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
Occasionally, we receive questions as to the propriety of Church members receiving government assistance instead of Church assistance. Let me restate what is a fundamental principle. Individuals, to the extent possible, should provide for their own needs. Where the individual is unable to care for himself, his family should assist. Where the family is not able to provide, the Church should render assistance, not the government.
Secret combinations lusting for power, gain, and glory are flourishing. A secret combination that seeks to overthrow the freedom of all lands, nations, and countries is increasing its evil influence and control over America and the entire world.
The Founding Fathers, it is true, with superb genius welded together the safeguards of our freedom. It was necessary, however, for them to turn to the scriptures, to religion, to prayer, in order to have this great experiment make sense to them. And so our freedom is God-given. It ante-dates the Founding Fathers. It is my belief that ours is not just another nation, not just a member of a family of nations. It is a great and glorious nation with a divine mission and it has been brought into being under the inspiration of heaven. I thank God for the knowledge which I have regarding the prophetic history and the prophetic future of this land of America. It is my firm belief that the Constitution of the land was established by men whom the God of Heaven raised up unto that very purpose. It is my firm belief, also, that the God of Heaven guided the Founding Fathers in establishing it for His particular purposes. But GodÂ’s purpose is to build people of character, not physical monuments to their material accumulations. The founders of this republic had deeply spiritual beliefs. Their concept of man had a solidly religious foundation. They believed Â“it is not right that any man should be in bondage one to another.Â” They believed that men were capable of self-government and that it was the job of government to protect freedom and foster private initiative.
The world today speaks a great deal about love, and it is sought by many. But the pure love of Christ differs greatly from what the world thinks of love. Charity never seeks selfish gratification. The pure love of Christ seeks only the eternal growth and joy of others.
We can choose to humble ourselves by conquering enmity toward our brothers and sisters.
When we put God first, all other things fall into their proper place or drop out of our lives. Our love of the Lord will govern the claims for our affection, the demands on our time, the interests we pursue, and the order of our priorities.
On what basis can we morally resist tyranny? I say to you with all the fervor of my soul that God intended men to be free. Rebellion against tyranny is a righteous cause. It is an enormous evil for any man to be enslaved to any system contrary to his own will. For that reason men, 200 years ago, pledged their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor. No nation which has kept the commandments of God has ever perished, but I say to you that once freedom is lost, only blood Â– human blood Â– will win it back.
Some men are willing to die for their faith, but they are not willing to fully live for it.
The great task of life is to learn the will of the Lord and then do it.
There are times when you simply have to righteous hang on and outlast the devil.
We can choose to humble ourselves by loving God, adjusting our will to His, and putting Him first in our lives.
When you are tempted to look elsewhere for greener pastures, just remember someone else is probably looking at yours. And if another pasture looks greener, perhaps it is getting better care and attention. Grass is always greener. . . where it is watered.
One day in the middle of an important examination in high school, the point of my lead pencil broke. In those days we used pocket knives to sharpen our pencils. I had forgotten my penknife and turned to ask a neighbor for his. The teacher saw this; he accused me of cheating. When I tried to explain, he gave me a tongue-lashing for lying; worse, he forbade me to play on the basketball team in the upcoming game. I could see that the more I protested the angrier he seemed to become. But again and again I stubbornly told what had happened. Even when the coach pleaded my cause, the teacher refused to budge. The disgrace was almost more than I could bear. Then, just minutes before the game, he had a change of heart and I was permitted to play. But there was no joy in it. We lost the game; and though that hurt, by far the deeper pain was being branded a cheat and a liar. Looking back. I know that lesson was God-sent. Character is shaped in just such crucibles. My parents believed me: they were understanding and encouraging. Supported by them and a clear conscience, I began to realize that when you are at peace with your Maker you can, if not ignore human criticism, at least rise above it. And I learned something else - the importance of avoiding even the appearance of evil. Though I was innocent, circumstance made me look guilty. Since this could so easily be true in many of life's situations, I made a resolution to keep even the appearance of my actions above question, as far as possible. And it struck me, too, that if this injustice happened to me, it could happen to others, and I must not judge their actions simply on appearances.
There could not be a restoration of the gospel without freedom. God provided this country as the base of his operations in these the last days, a place where there would be freedom, where he could restore his gospel.
We can choose to humble ourselves by receiving counsel and chastisement... by forgiving those who have offended usÂ… by rendering selfless service.
While you are going through your trial, you can recall your past victories and coul the blessings that you do have with a sure hope of greater ones to allow if you are faithful.
One good yardstick as to whether a person might be the right one for you is this: in her presence, do you think your noblest thoughts, do you aspire to your finest deeds, do you wish you were better than you are?
Someone has said it is better to appreciate the things you don't own than to own things you don't appreciate. I hope we will have with us a spirit of appreciation for all of the good things we enjoy, all the blessings that we have, many of which have come so easy to us, with very little effort on our part, and yet they are very real and very choice and are truly rich blessings.
The Holy Ghost causes out feelings to be more tender. We feel more charitable and compassionate. We are calmer. We have a greater capacity to love. People want to be around us because our very countenances radiate the influence of the Spirit. We are more godly in character. As a result, we are more sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Ghost and thus able to comprehend spiritual things.
There is no place for fear among men and women who Almighty, who do not hesitate to humble themselves in seeking divine guidance through prayer. Though persecutions arise, though reverses come, in prayer we can find reassurance, for God will speak peace to the soul. That peace, that spirit of serenity, is life's greatest blessing. .
We encourage Latter-day Saints throughout the nation to familiarize themselves with the Constitution. They should focus attention on it by reading and studying it. They should ponder the blessings that come through it. They should recommit themselves to its principles and be prepared to defend it and the freedom it provides. Because some Americans have not kept faith with our Founding Fathers, the Constitution faces severe challenges. Those who do not prize individual freedom are trying to erode its great principles. We believe the Constitution will stand, but it will take the efforts of patriotic and dedicated Americans to uphold it. . . . We, as Latter-day Saints, must be vigilant in doing our part to preserve the Constitution and safeguard the way of life it makes possible. This bicentennial year affords us renewed opportunities to learn more about this divinely inspired charter of our liberty, to speak in its defense, and to preserve and protect it against evil or destruction.
Will we be prepared? Will we be among those who will Â“bear the Constitution away from the very verge of destruction?Â” If we desire to be numbered among those who will, here are some things we must do: 1. We must be righteous and moral. We must live the gospel principlesÂ—all of them. We have no right to expect a higher degree of morality from those who represent us than what we ourselves are. In the final analysis, people generally get the kind of government they deserve. To live a higher law means we will not seek to receive what we have not earned by our own labor. It means we will remember that government owes us nothing. It means we will keep the laws of the land. It means we will look to God as our Lawgiver and the Source of our liberty. 2. We must learn the principles of the Constitution and then abide by its precepts. We have been instructed again and again to reflect more intently on the meaning and importance of the Constitution and to adhere to its principles. What have we done about this instruction? Have we read the Constitution and pondered it? Are we aware of its principles? Could we defend it? Can we recognize when a law is constitutionally unsound? The Church will not tell us how to do this, but we are admonished to do it. I quote Abraham Lincoln: Â“Let [the Constitution] be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges, let it be written in primers, in spelling books and in almanacs, let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation.Â” 3. We must become involved in civic affairs. As citizens of this republic, we cannot do our duty and be idle spectators. It is vital that we follow this counsel from the Lord: Â“I, the Lord God, make you free, therefore ye are free indeed; and the law also maketh you free. Nevertheless, when the wicked rule the people mourn. Wherefore, honest men and wise men should be sought for diligently, and good men and wise men ye should observe to uphold; otherwise whatsoever is less than these cometh of evil. And I give unto you a commandment, that ye shall forsake all evil and cleave unto all good, that ye shall live by every word which proceedeth forth out of the mouth of God.Â” Note the qualities that the Lord demands in those who are to represent us. They must be good, wise, and honest. Some leaders may be honest and good but unwise in legislation they choose to support. Others may possess wisdom but be dishonest and unvirtuous. We must be concerted in our desires and efforts to see men and women represent us who possess all three of these qualities. 4. We must make our influence felt by our vote, our letters, and our advice. We must be wisely informed and let others know how we feel. We must take part in local precinct meetings and select delegates who will truly represent our feelings. I have faith that the Constitution will be saved as prophesied by Joseph Smith. But it will not be saved in Washington. It will be saved by the citizens of this nation who love and cherish freedom. It will be saved by enlightened members of this Church Â— men and women who will subscribe to and abide the principles of the Constitution.
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.