Meeting the Challenge
“If we as a nation are to long remain under heaven’s benign protection and care, we should return to those principles that have brought us peace, liberty, and prosperity.”
This nation is distinctive among the nations of mankind. It is not just one among the families of nations, but it has a unique origin, purpose, and destiny. The foundation of this nation is spiritual. It was founded on belief in the sovereignty of God and that he—not government—granted man his rights. Furthermore, the Founding Fathers gave deliberate acknowledgment that the hand of God was in the events that brought about our independence. Here are a few of their testimonies:
George Washington: “The success, which has hitherto attended our united efforts, we owe to the gracious interposition of Heaven, and to that interposition let us gratefully ascribe the praise of victory, and the blessings of peace.” (To the Executive of New Hampshire, November 3, 1789.)
Alexander Hamilton: “The Sacred Rights of mankind are not to be rummaged from among old parchments or musty records. They are written . . . by the Hand of Divinity itself.” (“The Farmer Refuted,” 1775.)
Thomas Jefferson: “The God who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time.” (Rights of British America, 1774.)
John Quincy Adams: “From the day of the Declaration . . . [the American people] were bound by the laws of God . . . and by the laws of the Gospel, which they nearly all acknowledged as the rules of their conduct.” (Oration celebrating July 4, 1821.)
It was not just incidental nor was it mere political platitude that the name of God was mentioned in the Declaration of Independence four times, and that our adopted national motto became “In God We Trust.” From the life of our illustrious founder, George Washington, we have an example of rectitude worthy of emulation by all public servants, an example that demonstrates a consistency between his private morality and public behavior. In light of past and present indiscretions by public officials, it would seem that this is a lesson that needs to be relearned.
It is evident from the vantage point of two hundred years that this country today enjoys an unparalleled freedom and prosperity. The facts speak for themselves.
Few nations possess the freedoms we do: freedom to speak, freedom to own property and business, freedom to worship, freedom to print, freedom to travel at home and abroad, freedom to censure even public officials, and freedom of private enterprise. No other country has been more richly blessed or more generous in terms of money and food.
Of those who malign our country or system, we ask, by what source did we receive such blessings and prosperity?
The source of all these blessings is God, because to a great extent we have been a God-fearing, Christ-worshiping people. Yet it should be evident to all who survey the social, political, and domestic landscape before us today, that we have departed from the ways of our forefathers and the path they marked out for us. In recent years we have witnessed a corrosion of the constitutional government established by our forebears, and a departure from the laws of God. No longer may it be said that we have a nation united under God. In Abraham Lincoln’s words, “We have forgotten God.”
There are some in this land, among whom I count myself, whose faith it is that America is “a land choice above all other lands” to the Lord, and that we shall remain on this land only as we remain in God’s divine favor.
There are principles that may bring us back into heaven’s favor again. These principles are embodied in the Decalogue, or the Ten Commandments. They came from God Himself to Moses, and form the foundation of civilized society. Designed by the Almighty, these laws plumb the depths of human motives and urges, and, if adhered to, will regulate the baser passions of mankind. No nation has ever perished that has kept the commandments of God.
Neither permanent government nor civilization will long endure that violates these laws. The conscience of all right-thinking people declares this to be so. “America cannot remain strong by ignoring the commandments of the Lord.” (President Spencer W. Kimball, June 3, 1976.)
Again, our vantage point today, two hundred years after the birth of this favored nation, yields to us a foresight to see that if we as a nation are to long remain under heaven’s benign protection and care, we should return to those principles that have brought us peace, liberty, and prosperity. Our problems today are essentially problems of the spirit. The solution is not more wealth, more food, more technology, more government, or instruments of destruction. The solution is personal and national reformation. In short, it is to bring our national character ahead of our technological and material advances. Repentance is the sovereign remedy to our problems.
This nation is God-ordained for a glorious purpose. It is an ensign of liberty to all other nations. This liberty will be maintained as we keep the commandments of God. Righteousness is the indispensable ingredient to liberty.
(Source: Ezra Taft Benson, This Nation Shall Endure, published 1977)