Following an inspiration one morning to study all the instances of the word “gain” in the Book of Mormon, a pattern opened up to me that helps us see how pride is literally the steppingstone to Babylon and a precursor to disastrous consequences for society.
As I pondered those various verses mentioning “gain”, a step by step process opened up to me that leads from pride to the rise of social classes, then to crime, to secret combinations, to societal corruption and then destruction. And as I studied the subject further, I realized why it is that prophets in the past have been able to warn various “Babylons” (from the original, to Jerusalem, to Ammonihah and others) of their need to repent or face destruction — this societal pathway to destruction is the only path “Babylon” can take.
Here are the steps a pride-based society (ie. Babylon) takes towards its certain destruction:
1. Pride includes the belief that we can be worth more or worth less than others (Alma 32:2-3), in contrast to God’s valuing us all as equally precious (Jacob 2:20-21). Pride drives us to attempt to prove ourselves better than others through individual economic success, ie. “seeking riches” (3 Nephi 6:15). Instead of working cooperatively to fill everyone’s needs equally (Jacob 2:17; D&C 82:19), we are tempted to compete with others to achieve financial success and “prove” that we are at least as good as the Joneses.
2. Classes – As the competitive marketplace functions over time, the people begin to divide up into classes (3 Nephi 6:10,12; 4 Nephi 1:25-26); which reinforces the prideful perspective that some are better-than others. The “rich” are those who do well at competing in the marketplace, and the “poor” are those who, for whatever reason, are not so successful at it. The rich feel justified in looking down on the poor, and the poor are understandably jealous of the rich (D&C 56:16-17). By the way, it was this division into classes that prompted Brigham Young to promote the cooperative enterprise movement in early Utah (An Encyclical Letter Upon Cooperation…, p.2).
3. Crime/Sin – The envious poor are tempted to turn to theft and other crimes to secure the goods that rich enjoy (Helaman 6:17). The power-hungry rich then seek to protect their abundance from the “greedy” poor and learn to influence law-enforcement agencies to help them do so.
4. Secret Combinations – Individual criminals seeing the success of those who organize in businesses to achieve economic success, realize they could enjoy bigger criminal success if they too worked with others. This gives rise to organized crime (Helaman 2:8). The power-hungry rich also realize they can better control the poor masses if they work together as well.
5. Corruption – The secret combinations of both the rich and the poor then notice how law-abiding businesses use existing social organizations, like the government, to increase their profits by influencing legislation. They then seek to do the same. The secret combinations figure out how to control various social organizations, from extorting money out of small businesses all the way up to gaining control of the levers of power in governments. So, eventually, the role of government is perverted, by one secret combination or the other, from being the referee to being a tool for plundering the people (Helaman 7:4-5), as warned of by Frederic Bastiat in his seminal book, “The Law“.
6. Destruction – This step can take several different forms – from insurrections (Ether 11:15), to wars where the plundered masses must defend themselves (3 Nephi 2:11), to malevolent foreign powers invading to secure all that delicious plunder for themselves (Mosiah 9:12). Either way, society breaks down and is likely to be reconstituted under prideful terms and the cycle begins again.
Unfortunately, the United States is clearly within Step 5. Government is corrupted and has become the embodiment of plunder – living off the labors of others. The rise of the Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party movements both show the people’s dissatisfaction with that corruption. Whether our destruction comes through the establishment of a totalitarian state, a civil war, invasion by foreign forces, or all these, is yet to be seen.
As the prophets of old have pointed out to bygone civilizations as well as ours that the choice is either to repent, or be destroyed (1 Nephi 1:4; 2 Nephi 28:17; Mosiah 12:8; Alma 8:16; Alma 37:25; Helaman 7:28; 3 Nephi 21:14; Ether 7:23; D&C 5:19). To avoid that destruction we must individually repent of pride by accepting the truth deep within us that “all men are created equal” and are of infinite worth. Then we must work together to reinvent our social organizations to integrate humility into them so that over time we move toward Zion and away from Babylon and its children, Death and Destruction. The choice is ours! Personally, I choose to pursue Zion. Who’s with me?