U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Ezra Taft Benson
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
One of Satan's greatest tools is pride: to cause a man or a woman to center so much attention on self that he or she becomes insensitive to his Creator or fellow beings. It is a cause for discontent, divorce, teenage rebellion, family indebtedness, and most other problems we face.
Surely the preservation and enjoyment of the freedoms vouchsafed to us by the Constitution of the United States will require eternal vigilance even to the guarding of it with our livesÂ… We must ever be on our guard against the unsound theories that would strike at our Constitutional freedoms. We must ever keep faith with our founding fathers by keeping faith with our Constitution. I trust that we all have faith in the Constitution of the United States, and that that faith is born of an assurance that this great document came into being through the inspiration of God to wise men, embodying as it does, eternal principles. This nation has a spiritual foundation which must be preserved at any cost of sweat and blood. May we recognize our debt and responsibility and be ever vigilant. The need for this eternal and constant vigilance is seen in some prophetic words of Daniel Webster, given in 1802: Â“Next to correct morals and watchful guardianship over the Constitution is the proper means for its support. No human advantage is indefensible. The fairest productions of man have in themselves or receive from accident a tendency to decay. Unless the Constitution be constantly fostered on the principles which created it, its excellency will fade; and it will feel, even in its infancy, the weakness and decrepitude of age. Â“Our form of government is superior to all others, inasmuch as it provides, in a fair and honorable manner for its own amendment. But it requires no gift or prophecy to foresee that this privilege may be seized on by demagogues, to introduce wild and destructive innovations. Under the gentle name of amendments, changes may be proposed which, if unresisted, will undermine the national compact, mar its fairest features, and reduce it finally to a dead letter. It abates nothing of the danger to say that alterations may be trifling and inconsiderable. If the Constitution be picked away by piecemeal, it is gone Â— and gone as effectually as if some military despot had grasped it at once, trampled it beneath his feet, and scattered its loose leaves in the wild winds.Â” If we are to keep faith with our Constitution, we must know it. Since it is the basis of our American way of life and our liberties every American should be familiar with it. We should read it periodically. How can people who are ignorant of the principles and guarantees of American government stand up in defense of it and our rights under the Constitution? The fundamentals and processes of free government should be known to every school boy Â— and his parents. No free people can ever survive if they are ignorant of and fail to understand the principles of free government!
The Lord raised up the Founding Fathers. He it was who established the Constitution of this land Â— the greatest document of freedom ever written. This God-inspired Constitution is not outmoded. It is not an outdated Â“agrarian documentÂ” as some of our would-be statesmen, socialists, and fellow travelers of the godless conspiracy would have us believe. It was the Lord God who established the foundation of this nation; and woe be unto those Â— members of the Supreme Court and others Â— who would weaken this foundation.
This latter day work is spiritual. It takes spirituality to comprehend it, to love it, to discern it. Therefore, seek the spirit in all you do. Keep it with you continually. That is our challenge.
We honor these partners [friends outside the Church] because their devotion to correct principles overshadowed their devotion to popularity, party, or personalities. We honor our founding fathers of this republic for the same reason. God raised up these patriotic partners to perform their mission, and he called them Â“wise men.Â” The First Presidency acknowledged that wisdom when they gave us the guideline a few years ago of supporting political candidates Â“who are truly dedicated to the Constitution in the tradition of our Founding Fathers.Â”. . . Our wise founders seemed to understand, better than most of us, our own scripture, which states that Â“it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority . . . they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.Â” To help prevent this, the founders knew that our elected leaders should be bound by certain fixed principles. Said Thomas Jefferson: Â“In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.Â” These wise founders, our patriotic partners, seemed to appreciate more than most of us the blessings of the boundaries that the Lord set within the Constitution, for he said, Â“And as pertaining to law of man, whatsoever is more or less than this, cometh of evil.Â” In God the founders trusted, and in his Constitution Â— not in the arm of flesh. Â“O Lord,Â” said Nephi, Â“I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; . . . cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm.Â”
With independence won, another body of men assembled; and under the inspiration of heaven, they too drafted a document, probably the greatest instrument ever struck off at a given time by the mind of man: the Constitution of the United States.
One of the marks of an educated man today is to know what not to read--what not to see or what not to listen to.
That government is best which governs the least, so taught the courageous founders of this nation. This simple declaration is diametrically opposed to the all too common philosophy that the government should protect and support one from the cradle to the grave. The policy of the Founding Fathers has made our people and our nation strong. The opposite leads inevitably to moral decay.
The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside inÂ….The world would mold men by changing their environment. The world would shape human behavior.
Thoughts lead to acts, acts lead to habits, habits lead to character - and our character will determine our eternal destiny.
We must not be cast down or discouraged in this work. There is no basis for discouragement. We are not alone. We will not, we cannot fail if we will do our duty. The Lord will magnify us even beyond our present talents and abilities.
You must keep your honor. You cannot yet speak officially for the country, but you can become informed. You can speak your mind. You may think you can do little about the national economy or the actions of our government and the moral weakness all about us, but we must all remember that the Lord has placed great responsibilities upon the elders of Israel in the preservation of our Constitution.
Our Constitution and Bill of Rights guarantee to all our people the greatest freedom ever enjoyed by the public of any great nation. This system guarantees freedom of individual enterprise, freedom to own property, freedom to start oneÂ’s own business and to operate it according to oneÂ’s own judgment so long as the enterprise is honorable. The individual has power to produce beyond his needs, to provide savings for the future protection of himself and family. He can live where he wishes and pick any job he wants and select any educational opportunity.
That great and wise American, Thomas Jefferson, warned us of the danger of conferring unwarranted power upon our government administrators in these sobering words: Â“Our Constitution has accordingly fixed the limits to which, and no further, our confidence may go. . . . In questions of power, then, let not more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.Â”
The men who wrote the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were under no illusion that their work was done. They had carried freedom up to a new high, but had no idea that a pinnacle had been reached, that having reached the summit there was no more to be done. They were confident that we of succeeding generations would carry on. Along with the political freedom so dearly won came a climate which challenged manÂ’s intellect and ingenuity. People began to move freedom forward along lines possibly not envisaged by the men who drafted the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Freedom from backbreaking toil came with the invention and development of labor-saving devices in factories and on farms.
To be a successful missionary one must have the Spirit of the Lord. We are also taught that the Spirit will not dwell in unclean tabernacles. Therefore, one of the first things a missionary must do to gain spirituality is to make sure his own personal life is in order.
We must return to a love and respect for the basic spiritual concepts upon which this nation has been established. We must study the Constitution and the writings of the founding fathers.
Young people, your parents, with their maturity of years and experience you have not had, can provide wisdom, knowledge, and blessings to help you over life's pitfalls. You may find, that life's sweetest experiences come when you go to Mom and Dad for help.
Our Creator endowed each one of us with certain rights at birth, among which are the rights to life, liberty, speech, and conscience, to name a few. These are not just human rights; they are divine rights. When these rights are not permitted expression by a nation, that nation becomes inhibited in its progress and development, and its leaders are responsible before God for suffocating sacred rights. This native endowment is what separates man from the animals. It causes men to want to be good and to seek higher aspirations. It creates in man a desire to better his life and his station in life.
The antidote for pride is humility; meekness; submissiveness... Let us choose to be humble. We can choose to humble ourselves by conquering enmity toward our brothers and sisters, esteeming them as ourselves, and lifting them as high or higher than we are... We can choose to humble ourselves by receiving counsel and chastisement... We can choose to humble ourselves by forgiving those who have offended us... We can choose to humble ourselves by rendering selfless service... We can chose to humble ourselves by going on missions and preaching the word that can humble others... We can choose to humble ourselves by getting to the temple more frequently... We can choose to humble ourselves by confessing and forsaking our sins and being born of God... We can choose to humble ourselves by loving God, submitting our will to His, and putting Him first in our lives
The moment you begin a serious study of the scriptures, you will find greater power to resist temptation. You will find the power to avoid deception. You will find the power to stay on the straight and narrow path... When you begin to hunger and thirst after those words, you will find life in greater abundance.
Today the devil as a wolf in supposedly a new suit of sheepÂ’s clothing is enticing some men to parrot his line by advocating planned government guaranteed security at the expense of our liberties.
We must study and learn for ourselves the principles laid down in the Constitution which have preserved our freedoms for the last two hundred years. If we do not understand the role of government and how our rights are protected by the Constitution, we may accept programs or organizations that help erode our freedoms. An informed citizenry is the first line of defense against anarchy and tyranny.
Our forefathers left us a free government which is a miracle of faith Â— strong, durable, marvelously workable. Yet it can remain so only as long as we understand it, believe in it, devote ourselves to it, and, when necessary, fight for it.