6 And it came to pass in the eighth year of the reign of the judges, that the people of the church began to wax proud, because of their exceeding riches, and their fine silks, and their fine-twined linen, and because of their many flocks and herds, and their gold and their silver, and all manner of precious things, which they had obtained by their industry; and in all these things were they lifted up in the pride of their eyes, for they began to wear very costly apparel.
7 Now this was the cause of much affliction to Alma, yea, and to many of the people whom Alma had consecrated to be teachers, and priests, and elders over the church; yea, many of them were sorely grieved for the wickedness which they saw had begun to be among their people.
8 For they saw and beheld with great sorrow that the people of the church began to be lifted up in the pride of their eyes, and to set their hearts upon riches and upon the vain things of the world, that they began to be scornful, one towards another, and they began to persecute those that did not believe according to their own will and pleasure.
9 And thus, in this eighth year of the reign of the judges, there began to be great contentions among the people of the church; yea, there were envyings, and strife, and malice, and persecutions, and pride, even to exceed the pride of those who did not belong to the church of God.
A recurring theme in the Book of Mormon is the relationship between wealth, particularly ostentatious wealth, and pride. In this passage, Mormon highlights the pattern:
- Some members of the church became wealthy by working hard (“by their industry.”)
- This wealth caused them to become proud, which manifested itself in wearing “costly apparel.”
- They began to “set their hearts upon riches.”
- Their pride led to contention–first, scorn for those who disagreed with them, followed by “envyings, and strife, and malice, and persecutions.”
I suspect that each of these people would have been appalled if they had seen at the beginning of the process where their choices were leading them. They were, after all, members of the church. They were at one point humble followers of Christ. But wealth and success can go to our heads so easily. We’ve earned it. We deserve the right to enjoy our possessions. We don’t deserve to be treated badly by people of lesser status. And so our heart traverses the path from humble diligence to pride to contention.
Today, I will watch for signs of pride in myself. Particularly when I am successful, I will be careful not to exaggerate my contribution and not to allow a sense of entitlement to grow. I will remember that pride leads to contention and unhappiness, and I will remove it from my heart as quickly as I can detect it.