My People Are Destroyed for Lack of Knowledge

Ezra Taft Benson – General Conference Talk – April 1960. My People Are Destroyed for Lack of Knowledge.

My brethren and sisters, if the Lord will bless me I desire to say a few words about a most serious world-wide threat. In the Old Testament we read: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” (Hosea 4:6.)

Thus spoke Hosea, the prophet. In keeping with the spirit of President McKay’s masterful opening address, I take these words of warning as my text, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”

As in Old Testament days we need knowledge today. We need to know our enemies. We must assess clearly and accurately the perils that face the free world as we enter the Missile Age. At the same time we must assure ourselves of the knowledge which brings confidence and trust in our ability and that of our friends around the world to face the future–not in fear but with vigilance. From knowledge comes strength, and from strength comes the power to preserve freedom both at home and abroad.

President Eisenhower and other dedicated men have worked tirelessly to help the free world understand better the deadly world conflict between good and evil which is constantly going on.

We are now entering a period of conferences, first at the Summit in May and again in June when the President travels to Moscow for a ten-day visit in Russia.

As the President said in his State of the Union Message last January, “We will continue in our search for peace and in our efforts to reach mutually enforceable agreements.”

We have an enormous responsibility here in the United States to help maintain peace and freedom and to push back the somber clouds of war-threats caused by international tensions.

The power of communism depends to a large extent on public ignorance. Knowledge is a dangerous thing–to totalitarian states; but knowledge is strength to a free people.

There are some fundamental facts which must never be overlooked, lest it be said of this our land, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” (Hosea 4:6.)

We must never forget exactly what communism really is. Communism is far more than an economic system. It is a total philosophy of life–atheistic and completely opposed to all that we hold dear.

We believe in an all-wise Creator. Communism teaches that everything in existence came about as a result of ceaseless motion of the forces of nature.

We believe in the dignity of man. Communism holds that human beings are but graduate beasts. Hence communism does not hesitate to destroy those who stand in its way. The Russian communists in their rise to power liquidated millions of their fellow countrymen. The Chinese communists wiped out tens of millions–perhaps as many as 30 million.

We believe in a moral code. Communism denies innate right or wrong. As W. Cleon Skousen has said in his timely book, The Naked Communist: The communist “has convinced himself that nothing is evil which answers the call of expediency.” This is a most damnable doctrine. People who truly accept such a philosophy have neither conscience nor honor. Force, trickery, lies, broken promises are wholly justified.

We believe in religion as a mode of life resulting from our faith in God. Communism contends that all religion must be overthrown because it inhibits the spirit of world revolution.

Earl Browder, a long-time leader of the Communist Party in the U. S. A. said, “. . . we Communists do not distinguish between good and bad religions, because we think they are all bad.”

This atheistic, degrading, but militant philosophy is backed up with the strength and resources of a big country of 210 million people and a fast-growing economy. In addition, communism has built an empire of 700 million people more. Besides this, it has agents in all free world countries whose ultimate aim is to overthrow the existing social order and bring these countries under the red flag.

The major communist objective, make no mistake about it, is to destroy any society that adheres to the fundamentals of spiritual, economic, and political freedom–the integrity of man.

As the leading exponent of the free society, the United States is thus the primary target of Marxian-Lenin philosophy.

Internationally, communism seeks to isolate us from the rest of the free world. Here at home, communism ceaselessly pursues the disintegration of the American way of life. It strives to use education, science, literature, art, even the churches, to undermine our free society.

Suppose for a moment that this country fell under communist control. What would be the fruits of this calamity? First, the true seat of government would immediately be removed from Washington to Moscow. William Z. Foster, the former head of the Communist Party in the United States, said this: “When a Communist heads the government of the United States–and that day will come just as surely as the sun rises–the government will not be a Capitalistic government but a Soviet government, and behind this government will stand the Red Army to enforce the dictatorship of the proletariat.”

What would this mean to you and me in our daily lives?

Could we own our own homes? Our living quarters would be assigned to us, and we would pay rent to the state as ordered.

Could we own our own farms? Our farms would be collectivized and become the property of the state and we would work them under orders from the state.

Could we start a business and hire people to work for us? To do so would make us criminals.

Could we work where we pleased? We would work when, where, and how we were told–and the government would do the telling. No labor unions as we now know them would be permitted to exist. Neither would Chambers of Commerce, Farm Organizations, Rotary Clubs, the American Legion, and other organizations.

What would happen to our bank accounts? All above a small sum would be confiscated. The rest would be state-controlled for us. The state would take over our insurance.

Except for a few closely personal items we would have no property to leave to our families when we die.

We could travel around the country only with police permission.

We could not travel abroad or marry a foreigner without the specific approval of the state.

We could not even write freely to friends in other countries.

Our children would go to the schools selected for them, and only so long as the state permitted. Lenin said, “Give us a child for eight years, and it will be a Bolshevik forever.”

Teachers would be free to teach only what the state authorized. William Z. Foster said, “Our teachers must write new school textbooks and rewrite history from the Marxian viewpoint.”

To belong to a church would be sure to bring discrimination and penalties of many kinds against us and our families. The great majority of church buildings would become state museums or warehouses.

No real compromise is possible with evil such as this.

Is there any real danger that such a calamity could befall us here? My response to that is merely to recite the following shocking fact:

In forty years, communism, by trickery and force, has brought more people under its domination than the total number of Christians now living in the entire world–and Christianity has been in existence for nearly 2,000 years.

We dare not underestimate the communists’ zeal, nor their aims, nor their power. To do so could mean our destruction.

We dare not accept communist pledges at face value.

The German situation is a dramatic example.

The Soviet Union in the 1940’s sealed off its German occupation zone–breaking its promise.

The Soviet Union built up a powerful East German semi-military police force–breaking another promise. The Soviet Union pledged Germany political freedom, as well as freedom of speech and press. Here again she broke her promise.

The Soviet Union agreed to four-power rule in Berlin, then set up a separate East Berlin–breaking its promise.

I visited the Soviet Union last fall spending much of my time with the good, honest, hard-working people of the soil. I am sure the Russian people want peace. I am confident that we can look forward to an era of peace if the governments of the world respond to the will of the people. But I saw no evidence that the communist leaders have altered their goal of world conquest–by economic if not by military means.

Even this short visit to the Soviet Union clearly revealed how uneven and unbalanced their economic progress actually is. Their success in the field of rocketry is in sharp contrast to their backwardness in general standards of living. A Soviet wisecrack of recent vintage goes like this: “Last year we got a sputnik and this year a lunik, and one of these days we may even get shoes.”

In agricultural efficiency and productivity the Soviet Union is still a long way behind the United States. But they do have a substantial growth potential.

By means of a great effort, including better economic incentives, Soviet agriculture has increased production by one half or more in the past six years.

About fifty million persons work in Russian agriculture and forestry–more than forty percent of their total labor force–compared with a little over seven million persons in the United States, or less than 10 percent of our labor force.

They have relatively few farm machines compared to the United States, and they use a great deal of hand labor, most of it done by women. Some sixty to seventy-five percent of their agricultural labor force consists of women.

But one farm worker in the United States produces enough food and fiber to support about twenty-five persons–one farm worker in Russia produces enough for only five or six persons.

The typical Russian laborer has one pair of shoes and one suit of clothes. That’s because it takes a month’s wages to buy a pair of shoes and two months or more to buy a suit of clothes.

They are putting up a bold front as regards their ability to catch up. I saw hundreds of posters in the USSR urging farmers to surpass the United States in per capita production. I also saw numerous posters forecasting the ultimate victory of the communist system.

But we in this country are driving ahead also.

I feel sure that the Soviets will not equal nor surpass our productivity in our lifetime, if ever, under their system of agriculture. Why? Because they can never duplicate the levels of efficiency and productive ingenuity which are called forth in a free society.

But let us not underestimate them. On the contrary, let us strive harder to make our own free system of agriculture and industry even more efficient. And let us constantly keep our guard up.

What can you and I do to help meet this grave challenge from a godless, atheistic, cruelly materialistic system–to preserve our God-given free way of life?

First, let us all prize the treasures we have in this country. This is a choice land–all of America – – choice above all others. Blessed by the Almighty, our forebears have made and kept it so. It will continue to be a land of freedom and liberty as long as we are able and willing to advance in the light of sound and enduring principles of right.

Second, let us all do our part to stay free! Let us stand eternal watch against the accumulation of too much power in government. Here in our free land let us preserve a true climate in which man can grow.

Third, let us all reaffirm our patriotism, our love of country. Patriotism is more than flag-waving and brave words. It is how we respond to public issues. Let us rededicate ourselves as patriots in the truest sense.

Fourth, let us all help to build peace: True peace springs from within. Its price is righteousness, and to achieve righteousness we must so conduct ourselves individually and collectively as to earn the loyalty and devotion of other men.

Finally, let us all rededicate our lives and our nation to do the will of God. With each of you, I love this nation. It is my firm belief that the God of heaven guided the Founding Fathers in establishing it for his particular purposes. But God’s purpose is to build free people of character, not physical monuments to their material accumulations.

Nations that truly love freedom love God. History is replete with examples of once powerful nations that have forgotten God. No nation ripened in iniquity can long endure. “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.” (Proverbs

We in this land have a rich heritage of freedom. It has rewarded us beyond our brightest dreams. The key to further progress–the key to national security–is the preservation of the initiative, vitality, energy, and resourcefulness of our people. Our material progress is merely a by-product of our freedom. Our God-given freedom, a basic principle of religious truth, is still the most powerful force on the face of the earth.

The people of the world long for peace–and I specifically include the people of Russia.

That is why we can approach these talks with the Russians with inner strength but without illusions. We know that knowledge of the enemy teaches us wariness and caution; we know too that we speak for millions of suppressed people on the Soviet side of the Iron Curtain, all those everywhere who want peace with human dignity.

May I conclude by saying that any system which deprives men of their free agency, which weakens the home and family, which depends on butchery for power, which denies all moral responsibility, which holds that man lives by bread alone, and which denies the existence of God, is of the devil.

This is the communist philosophy. There is no real evidence that it has been changed in the last forty years.

Knowledge of the enemy and knowledge of ourselves give us the strength to fight the good fight for freedom and world peace.

May it never come to pass that “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge,” (Hosea 4:6) I humbly pray, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.



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