A Plea for America: Problems Affecting Our Domestic Tranquillity
One of the problems that always confronts a physician while examining a patient who complains of a malady is to distinguish between the disease and its symptoms. To treat only symptoms without effecting a cure will cause the disease to run its fatal course.
In our country, we know there are disorders and malfunctionings of various kinds in our body politic and our economic and social order because of the general symptoms; to name but a few, rampant inflation, increased crime, sexual permissiveness, more incidence of broken homes, excessive national and consumer debt, discontent among labor, women, and minorities, and disillusionment among our youth. With all the palliatives being advanced as cure-alls, it seems significant to ask: Are the remedies we are applying directed to conquering the actual disease, or are they merely palliatives to relieve the inconvenience and distress of the symptoms, while the disease, cancer-like, takes us to our destruction?
Before we go to our ailments and disorders, it is well to review the elements of our health and strength that we have acquired under our divinely inspired Constitution, the liberties it guarantees, and the free institution it sets up.
The facts speak for themselves: No nation on earth eats as well as our nation. No country is so well clothed. No people are so well housed. No individuals on this earth have so many of the conveniences as we do in terms of heating, lighting, plumbing, and other comforts. These are not luxuries enjoyed by the rich alone; these are the comforts of us, the common people—comforts of which mighty monarchs of bygone ages never dreamed.
No nation has such an industrial complex made available to it because of applied science and the harnessing, in part, of electricity. Our transportation system hardly knows any bounds on this sphere. We travel in our planes, trains, cars, and buses without limitation in our country, and in relative luxury, a luxury scarcely affordable or even accessible to masses of humanity in other countries.
No other country has such an elaborate and universally accessible educational system where even the humblest among us can climb the ladder of success to the highest rung. The “Horatio Alger” story is yet going on every day in this country.
Few nations enjoy such freedoms—freedom to speak, freedom to own property and business or participate in ownership, freedom to worship, freedom to print, freedom to travel at home and abroad, freedom to censure even public officials, and freedom to have the privacy we desire.
No country has been more concerned with due process in its judicial system than ours. The protection of human rights, as granted by our Constitution and Bill of Rights, is not just theory. History will record that we bent over backwards to protect the rights of the individual, sometimes even to a fault.
No other country has been so generous as America in terms of its money and food. No other nation has fought starvation and economic collapse and come to the rescue of nations struck by natural disaster as America has.
There are many more blessings, but these are a few we might enumerate. Whence came these blessings? To those who would malign our country or system, we ask, by what source did we receive such prosperity?
The power has come to us from God, because, to a great extent, we have been a God-fearing, Christ-worshiping people. There are some in this land who believe this is “a land choice above all other lands” to the Lord, and that we shall remain here on this land as we remain in God’s divine favor.
There are principles which, if applied and acted upon, are conducive to the social, spiritual, and economic well-being of the nation. They are basic to sound international as well as domestic accord. They came from God himself to Moses, and form the foundation for civilized society. They are embodied in what have been denominated as the Ten Commandments. These were designed by an Omniscient Intelligence to plumb the depths of human motives and urges and to govern the baser parts of man’s nature. It is well to be reminded that no nation has ever perished that has kept the commandments of God.
The commandments, known as the Decalogue, stipulate first the sovereignty of God, providing for our allegiance to Him. This is followed by the declaration of treason against Him with its attendant punishment, even to the proclamation of the great law of heredity operative upon transgressors. Then follows the law against blasphemy, declaring that those who blaspheme will not be held guiltless. These constitute the first three commandments and circumscribe man’s relationships with God.
The balance of the Decalogue deals with man’s relationships with his fellowman. There is the promulgation of law governing family relationships, parent and child; the law that specifies periods of work and rest, the relationship of capital and labor; the principles that govern civic relationships and declare social order—the “thou shalt nots.” The relationship of these commandments to the domestic problems in our society today may well be in order.
Let us take the first—the worship of and service to God. Worship and belief in God have been basic to our social, economic, and political life during the medieval and modern eras. They have been the anchor to which we were moored, the foundation of our Judeo-Christian culture. But today that worship, that belief, is waning. We are so puffed up with our material achievements that we doubt all that we cannot see, smell, taste, feel, or hear, or that we cannot bring under our will. We think thus, notwithstanding the limitation of our knowledge and the fact that we are constantly finding more and more to learn of the hitherto unknown. Yet we hesitate on the one great ultimate fact, that we had a Creator, God. As Lincoln declared during the Civil War, so now may we say, “We have forgotten God.”
“Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.” (Exodus 20:7.) The stage, the screen, the novel, the club conversation, the street discussion, too often the fireside intimacies are punctuated with blasphemy, to which may be added, as of the same nature, coarse, ribald jokes, foul stories, and low small-talk. God’s law forbids blasphemy. To break it brings its own punishment.
Next is the keeping of the Sabbath. Many—too many—have almost ceased to observe the Sabbath. Not only is it a workday now, but it is supremely a day of amusement and recreation: golf, skiing, skating, hunting, fishing, picnicking, racing, movies, theaters, ball playing, dancing, and other forms of fun-making, all are coming largely to be the rule among too many so-called Christians. Some churches are said to encourage all these, if properly conducted. But God’s law says, keep the Sabbath day holy. “Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work.” (Exodus 20:9.) We are becoming an idle people. More and more we expect to live with little or no work. Hours of work become shorter and shorter; pay, therefore, becomes greater and greater. But finally we shall reach the minimum of work. It takes so many man-hours to raise the necessary foods to sustain a man’s life and to provide the other necessities of clothing, shelter, and fuel. In the last analysis, this will measure the minimum working day and its compensation. Machinery will reduce the time somewhat as compared with hand labor, but skilled labor costs more, and so the lessened time tends to waste the increased efficiency, and we are somewhere near where we were. It always has, over the long pull, taken six full days in each week, barring vacations (and these cannot be too long, nor too frequent), to produce a livelihood.
Next comes “Honour thy father and thy mother” (Exodus 20:12), which Christ declared meant to support them. Yet never before in recorded history has this law of God been so violated as it is today. Untold thousands of children in this nation have abandoned their parents to the care of the state. This action has brought in its wake a host of other ills: idleness, greed, covetousness, cheating, hiding property, lying about it, and the adoption by the child and parent of any device that could bring the parent within the provisions of the dole law. The violation of this law of God in our day has carried such a speedy visitation of many of its penalties that even the blind might see and the deaf hear and the witless understand, if they wish.
“Thou shalt not kill.” (Exodus 20:13.) We still frown on murder, but need we be reminded in what small esteem life is now held? Men are to live, else they could not work out their destiny. This mandate was given to Israel and to each child thereof. It is the command not to commit the sin of Cain. It is binding upon every one of God’s children. It speaks to them as individuals; it commands them as associated together in nations. It covers the single case of another Abel; it embraces the mass slaughter of war. It is the law higher than the law of punishment: “Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.” (Exodus 21:24.) It forecast the Master’s law of love and forgiveness: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44.)
“Thou shalt not commit adultery.” and also, “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife.” (Exodus 20:14, 17.) Here God gives the great law of chastity that lies at the base of purity of family blood and the undefiled home. When the ancient prophets desired to excoriate Israel for her sins, they did it by comparing her to the prostitute. In the category of sins, unchastity stands next to murder, nor may we forget that growing crime of abortion, which usually follows unchastity. Never in this generation of ours have morals been so loose as now. Sex is all but deified, and yet at the same time, it is put before youth in its lowest, coarsest, and most debasing forms. The curtain of modesty has been torn aside, and in play, book, and movie and television, in magazine story, picture, and advertisement, immorality stands out in all its vulgarity and rottenness.
“Thou shalt not steal.” (Exodus 20:15.) What do our criminal court records disclose on this—records that are filled with accounts of juvenile delinquencies in numbers never before equaled in this country? When God commanded “Thou shalt not steal,” He thereby recognized the fundamental right of property. How slight today is the popular regard for the property of others that, seen and desired, is too often forcibly appropriated.
“Thou shalt not bear false witness.” (Exodus 20:16.) The violations of God’s laws tell us that false witnessing, lying, is not absent from us. Yet God’s law is a law of truthfulness.
Then comes “Thou shalt not covet.” (Exodus 20:17.) Covetousness is one of the besetting sins of this generation, and our covetousness reaches every item forbidden in the commandments—our neighbor’s house, his wife, his help, his worldly goods, and everything that is our neighbor’s. Covetousness, plus love of idleness, lies at the root of our violation of the law of work, with all the ills that has brought. Covetousness has invaded our homes, our communities, the nations of the world. It has brought with it greed, avarice, ambition, and love of power. Men scheme, plan, overreach, cheat, and lie to get their neighbor’s heritage. Covetousness threatens the peace of the world today more than any other one element. But God said, “Thou shalt not covet.”
Two other commandments we must note. On the Sabbath, when Jesus came riding into Jerusalem upon an ass, the Sadducees, scribes, and Pharisees came to Him in the temple, vainly trying to entrap Him, that they might arrest and wreak their vengeance upon Him. One of the Pharisees, a lawyer, asked of Him: “Which is the great commandment in the law?” And Jesus, quoting the law given to Israel under Moses from Leviticus, replied: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it. Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:35-40.) These Mosaic laws contain the basic principles upon which all civilized governments and our present civilization have been built. As man is now constituted, neither permanent government nor civilization can be built in violation of these principles. A little reflection will persuade any right-thinking person of this.
It must be remembered that the Founding Fathers of this great nation were men imbued by these principles. There are those in the land whose faith it is that these were “wise men whom [God] raised up” for the purpose of establishing the Constitution of the United States. They recognized that there are two possible sources to the origin of our freedoms we have come to know as human rights. Rights are either God-given as part of a divine plan or they are granted as part of the political plan. Reason, necessity, and religious conviction and belief in the sovereignty of God led these men to accept the divine origin of these rights. To God’s glory and the credit of these men, our nation was uniquely born.
If we accept the premise that human rights are granted by government, then we must be willing to accept the corollary that they can be denied by government. If Americans should ever come to believe that their rights and freedoms are instituted among men by politicians and bureaucrats, then they will no longer carry the proud inheritance of their forefathers, but will grovel before their masters seeking favors and dispensations—a throw back to the feudal system of the Dark Ages. We need to keep before us the truth that people who do not master themselves and their appetites will soon be mastered by government.
We are rearing a generation that does not seem to understand the fundamentals of our American way of life, a generation that is no longer dedicated to its preservation. Our people, both before and after they arrive at the age of the right of the ballot, should understand what it is that has made America great. We can only appreciate freedom if we understand the comparative fruits thereof. It was Jefferson who said, “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” It is one thing to win freedom; its preservation is equally important. If reference is made continually to weaknesses of the private enterprise system without any effort to point out its virtues and the comparative fruits of this and other systems, the tendency in this country will be to demand that the government take over more and more of the economic and social responsibilities and make more of the decisions for the people. This can result in but one thing: slavery of the individual to the state. This seems to be the trend in the world today. The issue is whether the individual exists for the state or the state for the individual.
In a republic the real danger is that we may slowly slide into a condition of slavery of the individual to the state rather than entering this condition by a sudden revolution. The loss of our liberties might easily come about, not through the ballot box, but through the death of incentive to work, to earn, and to save. Such a condition is usually brought about by a series of little steps which, at the time, seem justified by a variety of reasons, and which may on the surface appear to be laudable as to intent. It has been pointed out that the more basic reasons offered by would-be planned economy advocates are “the desire to change and control others, the search for security, and the desire of individuals or groups to improve their own economic status or that of others by means of direct governmental intervention.”
It also seems fundamental to ask, Are we rearing a generation of Americans who do not understand the basis of our economic prosperity and the principles upon which prosperity is predicated?
In 1801 Thomas Jefferson, in his First Inaugural Address, said: “. . . with all these blessings, what more is necessary to make us a happy and prosperous people? Still one thing more, fellow citizens—a wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits or industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned.” (Saul K. Padover, The Complete Jefferson, New York: Tudor Publishing Company, 1943, p. 386.)
America was built on a certain pattern of industry. It was one that was discovered by the Plymouth Colony after trying an experiment with socialism, which brought the colony to the brink of famine. Governor Bradford, with the approval of the chief men of the colony, set aside the social experiment whereby the most able and fit expended their strength and industry to support other men’s wives and children—”a kind of slavery” that they deemed repugnant. He then “assigned to every family a parcel of land according to the proportion of their number for that end.” “This,” he said, “had very good success; for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than other wise would have been. . . . The women now went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to set corn, which before would aledg weakness, and inabilities; whom to have compelled would have been thought great tyranny and oppression.” (William T. David, ed., Bradford’s History of Plantation, 1606-1646, 1908, pp. 146f.)
The principles behind this American philosophy can be reduced to a rather simple formula:
- Economic security for all is impossible without abundance.
- Abundance is impossible without industrious and efficient production.
- Such production is impossible without energetic, willing, and eager labor.
- This is not possible without incentive.
- Of all forms of incentive, the freedom to attain a reward for one’s labor is the most sustaining for most people. Sometimes called the profit motive, it is simply the right to plan and to earn and to enjoy the fruits of your labor.
- This profit motive diminishes as government controls, regulations, and taxes increase to deny the fruits of success to those who produce.
- Therefore, any attempt through government intervention to redistribute the material rewards of labor can only result in the eventual destruction of the productive base of society, without which real abundance and security for more than the ruling elite are quite impossible.
It is evident that when the willingness to work sharply declines, there will be increased frustration of any economic plan, however well intentioned or well conceived. Poverty is abolished by economic growth, not by economic distribution, and economic growth requires work. As we become more and more welfare conscious, it is essential to reaffirm the scriptural imperative that the idler shall not eat the bread of the worker. (See Proverbs 31:27.) To operate contrary to this is soul-destroying to the idler and incentive-reducing to the worker.
Many of our problems and dangers center in the issues of so-called fair prices, wages, and profits and the relationship between management and labor. We must realize that it is just as possible for wages to be too high as it is for prices and profits to be excessive. There is a tendency, of course, for almost everyone to feel that his share is unfair, whether it is or not. An effort to adjust apparent inequities often calls for government subsidies. Too often these are authorized without asking, “Who will pay for them?” Much of our program of letting the government pay for it can be described as an attempt to better yourself by increasing your pay to yourself and then sending yourself the bill.
The only safe and solid answer is the mechanism of a free market operating in an enterprise with open competition. Here everyone has a chance to cast his vote in the election that will decide what is a fair price, fair wage, and fair profit, and what should be produced and in what quantities. To contradict the justice of that decision is to contradict the whole concept of justice by the democratic process. All will agree that the democratic process and the free market—both parts of our American way of life—are not perfect, but they are believed to have fewer faults and to do a better job than any other known device. A sure way to take a shortcut to serfdom is to discard the sovereign rights of all the people in either the political or the economic realm.
We must remember that government assistance and control are essentially political provisions, and that experience has demonstrated that, for that reason, they are not sufficiently stable to warrant their utilization as a foundation for sound economic growth under a free enterprise system. The best way—the American way—is still maximum freedom for the individual guaranteed by a wise government that establishes and enforces the rules of the game. Good government, which guarantees the maximum of freedom, liberty, and development to the individual, must be based upon sound principles; and we must ever remember that ideas and principles are either sound or unsound in spite of those who hold them. Freedom of achievement has achieved and will continue to produce the maximum of benefits in terms of human welfare.
Economic blessings are obtained by being obedient to the laws upon which economic blessings are predicated.
As we rightly concern ourselves over pressing domestic problems—problems that affect the tranquillity of our people—it is well to remember that just as physical laws are interrelated, so are spiritual laws. It is much less likely that someone will be concerned with his adverse impact on the environment and his neighbors if he does not love his neighbors. One dimension of spiritual law, therefore, is that one’s self-regard and his esteem for his fellowmen are intertwined. If there is disregard for one’s self, there is bound to be some disregard for one’s neighbor. If there isn’t reverence for life itself, there is apt to be little reverence for the resources God has placed here on which we must call. The outward expressions of irreverence for God, for life, and for our fellowmen take the form of things like littering, heedless strip mining, heedless pollution of water and air. But these are, after all, outward expressions of the inner man. Those who undertake the task of alerting their fellowmen with regard to physical ecology without also paying heed to spiritual laws have undertaken an impossible task. If we are not really the children of our Heavenly Father, who placed us here by design and for a purpose, and if there are not absolute spiritual as well as physical laws that we violate at our peril, then man has to be appealed to on different grounds, and that is a task that is next to impossible. For if we are merely transients in an unexplainable world, we will act more as tourists than residents!
The Lord has said: “Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart; Yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul. And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made to be used, with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion.” (D&C 59:18-20.)
The Lord has told us with regard to the essential resources of this planet that “there is enough and to spare.” (D&C 104:17.) What is lacking so often is not the engineering to produce that grows out of the world of technology, but the human engineering necessary to share that which we have. Sharing with generations yet unborn, however, is also rooted in brotherhood and love.
Whatever mortal reasons there are to be concerned about environment, there are eternal reasons, too, for us to be thoughtful stewards. President Brigham Young said: “Not one particle of all that comprises this vast creation of God is our own. Everything we have has been bestowed upon us for our action, to see what we would do with it—whether we would use it for eternal life and exaltation, or for eternal death and degradation.”
We are also rightfully concerned about the fabric of our country’s home life. Another president of the Church, David O. McKay, soberly reminded us that “no other success in life can compensate for failure in the home.” As society draws women out of the home unnecessarily, as we tax ourselves to then make up for failures in the home, we substitute some programs that are really self-defeating and counterproductive. We err spiritually in doing so. If we are really concerned about alienation, we must do everything we can to spare the family, since it is the basic source of love, discipline, and values. Love at home is one of the basic needs in life, a spiritual law which, if violated, brings harsh, irrevocable consequences. One writer has said, “For when we emit from our families unloved, undisciplined individuals into the stream of humanity, this is more dangerous than emitting raw sewage.” It is clear that we cannot have peace in the world, for instance, without harmony in the home.
We are concerned about scarred landscapes that cause floods and leave an economic emptiness that haunts the coming generations. Similarly, unchastity leaves terrible scars, brings floods of tears and anguish, and leaves a moral emptiness. Significantly, both imprudent strip mining and unchastity rest on a life-style that partakes of an “eat, drink, and be merry” philosophy—gouge and grab now without regard to the consequences. Both negligent strip mining and unchastity violate the spirit of stewardship over our planet and person.
Some may ask why we as a people and church quietly and consistently seek to change individuals while there are such large problems all about us, such as the so-called urban crisis. But decaying cities are simply a delayed reflection of decaying individuals; revenue shortages are real, but the shortfall in character is one of the causes. The commandments of God give emphasis to improvement of the individual as the only real way to bring about real improvement in society.
So much depends, therefore, on our basic desires and attitudes. Just as our political democracy depends greatly on our capacity for self-discipline, so our capacity for self-discipline depends, in turn, on our having fundamental values and reasons to check our appetites and our passions. Otherwise, our plunder of people more than matches our plunder of mountains.
It has been said that we cannot tame our technology until we can tame ourselves, and that we cannot tame our cities to make them good and habitable until we can tame ourselves. It is so, and always has been the case, that the outward things depend on the inward commitments.
This nation now struggles for balance between the need for energy and food production, on the one hand, and our need to extract these things wisely, on the other hand. If the proponents in the political process are unduly selfish, then the balance will not be struck, and there will be strife, suffering, and waste. When, however, we have esteem for each other—shared respect as well as shared concerns—then economic and political accommodations are possible, and wise balance is more probable.
While the resources of this planet are both perishable and renewable, time cannot be recycled. We are reminded in God’s early communications with mankind that when our time, for instance, is given over too much for the seeking of pleasure, then the serious and eternal things are left undone. If we become pleasure-seekers, we will plunder our environment much more rapidly than if we have a sense of history—not only about this planet, but also about the people who live thereon.
We hear a great deal about the spiraling cost and incidence of juvenile delinquency and crime in our nation. Overcrowded living conditions are not a cause for crime, though they might contribute to it. We must look elsewhere: the failure of parents to teach their children to walk uprightly before the Lord; the failure of parents and communities to provide youth opportunities to work; and the failure of elected officials to develop a welfare program that is based on work and that will restore dignity to the individual.
We talk about cleaning up our water resources, our landscapes, national parks, and atmosphere. Suppose $120 billion were available to do this? Then we think of the horrendous cost of crime, the cost of alcoholism, the cost of smoking, the cost of gambling, and the cost of insurance and commodities to so many because of recklessness, irresponsibility, shoplifting, and dishonesty. The problem reduces down to an individual matter of man keeping the commandments of God and the laws of his society.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is making significant contributions to solutions of our domestic problems, including the following:
1. We are urging our Church membership to stabilize the family unit. We teach and emphasize that the key to family stability is a happy marriage based on family worship. Divorce is deplored. Indeed, at a general conference of the Church held in Salt Lake City, President Spencer W. Kimball said, “We decry divorce and feel that there are relatively few divorces which are justifiable. Great care should be taken in forming marriage alliances; then both parties should do their utmost to keep these marriages happy ones.” (Ensign, November 1975, p. 6.)
We are actively engaged in teaching fathers to be compassionate fathers and mothers full-time mothers in the home. Fathers are commanded to take the lead in spiritual matters. We encourage parents to teach their children fundamental spiritual principles that will instill faith in God, faith in their family, and faith in their country. These principles are embodied within an attractively prepared family home evening manual. Families are urged to hold a family night at least once a week. We have found that this program has met with great success.
2. We teach and reteach to our Church membership the fundamental principles of work, thrift, dignity, and self-reliance so that the individual can eradicate from his life all tendencies toward idleness, unnecessary debt, and waste. In 1936, during the midst of the depression, the Church established its well-known welfare plan. Its primary purpose was and is “to set up, in so far as it might be possible, a system under which the curse of idleness would be done away with, the evils of a dole abolished, and independence, industry, thrift and self respect be once more established amongst our people. The aim of the Church is to help the people to help themselves. Work is to be re-enthroned as the ruling principle of the lives of our Church membership.” (Heber J. Grant, Conference Report, October 1936, p. 3.)
The program is premised on the principle that all able-bodied men (the infirm and sick are in a different category) are entitled to have the opportunity to earn and acquire the necessities and the essential comforts of life, which embrace food, clothing, shelter, hospitalization, education, amusement and cultural activities, and, above all, opportunity for spiritual growth and joy. No true citizen, while physically able, will voluntarily shift from himself the burden of his own support. If the individual cannot support himself, he should look to his family for assistance. If the family cannot help, the Church may provide necessary sustenance—not as a dole, but in exchange for earned labor. It was never intended that man should live off the labors of someone else. Therein lies the key to sound economic management in the home as well as the nation.
3. We urge our members to stay out of debt, to save what they can from their income, to store at least a year’s supply of food, clothing, and other necessities, to pay a full tithing, and to support the poor and needy. By following these principles, we believe, four immediate benefits accrue to the individual: (1) he will not be confronted with the danger of losing all he has should inflation or depression occur; (2) he will not be aiding in contributing to nationwide inflation; (3) he will have savings and supplies for emergencies; and (4) he may receive the blessings of God and his protecting care.
4. We encourage all of our young people to acquire as much advanced training and education as will befit their chosen vocation so they will be well trained to make a contribution to their society. It is well recognized that Utah, in terms of educational training, takes a back seat to no state in terms of per capita advanced education. Outsiders who have studied our system attribute this success to such fundamental teachings of the Church as “the glory of God is intelligence” (D&C 93:36), and “if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come” (D&C 130:19). President Brigham Young insisted: “Learn everything that the children of men know, and be prepared for the most refined society upon the face of the earth, then improve on this until we are prepared and permitted to enter the society of the blessed—the holy angels that dwell in the presence of God. . . .” (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 254.) We educate not only for time, but for eternity, and we demonstrate this by the fact that we willingly tax ourselves to support a Church educational system that provides religious training in connection with secular studies at the high school and college level.
5. We urge our people to support the Constitution of the United States and our free institutions set up under it. It is a part of our faith that the Constitution of the United States was inspired of God. We reverence it akin to the revelations that have come from God. The Church, out of respect for the rights of all its members to have their political views and loyalties, must maintain the strictest possible neutrality. We have no intention of trying to interfere with the fullest and freest exercise of the political franchise of our members under and within our Constitution, which the Lord declared He established “by the hands of wise men whom [He] raised up unto this very purpose” (D&C 101:80), and which, as to the principles thereof, the Prophet Joseph Smith, dedicating the Kirtland Temple, prayed should be “established forever” (D&C 109:54). The Church does not yield any of its devotion to our convictions about safeguarding the American principles and the establishment of government under federal and state constitutions and the civil rights of men safeguarded by these.
We warn our people about false political “isms” that have crept into our midst, revolutionists who use the technique that is as old as the human race—a fervid but false solicitude for the unfortunate over whom they thus gain mastery and control. We have consistently warned our people against the insidious nature of communism, which debases the individual, robs him of his agency, and makes him an enslaved tool of the state to which he must look for sustenance and religion. Latter-day Saints cannot be true to their faith and lend aid, encouragement, or sympathy to false ideologies such as socialism and communism. The official Church position on communism remains unchanged since it was first promulgated in 1936: “We call upon all Church members completely to eschew Communism. The safety of our divinely inspired Constitutional government and the welfare of our Church imperatively demand that Communism shall have no place in America.” (Improvement Era, August 1936, p. 488.)
Let history bear witness that when the infamous extermination order was issued by the governor of the state of Missouri, and when twelve thousand defenseless citizens who had done no wrong were exiled from their homes, they sought refuge elsewhere and then formal redress of the injustices done against them through the courts of the land, even to the president of the United States. We did not then urge our people to revolt against unjust persecution, corrupt public officials, or their civil government, but to seek redress through constitutional means. We urge the same process for all minorities today.
6. We encourage our Church members to vote, to seek out good, wise, and honest men for public office, and to assume an active part in their community to improve it. The historic position of the Church has been one that is concerned with the quality of man’s contemporary environment as well as preparing him for eternity. In fact, as social and political conditions affect man’s behavior now, they obviously affect eternity.
The growing worldwide responsibilities of the Church make it inadvisable for the Church to seek to respond to all the various and complex issues involved in the mounting problems of the many cities and communities in which members live. But this complexity does not absolve members as individuals from filling their responsibilities as citizens in their own communities.
We urge our members to do their civic duty and to assume their responsibilities as individual citizens in seeking solutions to the problems which beset our cities and communities.
With our wide-ranging mission, so far as mankind is concerned, Church members cannot ignore the many practical problems that require solution if our families are to live in an environment conducive to spirituality. Where solutions to these practical problems require cooperative action with those not of our faith, members should not be reticent in doing their part in joining and leading in those efforts where they can make an individual contribution to those causes which are consistent with the standards of the Church. Individual Church members cannot, of course, represent or commit the Church, but should, nevertheless, be “anxiously engaged” in good causes, using the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ as their constant guide.
7. The Church has urged its members to be efficient users of our resources and to avoid waste and pollution, and to clean up their own immediate environment, or that over which they have control. It was Goethe who said, “Let everyone sweep in front of his own door and the whole world will be clean.” We have made an appeal to all Church members to clean up their premises, to plant gardens and trees, and then to use efficiently what they grow. We have found that Church members have responded well to this appeal, thus becoming more self-reliant and responsibly concerned for their neighbors and their environment.
8. Above all, we urge our Church members to heed strictly the commandments of God, particularly the Ten Commandments, for their happiness, peace, and prosperity. Again, we reiterate that it is the belief of our people that as long as we regard God as our Sovereign and uphold His laws, we shall be free from bondage and protected from external danger.
We have not yet reached the diseases that are destroying our political, social, economic, and religious lives, and that will, if not reached, destroy our civilization that has been thousands of years in building.
Furthermore, we shall not reach the diseases till we get back to the precepts of Sinai and the teachings of Christ our Lord. There is no other way than this. And here we may return to the words of Jesus to the Pharisee: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 23:37-40.)
These are the sovereign remedies for the diseases that are now eating away the vitals of our political, social, economic, and religious lives, and that are destroying our civilization.
John Greenleaf Whittier penned:
“. . . where’s the manly spirit of the true-hearted and the unshackled gone?” Sons of old freemen, do we but inherit Their names alone?
“Is the old Pilgrim spirit quenched within us,Stoops the strong manhood of our souls so low,That Mammon’s lure or Party’s wile can win us To silence now?
“Now, when our land to ruin’s brink is verging,In God’s name, let us speak while there is time!Now, when the padlocks for our lips are forging, Silence is crime!”
Because of love for our great country, we speak out “while there is time.” We implore God, who has so graciously granted to us our freedoms and prosperity, to preserve our land and give wisdom to our nation’s leadership and spiritual strength to this nation’s people.
We urge all to repent of our common sins and recast our own lives to fit the example and teachings of the Master. For we stand today not too far from where Lincoln stood during some of the darkest days of the Civil War, when in a proclamation for a national fast day, March 30, 1863, he said:
“We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown; but we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.”
May God grant us time to rectify ourselves as a people and a nation before Him and thus merit His approval and benediction upon us all.
(Source: Ezra Taft Benson, This Nation Shall Endure, published 1977)