Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Ezra Taft Benson

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

"Pride is concerned with who is right. Humility is concerned with what is right."

"It is a fundamental truth that the responsibilities of motherhood cannot be successfully delegated. No, not to day-care centers, not to schools, not to nurseries, not to babysitters. We become enamored with men’s theories such as the idea of preschool training outside the home for young children. Not only does this put added pressure on the budget, but it places young children in an environment away from mother’s influence. Too often the pressure for popularity, on children and teens, places an economic burden on the income of the father, so mother feels she must go to work to satisfy her children’s needs. That decision can be most shortsighted. It is mother’s influence during the crucial formative years that forms a child’s basic character. Home is the place where a child learns faith, feels love, and thereby learns from mother’s loving example to choose righteousness. How vital are mother’s influence and teaching in the home—and how apparent when neglected!"

"Some of the greatest battles will be fought within the silent chambers of your own soul."

"True repentance involves a change of heart and not just a change of behavior"

"You are free to choose, but you are not free to alter the consequences of your decisions."

"You cannot do wrong and feel right. It is impossible!"

"Men and women who turn their lives over to God will discover that He can make a lot more out of their lives than they can. He can deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken their minds, strengthen their muscles, lift their spirits, multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, and pour out peace."

"Today, with the abundance of books available, it is the mark of a truly educated man to know what not to read. … Feed only on the best"

"The Declaration of Independence . . . is much more than a political document. It constitutes a spiritual manifesto—revelation, if you will—declaring not for this nation only, but for all nations, the source of man's rights. Nephi, a Book of Mormon prophet, foresaw over 2,300 years ago that this event would transpire. The colonies he saw would break with Great Britain and that 'the power of the Lord was with [the colonists],' that they 'were delivered by the power of God out of the hands of all other nations' (1 Nephi 13:16, 19). "The Declaration of Independence was to set forth the moral justification of a rebellion against a long-recognized political tradition—the divine right of kings. At issue was the fundamental question of whether men's rights were God-given or whether these rights were to be dispensed by governments to their subjects. This document proclaimed that all men have certain inalienable rights. In other words, these rights came from God."

"He who kneels before God, can stand before any man."

"All through my life the counsel to depend on prayer has been prized above almost any other advice I have ever received. It has become an integral part of me, an anchor, a constant source of strength and the basis of my knowledge of things divine."

"Bad experience is a school that only fools keep going to."

"Since man created government to help secure and safeguard [inalienable] rights [from God], it follows that man is superior to government and should remain master over it, not the other way around."

"Pride is a sin that can readily be seen in others but is rarely admitted in ourselves."

"A child needs a mother more than all the things money can buy. Spending time with your children is the greatest gift of all."

"A good name is still to be preferred over great riches. Especially it is to be preferred to the appearance of riches, acquired with nothing down and nothing to pay for 2 months."

"A category of government activity which, today, not only requires the closest scrutiny, but which also poses a grave danger to our continued freedom, is the activity NOT within the proper sphere of government. No one has the authority to grant such powers, as welfare programs, schemes for re-distributing the wealth, and activities which coerce people into acting in accordance with a prescribed code of social planning. There is one simple test. Do I as an individual have a right to use force upon my neighbor to accomplish this goal? If I do have such a right, then I may delegate that power to my government to exercise on my behalf. If I do not have that right as an individual, then I cannot delegate it to government, and I cannot ask my government to perform the act for meÂ…In reply to the argument that a little bit of socialism is good so long as it doesn't go too far, it is tempting to say that, in like fashion, just a little bit of theft or a little bit of cancer is all right, too! History proves that the growth of the welfare state is difficult to check before it comes to its full flower of dictatorship. But let us hope that this time around, the trend can be reversed. If not then we will see the inevitability of complete socialism, probably within our lifetime."

"About two hundred years ago some inspired men walked this land. Not perfect men, but men raised up by the Perfect Man to perform a great work. Foreordained were they to lay the foundation of this republic. Blessed by the Almighty in their struggle for liberty and independence, the power of heaven rested on these founders as they drafted that great document for governing men — the Constitution of the United States. Like the Ten Commandments, the truths on which the Constitution was based were timeless; and also as with the Decalogue — the hand of the Lord was in it. They filled their mission well. From them we were endowed with a legacy of liberty — a constitutional republic."

"Acknowledging the Lord's hand in our lives cultivates gratitude."

"And if the time should come when you are associated with groups that take delight in tearing down our American way of life, then they seem to enjoy pointing out the weaknesses of our free enterprise system – and it has weaknesses; it has weaknesses because it’s operated by men and women who are full of weaknesses – but when those times come, when our system is criticized, just keep in mind the fruits of the system, the great blessings that have come to us because of our American way of life. No group of people have ever attained the standard of living which is ours. And so let’s become acquainted with what has been accomplished. It’s all right to criticize; it’s all right to try and improve our American way of life; but in doing so, let’s not surrender, let’s not give up, let’s not jeopardize that system which has made America great."

"An honorable man or woman is one who is truthful; free from deceit; above cheating, lying, stealing, or any form of deception. An honorable man or woman is one who learns early that one cannot do wrong and feel right. A man's character is judged on how he keeps his word and his agreements."

"Another standard I use in determining what law is good and what is bad is the Constitution of the United States. I regard this inspired document as a solemn agreement between the citizens of this nation which every officer of government is under a sacred duty to obey."

"As we cleanse the inner vessel, there will have to be changes made in our own personal lives, in our families, and in the Church. The proud do not change to improve, but defend their position by rationalizing. Repentance means change, and it takes a humble person to change. But we can do it."

"And so this great nation has come into being under the inspiration of the Almighty to accomplish his purposes. Through modern revelation we have had made very plain to us something of the mission of America and the establishment of our national Constitution."

"As a watchman on the tower, I feel to warn you that one of the chief means of misleading our youth and destroying the family unit is our educational institutions. President Joseph F. Smith referred to false educational ideas as one of the three threatening dangers among our Church members. There is more than one reason why the Church is advising our youth to attend colleges close to their homes where institutes of religion are available. It gives the parents the opportunity to stay close to their children; and if they have become alert and informed as President McKay admonished us last year, these parents can help expose some of the deceptions of men like Sigmund Freud, Charles Darwin, John Dewey, Karl Marx, John Keynes, and others. Today there are much worse things that can happen to a child than not getting a full college education. In fact, some of the worst things have happened to our children while attending colleges led by administrators who wink at subversion and amorality. Said Karl G. Maeser, “I would rather have my child exposed to smallpox, typhus fever, cholera, or other malignant and deadly diseases than to the degrading influence of a corrupt teacher. It is infinitely better to take chances with an ignorant, but pure-minded teacher than with the greatest philosopher who is impure.” Vocational education, correspondence courses, establishment in a family business are being considered for their children by an increasing number of parents."

"Be cheerful in all that you do. Live joyfully. Live happily. Live enthusiastically, knowing that God does not dwell in gloom and melancholy, but in light and love."

"At this particular moment in history the United States Constitution is definitely threatened, and every citizen should know about it. The warning of this hour should resound through the corridors of every American institution — schools, churches, the halls of Congress, press, radio, and TV, and so far as I am concerned it will resound—with God’s help. Wherever possible I have tried to speak out. It is for this very reason that certain people in Washington have bitterly criticized me. They don’t want people to hear the message. It embarrasses them. The things which are destroying the Constitution are the things they have been voting for."

"Be right, and then be easy to live with, if possible, but in that order."

"Be a light unto the world, a standard to others. You can live in the world and not partake of the sins of the world. You can live life joyously, beautifully, unmarred by the ugliness of sin. This is our confidence in you."

"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… 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 backward to protect the rights of the individual, sometimes even to a fault."

"Beloved youth, you will have your trials and temptations through which you must pass, but there are great moments of eternity which lie ahead. You have our love and our confidence. We pray that you will be prepared for the reins of leadership. We say to you, "Arise and shine forth" and be a light unto the world, a standard to others."

"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."

"Do not be caught up in materialism, one of the real plagues of our generation-that is, acquiring things, fast-paced living, and securing career success."

"Do not make your mind a dumping ground for other people's garbage."

"Do not rationalize your acceptance of government gratuities by saying, “I am a contributing taxpayer too.” By doing this you contribute to the problem which is leading this nation to financial insolvency."

"Clean hearts and healthful food, exercise, early sleep and fresh air, wholesome recreation and meditation combined with optimism that comes from fighting for the right and knowing you'll eventually win for keeps - this is the tonic every true Christian patriot needs and deserves."

"For years we have heard of the role the elders could play in saving the Constitution from total destruction. But how can the elders be expected to save it if they have not studied it and are not sure if it is being destroyed or what is destroying it? An informed patriotic gentile was dumbfounded when he heard of Joseph Smith’s reported prophecy regarding the mission our elders could perform in saving the Constitution. He lived in a Mormon community with nice people who were busily engaged in other activities but who had little concern in preserving their freedom. He wondered if maybe a letter should not be sent to President McKay, urging him to release some of the elders from their present Church activities so there would be a few who could help step forward to save the Constitution. Now it is not so much a case of a man giving up all his other duties to fight for freedom, as it is a case of a man getting his life in balance so he can discharge all of his God-given responsibilities. And of all these responsibilities President McKay has said that we have “no greater immediate responsibility” than “to protect the freedom vouchsafed by the Constitution of the United States.” There is no excuse that can compensate for the loss of liberty. Satan is anxious to neutralize the inspired counsel of the Prophet and hence keep the priesthood off balance, ineffective and inert in the fight for freedom. He does this through diverse means, including the use of perverse reasoning. . . The cause of freedom is a most basic part of our religion. Our position on freedom helped get us to this earth and it can make the difference as to whether we get back home or not."

"Do we dare ask ourselves if the United States, though cast in the role of a leader to preserve and strengthen world civilization, isn’t itself tottering internally because too many of its citizens have abandoned the virtues that comprised the basic format of its own civilization? For instance, if spiritual faith, courage, and the willingness of our forbears to work hard were the sustaining virtues, and if, solely because of them, they were able to create our own civilization, can we now in the United States substitute for these virtues the human weaknesses of selfishness, complacency, apathy, and fear — and still hope to survive as a civilized nation?"

"Freedom of choice is more to be treasured than any earthly possession. As a United States citizen I believe it is guaranteed in our heaven-inspired Constitution."

"God does hear and answer prayers. I have never doubted that fact. From childhood, at my mother's knee where I first learned to pray; as a young man in my teens; as a missionary in foreign lands; as a father; as a Church leader; as a government official, I know without question that it is possible for men and women to reach out in humility and prayer and tap that Unseen Power; to have prayers answered. Man does not stand along, or, at least, he need not stand alone. Prayer will open doors; prayer will remove barriers; prayer will ease pressures; prayer will give inner peace and comfort during times of strain and stress and difficult. Thank God for prayer"

"God help us to be grateful for our blessings, never to be guilty of the sin of ingratitude, and to instill this same gratitude into the lives of our children. Someone has said that an ungrateful man is like a hog under a tree eating apples and never looking up to see where they come from."

"God loves us. He's watching us, he wants us to succeed, and we'll know someday that he has not left one thing undone for the eternal welfare of each of us. If we only knew it, there are heavenly hosts pulling for us -- friends in heaven that we can't remember now, who yearn for our victory."

"Hope is an anchor to the souls of men."

"Have you ever asked yourself why one person is honorable and another dishonorable; why one is honest, another dishonest; why one is moral, another immoral? Most individuals do not intend to be dishonest, dishonorable, or immoral. They seem to allow their characters to erode by a series of rationalizations, lies, and compromises. Then when grave temptation presents itself, they haven't the strength of character to do what they know to be right."

"Humility responds to God's will-to the fear of His judgments and to the needs of those around us. To the proud, the applause of the world rings in their ears; to the humble, the applause of heaven warms their hearts. Someone has said, "Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man.""

"God will have a humble people. Either we can choose to be humble or we can be compelled to be humbleÂ… 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 areÂ… We can choose to humble ourselves by receiving counsel and chastisementÂ… by forgiving those who have offended usÂ… by rendering selfless serviceÂ… by going on missions and preaching the word that can humble othersÂ… by getting to the temple more frequently, [and] by confessing and forsaking our sins and being born of God... We can choose to humble ourselves by loving God, adjusting our will to His, and putting Him first in our lives."

"I believe one of the most serious mistakes a President could make would be to weaken the Constitution. From the time I was a small boy I was taught that the American Constitution is an inspired document. I was also taught that the day will come when the Constitution will be endangered and hang as it were by a single thread. I was taught that we should study the Constitution. . . . I expect to continue my efforts to help protect and safeguard our inspired Constitution."

"History is not an accident. Events are foreknown to God. His superintending influence is behind the actions of his righteous children. Long before America was even discovered, the Lord was moving and shaping events that would lead to the coming forth of the remarkable form of government established by the Constitution. America had to be free and independent to fulfill this destiny."

"How do you build in boys a great desire to serve? You do not wait until they are nineteen years old to help them decide to serve a mission. You help them decide to go when they are nine, teen, or eleven! The home is the seedbed for the preparation of young men. And every young man should be prepared in his home to serve. Early preparation consists of teaching a young boy how to pray, reading him stories from the Book of Mormon and other scriptures, having home evenings and giving him a portion of the lesson, teaching him principles of moral cleanliness, starting a savings account for his future mission, teaching him how to work, and providing opportunities to serve others. I know of families who always prayed in family prayer that their sons would be worthy to serve missions. This, they say, had a great effect on their sons. For our teenage young men and women, one of the best preparations for a mission is provided by the Church through seminary and institute of religion classes. We hope you will urge your children to take part in this inspired program."

"I believe that God has endowed men with certain inalienable rights as set forth in the Declaration of Independence and that no legislature and no majority, however great, may morally limit or destroy these; that the sole function of government is to protect life, liberty, and property, and anything more than this is usurpation and oppression. I believe that the Constitution of the United States was prepared and adopted by men acting under inspiration from Almighty God; that it is a solemn compact between the peoples of the states of this nation that all officers of government are under duty to obey; that the eternal moral laws expressed therein must be adhered to or individual liberty will perish. . . I am hereby resolved that under no circumstances shall the freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights be infringed. In particular I am opposed to any attempt on the part of the federal government to deny the people their right to bear arms, to worship, and to pray when and where they choose, or to own and control private property."