Thursday, 20 June 2013

Pride and the Low Information Voter


The Book of Mormon is a very unique book of scripture.  Over the course of 1000 years a lot happens.  Consider what the world was like in the year 1013, what countries and empires have risen and fallen over those years, what wars were fought, what scandals were exposed.  I had no idea that Denmark invaded England back then until now.

Anything from more than a century ago quite fuzzy to most people, and the farther back you go from there the fuzzier it gets until every legend is taken as a fact or every fact is taken as a legend by the general public. 

Mormon had a reliable record of the Nephite millennium in the New World, and under God's direction he compiled for us a record for us.  Far, far more was left out than what was included.  While Mormon included doctrines that needed to be restored or clarified in our day, he also included parts of their civilization's history so the lessons of their experience can guide us in our day.  It is perfectly fair to say that the Book of Mormon is designed to be applicable to modern politics and current events.  Looking through the lens of Nephite history we can perhaps see more clearly what is happening around us today and keep from being mislead by the same things that led others astray in their day.

The downfall of the Nephites was the result of their pride more than any other factor, and we should take note as to how that pride manifested itself.  It's easy to point to the 'fine twined linen'  and 'costly apparel' as evidence of Nephite pride, but it is a bit of a stretch to say that a nation fell because people were too well dressed.  A deeper examination is called for.

President Ezra Taft Benson delivered a landmark talk on pride in the April 1989 General Conference and I strongly encourage you to read it over in light of today's state of affairs.  There is one manifestation of pride I would like to add,  willful ignorance.

The term 'low information voter'  has become a popular part of the political lexicon since the 2012 election in the United States.  These are people who despite living in an age when information is more freely available than ever before, are still deeply uninformed about issues and candidates and the state of the nations, and yet they still consider themselves capable of making a good choice at the ballot box.  There have always been voters like this of course, but it seems we have reached a point in history where there are enough of them to decide who wins and who loses an election.

Such votes are cast out of pride.  It is pride that says 'Our economy is too big to fail', or 'We are too strong to be overthrown' and ignores valid warnings.  It is pride that leads a person to think they don't need to honestly look at the other side because they already know they are wrong.  It is proud ignorance that gives people a false sense of security so that casting a vote based on a politician's charisma, or on blind partisanship, or to be popular with the right people, or in the hopes that such a vote will facilitate them in living wickedly, is seen as harmless to the nation.

We can find similar attitudes in the Book of Mormon.  In Mosiah 12 we read:

 And it came to pass that they were angry with him; and they took him and carried him bound before the king, and said unto the king: Behold, we have brought a man before thee who has prophesied evil concerning thy people, and saith that God will destroy them.
 10 And he also prophesieth evil concerning thy life, and saith that thy life shall be as a garment in a furnace of fire...

 15 And behold, we are strong, we shall not come into bondage, or be taken captive by our enemies; yea, and thou hast prospered in the land, and thou shalt also prosper.
The people living under King Noah's reign did not evaluate the facts or logic of what Abinadi was saying, they reacted to the fact that his words offended their pride.

The people of Ammonihah also showed they belonged in the low information category.  From Alma 9
Who art thou? Suppose ye that we shall believe the testimony of one man, although he should preach unto us that the earth should pass away?


 Now they understood not the words which they spake; for they knew not that the earth should pass away.

 And they said also: We will not believe thy words if thou shouldst prophesy that this great city should be destroyed in one day.

 Now they knew not that God could do such marvelous works, for they were a hard-hearted and a stiffnecked people.
As with Abinadi, Alma and Amulek offended the pride of these uninformed people and they reacted out of anger to the 'plainess of his words'.  Out of pride leaders of the city mocked God and sought a sign saying:
Alma 14:24 ...If ye have the power of God deliver yourselves from these bands, and then we will believe that the Lord will destroy this people according to your words.

Both the people of King Noah and the people of  Ammonihah quickly came to discover that they were quite wrong, but they were blinded by their pride and clung to their ignorance to the bitter end.  Any nation, no matter how rich, no matter how powerful, can and will be brought low if they persist in their enmity towards God.  But another lesson we can glean from both these examples in the Book of Mormon is that the righteous were saved from God's wrath when it was poured out on the proud. 

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