The question of whether or not mankind is inherently good or evil has been debated for centuries. Fortunately for Latter-day Saints, the Book of Mormon provides the answer that yes, mankind is inherently evil. Book of Mormon prophets describe mankind as lost, fallen, carnal, devilish, sensual, and evil. That doesn’t sound too “good” to me. From First Nephi, all the way through Moroni, the Book of Mormon is saturated with examples of “mankind’s” utter failure to be good, not to mention Heavenly Father having to step in to humble his people so they will repent and obey.
I am sure many are thinking, “How can you believe that we are inherently evil after holding a baby in your arms?” First of all, we are born innocent, not evil. It is our natures that make us evil. Anyone who has kids understands that it takes a tremendous amount of effort to teach them to share, be kind, be honest, treat others with kindness, to sacrifice, to serve others, to delay gratification, and the list goes on. Despite parents’ best efforts, this battle over the “flesh” is never ending; it will be with us for the rest of our lives.
Below I have provided a list of scriptures from the BOM that show we are by nature, evil.
Ether 3: 2 O Lord, thou hast said that we must be encompassed about by the floods. Now behold, O Lord, and do not be angry with thy servant because of his weakness before thee; for we know that thou art holy and dwellest in the heavens, and that we are unworthy before thee; because of the fall our natures have become evil continually; nevertheless, O Lord, thou hast given us a commandment that we must call upon thee, that from thee we may receive according to our desires.
1 Nephi 10: 6 Wherefore, all mankind were in a lost and in a fallen state, and ever would be save they should rely on this Redeemer.
Mosiah 3: 19 For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.
Mosiah 4: 2 And they had viewed themselves in their own carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth. And they all cried aloud with one voice, saying: O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified; for we believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who created heaven and earth, and all things; who shall come down among the children of men.
Mosiah 16: 3 For they are carnal and devilish, and the devil has power over them; yea, even that old serpent that did beguile our first parents, which was the cause of their fall; which was the cause of all mankind becoming carnal, sensual, devilish, knowing evil from good, subjecting themselves to the devil.
Mosiah 16: 4 Thus all mankind were lost; and behold, they would have been endlessly lost were it not that God redeemed his people from their lost and fallen state.
Mosiah 27: 25 And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters.
Alma 34: 9 For it is expedient that an atonement should be made; for according to the great plan of the Eternal God there must be an atonement made, or else all mankind must unavoidably perish; yea, all are hardened; yea, all are fallen and are lost, and must perish except it be through the atonement which it is expedient should be made.
Alma 42: 10 Therefore, as they had become carnal, sensual, and devilish, by nature, this probationary state became a state for them to prepare; it became a preparatory state.
Those who believe in the goodness of man (secularists) attribute evil behavior to external forces, such as poverty, racism, and inequality. They reject the idea that mankind is “free to choose,” to rise above their circumstance and fulfill their potential. It is ironic that the belief in the goodness of mankind undermines our ability to grow spiritually. One of the unintended consequences of the secularist belief system leads people to transfer their personal responsibility onto others in order to exonerate them of their “bad” behavior.
Belief in our inherent goodness acts as a stumbling block to spiritual progression. Who is more likely to humble and submit one’s will to God, someone who thinks highly of oneself or someone who believes like the brother of Jared, “that they are evil continually?” One of the easiest ways to justify bad behavior is to judge ourselves by our intentions, rather than by our actions. This form of self-delusion comes as a result of thinking we are good, after all, our intentions are good, or at least we convince ourselves to think this.
This false doctrine comes from the father of all lies, who believed he was so good, so superior to both God and the Christ that he sought to “fundamentally transform” the plan of Salvation, to ensure that everyone would be saved. No doubt Satan had high self-esteem that I am sure played a role in his unwillingness to submit to Gods will, after all, why would he need to.
The belief in the goodness of mankind is contrary to the Gospel because it undermines mankind’s gift of agency, the very foundation of what God’s plan is built upon. This doctrine is empowering. Without it, nothing would exist. Believing we are inherently “bad,” is liberating. It means we have reached a point where Christ can make us into his image. To be molded, shaped and perfected according to his will. When we understand our true nature, then we will automatically become better parents, because we will help them to fight the greatest battle in life is which is within themselves.
Remember the words of the Brother of Jared, one of the greatest prophets to ever grace the earth, “we know that thou art holy and dwellest in the heavens, and that we are unworthy before thee; because of the fall our natures have become evil continually.” If feeling this away about himself is good enough for him, it’s sure good enough for me!