Above the Stars of God – 2 Nephi 24:12-17

12 How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! Art thou cut down to the ground, which did weaken the nations!
13 For thou hast said in thy heart: I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north;
14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High.
15 Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.
16 They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and shall consider thee, and shall say: Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms?
17 And made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof, and opened not the house of his prisoners?
(2 Nephi 24:12-17, Isaiah 14:12-17)

C. S. Lewis pointed out that pride is essentially competitive in nature:

Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. We say that people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good-looking, but they are not. They are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or better looking than others. If every one else became equally rich, or clever, or good-looking there would be nothing to be proud about. It is the comparison that makes you proud, the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone (Mere Christianity, New York: Harper Collins, 1980, p. 122)

Ezra Taft Benson quoted part of this passage in his talk, “Beware of Pride” (General Conference, April 1989), and made this concept the central theme of the talk. He identified enmity as the central feature of pride and said that the proud “feel worthwhile as individuals if the numbers beneath them in achievement, talent, beauty, or intellect are large enough.” He said, “Some prideful people are not so concerned as to whether their wages meet their needs as they are that their wages are more than someone else’s. Their reward is being a cut above the rest. This is the enmity of pride.”

In the passage above, Isaiah prophesies the downfall of the king of Babylon, who would later rule over a powerful empire and conquer the kingdom of Judah. Because Isaiah used the title “Morning Star” to refer to this king, and because the King James translators rendered that title using the Latin term “Lucifer,” it is also easy to see in this passage a description of Satan’s rebellion and fall in the pre-earth life.

The main character in this passage frames his ambition in competitive terms: “I will exalt my throne above the stars of God,” he says. “I will ascend above the heights of the clouds.” These stars and clouds may represent other people, particularly since the outcome of his ambition was that he “made the earth to tremble,” “[shook] kingdoms,” “destroyed…cities,” and took prisoners. His goal was to have power over other people, not to excel on his own merits.

Pride assumes that life is a zero-sum game. The more other people take, the less there is for us. But the gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us to think of the world as abundant: “The earth is full, and there is enough and to spare” (D&C 104:17).

Today, I will strive to excel without comparing myself with others. I will approach challenges with the attitude that everyone can succeed and that other people’s accomplishments do not diminish my own.

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