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How Jacob's Teachings About Pride and Polygamy Still Apply Today

by | Mar. 12, 2020

Editor’s Note: Tammy Uzelac Hall is the host of LDS Living’s Sunday on Monday, a new weekly podcast focused on Come, Follow Me that dives into the hidden treasures of the gospel. Here are questions readers might have in their studies of the Book of Mormon this week, accompanied by Hall's insights that add new meaning to the beloved verses.

1. What are some misconceptions with pride?

Jacob is given the overwhelming task of talking to his people about sins that they were “beginning to labor in” (Jacob 1:4). He focuses on pride and the idea that pride is at the heart of every sin they were contemplating or, in some cases, committing. When President Ezra Taft Benson, a Jacob of our day, delivered his address “Beware of Pride” in April 1989 general conference, he surprised many of us with examples of pride. He said that “pride is a very misunderstood sin, and many are sinning in ignorance.” After studying this talk, I, too, am apparently a very ignorant sinner. 

After reading Jacob 1–4, I can see why Jacob felt so much anxiety for his people (Jacob 1:5, 2:3, 4:18). Pride really is so much bigger than thinking we are better than another person. I was surprised to learn that “another face of pride is contention. Arguments, fights, unrighteous dominion, generation gaps, divorces, spouse abuse, riots, and disturbances all fall into this category of pride.” Generation gaps? I immediately thought of the popular “OK, Boomer” phrase that is hash-tagging its way to popularity when the younger generation thinks that the older generation doesn’t get it. Could that be pride? 

In Jacob’s temple sermon, his soul felt burdened because he had to “enlarge the wounds of those who are already wounded, instead of consoling and healing their wounds” (Jacob 2:9). His focus on pride and the results of pride made me wonder if as a prophet, was he privy to seeing what President Benson saw? Did Jacob know all that comes as a result of pride which is why Jacob ends his address with expressing his feelings and “over anxiety for his people? As a prophet, I am certain he was privy to seeing what President Benson saw, which is why he ends his address with expressing his feelings and “over anxiety” for his people. 

First, Jacob focuses on the sin of pride that the people were struggling with the most—the abundance of riches which was causing the people to think they were better than others. Concerning this type of pride, President Benson quotes C.S. Lewis: “Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. . . . It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone.”1 President Benson goes on to point out that “pride is a sin that can readily be seen in others but is rarely admitted in ourselves. Most of us consider pride to be a sin of those on the top, such as the rich and the learned, looking down at the rest of us (see 2 Nephi 9:42). There is, however, a far more common ailment among us—and that is pride from the bottom looking up. It is manifest in so many ways, such as faultfinding, gossiping, backbiting, murmuring, living beyond our means, envying, coveting, withholding gratitude and praise that might lift another, and being unforgiving and jealous.” 

That paragraph alone had me thinking “Guilty, guilty, guilty again.” Jacob’s address and President Benson’s talk, though old, could not be more in touch with our time. Studying both sermons this week launched me into a deep self-reflection. 

 2. What does Jacob teach about plural marriage and how is that consistent with latter-day teachings?

In President Benson’s talk he points out that, “Selfishness is one of the more common faces of pride. ‘How everything affects me’ is the center of all that matters—self-conceit, self-pity, worldly self-fulfillment, self-gratification, and self-seeking.” I believe that this is the pride which led to the “grosser crime,” which means more serious sin, that Jacob warns his people about. 

The more serious sin that the Nephites were committing was the sexual sin of entering into unauthorized plural marriages (Jacob 1:15). In Jacob 2:23–35 and 3:12 the specific crime Jacob is referring to is the taking of more than one wife or having a concubine (an Old Testament term for a woman who was legally married to a man but had a lower social status than a wife). It is important for us to understand that at certain times in the history of the world, the Lord has commanded His people to practice plural marriage. For example, plural marriage was practiced in Old Testament times by Abraham and Sarah (see Genesis 16:1–3; D&C 132:34–35, 37) and by their grandson Jacob (see D&C 132:37), and it was practiced for a time during the early days of the restored Church, beginning with the Prophet Joseph Smith (see D&C 132:32–33, 53). If the Lord commands individuals to practice plural marriage, He will issue that command through His prophet—the President of the Church—and through no one else (see D&C 132:45–48). 

God has allowed for plural marriage to “raise up seed unto me” (Jacob 2:30). The Biblical World: An Illustrated Atlas, as Verse by Verse, The Book of Mormon Vol. One, 1 Nephi Through Alma 29 points out, features an article entitled “Polygamy in the Bible,” which says: “Throughout the Old Testament we read of patriarchs taking several wives…Such polygamy was most likely motivated by the need to produce sufficient children to control the tribe’s principal asset[s]…Childbirth was fraught with danger for both the new mothers and infants. Many children were carried away by disease while still in their infancy, and many women died during childbirth. Tribes practiced polygamy as a way of sustaining themselves and ensuring the survival of the clan.”2  

The practice of plural marriage within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was abolished in 1890 by President Wilford Woodruff (see Official Declaration 1).

The "Sunday on Monday" study group is a Deseret Bookshelf PLUS+ original presented by LDS Living. You can access the full study group discussion through the Bookshelf app. Listen to a segment of this week's episode below or listen to the full Sunday on Monday episode here.


[1] Mere Christianity, New York: Macmillan, 1952, pp. 109–10

[2] D. Kelly Ogden, Andrew C. Skinner, Verse by Verse, The Book of Mormon Vol. One, 1 Nephi Through Alma 29Deseret Book 2011; Isbouts, Biblical World, 64. 

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Tammy Uzelac Hall

Tamara Uzelac Hall is the host of the "Sunday on Monday" podcast and Time Out for Women. She has been a featured speaker at Temple Square Youth Conferences, Retreat for Girls, girls’ camp, and has been a speaker at BYU Women’s Conference. She loves all things scripture and is a lifelong student of the Hebrew language. A good flash mob makes her cry; she is a (self-proclaimed) champion Oreo eater, and she believes that cheese is God’s way of saying, “Hey, everything is going to be OK.”

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