Snapshots of Life

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Intellectual Narcissism: Part III

The word of God, both ancient and modern, abounds with references to the intellectual narcissist, though that phrase is never used. Scripture and the teachings of modern-day prophets provide prophecies and warnings regarding the man, woman, or society that loves itself and its intellect more than God.


In discussing the "perilous times" of the "last days", Paul the Apostle wrote to Timothy that, "Men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud...heady, highminded, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God; having a form of Godliness, but denying the power thereof...ever learning, and never able to come to a knowledge of the truth" (2 Tim 3:1-7, italics added).

In Lehi's great dream found in the beginning of the Book of Mormon he saw a group of people who were "clinging" to the iron rod (side note - this is a very interesting word choice here if you compare it to another group of people who pressed forward "continually holding fast" to the rod in 1 Ne. 8:30) and pressing forward to partake of the fruit of the tree of life. They made it to the tree and began to partake of the fruit but became "ashamed" after the exceedingly fine dressed men and women in a great and spacious building started mocking them. After they had partaken of the glorious, sweet, and precious fruit they "fell away into forbidden paths and were lost" because they were embarrassed (1 Ne. 8:24-30). Later when Nephi receives the same dream with additional interpretation we are informed as to what the great and spacious building represents, "Behold the world and the wisdom thereof...the pride of the world (1 Ne. 11:35-36).

In the great prophetic chapters at the conclusion of 2 Nephi, Nephi teaches us again about the latter days, "...and they shall teach with their learning, and deny the Holy Ghost, which giveth utterance. And they deny the power of God...Yea, and there shall be many which shall teach after this manner, false and vain and foolish doctrines, and shall be puffed up in their hearts, and shall seek deep to hide their counsels from the Lord..." (2 Ne. 28:4-9, italics added).

Mormon and Moroni saw our day. Moroni wrote, "I know that ye do walk in the pride of your hearts; and there are none save a few only who do not lift themselves up in the pride of their hearts...unto envying, and strifes, and malice, and persecutions...O ye pollutions, ye hypocrites, ye teachers, who sell yourselves for that which will canker, why have ye polluted the church of God? Why are ye ashamed to take upon you the name of Christ?" (Mormon 8:35-38, italics added).

Finally, from the Savior himself we discover that in the last days some of the "very elect, who are the elect according to the covenant" shall be deceived (JS-Matt 1:22).

Indeed, it is clear that it has long been prophesied that in the latter days intellectual narcissism would be prevalent and prominent. It also appears that, among other issues, it has been and will increasingly be a source of self-deceit and apostasy - including among the elect, even those that have tasted of the precious fruit of the tree of life.


The scriptures and words of prophets are also abundant with warnings regarding intellectual pride.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks gave a wonderful talk years ago entitled, Our Strengths Can Become Our Downfall (see In the discourse he states, "Satan uses every possible device to accomplish his purpose to degrade and enslave every soul...We generally think of Satan attacking us at our weakest spot...But our weakness are not the only areas where we are vulnerable. Satan can also attack us where we think we are strong - in the very areas where we are proud of our strengths. He will approach us through the greatest talents and spiritual gifts we possess. If we are not wary, Satan can cause our spiritual downfall by corrupting us through our strengths as well as by exploiting our weaknesses...Other illustrations of how our strengths can become our downfall concern the activity of learning. A desire to know is surely a great strength. A hunger to learn is laudable, but the fruits of learning make a person particularly susceptible to the sin of pride...It is easy for the learned and the accomplished to forget their own limitations and their total dependence upon God. Accomplishments in higher education bring persons much recognition and real feelings of self-sufficiency. But we should remember the Book of Mormon's frequent cautions not to boast in our own strength or wisdom lest we be left to our own strength or wisdom."

From Lehi's dream we see the tragic ending for the wisdom of the world as found in that great and spacious building. "And it came to pass that I saw and bear record, that the great and spacious building...fell, and the fall thereof was exceedingly great...Thus shall be the destruction of all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, that shall fight against the twelve apostles of the Lamb" (1 Ne. 11:36, italics added).

From the great prophecies of Nephi we hear, "O the wise, and the learned, and the rich, that are puffed up in the pride of their hearts, and all those who preach false doctrines...wo, wo, wo be unto them, saith the Lord God Almighty, for they shall be thrust down to hell!...Yea, wo be unto him that hearkeneth unto the precepts of men, and denieth the power of God, and the gift of the Holy Ghost!...And in fine, wo unto all those who tremble, and are angry because of the truth of God! For behold, he that is built upon the rock receiveth it with gladness...Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of man..." (2 Ne. 28:15, 26, 28, 31).

From Isaiah we are warned, "Wo unto them that call evil good, and good evil, that put darkness for light, and light for darkness, that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Wo unto the wise in their own eyes and prudent in their own sight!" (2 Ne. 15:20-21, italics added).

Finally, the most direct words come from Jacob, the brother of Nephi. "O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish." (2 Ne. 9:28).

Needless to say, there are a lot of "woes" directed toward the intellectual narcissist! May we remember that "to be learned is good, IF [we] hearken unto the counsels of God" (2 Ne. 9:29). Humility and charity are the great antidotes to the spiritual poison of narcissism.