s pride.

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