Book of Mormon: The Pride Cycle
A historical illustration of the great pride of the people of Zarahemla about 20 years before the birth of the Savior.

After defeating the Lamanites in war, the Nephites began to prosper exceedingly in the land. In the times of prosperity, they tended to forget their God, and His strength in delivering them out of the hands of their enemies, and they began to fall. At the bottom of this fall, they again found themselves thriving in their works of darkness and in committing many, many sins.  When the Lord’s influence was so ignored and refused, the Nephites fell into destruction – almost overnight. With the threat of extinction hanging over their heads, they once again found hope in the teachings of their prophets, and once again humbled themselves, repented of their wickedness, changed their ways, and recognized the Lord in their lives. Almost magically, they began to prosper in the land, one more time.
Whether we suffer through the pride cycle on our own, in the tabloids, or as a people, it is critical that we correct our ways before it’s too late. Rather than being compelled to be humble, it would be better for us to reach down deep inside and humble ourselves because of our love for the Lord. Instead of living in evil and wickedness -  as a nation or as an individual – we can indeed live in times of peace and prosperity, and have the Lord on our side.

Charting the Book of Mormon

Helaman 11–12 covers 14 years of Nephite history and shows the people going through a cycle of righteousness and wickedness. Because of their pride, the people refused to repent of their wickedness. Nephi sealed the heavens, causing a drought and famine. The drought and famine humbled the people, and they repented and turned to the Lord. Because they did not choose to be humble, the people began to easily forget the Lord their God until they were brought to a realization of how much they needed His help. In His mercy, God chastens His people to bring them unto repentance and salvation.

Helaman 11

The Nephites pass through a cycle of righteousness and wickedness

  1. journal icon1. Draw the following cycle of righteousness and wickedness in your scripture study journal. This cycle is often referred to as the “pride cycle.” Notice that element number 4 of the cycle is missing from the diagram. What do you think it would take to raise a people from destruction and suffering to righteousness and prosperity? As you study Helaman 11, watch for information to help you fill in this step in the cycle.
    Righteousness and prosperity
As you read in Helaman 10, the people would not listen to the word of God delivered by the prophet Nephi. Review Helaman 10:18, and identify where you think the Nephites were on the pride cycle at that time (the end of the 71st year of the reign of the judges).
The following scripture activity will help you see this cycle of righteousness and wickedness among the Book of Mormon people throughout 14 years of their history. In the following chart, read the scripture references from Helaman 11, write a brief description of the Nephites’ condition, and write in the numbers showing where you would place them on the pride cycle. Two examples are provided for you. Watch for words to help you fill in the missing fourth step on the cycle you drew in your scripture study journal.
Year of the Reign of JudgesHelaman 11A Brief Description of the Nephites’ ConditionPosition on the Cycle
72–73verses 1–2Contention and wars increased; the secret band of robbers carried on the work of destruction.2, 3
73–75verses 3–6  
75verses 7, 9–12  
76–77verses 17–18, 20–21The people rejoiced and glorified God; they were righteous and prospered again.4, 1
78–79verses 22–23  
80verses 24–26  
80–81verses 27–30, 32–35  
82–85verses 36–37  
As shown in the scripture activity, element 4 in the pride cycle is “humility and repentance.” Write this in the chart in your scripture study journal.
  1.          The pride cycle is not only a reflection of a society. It can also be seen in a family or in an individual’s life. Understanding how it works can help us avoid it. Write in your scripture study journal what you think is necessary for you to avoid entering into the “pride and wickedness” or the “destruction and suffering” phases of the cycle.
You may want to write the following principle in your scriptures in Helaman 11: Through humility and repentance, we can avoid pride and destruction. You may want to mark in Helaman 11:4 what Nephi hoped the famine would do for his people.
Think about answers to the following questions:
  • Does a society, family, or individual need to follow the pride cycle?
  • What do you think a society, family, or individual needs to do to avoid getting caught in the pride cycle?
Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said the following concerning Nephi’s prayer: “The Lord heard His servant’s supplication [in Helaman 11:10–14] and caused the famine to cease, but not until the following year. This event illustrates that the Lord hears our pleas immediately but then answers when, in His wisdom, we will benefit the most from His response” (“Nephi, Son of Helaman,” in Heroes from the Book of Mormon [1995,] 154.)
President Ezra Taft Benson taught about what we can do to avoid getting caught up in the pride cycle:
President Ezra Taft Benson
“God will have a humble people. Either we can choose to be humble or we can be compelled to be humble. Alma said, ‘Blessed are they who humble themselves without being compelled to be humble.’ (Alma 32:16.)
“Let us choose to be humble.
“We can choose to humble ourselves by conquering enmity [hatred] toward our brothers and sisters, esteeming them as ourselves, and lifting them as high or higher than we are. …
“We can choose to humble ourselves by receiving counsel and chastisement. …
“We can choose to humble ourselves by forgiving those who have offended us. …
“We can choose to humble ourselves by rendering selfless service. …
“We can choose to humble ourselves by going on missions and preaching the word that can humble others. …
“We can choose to humble ourselves by getting to the temple more frequently.
“We can choose to humble ourselves by confessing and forsaking our sins and being born of God. …
“We can choose to humble ourselves by loving God, submitting our will to His, and putting Him first in our lives. …
“Let us choose to be humble. We can do it. I know we can” (“Beware of Pride,” Ensign, May 1989, 6–7).

Helaman 12

Mormon explains why the Lord chastens people

Imagine you were the prophet Mormon and had finished writing about the 14 years of Nephite history found in Helaman 11. How would you complete the following statement: “And thus we can behold ____________________________________________________________________________________________________.”
Read Helaman 12:1, and identify what Mormon wanted us to see. Think about what Mormon may have meant by “the unsteadiness of the hearts of the children of men.”
Study Helaman 12:2–3, and identify other lessons Mormon wanted us to learn. Pay close attention to the phrases “we may see” (verse 2) and “thus we see” (verse 3).
  1.         Answer the following questions in your scripture study journal:
    1. a. Why do you think it is so easy for those who are prospering to forget the Lord?
    2. b. What examples of ease and prosperity in our day might lead a person to forget God?
    3. c. What situations are you aware of where a person or group has forgotten the Lord in their prosperity?
Some of the lessons Mormon wanted his readers to learn are: If we are not careful, our prosperity can lead us to forget the Lord, and the Lord chastens His people to stir them up in remembrance of Him.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson
Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught about why the Lord chastens us:
“Though it is difficult to endure, truly we ought to rejoice that God considers us worth the time and trouble to correct.
“Divine chastening has at least three purposes: (1) to persuade us to repent, (2) to refine and sanctify us, and (3) at times to redirect our course in life to what God knows is a better path” (“As Many as I Love, I Rebuke and Chasten,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2011, 98).
Which of those purposes do you feel reflect the Lord’s intention in chastening the Nephites and Lamanites in Helaman 11–12? For which purposes has He used chastening in your life?
  1.          Answer the following questions in your scripture study journal:
    1. a. Read Helaman 12:4–6, and look for additional descriptions of those who forget God. What are personal attitudes that prevent individuals from remembering God?
    2. b. Read Helaman 12:7–13. Why did Mormon say “the children of men … are less than the dust of the earth”? What does the dust do that people are sometimes unwilling to do?

    3. Jehovah Creates the Earth
President Joseph Fielding Smith
President Joseph Fielding Smith taught: “Now this prophet [Mormon] did not mean to say that the Lord has greater concern for and loves the dust of the earth more than he does his children. … The point he is making is that the dust of the earth is obedient. It moveth hither and thither at the command of the Lord. All things are in harmony with his laws. Everything in the universe obeys the law given unto it, so far as I know, except man. Everywhere you look you find law and order, the elements obeying the law given to them, true to their calling. But man rebels, and in this thing man is less than the dust of the earth because he rejects the counsels of the Lord” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1929, 55).
Mormon understood that people who would have God be their guide are greater than the dust of the earth. His comparison was to draw attention to those who are prideful and reject the Lord’s voice and who have unsteady hearts. As recorded in Helaman 12:9–20, Mormon reminded us of the Lord’s great power over physical elements—they all move at His command. Take a moment to ponder your own degree of obedience to the Lord’s commandments. How does your willingness to obey His commandments demonstrate humility? How does using our agency to disobey His words demonstrate pride?

Helaman 13 – The Warnings of Samuel the Lamanite
I love the story of Samuel the Lamanite in the Book of Mormon. Helaman Chapter 13 is a great chapter to reflect upon. In order to really appreciate the story you have to start all the way back in the Book of Mosiah and see how the Nephites kept going through the cycle of [Prosperity -> Pride -> Destruction -> Humility -> Repentance -> Prosperity] and repeated over and over.  You also have to understand some of the differences between the Nephites and the Lamanites.  People that are vaguely familiar with the Book of Mormon believe that Nephites and Lamanites are two distinct races of people.  The Book of Mormon is quite clear that Lamanites aren’t necessarily actual descendants of Laman and the Nephites aren’t necessarily descendants of Nephi. (And on a side note, Mormons do not believe that Nephi and Lehi were the first settlers in Central America).  The two groups of people are separated more by ideology, religion, the lust for power and  a lot of misunderstanding than by lineage.  It was common for people to change their names depending on who they associated themselves with.  For a time, the Lamanites were actually lead by apostate Nephite kings that had a hatred towards their own people.  Generally speaking, you could say that the Lamanites were  more wicked and the Nephites were more righteous, however the Lord had warned many times that the Nephites had the privilege of knowing the gospel whereas the Lamanites didn’t always have that privilege, therefore the Nephites were held accountable.  At the time Samuel the Lamanite arrived to Zarahemla the Lamanites had been converted (Read Helaman 5) and were righteous, but the Nephites had many many dissenters that were the cause of much wickedness, mostly created out of pride, lust, and forgetting how many times the Lord had preserved them and prospered them.
I love this commentary from the Book of Mormon student manual regarding Helaman 13:11-16 – “There have been many times when the wicked were spared from terrible destructions and judgments because God considers the righteous, even though they may be few. The wicked people of Zarahemla had the righteous people to thank for their preservation from destruction, though, of course, they did not know it. In a few years Zarahemla would lose this silent and unappreciated protection, and Samuel’s words would be fulfilled (see 3Nephi 9:3 ). Even Sodom and Gomorrah would have been spared for the sake of ten people who lived righteous lives (see Genesis 18:23–33 ).How we live does make a difference. The personal righteousness of a few can become a great blessing to others.”


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