America’s Strength: The Morality of Its People

“Great nations do not fall because of external aggression; they first erode and decay inwardly. . . . The strength of a country is the sum total of the moral strength of the individuals in that country.”

Our government is a system that was founded on the premise so eloquently stated by Patrick Henry, that “there is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations.” In the Declaration of Independence there is an appeal to the “Supreme Judge of the World” and to “the laws of nature and nature’s God.”

Our system was founded on the idea that God has endowed us with rights that are inalienable, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. As the offspring of God, we share a common paternity that makes us literally brothers and thus gives us a common destiny. When this truth sinks into the human heart, men demand their inalienable rights. It is as the apostle Paul told the Corinthians, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” (2 Corinthians 3:17.)

Ours is a system in which human rights are protected by a constitution. This is not just theory. We have bent over backwards to protect those rights; but, in some instances, our courts have given more protection to the criminal than to the law-abiding citizen.

Ours is a system based on free enterprise, which has given us the highest standard of living of any people on this earth.

Now, let us contrast our system with its alternative. Recently a remarkable speech was delivered in Washington, D.C., entitled “A Warning to America.” The speaker was an exiled Russian, a Nobel Prize winner, a man who dared to speak out against the system of communism and who spent eleven years incarcerated in the Soviet prison system because he dared to oppose that system. In his speech he denounced the communist ideology as a system—

—which introduced concentration camps for the first time in the history of the world. . . .

—which was the first . . . to use false registration. Namely they would order such and such people to come in to register. People would come in. At that point, they are taken away to be annihilated. . . .

—which introduced genocide of the peasantry. Fifteen million peasants were sent off to extermination. . . .

—which . . . artificially created a famine causing 6 million persons to die. . . .

—where for 40 years there haven’t been genuine elections, but simply a farce. . . .

—without an independent judiciary, where people have no influence on external or internal policy. . . .

—where unmasked butchers of millions like Molotov . . . have never been tried in the courts, but retire on tremendous pensions. . . .

—where these farces continue today. . . .

—where the very constitution has never been carried out for one single day, where all the decisions are made somewhere high up by a small group in secret, and then released on the country like a bolt of lightning. (Alexander Solzhenitsyn, in U.S. News and World Report, July 14, 1975, pp. 44-50.)

Yes, today we are in a worldwide battle for the bodies and souls of men, the first of its kind between two opposing systems, between freedom and slavery, between the spirit of Christianity and the spirit of the antichrist.

Great nations do not fall because of external aggression; they first erode and decay inwardly, so that, like rotten fruit, they fall of themselves. The strength of a country is the sum total of the moral strength of the individuals in that country.

Our youth today are faced with temptations to compromise their character and standards, a bombardment of temptations the like of which has not been experienced by any other age in such intensity and sophistication. These temptations are constantly before them in literature, movies, radio, clothing fashions, television, modern music, and barracks and dormitory talk. Today Satan—who I testify is real—uses many tools to weaken and destroy character. His thrust is directed at the youth and vitality of our nation. He masquerades sex perversion as something that is natural and harmless. He uses drugs (LSD, marijuana, and others), leading magazines, underground publications, television, movies, pornographic literature, and morally destructive paperback books, filthy and obscene talk—all in an effort to see young people compromise their integrity, sacrifice their morality, and spend their moral strength for the pleasure of the moment.

God created sex, but not for self-indulgence. To quote the popular evangelist Billy Graham, “God himself implanted the physical magnetism between the sexes for two reasons: for the propagation of the human race, and for the expression of that kind of love between man and wife that makes for true oneness. His command to the first man and woman to be ‘one flesh’ was as important as his command to ‘be fruitful and multiply.'” (As quoted by President Spencer W. Kimball, Conference Report, April 1974, p. 9.)

Men are not animals, left only to their instincts and self-indulgence. We are the offspring of God. God himself has set the boundaries of this sacred act. Sex outside of marriage is wrong. Every form of homosexuality is wrong. This is God’s definition of chastity. Through his prophets he has declared and reiterated, “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” (Exodus 20:14.)

We look back in retrospect on the war fought in Viet Nam and we mourn the loss of American life, the killed and the missing. But there are other casualties to that war we seldom mention, casualties that should cause every man who enters the military service to pause and consider their consequences.

I speak of the innocent babies born as offspring of adulterous relationships between some of our soldiers and the women of the Orient. No one knows the extent of these casualties. There are estimates of over 50,000 in Viet Nam. In Japan more than 20,000 were fathered by U.S. servicemen. Other thousands of offspring from illicit relations are in Thailand, Taiwan, and Korea. Many of these illegitimates have been abandoned by both fathers and mothers, and wander as helpless orphans, shunned by nearly all who see them. One of my colleagues has written:

It is said that one in every ten American soldiers fathers a child by an Asian woman.

Who has the right to beget illegitimate children?

Who has the right to take the virtue of an Asian or any other girl, or to lose his own?

Which American—at home or abroad—has the right to abandon his own flesh and blood and forget that his illegitimate child ever existed?

Can the God of heaven, who holds us all accountable for our sins, overlook this wickedness?

Of what good are national days of prayer if we do not support our prayers by our good works? Will God strengthen the arms of fighting men who desecrate his most holy laws? Will he prosper a nation that apparently condones these illicit practices and does little more than provide prophylactics to men who indulge?

Are these fathers so lacking in natural affection that they are willing to completely forget and ignore their own offspring in a foreign land?

We sing, almost tearfully at times, “God Bless America.” But we are almost constrained to ask: “How can he?”

The venereal disease rate in our war areas is frightening in the extreme. We welcome our boys home as conquering heroes, but some of them bring back a plague of venereal disease, which can destroy them.

Venereal disease is a killer. It also maims, causes heart trouble, insanity, and blindness. It destroys homes, spreads corruption to innocent wives, and blights the lives of helpless children. (Mark E. Petersen, Conference Report, April 1969, pp. 64-65.)

Some would justify their immorality with the argument that restrictions against it are merely religious rules, rules that are meaningless because in reality there is no God. This you will recognize is merely an untruthful rationalization designed to justify one’s carnal appetite, lust, and passion. God’s law is irrevocable. It applies to all, whether they believe in God or not. Everyone is subject to its penalties, no matter how one tries to rationalize or ignore them.

Immorality is next to murder in God’s category of crime, and always brings with it attendant remorse. A person cannot indulge in promiscuous relations without suffering ill effects from it. He cannot do wrong and feel right—it is impossible. Anytime one breaks a law of God, he pays a penalty in heartache, in sadness, in remorse, in lack of self-respect, and he removes himself from contact with the Spirit of God. Is it any wonder that those who indulge in sex relations outside of marriage deny God?

Our nation, the United States of America, was built on the foundation of reality and spirituality. To the extent that its citizens violate God’s commandments, especially his laws of morality—to that degree they weaken the country’s foundation. A rejection and repudiation of God’s laws could well lead our nation to its destruction just as it has to Greece and Rome. It can happen to our country unless we repent. An eminent statesman once said, “Our very civilization itself is based upon chastity, the sanctity of marriage, and the holiness of the home. Destroy these and Christian man becomes a brute.” (J. Reuben Clark, Jr., Conference Report, October 1938, p. 137.) Home is the rock foundation, the cornerstone of civilization. No nation will be stronger than its homes and families.

God’s laws are not to be trifled with. One cannot cancel out what God himself has decreed. He will not tolerate it.

We provide all young men who enter military service and who belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with a message from our Church leaders that gives them counsel on a number of matters. May I quote from a portion of this message as it pertains to the area of chastity:

To our young men who go into service, . . . we say live clean, keep the commandments of the Lord, pray to Him constantly to preserve you in truth and righteousness, live as you pray, and then whatever betides you the Lord will be with you and nothing will happen to you that will not be to the honor and glory of God and to your salvation and exaltation. There will come into your hearts from the living of the pure life you pray for, a joy that will pass your powers of expression or understanding. The Lord will be always near you; He will comfort you; you will feel His presence in the hour of your greatest tribulation; He will guard and protect you to the full extent that accords with His all-wise purpose. Then, when the conflict is over and you return to your homes, having lived the righteous life, how great will be your happiness . . . that you have lived as the Lord commanded. You will return so disciplined in righteousness that thereafter all Satan’s wiles and stratagems will leave you untouched. Your faith and testimony will be strong beyond breaking. You will be looked up to and revered as having passed through the fiery furnace of trial and temptation and come forth unharmed. (Conference Report, April 1942, p. 96.)

I think that promise is applicable to men of all faiths and beliefs.

For the happiness that will result to them, for the self-respect added to their character, for the moral strength added to our country, I urge all of our youth to be true to God and to themselves. I urge them to be chaste, to keep high moral standards, and to maintain personal integrity, honesty, and virtue.

May God bless each one of them according to their personal righteousness. May they listen and heed His counsel as He has provided it through His prophets.

(Source: Ezra Taft Benson, This Nation Shall Endure, published 1977)

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