Every Mormon knows Jacob’s sermon in Jacob 2 where he condemns unchastity and men who sexually dishonor women. Less known is that Jacob begins the sermon denouncing pride.
He tells the Nephites that they are “lifted up in the pride of their hearts.” . He says that “pride” and “being proud in your heart” are “abominable to him who created all flesh.” He does not equivocate.
But then he says,
And now I make an end of speaking unto you concerning this pride. And were it not that I must speak unto you concerning a grosser crime, my heart would rejoice exceedingly because of you.
He then speaks against unchastity. According to Jacob, pride is bad but sexual sins are lots worse.
He also condemns pride, but he doesn’t say that unchastity is worse. In fact, President Benson says that
Pride is the universal sin, the great vice. Yes, pride is the universal sin, the great vice.
The talk draws heavily on C.S. Lewis, who also thought that pride was the worse sin, certainly worse than unchastity. Remember The Great Divorce? The sinner who is afflicted with sexual sin in the form of a lizard is in a bad way, but the sinners who suffer from naked pride are much worse off. The sexual sinner repents and sees his sin turn to glory. The proud sinners do not and are condemned to hell.
So how to reconcile the American prophet Ezra Taft Benson with the Nephite Prophet Jacob?
The key is in President Benson’s statement that “pride is the universal sin.” Unlike Jacob, he is not talking about pride as one specific kind of sin. He is talking about pride as the common factor in every sin. If President Benson had written Jacob 2, he would have denounced the pride that led the Nephites to get wealth and think well of themselves, but he would have denounced even more the pride that led them to use women as status symbols and tools for the satisfaction of lust.
There’s pride, and then there’s pride.