A few years ago on September 11th, four explosions changed the perspective, fear, hope and heart-strings of most of the nation. Our enemy had breached our borders and demonstrated a real threat to our peace and security. For a period that was way too short, the American citizens again turned inwards to their innate, human roots. For a brief time, there was an increased need and desire to raise our hopes for protection from our enemies, and to once again turn to our loving and forgiving Heavenly Father. This return to Deity brought back a sense of unity, and the people had a chance to reevaluate the priorities in their lives. Faith, hope, charity, unity, caring…all of the good humane characteristics, again started to blossom in the hearts of men, women and children. Unfortunately, the nation quickly took an ill-devised plan of action – to attack the enemy from without, rather than strengthening the American people from within. This caused a great division within our borders, and we could not successfully keep the enemy out.
As we’ll be studying in the Book of Mormon during the coming weeks, Americans experience the “pride cycle” just like their predecessors in this very land, the Nephites. When they recognized and followed God, they lived in peace and prosperity. But, when their pride and false sense of entitlement pulled them away from God, they ended up at the polar opposite of the cycle, living in fear and financial crisis. We tend to shake our heads incredulously at the Nephites, thinking, “Why didn’t they get it?” Yet, in less than six years from the invasive explosion on U.S. soil which brought us back to being a selfless God-loving people, the financial collapse has caused a devastating implosion brought on by a very selfish society with a false sense of entitlement. There were thousands of casualties of the explosion experienced; but there are thousands times as many more casualties of the implosion being experienced.
As the pride cycle went round and round, the Nephites were repeatedly in danger of the explosion from the outside Lamanites trying to breach their borders and safety. The casualties and destruction from these wars with their enemy were terrible! But, the implosion of deserters, rebellions and apostates, wreaked the real destruction to the Nephite societies time and again. It was the danger from within that was far worse than the danger from without. Whether it was the Zoramites or the Amalekites, the Amulonites or the Kingmen, the dissenting powers from within the Nephite borders caused much more destruction and death than did the Lamanites in trying to bring the Nephites out into battle.
History has a tendency to repeat itself, if we don’t learn from that same history. This pride cycle – from God-loving and prosperity, to pride and greed, to destruction and suffering, to repentance and change, back to God-loving and prosperity – is very prevalent in our nation today. All too soon after turning back to God after 9-11, we quickly became a prideful people with a strong but false sense of entitlement to those things beyond our earning capacity. We’ve read about the millions of dollar bonuses in businesses that needed financial assistance to continue. We’re living side-by-side to many who felt they deserved bigger, more expensive homes than they could afford. Many of us live on extended credit that we will never be able to pay off, for which we bought “toys” and unnecessary items. This is the false sense of entitlement that runs rampant at this end of the cycle. Yet, somehow it still gets worse. All levels of government are struggling to find a way to lift its head above the water, but only attempt to do so by cutting programs for those who need it most – the programs for the elderly, the single parents, the youth (social programs and educational opportunities), infant care, etc. In our flailing attempts to correct the upside-down economy, we are continuing to turn our backs on those whom we should be helping. Learning from history, and in this case the Nephite history, we could continue the cycle back up to the God-loving and prosperity apex. This would, however, require a change from the selfish overtone so prevalent in society today, to one of unselfish love and caring for others within our own borders.
One of the great teachers in the Book of Mormon was talking about turning back to God. At one point, he states, “And now behold, my beloved brethren, I say unto you, do not suppose that this is all; for after ye have done all these things, if ye turn away the needy, and the naked, and visit not the sick and afflicted, and impart of your substance, if ye have, to those who stand in need—I say unto you, if ye do not any of these things, behold, your prayer is vain, and availeth you nothing, and ye are as hypocrites who do deny the faith.” (See Alma 34.)
As we proceed with studying the conflict between the Nephites and the Lamanites, try to identify when it is trouble from without (explosion) that is causing the grief and hardship upon the Nephites, and when it is trouble from within (implosion). We will find that the destruction is worse from the implosions than it is from the explosions. Will it ever be possible for the Americas today to learn from the history of the Americas past? When Captain Moroni was battling the enemy from without, he sent some of his men to, “Go ask Alma what we should do.” (Alma was the prophet at the time.) What if President Obama were to utter, “Go ask President Monson what we should do?” Is it too late for us to be led by a prophet in the world today? I think not! If America would humble itself, act selflessly towards others, and turn to God, setting aside the pride and greed, we could once again rise to the top of the pride cycle and enjoy the peace and prosperity promised to this land by a loving Heavenly Father. If we fixed everything from within our borders, there is not an enemy that could cause us to fear from without our borders.