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While the chronology of the various stages of the pride cycle is rela- tively easy to identify, it is somewhat more difficult to place a standard time frame on the duration of each stage. Nevertheless, it is interesting to note that the prophet Mormon identified some specific benchmark years in his abridgment, which enable us to discover some remarkably consistent periods for certain segments of the pride cycle among the Nephites. He recorded that after two hundred years had transpired since the birth of Jesus Christ, the people “had become exceedingly rich, because of their prosperity in Christ” (4 Nephi 22–23), but by the next year, “in this two hundred and first year there began to be among them those who were lifted up in pride” (4 Nephi 24). This second Nephite civilization—the people that started a new society after the first coming of Jesus Christ to America—seemed to reach its spiritual and temporal peak around two hundred years after the birth of Christ.
Likewise, the first Nephite civilization that preceded the appear- ance of Christ to America—starting with the arrival of Lehi’s family in the New World after 600 BC—appeared to reach its zenith after approximately two hundred years as well. Jarom wrote, “And now, behold, two hundred years had passed away, and the people of Nephi had waxed strong in the land. They observed to keep the law of Moses and the sabbath day holy unto the Lord. And they profaned not; nei- ther did they blaspheme. And the laws of the land were exceedingly strict” (Jarom 1:5).
However, soon after, that is, over the course of the next 38 years, the Nephites commenced a spiritual and societal decline, as Jarom recorded, “And it came to pass that two hundred and thirty and eight years had passed away—after the manner of wars, and contentions, and dissensions, for the space of much of the time” (Jarom 1:13). In other words, over the next thirty-eight years they had already descended into a stage of contentions and wars that had occupied much of that period; therefore, the conflicts and unrest undoubtedly commenced shortly after the two-hundred-year mark.
As historian Don Bradley observed,
“Thus the chronologies of the first Nephite nation and the second Nephite nation, with their respec- tive ‘after Lehi’ and ‘after Christ’ calendars, coincide at this point, using identical verbal formulas and in each case placing their apex in the year 200. Having reached its apex in the year 200, each Nephite nation then begins its decline.”
To carry this comparison even further, if we regard 1776 as the beginning year of our latter-day American civilization—the birth of the United States of America—then theoretically, employing this two hundred-year period from national birth to its ultimate pinnacle in achievement, our nation would have reached its peak around 1976. As discussed in a previous chapter of this study (see Chapter 18: The Righteous Shall Prosper), the United States began its decline in pros- perity as measured by average real wages and its associated moral decline as defined by its legal and medical views on abortion and sexuality in 1973—approximately two hundred years after the birth of our nation. Regarding the time period involved for a nation to decline from a state of humility and righteousness to one of pride and wickedness, modern-day Americans seem to have much in common— another parallel—with their Nephite predecessors.
The obvious question becomes, “Where are we today in this pride cycle?” And what can we do to avoid the consequences of pride and wickedness? For most, the answer is obvious. We must humble ourselves, repent of our sins, and submit our will to the will of our Heavenly Father in order to avoid the destruction and suffering experienced by the ancient Nephites. Despite the failings of our ancient American predecessors, the message of the Book of Mormon is one of great hope and promise. We can rejoice in the knowledge of our Savior Jesus Christ, that He has conquered death and hell in our behalf through His great atoning sacrifice. He has paid the terrible debt for our sins if we repent and forsake them. He has overcome the world and will fight our battles for us if we exercise faith in Him and obey His commandments (D&C 105:14). He will protect us from the adversary and his earthly minions if we submit our will to His will.
The following was taken from the book The Coming of Christ, by Brad Brase, currently on sale at cedarfort.com.