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?
18 All the kings of the nations, yea, all of them, lie in glory, every one of them in his own house.
19 But thou art cast out of thy grave like an abominable branch, and the remnant of those that are slain, thrust through with a sword, that go down to the stones of the pit; as a carcass trodden under feet.
20 Thou shalt not be joined with them in burial, because thou hast destroyed thy land and slain thy people; the seed of evil-doers shall never be renowned.
(2 Nephi 24:12-20, Isaiah 14:12-20)
It is so hard to avoid hubris. A little prestige, a position of authority, a small amount of wealth can so easily go to our heads and give us the illusion of far greater power than we actually have. We also have the illusion of permanence: we think this influence will last forever. Other people don’t help: their praise can fortify our delusion and bolster our arrogance. No wonder President James E. Faust gave the following advice to Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf when he was called to serve as a general authority of the Church:
He said, “They will treat you very kindly. They will say nice things about you.” He laughed a little and then said, “Dieter, be thankful for this. But don’t you ever inhale it.” (“Pride and the Priesthood,” General Conference, October 2010).
Like so many passages in Isaiah, the passage above refers to multiple events. It describes the future downfall of the king of Babylon. It also depicts Satan’s fall from his pre-earth status as “an angel of God Who was in authority in the presence of God” (D&C 76:25-29).
More broadly, it serves as a warning to those who become proud because they assume their worldly power is permanent.
In the poem “Ozymandias,” by Percy Bysshe Shelley, a traveler tells of an old crumbling statue he found half-buried in the desert. The following words were inscribed on the base: “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings; look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!” The traveler contrasts this audacious declaration with the scenery which provides a silent rebuttal:
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
Today, I will avoid letting worldly honors and praise go to my head. I will remember to keep in perspective all of my blessings and accomplishments. Above all, I will remember that all worldly power is temporary, but that Heavenly Father’s power and glory is eternal.