Mormon Prophet Ezra Taft Benson's Sermon and the Writings of C.S. Lewis
Subject: Prophetic Plagiarism: Ezra Taft Benson's "Pride" Sermon and the Writings of C.S. Lewis
Date: Jan 21 07:22 2004
Author: steve benson        (also includes BYU President Bateman's plagiarism of a prominent author Himmelfarb)

Introduction: Was Ezra Taft Benson's Famous Sermon on Pride Borrowed From the Writings of C.S. Lewis?

The question has been asked:

"Did ETB steal from C.S. Lewis? . . . The first time I read the C.S. Lewis passage, I nearly fell out of my (TBM) chair. ETB’s talk as so clearly lifted in large part from Lewis and nary an acknowledgment to be heard. Usually such a gaffe by a well-known person gets a lot of coverage, and yet I have never heard . . . any admission or apology. What say ye? Any info?" ("Bobby D," post, Recovery From Mormonism Board, 14 June 2003, 01:58)

Likewise, another questioner more recently inquired:

"Was CS Lewis the author of the pride sermon from ET Benson? Where can that be found? Anyone know?" ("novel-t," Recovery from Mormonism Board, 20 January 2004, 20:19)

These inquiries refer to a sermon of then-Church President Ezra Taft Benson, entitled "Beware of Pride," which was delivered (actually read by First Counselor Gordon B. Hinckley) on 1 April 1989 during the 159th Semi-Annual LDS General Conference. (pages unnumbered)

The question is whether Benson’s sermon plagiarized the writings of C.S. Lewis, from Lewis' book Mere Christianity, specifically the chapter, “The Great Sin” (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1952, revised and enlarged).

The Answer: Abundant Evidence of Plagiarisms

A line-by-line comparison of the text of both documents provides clear and convincing evidence for the source of Ezra Taft Benson's talk on pride.

His sermon borrowed heavily, and without attribution, both in terms of wording and concept, from Lewis’ earlier work.

Examples of these plagiarisms are listed below, by topic.

Pride is the Ultimate Vice


"The essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride." (p. 109)


"Pride is the universal sin, the great vice."

Competitive Nature of Pride


"Pride is essentially competitive--is competitive by is very nature . . .” (p. 109)

". . . Pride is essentially competitive in a way that other vices are not." (p. 110)

"Pride is competitive by its very nature." (p. 110)

“Once the element of competition has gone, pride is gone. That is why I say that Pride is essentially competitive in a way the other vices are not.” (p. 110)


"Pride is essentially competitive in nature. . . .

Our will in competition to God’s will allows desires, appetites, and passions to go unbridled."

The Proud See Themselves Being Above Others


"A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you." (p.111)


“Most of us consider pride to be a sin of those on the top, such as the rich and the learned, looking down at the rest of us.”

The Proud Also Look From the Bottom Up


“When you delight wholly in yourself and do not care about the praise at all, you have reached the bottom.” (p. 112)


“There is, however, a more common ailment among us and that is pride from the bottom looking up.”

Pride Equals Enmity


"Pride always means enmity--it is enmity. And not only enmity between man and man, but enmity to God." (p.111)


"The central feature of pride is enmity--enmity toward God and enmity toward our fellowman."

“Our enmity toward God takes on many labels, such as rebellion, hard-heartedness, stiff-neckedness, unrepentant, puffed up, easily offended, and sign seekers.”

“Another major portion of this very prevalent sin of pride is enmity toward our fellowmen.”

Pride and Self-Value


"You value other people enough to want them to look at you." (p. 112)


"The proud depend upon the world to tell them whether they have value or not."

Pride vs. Humility


"The virtue opposite to it [pride], in Christian morals, is called Humility." (p. 109)

“ . . . if you really get into any kind of touch with Him you will, in fact, be humble—delightfully humble, feeling the infinite relief of having for once got rid of all the silly nonsense about your own dignity which had made you restless and unhappy all your life. He is trying to make you humble in order to make this moment possible . . .” (p. 114)


"The antidote for pride is humility . . . "

“Choose to be humble. God will have a humble people. Either we can choose to be humble or we can be compelled to be humble.”

Pride Not Admitted in Self


"There is one vice of which no man in the world is free; which every one in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else; and which hardly any people, except Christians, ever imagine that they are guilty themselves." (pp. 108-09)


"Pride is a sin that can readily be seen in others but is rarely admitted in ourselves."


Only once in ETB's sermon was proper credit given to C.S. Lewis as a source:

"The proud make every man their adversary by pitting their intellects, opinions, works, wealth, talents, or any other worldly measuring device against others. In the words of C. S. Lewis: "Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man.... It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone" (Mere Christianity [New York: Macmillan, 1952, pp. 109-10)."


Conclusion: Background on the Research and Writing of ETB's Sermon on Pride

Some years ago, my wife, Mary Ann, and I visited with May Benson, wife of Reed Benson (ETB's oldest child), in their home in Provo, Utah, during which time the subject of ETB's sermon on pride was a focus of conversation.

The first occasion was prior to the public delivery of ETB's sermon by Gordon B. Hinckley in the April 1989 General Conference and the second visit came after the speech.

May told us she had very strong feelings about the subject of pride. She was especially offended and concerned with what she regarded as the Benson family's own problems with pride.

(In fact, she had gotten up in disgust and walked out of a wedding breakfast for my sister, when one of the daughters of ETB, while listening to the father of the groom make some remarks to the assembled, leaned over and whispered self-righteously, "Well, we know which family was blessed with the spirituality").

May told us she had put together quite a few thoughts on the subject of pride that she hoped someday to compile and publish in a book.

However, after ETB's pride sermon was delivered, May told us that she no longer felt it necessary to publish her hoped-for book. Why? Because, she informed us, her husband, Reed, had spoken with ETB about her research on the topic.

May was clearly indicating to us that her information and study efforts had been used in ETB's sermon on pride.

Who actually wrote ETB's pride sermon is also a matter of some interest.

I have since been informed by a reliable source that May herself reportedly might have worked on the sermon.
Subject: I loved that talk and. . .
Date: Jan 21 11:08
Author: ex-TBM
Mail Address:

quoted from it often.

It was one of the reasons that I hung on to the church for so long.

Now that I'm way beyond considering Mormon prophets prophetic, it doesn't surprise me, but way back when the TBM juices were still flowing in my veins I would've been floored by this.

Subject: Plagiarism wasn't Benson's fault, it was his speech writers
Date: Jan 21 11:21
Author: then again

the faceless, nameless lackeys seen in every organization.

Besides, maybe Benson was inspired by the Lard to plagiarized, kinda like lying for the Lard....yeah, yeah, that's it! God TOLD Benson to plagiarize. Gotta do what the big guy tells ya to do, right?

Subject: The Mormon God wouldn't want any credit going to a Christian writer.
Date: Jan 21 11:24
Author: steve benson

The Lord had no choice but to ORDER his prophet to plagiarize.

Subject: Would most Mormons even know who CS Lewis was (is)?
Date: Jan 21 13:20
Author: beaglie

I seem to recall reading a post you made, Steve, about gifts you had been given or something like that and some of them were notably Christian classics ( I think "In His Steps") was one of them. It stuck in my mind because most Mormons wouldn't even know who the heck Clive Staples was. It appears to me that your family was different than the average TBM family in this way (among others)


Subject: C.S. Lewis is widely known in the church
Date: Jan 22 10:49
Author: conformist

I wouldn't wager on percentages, but his name seems to come up at least once every General Conference. And I remember having conversations about Lewis with a lot of TBMs.

Subject: I guess things have changed a lot since my BYU days in the late seventies..just what I need, TBM family now quoting my favorite Christian author to me..CSwould roll over in hisgrave 


Subject: Who would have thunk
Date: Jan 22 10:41
Author: conformist

I always thought that was an incredible sermon. Too bad E.T. had to steal someone else's work.

I can't think of a sermon in recent years that has been passed around and quoted from more often. Is there any inspiration in the church?

Subject: Re: Prophetic Plagiarism: Ezra Taft Benson's "Pride" Sermon and the Writings of C.S. Lewis 
Date: Jan 22 10:55
Author: Dee Bunker

Here's another funny one.

Question: Did Benjamin Disraeli (Prime minister of Great Britain, died 1881) of David O. McKay say, "No other success can compensate for failure in the home"?

Answer: Disraeli actually said, "No success in public life can compensate for failure in the home."

Subject: Repeated Presidential Plagiarisms in Mormonism's Righteous Ranks
Date: Feb 02 01:53
Author: steve benson

The plagiarism problem, however, has not been the sole authorship (so to speak) of the President of the Mormon Church.

It has also been a problem for the President of Brigham Young University.

On 25 April 1996, the then-incoming president of BYU (and General Authority), Merrill J. Bateman, delivered his inaugural address to the student body assembled in the Marriott Center, entitled "Response to Change."

Bateman was subsequently accused of stealing--without attribution--portions of his remarks from an article published earlier the same year, authored by conservative philosopher Gertrude Himmelfarb, entitled, "The Christian University: A Call to Counterrevolution." (First Things, no. 59, January 1996, pp. 16-19)

The plagiarism accusation caused an uproar in academic circles, leading Bateman to deny the charge. The accusation was recently mentioned in an article appearing in the Desert News, in conjunction with the end of Bateman's tenure as BYU president:

Bateman, who served as the LDS Church's presiding bishop until his appointment as university president, was accused of plagiarizing the ideas of neo-conservative scholar Gertrude Himmelfarb during his 1996 inaugural address. Bateman denied the plagiarism charge.,1249,465034158,00.html

Comparing Bateman's Inaugural Address with Himmelfarb's Article

Although the manuscript copy of Bateman's 1996 inaugural address offered a single footnote reference to Himmelfarb's ideas (located on p. 18 of her article), Bateman failed in the spoken version of those remarks to acknowledge his reliance on Himmelfarb's ideas--thus, leaving the false impression that her words were his own.

A point-by-point, topical comparison of the Himmelfarb and Bateman texts raises serious questions about Bateman's intellectual honesty:

On Disparaging Truth, Knowledge and Objectivity


"Today many eminent professors in some of our most esteemed universities disparage the ideas of truth, knowledge, and objectivity as naive or disingenuous at best, as fraudulent and despotic at worst."

"Above all, it is the truth that is denigrated."

"Finally, and most disastrously, the university, liberated from religious dogma, has also become liberated from the traditional academic dogma, the belief in truth, knowledge, and objectivity."


"During the past two decades, however, a number of well-known educators have begun to denigrate truth, knowledge, and objectivity."

On Politicization of the University By Interest Groups


"It [the university] is also a highly politicized institution; no longer subject to any religious authority, the university is at the mercy of the whims and wills of interest groups and ideologies."


"The university becomes a politicized institution that is at the mercy and whims of various interest groups."

On the Secularization of the University and Its Hostility to Religion


"For we are now confronted with a university . . . that has almost totally abandoned its original mission. It is now not merely a secular institution but a secularist one, propagating secularism as a creed, a creed that is not neutral as among religions but is hostile to all religions, indeed to religion itself."


"If university scholars reject the notion of ‘truth,’ there is no basis for intellectual and moral integrity. Secularism becomes a creed that is no longer neutral but hostile to religion."

On the Rise of Radical Relativism


"The animating spirit of postmodernism is a radical relativism and skepticism that rejects any idea of truth, knowledge, or objectivity."


"The driving theory is a radical relativism and skepticism that rejects any idea of truth or knowledge."

Before Giving Another Speech, Bateman Should Perhaps Review BYU's Honor Code

BYU's Honor Code says the following about academic honesty and plagiarism:

The first injunction of the BYU Honor Code is the call to "be honest." Students come to the university not only to improve their minds, gain knowledge, and develop skills that will assist them in their life's work, but also to build character. "President David O. McKay taught that character is the highest aim of education" (The Aims of a BYU Education, p. 6). It is the purpose of the BYU Academic Honesty Policy to assist in fulfilling that aim.

BYU students should seek to be totally honest in their dealings with others. They should complete their own work and be evaluated based upon that work. They should avoid academic dishonesty and misconduct in all its forms, including but not limited to plagiarism, fabrication or falsification, cheating, and other academic misconduct.

Conclusion: Fellow General Authority Boyd K. Packer Rides to Bateman's Rescue

A few months after exposure of BYU President Bateman as a plagiarizer, Boyd K. Packer issued what some saw as a thinly-veiled attack against Bateman's Mormon critics.

At October 1996 General Conference, in a sermon entitled, "The Twelve Apostles," Packer warned:

Some few within the Church, openly or perhaps far worse, in the darkness of anonymity, reproach their leaders in the wards and stakes and the Church, seeking to make them "an offender for a word," as Isaiah said. To them the Lord said, "Cursed are all those that shall lift up the heel against mine anointed, saith the Lord, and cry they have sinned when they have not sinned before me, saith the Lord, but have done that which was meet in mine eyes, and which I commanded them.

"But those who cry transgression do it because they are the servants of sin, and are the children of disobedience themselves . . .

"Because they have offended my little ones they shall be severed from the ordinances of mine house.

"Their basket shall not be full, their houses and their barns shall perish, and they themselves shall be despised by those that flattered them.

"They shall not have right to the priesthood, nor their posterity after them from generation to generation."

That terrible penalty will not apply to those who try as best they can to live the gospel and sustain their leaders. Nor need it apply to those who in the past have been guilty of indifference or even opposition, if they will repent and confess their transgressions, and forsake them.

Take heart, however. If Packer comes to a Mormon leader's defense, you know that leader did something wrong.

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