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

"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."

"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. As John Wesley’s mother counseled him: ‘Avoid whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, takes off your relish for spiritual things, … increases the authority of the body over the mind."

"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."

"Tonight I will speak to you about our beloved republic and the inspired agents whom God raised up to establish the foundation upon which our liberty rests. . . . I speak to you as members of the “household of faith,” the Lord’s true church, and remind you of your solemn charge to uphold, sustain, and defend the kingdom of God. The destiny of America was divinely decreed. The events that established our great nation were foreknown to God and revealed to prophets of old. As in an enacted drama, the players who came on the scene were rehearsed and selected for their parts. Their talent, abilities, capacities, and weaknesses were known before they were born."

"Unless we do his teachings, we do not demonstrate faith in him."

"Under our system there has been released great creative capacity, because we have been free, unrestricted. What have we achieved? A standard of living unequalled anywhere in the world. Not because we are smarter, not because we are more brilliant, not because we have greater capacity than people of other nations, but because we have had a system which is superior — a system which was wisely provided by the Founding Fathers. We must protect and safeguard that system. Sometimes we find people who almost apologize for it — the free enterprise system. Of course it is not perfect; it is operated by human beings, but it is the best system in operation in this world today. If we are wise, we will preserve it, we will strengthen it and we will safeguard it for our children and our children’s children."

"We are an overfed and undernourished nation digging an early grave with our teeth."

"We can choose to humble ourselves by confessing and forsaking our sins and being born of God."

"We are recipients of God's choicest blessings. We enjoy an abundance of material things beyond that enjoyed by any other nation in the history of the world; but unless we keep alive a realization that all these blessings come from God and are a part of our great spiritual heritage, they may crumble as ashes in our hands. "In nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things and obey not his commandments.""

"We can choose to humble ourselves by receiving counsel and chastisement... by forgiving those who have offended usÂ… by rendering selfless service."

"We can choose to humble ourselves by loving God, adjusting our will to His, and putting Him first in our lives."

"We had better take our small pain now than our greater loss later. There were souls who wished afterwards that they had stood and fought with Washington and the founding fathers, but they waited too long—they passed up eternal glory. There has never been a greater time than now to stand up against entrenched evil. And while the gentiles established the Constitution, we have a divine mandate to preserve it. But unfortunately today in this freedom struggle, many gentiles are showing greater wisdom in their generation than the children of light."

"We can choose to humble ourselves by conquering enmity toward our brothers and sisters."

"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 “wise men.” The First Presidency acknowledged that wisdom when they gave us the guideline a few years ago of supporting political candidates “who are truly dedicated to the Constitution in the tradition of our Founding Fathers.”. . . Our wise founders seemed to understand, better than most of us, our own scripture, which states that “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.” To help prevent this, the founders knew that our elected leaders should be bound by certain fixed principles. Said Thomas Jefferson: “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.” 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, “And as pertaining to law of man, whatsoever is more or less than this, cometh of evil.” In God the founders trusted, and in his Constitution — not in the arm of flesh. “O Lord,” said Nephi, “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.”"

"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."

"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."

"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."

"We once knew well our Elder Brother and our Father in Heaven. We rejoiced at the prospects of earth life that could make it possible for us to have a fullness of joy. We could hardly wait to demonstrate to our Father and our Brother, the Lord, how much we loved them and how we would be obedient to them in spite of the earthly opposition of the evil one. Now we are here. Our memories are veiled. We are showing God and ourselves what we can do. 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."

"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."

"We pay lip service to the principles embodied in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution without realizing what they are and the danger of ignoring them."

"We urge you to do all within your talent and means to build the kingdom of God on Earth. Always strive to sustain, support and do what is best for the kingdom of God."

"What about the lame, the sick and the destitute? Is an often-voiced question. Most other countries in the world have attempted to use the power of government to meet this need. Yet, in every case, the improvement has been marginal at best and has resulted in the long run creating more misery, more poverty, and certainly less freedom than when government first stepped in. Most of the major ills of the world have been caused by well-meaning people who ignored the principle of individual freedom, except as applied to themselves, and were obsessed with fanatical zeal to improve the lot of mankind-in-the-mass through some pet formula of their own… The harm dome by ordinary criminals, murderers, gangsters, and thieves is negligible in comparison with the agony inflicted upon human beings by the professional ‘do-gooder,’ who attempt to set themselves up as gods on earth and who would ruthlessly force their views on all others—with the abiding assurance that the end justifies the means."

"What are these fundamental principles which have allowed the United States to progress so rapidly and yet remain free? First, a written Constitution clearly defining the limits of government so that government will not become more powerful than the people."

"When obedience ceases to be an irritant and becomes a quest, in that movement God endows us with power."

"Will we be prepared? Will we be among those who will “bear the Constitution away from the very verge of destruction?” 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 principles—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: “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.” 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: “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.” 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 — men and women who will subscribe to and abide the principles of the Constitution."

"When obedience ceases to be an irritant and becomes our quest, in that moment God will endow us with powerÂ… unseen power, without which no man can do his best."

"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."

"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."

"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."

"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."

"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."

"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."

"With all my heart I love our great nation. I have lived and traveled abroad just enough to make me appreciate rather fully what we have in America. To me the U. S. is not just another nation. It is not just one of a family of nations. The U. S. is a nation with a great mission to perform for the benefit and blessing of liberty-loving people everywhere."