God, Family, and Country
by Ezra Taft Benson. From God, Family, Country: Our Three Great Loyalties, pg. 406. 1974.
While attending the Fairfax Christian School in Virginia, my grandson Ezra Taft was introduced to the historical character Israel Putnam. Israel Putnam was one of the Revolutionary War farmers who left his plow in the field and gave up his comfort in order to protect his family, defend his inalienable God-given rights, and help establish this great, free country. It is heartening to know that today there are still those who answer to the rallying cry of God, family, and country.
Recently it was my privilege to walk across a part of that sacred soil where some of the best blood of Israel Putnam’s generation was shed for freedom and the redemption of this land. Those noble souls did not initiate freedom, and one of the privileges of mortal life is the opportunity to rise in freedom’s defense during the time when Lucifer is permitted to tempt and test men with his satanic schemes of slavery. This is part of our mission today. The same sun that shone on Israel Putnam during his mortal probation shines on us. And the same issues of light and darkness, force and freedom, right and wrong, that provided men a chance to prove themselves in his day continue to sift the souls of men today.
The thing that concerns so many of us today is not that wickedness is new, but that never before in our history has it been so well organized or so insidiously successful. Now, in view of this fact, and with a final showdown approaching between the powers of good and evil, may I be so bold as to make a few personal observations and express my convictions regarding God, family, and country.
I know, as I know that I live, that there is a God in heaven; that he is perfect and all powerful; that we are his children; that he loves us; and that we are eternal beings. I also know that life is a testing time in man’s eternal existence, during which he is given his free agency—the right to choose between right and wrong—and that on those choices hang great consequences, not only in this life, but, even more important, in the life to come. There are boundaries beyond which Satan cannot go. Within those bounds, he is presently being permitted to offer an unrighteous alternative to God’s righteous principles, thus allowing men to choose between good and evil and thereby determine the station they shall occupy in the next life. Said the poet:
Know this, that every soul is free
To choose his life and what he’ll be,
For this eternal truth is given
That God will force no man to heaven.
He’ll call, persuade, direct aright,
Bless with wisdom, love, and light;
In nameless ways be good and kind,
But never force the human mind.
God has not left man alone. He sends prophets, gives scripture, whispers counsel, answers righteous prayers, and in innumerable ways blesses his children. And he would more richly bless them if they were willing to obey the commands on which those blessings are predicated. I know that truth will eventually triumph and freedom will ultimately and finally prevail.
That fact alone should life the spirit and hope of those who have an eternal view of things. Some of you will recall that during World War II, many of the British children were sent into rural areas for protection. One night, one of the small children, saying her prayers while the Battle of Britain raged over London, asked the Lord to bless the members of her family who were absent, including her father who was serving in the Royal Air Force. And as she was about to close her prayer, she said: “And dear God, please take care of yourself—because if anything happens to you, we’re all sunk!”
Now, the great consolation and hope of every patriot should be that God is in his heaven; that he is the same yesterday, today, and forever; that this is his earth; that he is in charge; that his word will not fail; that in due time every wrong shall be righted, every virtue justified, every evil punished, and every good rewarded. But for the immediate future, we face times and calamities that will test the spiritual fibre of the best of us.
Now, with that knowledge, what is our responsibility? Why, what it has always been: to keep God’s commandments. No more and no less. And that includes the declaration of Moses, inscribed on the Liberty Bell in Constitution Hall in Philadelphia, where the Declaration of Independence was signed: “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land, unto all the inhabitants thereof.” (Lev. 25:10.)
It is my conviction that despite the serious trials and tribulations we will have to face before Jehovah’s triumphal return, the forces of freedom and righteousness, which have never been better organized than they are today, shall not be destroyed. The number who are dedicated to, and will preserve, our inspired Constitution are on the increase, and God watches over the faithful no matter what is going on in the world.
It is our duty to be faithful, and a man cannot be counted among the fully faithful unless he is an active fighter for freedom. Resistance to tyranny is still obedience to God. How to resist in the most effective manner will require careful and prayerful thought on the part of all of us. To be fully effective in the fight for freedom, a man must be in tune with the greatest champion and leader of free men—the Lord our God. And to be in tune with him, we must be in step with him; we must walk in his way.
Now, that divine duty to be a faithful fighter for freedom requires that those of us who have been warned do our duty to warn our neighbor, for our neighbor’s involvement in this struggle can bless his soul, strengthen his family, and protect him from pitfalls while he helps his country. The blessings far outweight the burden when we stand up for freedom. With gall comes glory; with a cross comes a crown; with thorns comes a throne, if we will persevere in righteousness. There are still more victories to be won in this fight for freedom, the most important of which is to save our own souls by taking a stand for liberty with the Lord. For amid the encircling gloom, the kindly light of the Lord can lead us on—can help expose and stop evil in some places, slow it down in others, give the forces of freedom the chance to become better entrenched, provide righteous alternatives, and develop faith and hope to keep on keeping on in the divine assurance that in the brightness of the Lord’s coming, the darkness of Satan’s conspiracy will eventually be fully exposed and destroyed.
Now, in preparation for the showdown, may I encourage each of us to strengthen our families. The communists are determined to destroy the three great loyalties—loyalty to God, loyalty to family, and loyalty to country. Some of our patriots are losing their children. In our attempt to save our country, we must not let our own homes crumble. Don’t neglect your own. You can’t delegate that divine duty nor neglect it without tragic consequences. be careful in sending them away from your hearth for additional education. There are worse things that can happen to a young person today than not getting a liberal college degree.
We must multiply our influence by raising up God-fearing patriots at our own fireside. We need more than one generation of patriots in a family line. We need more men like John Adams, who took time amid all the demands of the revolution and the building of this republic to teach and train a future president, his own son, John Quincy Adams. We must stay close to our children.
Not only should we have strong spiritual homes, but we should have strong temporal homes. We should avoid bondage by getting out of debt as soon as we can, pay as we go, and live within our incomes. There is wisdom in having on hand a year’s supply of food, clothing, and fuel, if possible, and in being prepared to defend our families and our possessions and to take care of ourselfes. I believe a man should prepare for the worst while working for the best. Some people prepare and don’t work, while others work but don’t prepare. Both are needed if we would be of maximum service to our God, our family, and our country.
It is a part of my religious belief that America is a land choice above all others, that we are not just another of the family of nations, but that we have been singled out to perform a divine mission for liberty-loving people everywhere. Those who founded this republic were wise men raised up by our Father in heaven to perform that very task, and the Constitution of this land was inspired by God. We have a divine duty—even a destiny—to preserve that Constitution from destruction and hold it aloft to the world.
A book that I accept as scripture tells of two ancient American civilizations that were destroyed as a result of murderous conspiracies lusting for power and seeking to overthrow freedom. That book warned that when we should see a similar situation developing in our land in our day, we would be under commandment of the Lord to awake to our awful situation. That day is upon us, and those of us who are awake to our situation have a moral obligation to do all we can to awaken our fellow citizens.
The Book of Mormon states that America will remain a free land as long as the people worship the God of the land. It also assures us that “unto the righteous” this land “shall be blessed forever.”
I remember a number of years ago when Cecil B. DeMille, the great producer of such films as The Ten Commandments, was invited to accept an honorary degree from Brigham Young University. In his address to the student body, Mr. DeMille made an interesting observation. He said that men and nations cannot really break the Ten Commandments; they can only break themselves upon them. How true!
And so, in talking about our country as well as our families, we return again to God, because this whole basic struggle revolves around the spiritual and moral fitness of our people. Nineveh was saved because the people repented while there was still time. But Sodom was destroyed because God couldn’t find even ten worthy souls. As the wicked become more wicked and more numerous, the righteous will need to increase in spiritual strength and numbers to offset them. One of the great blessings of the last few years is that the patriotic movement in America has become organized and strengthened to an unprecedented degree.
A while ago some lonely American must have felt like Elijah, who fled into the wilderness thinking that he was alone in rejecting false gods. But God knew differently and told Elijah of some 7,000 who had not bent their knees to the idols. This lifted Elijah’s heart and he went back to the battle with Baal. We know that we are not alone in this freedom fight. Many have helped lift other hearts, but there are many more who feel alone whose knees have not bent or who might be wobbly. There may be some who, with our help, understanding, and encouragement, might get off their knees to the idol of socialism and acquit themselves like men.
We must have an even greater determination to reach and influence those who, with our help, understanding, and encouragement, might themselves join us in the battle. God is counting on us to follow through. If we do it well, then we will have done our job. Like the watchman on the tower referred to in the Bible, it is our task to warn others of the darkness. Some will not listen, and they will be held accountable. But if we who have the word fail to issue the warning, then God will hold us accountable.
May we pledge anew that the divine principles embodied in the divinely inspired documents that govern our country be written on the tablets of our own hearts. I pray that our eyes might be single to the will of God, that we might thereby bless our families and our country, and that we shall, with increased devotion, work for less government, more individual responsibility, and, with God’s help, a better world.