You can read 1 Nephi 11:32-36 here.
Context and General Information
- Nephi is seeing the vision of the tree of life.
- The Spirit tells Nephi to Look! Nephi looks.
- Nephi sees the Lamb of God judged of the world, lifted up on the cross, and slain for the sins of the world.
- Nephi saw multitudes of people gathered to fight agains the apostles of Christ.
- Nephi sees the multitude gathered in the great and spacious building.
- The Spirit explains to Nephi that the great and spacious building is the world and its wisdom. Nephi then saw that the great and spacious building, which was the pride of the world, fell.
The Pride of the World
Well, I’m not exactly sure what to learn/write about today. But that’s just how it goes sometimes.
As I keep reading through this selection, I keep noticing the word pride.
This series of things that Nephi sees is pretty interesting. Nephi sees the Savior being taken by the people…His people, judged of the world, lifted up on the cross, and slain.
I think that it is crucial for us to really accept the fact that Jesus was killed by His own people. We need to remember this because we need to learn from it. Just because we are well-versed in the scriptures doesn’t really mean anything. We must have faith, and we must be doing all we can to strip ourselves of pride on a daily basis.
The people who fought (and were successful, by the way) to have Christ crucified were those who knew the prophecies of the Messiah, they were religious – so religious that they “enlarged their phylacteries.” (Meaning, they made sure to show others how pious and religious they were!) Their identity was religious, but the Lord accurately describes these so-called followers:
“This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.” – Matthew 15:8
I know, and I’ve known for as long as I can remember that the Pharisees were antagonists to the Savior and, as the Bible dictionary states, “a major obstacle to the reception of Christ and the gospel by the Jewish people.” (See Bible Dictionary: Pharisees.) I’ve known this fact, but it is good to really think about it, and then maybe ask some further questions.
Like – are we really all that different today? Are there times when I act like a Pharisee rather than a disciple?
We learn from the Bible Dictionary:
“They prided themselves on their strict observance of the law and on the care with which they avoided contact with things gentile. … They upheld the authority of oral tradition as of equal value with the written law. The tendency of their teaching was to reduce religion to the observance of a multiplicity of ceremonial rules and to encourage self-sufficiency and spiritual pride.” – Bible Dictionary: Pharisee
(Note: there were other groups that opposed the Savior (like the Sadducees, I realize). They were another “caste” among the Jews. As the Bible dictionary states about them, “They formed the Jewish aristocracy and were powerful, though quite small in numbers.” (See Bible Dictionary: Sadducees.)
Though the beliefs between the Pharisees and the Sadducees varied a little bit, what they had in common was pride. The Pharisees prided themselves on their overzealousness. The Sadducees were aristocratic. They were a class of Jews. If you think that it is bad to have “cliques” in your ward, imagine if we had entire “classes!” This completely goes against what the Savior teaches about Zion:
” And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.” – Moses 7:18
So, I suppose that these are the questions that we must ask ourselves. Do we act like Pharisees and/or Sadducees?
- Do we pride ourselves on strict observance – to what we consider to be the traditions of the gospel – Notice, it isn’t a bad thing to obey the commandments. It is good for us to keep the commandments and covenants that God has given us. But do we “miss the mark” with our observance? Do we create our own “rules,” programs, and initiatives that get in the way of what we truly ought to be doing? Jacob taught:
“But behold, the Jews were a stiffnecked people; and they despised the words of plainness, and killed the prophets, and sought for things that they could not understand. Wherefore, because of their blindness, which blindness came by looking beyond the mark, they must needs fall; for God hath taken away his plainness from them, and delivered unto them many things which they cannot understand, because they desired it. And because they desired it God hath done it, that they may stumble.” – Jacob 4:14
- Do we uphold “tradition” as if it were equal to the law?…and then judge against people who aren’t keeping tradition. Do we confuse to the two?
- Have we reduced religion to a set of “ceremonious rules” rather than remember that the religion we claim to have is the doctrine of Christ -the pattern of salvation?
- Are we so obsessed with our traditional rules that we begin to over-emphasize self-sufficiency and spiritual pride? Do we sometimes forget that we need the Savior?
- Do we think that there is such a thing as “church royalty?” A group of select individuals – probably in local leaderships and such, that are just “model mormons?”
Unfortunately, I think that there is more Pharisee and Sadducee in our religion than there ought to be, and there are times when I get caught up in the traditions, the expectations, etc. I let a little bit of pride creep into my heart. And I lose focus on what we are really here to do.
I’ve been studying long enough for today, so I’m going to break this study up into two parts. But perhaps it is worth a little bit of self-reflection. It is so easy to become Pharisaical in our worship. We are human beings, social creatures, fallen people. We like to compare. Sometimes comparison can be a helpful way of gathering data.
But when it comes to our religion and our discipleship, comparison can be a way that the Adversary sneaks into our heart. If we aren’t careful, we might begin to think that our works are more important than our faith. We may forget the role of grace – that even after everything we can do, it isn’t enough. In fact, I feel kind of bad saying that “it isn’t enough.” But I don’t mean that in a derogatory “you aren’t perfect way.” I mean it in the way that we learn in the scriptures…
YOU AREN’T PERFECT! I’m not perfect! The Pharisees weren’t perfect. We all need Christ. We don’t have to be perfect to qualify for His grace. We just have to come unto Him. He is the one who will perfect us and make us whole. Sometimes our expectations are a bit Pharisaical, and we think that in order to qualify for grace, we need to be perfect. But if we were perfect, then there would be no need for grace.
This perfectionism, this overzealousness, is really just a form of pride. Pride is “enmity toward god.” And what is enmity?
“Enmity means “hatred toward, hostility to, or a state of opposition.” – Ezra Taft Benson
I used to think of Enmity merely as “hatred toward or hostility to,” but it is only a part of the definition. Enmity is also “a state of opposition” against God.
I don’t think that the Pharisees thought that they hated or had hostility toward God. They were so obsessed with God and His commandments, they were trying to take each commandment and tradition, and “do one better.” While this overzealousness may not have been caused by their “hatred toward or hostility to” God, it did set them in a state of opposition” against Him. And then, the state of their opposition against God was so severe, they crucified their God.
We can learn from the Pharisees and the Sadducees. If we search within ourselves, we may just find some pride within us. And, if we search within ourselves and we do find pride, then we know that we can root it out with the help of our loving Savior.