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

"I donÂ’t know how you feel, my brethren and sisters, but IÂ’d rather be dead than to lose my liberty. I have no fear weÂ’ll ever lose it because of invasion from the outside. But I do have fear that it may slip away from us because of our own indifference, our own negligence, as citizens of this land. And so I plead with you this morning that you take an active interest in matters pertaining to the future of this country."

"I hope we can be happy where we are, be grateful for our blessings-now-here, accept the challenge that is ours and make the most of it, and don't be envious of others. God help us to be grateful."

"I reverence the Constitution of the United States as a sacred document. To me its words are akin to the revelations of God, for God has placed His stamp of approval on the Constitution of this land. I testify that the God of Heaven sent some of His choicest spirits to lay the foundation of this government, and He has sent other choice spirits — even you who read my words — to preserve it."

"I thank God for freedom — the right of choice. I am grateful for this great nation. Every true Latter-day Saint throughout the world loves the USA. The Constitution of this land is part of every Latter-day Saint’s religious faith. This is not just another nation, not just a member of a family of nations. This is a great and glorious nation with a divine mission and a prophetic history and future. It has been brought into being under the inspiration of heaven. It is our firm belief, as Latter-day Saints, that the Constitution of this land was established by men whom the God of heaven raised up unto that very purpose. It is our conviction also that the God of heaven guided the founding fathers in establishing it for his particular purpose. The founders of this republic were deeply spiritual men. They believed men are capable of self-government and that it is the job of government to protect freedom and foster private initiative. Our earliest American fathers came here with a common objective — freedom of worship and liberty of conscience. They were familiar with the sacred scriptures, and they believed that liberty is a gift of heaven. To them, man as a child of God emphasized the sacredness of the individual and the interest of a kind Providence in the affairs of men and nations. These leaders recognized the need for divine guidance and the importance of vital religion and morality in the affairs of men and nations."

"I support the doctrine of separation of church and state as traditionally interpreted to prohibit the establishment of an official national religion. But this does not mean that we should divorce government from any formal recognition of God. To do so strikes a potentially fatal blow at the concept of the divine origin of our rights, and unlocks the door for an easy entry of future tyranny. If Americans should ever come to believe that their rights and freedoms are instituted among men by politicians and bureaucrats, they will no longer carry the proud inheritance of their forefathers, but will grovel before their masters seeking favors and dispensations — a throwback to the feudal system of the Dark Ages."

"I testify that wickedness is rapidly expanding in every segment of our society. It is more highly organized, more cleverly disguised, and more powerfully promoted than ever before. 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."

"In order to avoid a concentration of power in any one branch, the Founding Fathers created a system of government that provided checks and balances. Congress could pass laws, but the president could check these laws with a veto. Congress, however, could override the veto and, by its means of initiative in taxation, could further restrain the executive department. The Supreme Court could nullify laws passed by the Congress and signed by the president, but Congress could limit the courtÂ’s appellate jurisdiction. The president could appoint judges for their lifetime with the consent of the Senate. The use of checks and balances was deliberately designed, first, to make it difficult for a minority of the people to control the government, and, second, to place restraint on the government itself."

"I remember hearing in a talk that the more we express our gratitude to God for our blessings, the more he will bring to our mind other blessings. The more we are aware of to be grateful for, the happier we become."

"I speak of honor-your honor to God-your honor to country-your honor to self. I sincerely believe it to be the cure to most of our ills, both on a national or individual basis."

"If we do not feel like praying, then we should pray until we do feel like praying."

"If a man does not control his temper, it is a sad admission that he is not in control of his thoughts. He then becomes a victim of his own passions and emotions, which lead him to actions that are totally unfit for civilized behavior, let alone behavior for a priesthood holder."

"If you would bless your fellow-man the most, then you must put the First Commandment first."

"If there is one word that describes the meaning of character, it is the word honor. Without honor, civilization would not long exist. Without honor, there could be no dependable contracts, no lasting marriages, no trust or happiness. What does the word honor mean to you? To me, honor is summarized in this expression by the poet Tennyson, "Man's word [of honor] is God in man.""

"If we do not accept the existence of a Supreme Being; that God is the source of moral law, what more do we have to offer than Marx?Â… Freedom is an eternal, God-given principle. There is no genuine happiness without freedom, nor is there any security or peace without freedom. After traveling in practically all of the free countries of the world and several times behind the Iron Curtain, I say that Marxism is the greatest evil in this world and the greatest threat to all we hold dear. Of all sad things in the world, the saddest is to see a people who have once known liberty and freedom and then lost it. I have seen the unquenchable yearning of the human heart for liberty on two unforgettable occasions. These experiences are indelibly etched on the memory of my soul."

"In recognizing God as the source of their rights, the Founding Fathers declared Him to be the ultimate authority for their basis of law. This led them to the conviction that people do not make law but merely acknowledge preexisting law, giving it specific application. The Constitution was conceived to be such an expression of higher law. And when their work was done, James Madison wrote: “It is impossible for the man of pious reflection not to perceive in it a finger of that Almighty hand which has been so frequently and signally extended to our relief in the critical stages of the revolution” (The Federalist, no. 37)."

"In the 1940s while serving as the executive officer of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives in Washington, D.C., I saw in a Hilton Hotel a placard depicting Uncle Sam, representing America, on his knees in humility and prayer. Beneath the placard was the inscription, "Not beaten there by the hammer and sickle, but freely, responsibly, confidently. . . We need fear nothing or no one save God." That picture has stayed in my memory ever since; America on her knees in recognition that all our blessings come from God! America on her knees out of a desire to serve the God of this land by keeping his commandments! America on her knees, not driven there in capitulation to some despotic government, but on her knees freely, willingly, gratefully! This is the sovereign remedy to all of our problems and the preservation of our liberties."

"In the scriptures there is no such thing as righteous pride. It is always considered as a sin. We are not speaking of a wholesome view of self-worth, which is best established by a close relationship with God. But we are speaking of pride as the universal sin, as someone has described it... Essentially, pride is a "my will" rather than "thy will" approach to life. The opposite of pride is humbleness, meekness, submissiveness, or teachableness."

"In the work of the Lord there should be no serious mistakes. The most important point of your planning should be on your knees."

"It is a part of my religious belief that America is a land choice above all others, that we are not just another of the family of nations, but that we have been singled out to perform a divine mission for liberty-loving people everywhere. Those who founded this republic were wise men raised up by our Father in heaven to perform that very task, and the Constitution of this land was inspired by God. We have a divine duty — even a destiny — to preserve that Constitution from destruction and hold it aloft to the world."

"It is not, however, enough to be acquainted with the grave dangers facing these United States. We must also instruct ourselves, and others, in the great spiritual values underlying our divinely inspired Constitution and our American free-enterprise system."

"In the providence of God, governments were intended to be the servants, not the masters of the people. This eternal truth needs to be emphasized and re-emphasized."

"It’s a great blessing to live in America. It’s a great blessing to have the opportunity to enjoy the freedoms which are ours today. I have seen people, thousands of them, who have lost the freedom which is ours, where they can no longer meet, as we meet here this morning, and express themselves as they see fit, where they no longer have freedom of movement, freedom to select their own jobs, their own educational opportunities, freedom to speak their minds, to write what they wish – freedom of enterprise. In many parts of the world today these rich blessings of freedom no longer exist."

"Jefferson warned that we should not talk about confidence in men but that we should inhibit their power through the Constitution."

"Leaders of youth, teach our young people to love freedom, to know that it is God-given. . . . Teach them to love their country, to know that it has a spiritual foundation, that it has a prophetic history, that it is the LordÂ’s base of operation. Teach them that the Constitution of the United States was established by men whom God raised up for that very purpose, that it is not outmoded, that it is not an old-fashioned agrarian document, as some men in high places are calling it today."

"Let us not be deceived in the sifting days ahead. Let us rally together on principle behind the prophet as guided by the promptings of the Spirit. We should continue to speak out for freedom and against socialism and communism. We should continue to come to the aid of patriots, programs, and organizations that are trying to save our Constitution through every legal and moral means possible."

"It is not enough to be sincere. We must be right."

"It is now two hundred years since the Constitution was written. Have we been wise beneficiaries of the gift entrusted to us? Have we valued and protected the principles laid down by this great document? At this bicentennial celebration we must, with sadness, say that we have not been wise in keeping the trust of our Founding Fathers. For the past two centuries, those who do not prize freedom have chipped away at every major clause of our Constitution until today we face a crisis of great dimensions."

"It is my conviction that the Constitution of the United States was established by the hands of wise men whom the Lord raised up unto this very purpose. The Lord expects us to safeguard this sacred and inspired document for the blessing of all of us and our posterity. If we fail so to do we will not only lose our priceless freedom but jeopardize the cause of truth throughout the entire world."

"It is the mark of a truly educated man to know what not to read."

"It must be remembered that the founding fathers of this great nation were men imbued with these principles [the Ten Commandments]. 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 that 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."

"It was from him [Joseph Smith] that I learned that the wife of my bosom might be secured to me for time and all eternity; and that the refined sympathies and affections which endeared us to each other emanated from the fountain of divine eternal love. It was from him that I learned that we might cultivate these affections, and grow and increase in the same to all eternityÂ… 'It was from him that I learned the true dignity and destiny of a son of God, clothed with an eternal priesthood, as the patriarch and sovereign of his [family]. It was from him that I learned that the highest dignity of womanhood was, to stand as a queen and priestess to her husband. We qualify for these blessings when we go with a companion to the house of the Lord and receive the sealing ordinances that bind the family unit beyond the grave. These blessings are received in no other way, for as the Lord has decreed, 'Except ye abide my law ye cannot attain to this glory', which glory is an eternal."

"May we be worthy of the freedoms that have been provided us in our Constitution, and equal to the trials and tests that shall surely come. We truly have special and individual responsibilities to befriend and to defend that “glorious standard,” our Constitution."

"May we pledge anew that the divine principles embodied in the divinely inspired documents that govern our country be written on the tablets of our own hearts. I pray that our eyes might be single to the will of God, that we might thereby bless our families and our country and that we shall, with increased devotion, work for less government, more individual responsibility, and, with GodÂ’s help, a better world."

"Many of us have a tendency to forget the Gracious Hand which has preserved our nation, enriched it, strengthened it. Many of us imagine in the foolishness of pride, that our manifold blessings are due not to God's goodness, but to our own wisdom and virtue. Too many of us have been so drunk with self-sufficiency as no longer to feel the need of prayer."

"Men who are wise, good, and honest, who will uphold the Constitution of the United States in the tradition of the Founding Fathers, must be sought for diligently. This is our hope to restore government to its rightful role. I fully believe that we can turn things around in America if we have the determination, the morality, the patriotism, and the spirituality to do so… I further witness that this land — the Americas — must be protected, its Constitution upheld, for this is a land foreordained to be the Zion of our God. He expects us as members of the Church and bearers of His priesthood to do all we can to preserve our liberty."

"More than ever before, we need to learn and apply the principles of economic self-reliance. We do not know when the crisis involving sickness or unemployment may affect our own circumstances. We do know that the Lord has decreed global calamities for the future and has warned and forewarned us to be prepared. For this reason the Brethren have repeatedly stressed a 'back to basics' program for temporal and spiritual welfare."

"My beloved brethren and sisters, 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."

"ManÂ… 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 difficulty."

"May we be wise — prayerfully wise — in the electing of those who would lead us. May we select only those who understand and will adhere to constitutional principles. To do so, we need to understand these principles ourselves… We should understand the Constitution as the founders meant that it should be understood. We can do this by reading their words about it, such as those contained in the Federalist Papers. Such understanding is essential if we are to preserve what God has given us."

"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 will deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken their minds, strengthen their muscles, lift their spirits, multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, raise up friends, and pour out peace. Whoever will lose his life in the service of God will find eternal life."

"Most of us think of pride as self-centeredness, conceit, boastfulness, arrogance, or haughtiness. All of these are elements of the sin, but the heart, or core, is still missing."

"Not cheap politicians but statesmen are needed today. Not opportunists but men and women of principle must be demanded by the people. In this time of great stress and danger we must place [in office] only those dedicated to the preservation of our Constitution, our American Republic, and responsible freedom under God. “Oh, God, give us men with a mandate higher than the ballot box.”"

"My young sisters, we have such hope for you. We have such great expectations for you. Don't settle for less than what the Lord wants you to be... Give me a young woman who loves home and family, who reads and ponders the scriptures daily, who has a burning testimony of the Book of Mormon... Give me a young woman who is virtuous and who has maintained her personal purity, who will not settle for less than a temple marriage, and I will give you a young woman who will perform miracles for the Lord now and throughout eternity."

"Nothing will surprise us more than when we get to heaven and see the Father and realize how well we know Him and how familiar His face is to us."

"Nothing is going to startle us more when we pass through the veil to the other side than to realize how well we know our Father and how familiar His face is to us."

"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."

"Now, brethren, do not expect perfection in your choice of a mate. Do not be so particular that you overlook her most important qualities of having a strong testimony, living the principles of the gospel, loving home, wanting to be a mother in Zion, and supporting you in your priesthood responsibilities. Of course, she should be attractive to you... And 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?"

"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?"

"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 – human blood – will win it back."

"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."