Nephi’s vision continues. He has been seeing the fate of his descendants four generations after the coming of Christ, and he sees that the descendants of his brothers have fallen away and become enemies to their cousins.
19. And while the angel spake these words, I beheld and saw that the seed of my brethren did contend against my seed, according to the word of the angel; and because of the pride of my seed, and the temptations of the devil, I beheld that the seed of my brethren did overpower the people of my seed.
I find this very interesting. The people of Nephi were susceptible to being overcome because of their pride. Those who seek to make themselves appear stronger or more attractive or more powerful are often very weak, in reality, because they are building their appearances on false premises. It’s not hard for their enemies to discover their weaknesses and bring them crashing down because of them.
Also note that the temptations of the devil played a huge hand in this. When we yield to the enticings of the devil, we lose the protection of the Spirit, which would warn us of danger. Thus, another way in which the enemies could gain a foothold and eventually have victory.
20. And it came to pass that I beheld, and saw the people of the seed of my brethren that they had overcome my seed; and they went forth in multitudes upon the face of the land.
21. And I saw them gathered together in multitudes; and I saw wars and rumors of wars among them; and in wars and rumors of wars I saw many generations pass away.
22. And the angel said unto me: Behold these shall dwindle in unbelief.
I can’t help but pause to wonder – which was more painful for Nephi to witness – the physical death, or the spiritual? These are the seed of his loved ones, and his own descendants locked in a battle to the death. This vision can’t have been easy.
23. And it came to pass that I beheld, after they had dwindled in unbelief they became a dark, and loathsome, and a filthy people, full of idleness and all manner of abominations.
Note that the words “dark,” “loathsome,” and “filthy” don’t necessarily refer to their physical condition, but more to their spiritual condition. You can see a person who is physically very attractive, but their eyes and their spirits are full of darkness because of the choices they have made. We also make ourselves become filthy as we choose to contaminate our brains with dirty words and our bodies with alcohol and cigarettes, drugs and promiscuous living. As we read the scriptures, we need to not only look at the words in their literal sense, but also in their symbolic sense as well.
From today’s reading: How does our pride make us weak? We each have our own particular and individual weak areas – how does our pride keep us from strengthening ourselves in these spots? What can we do to overcome this pride which holds us back?