Sunday, November 6, 2011

Ezra Taft Benson - Our Immediate Responsibility

This is a talk given by Elder Ezra Taft Benson on October 25, 1966, at a Brigham Young University devotional.  The interesting thing about this talk, in my mind at least, was how political it was in the sense of doing our national duty.  He references talks by President David O. McKay as well talking about freedom.  We do not hear these types of talks in LDS General Conference anymore.  Obviously at this time Communism and Socialism were a very large worry, and the scare of McCarthyism wasn't yet over as the Vietnam war was going on along with the civil rights movement headed by Dr. Martin Luther King.

Introduction of Elder Benson by BYU President Ernest L. Wilkinson:
I should like to say a great deal about our speaker today, but in the interest of not trespassing on his time, I'm going to try to be brief.
It was nearly 30 years ago a young man, who was a Stake President in Idaho, came to Washington at the request of the board of trustees of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives; which organization represents all of the farmer cooperatives - nearly - in the United States.  He was there to be interviewed by them.  They wanted to look him over to see if he could become the top executive officer of that organization.  20 or 30 members of the board of trustees interrogated him. 
And at the conclusion of the interrogation, they said, "Mr. Benson, we would like to offer you the top executive position of this Nation Council of Farmer Cooperatives."  Whereupon Ezra Taft Benson said, "Gentlemen, I'm afraid I cannot accept.  I have been here for several days.  I know that this job entails a lot of lobbying before Congress, and I have learned that most of the lobbyists in Washington engage in that activity through cocktail parties and other things of that nature, which you might expect me to do; but that's foreign and alien to my religion, and I must respectfully decline."
Whereupon Judge Miller, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of this organization, looked at him and said, "Mr. Benson we know about your Mormon heritage, we know about your beliefs.  And frankly it's because of those beliefs, at least that's one of the elements that we've taken into consideration in offering this position to you.  You may come here on your own terms.  You do not need to give any of these cocktail parties that are prevalent in the nation's capital.  In fact, if you do, we might want to dispose of you as the top executive officer of this organization.  We're committed ourselves to the same ideals of those of the Mormon Church.  You can have the position on those terms.
It was then that Ezra Taft Benson began his work in Washington D.C..  Later, as you know, appointed Secretary of Agriculture going both terms of President Eisenhower.  Great leader in the Church.  I'm informed that he's just returned from Washington where he represented the Church in the annual celebration of the Hungarian Freedom Fighters.  Also has visited the Walter Nobb reproduction of Independence Hall, California Forest Lawn Cemetery where much of our heritage is reproduced.
It's my particular honor to introduce him because as a young man I had the great privilege of being his counselor when he was president of the Washington D.C. Stake.  Without further words I introduce to you Elder Ezra Taft Benson, Council of the Twelve, great American patriot.


President Wilkenson, distinguished members of the faculty, members and friends of this great student body, my brethren and sisters:   This is a single honor, a very great pleasure, and a challenging responsibility.  Humbly and gratefully I stand before you this morning. 
Because of the nature of the message I bring to you, I have committed most of it to writing.  I shall speak to you frankly and honestly.  What I shall say are my personal convictions, born out of an active life which has taken me into 45 nations and brought me close to the insidious forces that would destroy our way of life in this choice land.  I express these convictions and warnings today because of my love for you and our beloved country.   The message I bring is not a happy one, but it is the truth, and time is on the side of truth. 
I take as my theme, the words of President David O. McKay; God's mouthpiece on the earth today, a prophet of God: 
"The position of this Church on the subject of Communism has never changed.  We consider it the greatest satanical threat to peace, prosperity, and the spread of God's work among man that exists on the face of the earth.  No greater immediate responsibility rests upon the members of the Church, upon all citizens of this republic and of neighboring republics, than to protect the freedom vouchsafe by the Constitution of the United States."
In the days of the prophet Noah, men had no greater immediate responsibility than to repent and board the ark.  In our day, the day of the prophet David O. McKay, he has said that we have "no greater immediate responsibility … than to protect the freedom vouchsafe by the Constitution of the United States."
At the last general conference of the Church, President McKay in his opening address said: 
"Efforts are being made to deprive man of his free agency.  To steal from the individual his liberty.  There has been an alarming increase in the abandoning of the ideals that constitute the foundation of the Constitution of the United States."
Toward the close of his talk, our prophet quoting Paul's letter to Timothy regarding the preaching of the word, said, "There should be no question in the mind of any true Latter-Day Saint as to what we shall preach:  The gospel plan of salvation."  Then President McKay lists the areas our preaching should cover and admonishes us to include in our preaching what government should or should not do in the interest of the preservation of our freedom.  Do we preach what government should or should not do as a part of the gospel plan, as President McKay has urged?  Or do we refuse to follow the prophet by preaching a limited gospel plan of salvation?  The fight for freedom cannot be divorced from the gospel, the plan of salvation.
We sing that we are thankful to God for a prophet to guide us in these latter days.  By commandment of the Lord, we assemble in General Conference twice a year to get that guidance from the Lord's representative.  Do we realize that in the last five years, prior to October conference, the prophet has keynoted three of these conferences with an opening discourse on Freedom and given nine other addresses in the conferences that touched on freedom?  Do we see any pattern here?  Can we name any other gospel theme that has received as much emphasis from the man who holds the keys as has the theme of freedom?  We do not need a prophet, we have one.  What we need is a listening ear, a humble heart, and soul that is pure enough to follow his inspired guidance.
Now why this consistent voice of warning from the prophet? 
Consider the following:  Since WWII communists have brought under bondage -- enslaved -- on the average approximately 6,000 persons per hour, 144,000 per day, 52 million per year; every hour of every day of every year since 1945.  Since 1945, the communists have murdered in one country alone enough people to wipe out the entire population of over 15 of our states.  The communist threat from without may be serious, but it is the enemy within warns President McKay, that is most menacing.
President McKay has said that he would not deal with a nation that treats another as Russia has treated America.  Yet the tragedy is that one of the major reasons for the rapid growth of communism is because of the help, yes the increasing help, which they are receiving from right within our own government.  Today our boys are dying in a war with the communists.  A war which our government has not declared.  The largest undeclared war in the history of the world.  And one which it would appear our government has no intention of winning.  Yet our government encourages us to buy communist goods and our government continues to give aid to the enemy.  This is treason as defined by the Constitution.  It could easily be that one of the reasons this undeclared war in Vietnam is purposely being prolonged is to provide the excuse to further weaken our economy and to institute more Socialistic controls over our people.  Of course within the next few days there may be some dramatic moves made in order to placate and deceive the electorate, as there was during the so-called Cuban Missile Crisis.  But do not be misled. 
President McKay has said that the Supreme Court is leading this nation down the road to atheism.  Not only is the court leading this nation down the road to atheism, but in one tragic decision after another, they are leading this nation down the road to communism.  One such decision caused Dorothy Healy, communist spokesman for the west coast, to rejoice in these words, "This is the greatest victory the communist party has ever had."  The communists have held victory rallies to honor the Supreme Court and its decisions.  The Book of Mormon tells us what corrupt judges can do to freedom.
Communists dedicated to the destruction of our government are allowed to teach in our schools, to hold offices in labor unions, to run for public office.  Recently an open and avowed leader of the communist party in one of our states ran for a county office and received 87,000 votes.
J. Edgar Hoover, the best informed man in government on the Socialist-Communist conspiracy, stated:
"We must now face the harsh truth that the objectives of communism are being steadily advanced because many of us do not realize the means used to advance them.  No one who truly understands what it really is can be taken in by it.  Yet the individual is handicapped by coming face to face with a conspiracy so monstrous he cannot believe it exists.  The American mind simply has not come to a realization of the evil which has been introduced into our midst."
President McKay has said that "this nation has traveled far into the soul destroying road of socialism."  Now if we understand what socialism embraces, then we will realize that this present Congress has passed more Socialistic legislation, recommended by a President than probably any other Congress in the history of our Republic. 
At this particular moment in history the United Stated 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, TV, and so far as I am concerned it will resound with God's help. 
Our Republic and Constitution are being destroyed, while the enemies of freedom are being aided.  How?  In at least 10 ways:
  • First, by diplomatic recognition and aid, trade and negotiations with the communists.
  • Two, by disarmament of our military defenses.
  • Three, by destruction of our security laws and the promotion of atheism by decisions of the Supreme Court.
  • Four, by loss of sovereignty and solvency through international commitments and membership in world organizations.
  • Five, by undermining of local law enforcement agencies and congressional investigating committees.
  • Six, by usurpations by the executive and judicial branches of our Federal Government.
  • Seven, by lawlessness in the name of civil rights
  • And eight, by a staggering national debt with inflation and corruption of the currency.
  • Nine, by a multiplicity of executive orders and federal programs which greatly weaken local and state governments.
  • And ten, by the sacrifice of American manhood by engaging in wars we apparently have no intention of winning.

We should all be grateful for the patriots of both parties who are trying to withstand this tidal wave of collectivism led my masters of deceit.
One regrettable development is the increasing number of government programs embracing our youth.  President Clark, former Undersecretary of State, former ambassador, and a great Constitutional statesman, and councilor to three Presidents of the Church put it well when he said:
"Our government with its liberty and free institutions will not long survive a government trained and supervised youth.  Such youth can be a revolutionary machine."
And let me warn you, if these programs are fully introduced here in our midst, we will suffer the tragic consequences.
Some of these things strike pretty close to home.  Communists or communist-fronters have appeared on our three major university campuses in this state.  An identified communist performed in our Mormon tabernacle.  Some of our newspapers have carried columnists with communist-front records or who parrot the communist line.  And there are many other evidences both in this state and in our county that should alarm us.
One of the main thrusts of the communist drive in America today is through the so-called Civil Rights movement.  Now there's nothing wrong with civil rights, it's what is being done in the name of civil rights that is shocking.  The man who is generally recognized as the leader of the so-called civil rights movement today in America is a man who has lectured at a communist training school; who has solicited funds through communist sources; who hired a communist as a top level aid; who has affiliated with communist fronts; who is often praised in the communist press and who unquestionably parallels the communist line.  This same man advocates the breaking of the law, and has been described by J. Edgar Hoover as the most notorious liar in the country.
I warn you unless we wake up soon and do something about the conspiracy, the communist inspired civil rights riots in the past will pale into insignificance compared to the bloodshed and destruction that lie ahead in the near future.  Do not think the members of the Church will escape.  The Lord has assured us that the Church will still be here when he comes.  But has the Lord assured us that we can avoid fighting for freedom and still escape unscathed both temporally and spiritually?  We cannot escape the eternal consequences of our pre-existent position on freedom.  What makes us think we can escape it here?  Listen to President Clark's grave warning:
"I say to you with all the soberness I can, that we stand in danger of losing our liberties.  And that once lost only blood will bring them back.  And once lost, we of this Church will, in order  to keep the Church going forward, have more sacrifices to make and more persecutions to endure than we have yet known; heavy as our sacrifices and grievous as our persecutions of the past have been."
Now that is the price we are going to have to pay unless we can help to reverse the course our country is taking.  The Lord does not want us to have to pay that price; but we will pay it in full if we fail to fight to preserve our freedom.  Often the Lord has to send persecutions in order to rebuke and try to purge the unfaithful.  He has done it in the past, and He can do it again.  If we deserve it, we will get it.
Next to being one and worshipping God, says President McKay, there is nothing in this world upon which this Church should be more united than in upholding and defending the Constitution of the United States.  There are some who would have us believe that the final test of the rightness of the course is whether everyone is united on it.  But the Church does seek unity simply for unities sake.  The unity for which the Lord prayed and President McKay speaks is the only unity which God honors; that is unity in righteousness; unity in principle.  We cannot compromise good and evil in an attempt to have peace and unity in the Church anymore than the Lord could have compromised with Satan in order to avoid the war in heaven.  Think of the impact for good we could have if we all united behind the prophet in preserving our Constitution.  Yet witness the sorry spectacle of those presently of our number who have repudiated the inspired counsel of our prophet when he has opposed federal aid to education and asked support for the right-to-work laws.  Is it too much to suppose that all the priesthood at this juncture will unite behind the prophet in the fight for freedom?  Yet we can pray for that day, and in the meantime the faithful should strive to be in harmony with the inspired counsel given by His mouthpiece, the prophet, and thus in unity with the Lord, and hence receive peace to their souls.  The more who are united with the Lord and his prophets, the greater will be our chances to preserve our families and to live in freedom.
President Clark knew how righteous unity could stop the communists when he said:
"Now what has business and industry done about all this revolutionary activity?  Business and industry neither planned nor did anything effective; there was no concerted effort.  A common cause with a united front would have worked salvation for us.  But business officials were afraid of their stockholders and their outcry against loss of dividends.  The lawyers were afraid of getting whipped in the courts.  Businessmen felt strong vigorous action might further disturb business.  Bankers, I am a bank director, shivered at their own shadows.
"And so one constitutional right after another yielded without any real contest, our backs getting nearer to the wall with every retreat.  It is now proposed we retreat still further.
"Is not this suicide?  Is there any one so naive as to think that things will right themselves without a fight?  There has been no more fight in us than there is in a bunch of sheep; and we have been much like sheep.
"Freedom was never brought to a people on a silver platter, nor maintained with whisk brooms and lavender sprays.
"And do not think that all these usurpations, intimidations and impositions are being done to us through inadvertence or mistake.  The whole course is deliberately planned and carried out.  Its purpose is to destroy the Constitution and our Constitutional government; then to bring chaos, out of which a new State-ism with its slavery is to arise, with a cruel, relentless, selfish, ambitious crew in the saddle, riding hard with whip and spur, a red-shrouded band of night riders for despotism.  If we do not vigorously fight for our liberties, we shall go clear through to the end of the road and become another Russia or worse."
According to Norman Vincent Peale, there was a time when the American people roared like lions for liberty, but now they bleat like sheep for security.  But, some say, shouldn't we have confidence in our government officials?  Don't we owe them allegiance?  To which we respond in the words of President Clark:  "God provided that in this land of liberty our political allegiance shall run not to individuals, that is to government officials.  The only allegiance we owe as citizens of denizens of the United States runs to our inspired Constitution, which God Himself setup."
Jefferson warned that we should not talk about confidence in man, but that we should inhibit their power through the Constitution.  In the meantime we pray for our leaders as we have always been counseled to do.
It is the devil's desire that the Lord's priesthood stay asleep while the strings of tyranny gradually, quietly entangle us until like Gulliver we awake too late and find that while we could have broken each string separately as it was put upon us, our sleepiness permitted enough strings to bind us to make the rope that enslaves us. 
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 to 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, "We have no greater immediate responsibility … than to protect the freedom vouchsafe by the Constitution of the United States."  There is no excuse that can compensate for the loss of liberty.
Now 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.  For example, he will argue, "There is no need to get involved in the fight for freedom, all you need to do is live the gospel."  Of course this is a contradiction because we cannot fully live the gospel and not be involved in the fight for freedom.  We would not say to someone, "There is no need to be baptized, all you need to do is live the gospel."  That would be ridiculous because baptism is a part of the gospel.  How would you have reacted if during the war in heaven, someone had said to you, "Look, just do what's right, there is no need to get involved in the fight for free agency."  Now it is obvious what the devil is trying to do, but it is sad to see many of us fall for his destructive line.  The cause of freedom is the 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.
General Moroni, one of the great men of the Book of Mormon, raised the Title of Liberty and on it he inscribed these words:  "In memory of our God, our religion and freedom, and our peace our wives and our children".  Why didn't he write upon it, "Just live your religion.  There is no need to concern yourselves about your freedom, your peace, your wives or your children"?  The reason he didn't was because all these things were a part of his religion as they are of ours.  Listen to what the Book of Mormon had to say of the man who raised the Title of Liberty:  "And Moroni was a strong and a mighty man; he was a man of a perfect understanding; yea, a man that did not delight in bloodshed; a man whose soul did joy in the liberty and the freedom of his country, and his brethren from bondage and slavery;  Yea, and he was a man who was firm in the faith of Christ, and he had sworn with an oath to defend his people, his rights, and his country, and his religion, even to the loss of his blood" (Alma 48:11,13).  And then Moroni is paid this high tribute:  "Yea, verily, verily I say unto you, if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men" (Alma 48:17).
Now part of the reason why we do not have sufficient priesthood bearers to save the Constitution, let alone to shake the powers of hell, is I fear because unlike Moroni, our souls do not joy in keeping our country free, and we are not firm in the faith of Christ, nor have we sworn with an oath to defend our rights.
The Book of Mormon also tells us of some of the perverse reasoning the devil will use in our day to keep the saints ignorant from placing them asleep.  "And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say:  All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well -- and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell" (2 Nephi 28:21).  Now this reasoning takes several forms, for instance don't worry, say some, the Lord will take care of us.  This is the usual theme of those who believe in faith without works.  Brigham Young said:
"Some may say, 'I have faith the Lord will turn them away.'  What ground have we to hope this?  Have I any good reason to say to my Father in Heaven, 'Fight my battles,' when He has given me the sword to wield, the arm and the brain that I can fight for myself?  Can I ask Him to fight my battles and sit quietly down waiting for Him to do so?  I cannot.  I can pray the people to hearken to wisdom, to listen to counsel; but to ask God to do for me, that which I can do for myself is preposterous to my mind" (JD Vol 12 pp. 240-241 -- talking about the Saints wanting the Lord to turn the grasshoppers away).
Don't you have faith in America, say others.  But America is made up of people.  The only righteous patriotic people work to preserve their freedom.  The American people's blessings are conditioned on righteousness and nothing else.  We have faith in a faithful citizenry.  There is no need to learn about communism in order to avoid it, some argue.  But this counsel can help keep our people in ignorance and apparently flies in the face of the inspired counsel of President McKay who said: "I believe that only through a truly educated citizenry can the ideals that inspired the founding fathers of our nation be preserved and perpetuated."  And then President McKay said that "one of the four fundamental elements in such an education was the open and forcible teaching of the facts regarding communism as an enemy of God and to individual freedom."
Do we teach people to avoid alcohol and tobacco by pointing out its evil effects?  Of course we do.  Should we then avoid telling people about the evil nature and devious designs of communism the greatest satanical threat to the spread of God's work?  "Just preach the gospel, that will stop communism," is another neutralizing argument used by some.  Did teaching the truth stop the war in heaven?  Or convert Satan and his hosts?  Satan himself through his earthly followers is directing the communist conspiracy and as President Clark said, "You cannot mollify an unconvertible."
As members of the Church we have some close quarters to pass through if we are to save our souls.  As the Church gets larger some men have increasing responsibility and more and more duties must be delegated.  We all have stewardships for which we must account to the Lord.  Unfortunately some men who do not honor their stewardships may have an adverse affect on many people.  Often the greater the man's responsibility, the more good or evil he can accomplish.  The Lord usually gives a man a long enough rope and sufficient time to determine whether that man wants to pull himself into the presence of God or drop off somewhere below.
There are some regrettable things being said and done by some people in the Church today.  As President Clark so well warned, "The ravening wolves are amongst us, from our own membership and they, more than any others, are clothed in sheep's clothing because they wear the habiliments of the priesthood.  We should be careful of them."
Sometimes from behind the pulpit, in our classrooms, in our council meetings and in our Church publications we hear, read or witness things that do not square with the truth.  This is especially true where freedom is involved.  Now do not let this serve as an excuse for your own wrong doing.  The Lord is letting the wheat and the tares mature before he fully purges the Church.  He is also testing you to see if you will be misled.  The devil is trying to deceive the very elect.
Let me give you a crucial key to help you avoid being deceived.  It is this:  Learn to keep your eye on the prophet.  He is the Lord's mouthpiece and the only man who can speak for the Lord today.  Let his inspired counsel take precedence.  Let his inspired words be a basis for evaluating the counsel of all lesser authorities.  Then live close to the spirit so you may know the truth of all things.
All men are entitled to inspiration, but only one man is the Lord's mouthpiece.  Some lesser men have in the past, and will in the future, use their offices unrighteously.  Some will, ignorantly or otherwise, use it to promote false counsel; some will use it to lead the unwary astray; and some will use it to persuade us that all is well in Zion; and some will use it to cover and excuse their ignorance.  Keep your eye on the prophet, for the Lord will never permit his prophet to lead this Church astray.
This is the word of the Lord to us today regarding the President of the Church (reading in the 21st section of the Doctrine and Covenants):
"Wherefore, meaning the church, thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me; For his words ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith" (D&C 21:4-5).
Now at our last annual conference in April, President McKay issued a statement on communism.  It was printed on the editorial page of the June Improvement Era and has recently been reprinted by the Deseret Book Company in an attractive folder entitled, "Communism:  A Statement of the position of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."  Every student and every family in America should have a copy.  The cost is five cents each in lots of 100, or three for 25 cents.
Let me quote a few excerpts from that inspired statement and you who have been misled into believing that you can somehow righteously avoid standing up for freedom, heed his counsel:
"In order that there may be no misunderstanding by bishops, stake presidents, and others regarding members of the Church participating in non-church meetings to study and become informed on the Constitution of the United States, Communism, and so forth, I wish, said President McKay, to make the following statements that I have been sending out of my office for some time and that have come under question by some stake authorities, bishoprics, and others.
"Church members are at perfect liberty to act according to their own conscience in matters of safeguarding our way of life.  They are, of course, encouraged to honor the highest standards of the gospel and to work to preserve their own freedoms.  They are free to participate in non-church meetings that are held to warn people of the threat of Communism or any other theory or principle that will deprive us of our free agency or individual liberties vouchsafed by the Constitution of the United States.
"The position of this Church on the subject of Communism has never changed.  We consider it the greatest satanical threat to peace, prosperity, and the spread of God's work among men that exists on the face of the earth.
"In this connection, President McKay continues, we are constantly being asked to give our opinion concerning  various patriotic groups or individuals who are fighting Communism and speaking up for freedom.  Our immediate concern, however, is not with parties, groups, or persons, but with principles.  We therefore commend and encourage every person and every group who is sincerely seeking to study Constitutional principles and awaken a sleeping and apathetic people to the alarming conditions that are rapidly advancing about us.  We wish all of our citizens throughout the land were participating in some type of organized self-education in order that they could better appreciate what is happening and know what they can do about it.
"Supporting the FBI, the police, the congressional committees investigating Communism, and various organizations that are attempting to awaken the people through educational means is a policy we warmly endorse for all of our people."
I bear witness that this Church position given by our inspired leader, our prophet-leader, is sound, timely and clear.  The need for such counsel has never been greater.
Brethren and sisters, I have talked straight to you today.  I know I will be abused by some for what I have said, but I want my skirts to be clean.
"Watchman, what of the night?" (Isaiah 21:11) is the cry of the faithful.  I have tried to warn you of the darkness that is moving over us and what we can do about it if we will only follow the prophet.
Have you counted the cost if our countrymen and especially the body of the priesthood continue to remain complacent; misled through some of our news media, deceived by some of our officials, and perverted by some of our educators?  Are you prepared to see some of your loved ones murdered, your remaining liberties abridged, the Church persecuted, and your eternal reward jeopardized?
I have personally witnessed the heart-rending results of the loss of freedom.  I have seen it with my own eyes.  I have been close to the godless evil of the socialist-communist conspiracy on both sides of the iron curtain; particularly during my years as European Mission President at the close of the war, and today and also during my eight years in the Cabinet.
It may shock you to learn that the first communist cell in government, so far as we know, was organized in the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the 1930's; John Abt was there.  It was John Abt whom Oswald, the accused assassin of President Kennedy, requested for his attorney.  Harry Dexter White was there.  Lee Pressman was there.  And communist Alger Hiss, who was the principle architect and the first secretary of the United Nations Organizing Committee, was there also.
I have talked face-to-face with the godless Communist leaders.  It may surprise you to learn that I was host to Mr. Khrushchev for a half day when he visited the United States; not that I'm proud of it.  I opposed his coming then and I still feel it was a mistake to welcome this atheistic murderer as a state visitor.  But according to President Eisenhower, Khrushchev had expressed a desire to learn something of American agriculture, and after seeing Russian agriculture, I can understand why.
As we talked face-to-face, he indicated that my grandchildren would live under Communism.  After assuring him that I expected to do all in my power to assure that his, and all other grandchildren, would live under freedom, he arrogantly declared, in substance:
You Americans are so gullible.  No, you won't accept Communism outright, but we'll keep feeding you small doses of Socialism until you'll finally wake up and find you already have Communism.  We won't have to fight you.  We'll so weaken your economy until you fall like overripe fruit into our hands.
And they're ahead of schedule in their devilish scheme.
I stood in Czechoslovakia in 1946 -- two citizens of that country came up to me before this meeting -- I stood in Czechoslovakia in 1946 and witnessed the ebbing away of freedom resulting in the total loss of liberty to a wonderful people.  I visited among the liberty-loving Polish people and talked with their leaders as the insidious freedom-destroying conspiracy moved in, imposing the chains of bondage on a Christian nation.
In both of these freedom-loving nations were members of the Church, striving as we are, to live the gospel.  but did they stop the Communists?  Although their numbers were relatively few, the danger to freedom seemed to be far away.  Now there are, no doubt, Mormons in Communist slave labor camps.
But here in America, the Lord's base of operations -- so designated by the Lord himself through his holy prophets -- we of the priesthood, members of his restored Church, might well provide the balance of power to save our freedom.  Indeed we might, if we go forward as General Moroni of old, and raise the Standard of Liberty throughout the land.
My brethren we can do the job that must be done.  We can, as a priesthood, provide the balance of power to preserve our freedom and save this nation from bondage.  The Prophet Joseph Smith is reported to have prophesied the role the priesthood might play to save our inspired Constitution.  Now is the time to move forward courageously; to become alerted, informed and active.  We are not just ordinary men.  We bear the priesthood and authority of God; we understand the world and God's divine purpose as no other men.
The gospel and its preaching can prosper only in an atmosphere of freedom.  And now in this critical period, when many pulpits are being turned into pipelines of collectivist propaganda, preaching the social gospel and denying basic principles of salvation, is the time for action.
We know, as do no other people, that the Constitution of the United States is inspired, established by men whom the Lord raised up for that very purpose.  We cannot, we must not, shrink [from] our sacred responsibility to rise up in defense of our God-given freedom.
In our day that Lord has declared to his Church:
"Verily I say unto you all:  Arise and shine forth, that thy light may be a standard for the nations; And that the gathering together upon the land of Zion, and upon her stakes, may be for a defense, and for a refuge from the storm, and from wrath when it shall be poured out without mixture upon the whole earth" (D&C 115:5-6).
Will we of the priesthood arise and shine?  Will we provide the defense and refuge?  Now is our time and season for corrective and courageous action.
We have been warned again and again and again.  The Lord's spokesman has consistently raised his voice of warning about the loss of our freedom.  Now he that has ears, let him hear, and you who praise the Lord, learn to also follow His spokesman.
I know not what course others may take, but as for me and my house, we will strive to walk with the prophet.  and the prophet has said that:
"No greater immediate responsibility rests upon the members of the Church, upon all citizens of this republic and of neighboring republics, than to protect the freedom vouchsafe by the Constitution of the United States."

In this mighty struggle each of you has a part.  Be on the right side.  Stand up and be counted.  If you get discouraged, remember the words of Edward Everett Hale when he said:
I am only one, but I am one.
I can't do everything, but I can do something.
What I can do, that I ought to do.
And what I ought to do,
By the grace of God, I shall do.

God bless us to heed the oft-repeated counsel of our prophet-leader, I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Spencer W. Kimball - Tragedy or Destiny?

This is a talk given by Elder Spencer W. Kimball on December 5, 1955, at Brigham Young University.  This talk was later printed in the Improvement Era in 1966, and was the basis for Chapter 8 of the book Faith Precedes the Miracle (printed 1972).  The reason I put the text to the talk here is because I couldn't find it online.

I grew up listening to President Kimball speak, and so when I heard his voice for this talk I was glad to hear it before his vocal cord operation, which happened in 1957.  It was a pleasant surprise to hear his original voice.  This is about a 33 minute talk.


President Taylor, faculty, student body: I am much impressed with this delightful audience. And whenever I hear the hallelujah chorus sung, and it has been sung and played so beautifully here this morning, my heart wants to weep for joy for our knowledge of the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords; and especially at this time of the year when Christmas-time brings to our attention a little more forcibly the importance of His birth, His death, His resurrection, the atoning sacrifice.

There have been many tragedies of late and since there's so many people who seem to blame every so-called tragedy upon the Lord and are frustrated at what seems to be a calamity, may I present to you a few thoughts which I hope may ease tensions, stimulate sane thinking, and possibly answer at least partially some of the questions so often asked and so seldom answered.

The daily paper screamed the headlines: "Plane Crash Kills 43. No Survivors of Mountain Tragedy," and thousands of voices joined in a chorus: "Why did the Lord let this terrible thing happen?"

Two automobiles crashed when one went through a red light, and six people were killed. Why would God not prevent this?

A child was born with limited mental capacity. He was never to be able to live the normal life. Why? Why would the Lord permit him to be so deprived, his parents so burdened?

Why should the young mother die so young? Why should her eight children be left motherless? Why did not the Lord heal her of her malady?

A little child was drowned; another was run over. Why?

A man died one day fell at the top of a stairway, his body was found slumped on the floor; a coronary occlusion the doctor said. His wife cried out in agony, "Why? Why would the Lord do this to me? Could he not have considered my three little children who need a father so much?"

A young man died in the mission field and people critically questioned: "Why did the Lord not protect this young youth while doing His work?"

I wish I could answer these questions; sometime we'll understand and be reconciled.

The following conclusions are my own, and I take full responsibility for them.

May I ask some questions?

Was it the Lord who directed the plane into the mountain to snuff out the lives of its occupants, or were there mechanical faults or human errors?

Was our Father in heaven responsible for the collision of the cars which took six people into eternity, or was it the error of the driver who ignored safety rules?

Did God take the life of the young mother or prompt the child to toddle into the canal or guide the other child in the way of the oncoming car?

Did the Lord cause the man to die, or was the death of the missionary untimely?

Would it have been better to occurred earlier or later?

Answer, if you can.

Now a final question: Could the Lord have prevented these tragedies?

And the answer is, Yes. The Lord is omnipotent, with all power to control our lives, save us pain, prevent all accidents. He could drive the planes and the cars. He could feed us, protect us, save us from labor, effort, sickness, even death. But is that what you want? Would you shield your children from effort, from disappointments, from temptations and sorrows and suffering?

The basic gospel law is free agency. To force us to be careful or righteous would be to nullify that fundamental law and growth would be impossible. Should we be protected always from hardship, pain, suffering, sacrifice or labor? Should the Lord protect the righteous? Should he immediately punish the wicked? If growth comes from fun and ease and aimless irresponsibility, then why should we ever exert ourselves to work, or learn or overcome.

If success is measured by the years we live, then early death is failure and tragedy. If life is the ultimate - mortal life - how can we justify death ever even in old age.

If we looked at mortality as a complete existence, then pain, sorrow, failure, and short life could be calamity. But if we look upon the whole life as an eternal thing stretching far into the pre-mortal past and into the eternal post-death future, then all the happenings may be in their proper perspective and may fall into proper place.

Is there not wisdom in his giving us trials that we might rise above them, responsibilities that we might achieve, work to harden our muscles, sorrows to try our souls? Were we not permitted temptations to test our strength, sickness that we might learn patience, death that we might have immortality and eternal life?

In the beginning the Creator explained to Moses, "... Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him." (Moses 4:3).

And the Lord spake unto Adam, saying:  "Inasmuch as thy children are conceived in sin, even so when they begin to grow up, sin conceiveth in their hearts, and they taste the bitter, that they may know to prize the good. And it is given unto them to know good from evil; wherefore they are agents unto themselves" (Moses 6:55-56).

Apparently the Lord did not consider death always as a curse or a tragedy, for He said: "Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord." (Rev. 14:13; D&C 63:49).

Life goes on and free agency continues, and death, which seems such a calamity, could be a blessing in disguise.

Melvin J. Ballard wrote:
I lost a son six years of age and I saw him a man in the spirit world after his death, and I saw how he had exercised his own freedom of choice and would obtain of his own will and volition a companionship, and in due time to him and all those who are worthy of it, shall come all of the blessings and sealing privileges of the house of the Lord…. (Three Degrees of Glory).

If we say that early death is a calamity, disaster, or a tragedy, would it not be saying that mortality is preferable to earlier entrance into the spirit world and to eventual salvation and exaltation? If mortality be the perfect state, then death would be a frustration, but the gospel teaches us there is no tragedy in death, but only in sin.

We know so little. Our judgment is so limited. We judge the Lord often with less wisdom than does our youngest child weigh our decisions.

I spoke at the funeral service of a young BYU student who died during the last World War. There had been hundreds of thousands of young men rushed prematurely into eternity through the ravages of war, and I made a statement that I believed this righteous youth had been called into the spirit world to preach the gospel to these deprived souls. In the vision of "The Redemption of the Dead" by President Joseph F. Smith, he saw this very thing. He sat studying the scriptures on October 3, 1918, particularly the statements in Peter’s epistle regarding the antediluvians, and he writes:
… As I pondered over these things which are written, the eyes of my understanding were opened, and the Spirit of the Lord rested upon me, and I saw the hosts of the dead. While this vast multitude of the righteous waited and conversed, rejoicing in the hour of their deliverance … the Son of God appeared, declaring liberty to the captives who had been faithful, and there He preached to them the … redemption of mankind from the fall, and from individual sins on conditions of repentance. But unto the wicked he did not go, and among the ungodly and the unrepentant who had defiled themselves while in the flesh, His voice was not raised, neither did the rebellious who rejected the testimonies and the warnings of the ancient prophets behold his presence, nor look upon his face….

And as I wondered ... I perceived that the Lord went not in person among the wicked and the disobedient who had rejected the truth ... but behold, from among the righteous He organized his forces ... and commissioned them to go forth and carry the light of the gospel….

... our Redeemer spent His time ... in the world of spirits, instructing and preparing the faithful spirits ... who had testified of Him in the flesh, that they might carry the message of redemption unto all the dead unto whom He could not go personally because of their rebellion and transgression….

Among the great and mighty ones who were assembled in this vast congregation of the righteous were Father Adam ... "Mother" Eve, with many of her faithful daughters ... Abel, the first martyr ... Seth, ... Noah, ... Shem, the great High Priest; Abraham, ... Isaac, Jacob, and Moses ... Ezekiel, ... Daniel….

All these and many more, even the prophets who dwelt among the Nephites…. The Prophet Joseph Smith, and my father, Hyrum Smith, Brigham Young, ... and other choice spirits ... in the spirit world. I observed that they were also among the noble and great ones who were chosen in the beginning to be rulers in the Church of God….

I beheld that the faithful elders of this dispensation, when they depart from mortal life, continue their labors in the preaching of the gospel of repentance and redemption…. (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, pp. 472-76[now found in D&C 138])

Death, then, may be the opening of the door to opportunity, and some questions are answered, at least, by this vision.

I would be happier to have my sons effective missionaries, than to have them honored in high secular places. To be bishops in God's kingdom than kings on earthly thrones. For there is no greater work in which to be engaged, and the proselyting work does not end with death, but carries over into the life beyond.

Now we find many people critical when a righteous person is killed. A young father, mother is taken from a family, or when violent deaths occur. Some become bitter when oft-repeated prayers seem unanswered. Some lose faith and turn sour when solemn administrations by holy men seem to be ignored and no restoration seems to come from repeated prayer-circles.

But if all the sick were healed, if all the righteous were protected and the wicked destroyed, the whole program of the Father would be annulled, and the basic principle of the gospel, free agency, would be ended.

If pain and sorrow and total punishment immediately followed the doing of evil, no soul would ever repeat a misdeed.

If joy and peace and rewards were instantaneously given the doer of good, there could be no evil. All would do go, and not because of the rightness of doing good.

There would be no test of strength, no development of character, no growth of powers, no free agency, only satanic controls.

Should all prayers be immediately answered according to our selfish desires and our limited understanding, then could there be little or no suffering, sorrows, disappointments, or even death, and if these were not, there would be an absence of joy, success, resurrection, eternal life and godhood.
For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things … righteousness and wickedness holiness … misery … good and bad. (2 Nephi 2:11).

We are assured by the Lord that the sick will be healed if the ordinance is performed, if there is sufficient faith, and if the ill one is "not appointed unto death." Here are three factors: Many do not comply with the ordinances. Great numbers are unwilling or incapable of exercising sufficient faith. But there is the other factor which looms important: If they are not appointed unto death.

Every act of God is purposeful. He sees the end from the beginning. He knows what will build us or tear us down. What will thwart the program and what will give us eventual triumph. The Lord does not always heal the sick, nor save those in hazardous zones. He does not always relieve suffering or distress. For even these seemingly undesirable conditions may be a part of a purposeful plan.

Being human, we would expel from our lives sorrow, distress, physical pain, mental anguish and assure ourselves of continual ease and comfort, but if we close the doors upon such, we might be evicting our greatest friends and benefactors. Suffering can make saints of people as they learn patience, long-suffering, self-mastery. The sufferings of our Savior were part of his education, for "though he were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, He became the author of eternal salvation unto to all them who obey Him." (Hebrews 5:8-9).

I love the verse of the song we frequently sing, How Firm a Foundation, the sixth verse, I believe:
When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not thee o’erflow
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.
—Hymns No. 66 (Hymn #85 now, verse 4)
Elder James E. Talmage gave us this: "No pang that is suffered by man or woman upon the earth will be without its compensating effect ... if it be met with patience."

On the other hand, these things can crush us with their mighty impact if we yield to weakness, complaining, or to criticism. Elder Orson F. Whitney wrote this:
No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God ... and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire and which will make us more like our Father and Mother in heaven.

The Lord stated: "He that hath faith in me to be healed, and is not appointed unto death, shall be healed." (D&C 42:48).

If not appointed unto death, and sufficient faith is developed, life can be spared. But if there is not enough faith, many die before their time. It is evident that even the righteous will not always be healed and even those of great faith will die when it is according to the purpose of God.

Joseph Smith died in his thirties, as did the Savior. Solemn prayers were answered, negatively. There are people who are bitter as they watch loved ones suffer; suffer agonies and interminable pain and physical torture. Some would charge the Lord with unkindness, disinterest, injustice. We are so incompetent to judge!

I like the words of some verses, the author of which I do not know:
Pain stayed so long I said to him today,
"I will not have you with me any more."
I stamped my foot and said, "Be on your way,"
And paused there, startled at the look he wore.
"I, who have been your friend," he said to me,
"I, who have been your teacher—all you know
Of understanding love, of sympathy,
And patience, I have taught you. Shall I go?"
He spoke the truth, this strange unwelcome guest;
I watched him leave, and knew that he was wise.
He left a heart grown tender in my breast,
He left a far, clear vision in my eyes.
I dried my tears, and lifted up a song --
Even for one who’d tortured me so long.

In his home town, Nazareth, the Lord said to the people: "Ye [shall] surely say unto me this proverb, Physician, heal thyself: whatsoever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in thy country" (Luke 4:23). "But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, [save] in his own country, … and in his own house" (Mark 6:4). "And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief" (Matthew 13:57). Then he continued: "But I tell you of a truth, may widows were in Israel in the days of Elias … when the great famine was throughout all the land; But unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet; and none of them was cleaned, saving Naaman the Syrian" (Luke 4:25-27).

The power of the priesthood is limitless but God has wisely placed upon each of us certain limitations. I may develop priesthood power as I perfect my life; I am grateful that even through the priesthood I cannot heal all the sick. I might heal people who should die. I might relieve people of suffering who should suffer. I fear I would frustrate the purposes of God.

Had I the limitless power, and yet limited vision and understanding, I might have saved Abinadi from the flames of fire when he was burned at the stake, and in so doing I might have irreparably damaged Abinadi and limited him to a lower kingdom. He died a martyr and went to a martyr’s reward—exaltation. He would have lived on the earth, could have lost his faith, his courage, even his virtue, and his exaltation.

I would likely have protected Paul against the woes if my power were boundless. I would surely have healed his "thorn in the flesh." And in so doing I might have foiled the program and relegated him to lower glories. Thrice he offered prayers, asking the Lord to remove the "thorn" from him, but the Lord did not so answer his prayers. Paul many times could have lost himself if he had been eloquent, well, handsome, and free from all the things that made him humble. Paul speaks:
And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong (2 Corinthians 12:7, 9-10).

Such a healing of Paul might have ruined him. I fear that had I been in Carthage Jail on June 27, 1844, I might have deflected the bullets which pierced the bodies of the Prophet and the Patriarch. I might have saved them from the sufferings and agony, but lost to them the martyr’s death and reward. I am glad I didn't have to make that decision.

With such uncontrolled power, I surely would have felt to protect Christ from the insults, the thorny [cross] crown, the indignities in the court, the physical injuries. Perhaps I would have struck down his persecutors with shafts of lightning. When he hung on the cross I would have rescued him; would have administered to his wounds and healed them, giving him cooling water instead of vinegar. I might have saved him from death, and lost to the world an atoning sacrifice and frustrated the whole program.

With unlimited power I might have healed my father and my mother. I might never have let them die. Would you dare to take the responsibility of bringing to life your own loved ones? I myself would hesitate to do so.

I am grateful that we may always pray, "Thy will be done in all things, for thou knowest what is best." I'm glad I do not have the decisions to make. We might consign loved one to loss of faculties, loss of powers; to a terrible doom.

Everyone must die. Death is an important part of life. Of course, we are never quite ready for the change. And not knowing when it should come, we properly fight to retain our lives. Why are we so afraid of death? We pray for the sick, we administer to the afflicted, we implore the Lord to heal and reduce pain and save life and postpone death, and properly so, but is eternity is so frightful, so awful?

The Prophet Joseph Smith confirmed the thought:
The Lord takes many away, even in infancy, that they may escape the envy of man, and the sorrows and evils of this present world; they were too pure, too lovely, to live on [this] earth; therefore, if rightly considered, instead of mourning we have reason to rejoice as they are delivered from evil and we shall soon have them again. … The only difference between the old and the young dying is, one lives longer in heaven and eternal light and glory than the other, and is freed a little sooner from this miserable wicked world (HC 4:553-554).

Yes, "blessed are the dead [that] die in the Lord … they shall rise from the dead and shall not die after. … And he that liveth when the Lord shall come, and hath kept the faith, blessed is he; nevertheless, it is appointed to him to die at the age of man" (D&C 63:49-50).

All are not healed or saved even though great faith is manifested.

Hear the Lord again:
And the elders of the church, two or more, shall be called, and shall pray for and lay their hands upon them in my name; and if they die they shall die unto me, and if they live they shall live unto me.

Thou shalt live together in love, insomuch that thou shalt weep for the loss of them that die, and more especially for those that have not hope of a glorious resurrection.

And it shall come to pass that those that die in me shall not taste of death, for it shall be sweet unto them;

And they that die not in me, wo unto them, for their death is bitter.

And again, it shall come to pass that he that hath faith in me to be healed, and is not appointed unto death, shall be healed. (D&C 42:44-48).

If he is not appointed unto death. That's a challenging statement.

I'm confident that there is a time to die. I am not a fatalist. I believe that many people die before their time because they are careless, abuse their bodies, take unnecessary chances or expose themselves to hazards, accidents and sickness.

In the modern revelations, we read this:
"Blessed is my servant … Lyman Wight, [he] should continue in preaching for Zion … [and] I will bear him up as on eagles wings … That when he shall finish his work I may receive him unto myself, even as I did my servant David Patten, who is with me at this time, and also my servant

Edward Partridge, and also my aged servant Joseph Smith, Sen., who sitteth with Abraham at his right hand, and blessed and holy is he, for he is mine" (D&C 124:15, 18-19).

Is it so revolutionary to say that David Patten was blessed with martyrdom? How glorious to die, for the cause. He was assured of the high glory of exaltation as witness this statement: "[I will] receive him unto myself, even as I did my servant David Patten, who is with me at this time."

Of the antediluvians, we read:
Hast thou marked the old way which wicked men have trodden?

Which were cut down out of time, whose foundation was overflown with a flood:

Which said unto God, Depart from us: and what can the Almighty do for them? (Job 22:15-17).

In Ecclesiastes we find this statement:
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

Be not over much wicked, neither be thou foolish: why shouldest thou die before thy time? (Eccles. 3:1-2; 7:17).

I believe we may die prematurely but seldom exceed our time very much; though there are exceptions. Hezekiah, 25-year-old king of Judah was far more godly than his successors or predecessors. The Judean king had an allotted time to die.
In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And the prophet Isaiah . . . came to him, and said unto him, Thus saith the Lord, Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live.

[Hezekiah, loving life as do we] turned his face to the wall [and wept bitterly] …

. . . remember now how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which [was] good in thy sight…. [he prayed to his Father] (II King 20:1-3).

It was wholly proper that Hezekiah, like ourselves, should cling to life and protect it. The Lord yielded unto his prayer.
. . . I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold I will heal thee….

And I will add unto thy days fifteen years; and I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria…. (II Kings 20:5-6).

The Lord slightly modified His plan and gave Hezekiah 15 years and freed Judah from Assyria.

Again, Abinadi could not be killed before his time to die. "Touch me not [he challenged] for God [will] smite you … for I have not delivered the message which the Lord sent me to deliver … therefore, God will not suffer that I shall be destroyed at this time … Ye see that ye have not power to slay me [he said]" (Mosiah 13:3, 7).

He was fully protected until his mission was fulfilled, then was permitted to be martyred.

"Oh God receive my soul" (Mosiah 17:19), he cried, "and his face shone with exceeding luster, even as Moses' did while in the mount of Sinai while speaking [unto] the Lord" (Mosiah 13:5).

He undoubtedly received exaltation also as a martyr. The persecutors could not touch Enoch, his time had not come; he had a great mission to fulfill.

"And it came to pass when they heard him, no man laid hands on him; for fear came on all them that heard him; for he walked with God" (Moses 6:39).

Lehi and Nephi, the sons of Helaman, who converted many thousands, were put in prison without food. The persecutors tried to slay them, but they were encircled about as with fire. The missionaries spoke boldly: "Ye cannot lay your hands on us to slay us" (Helaman 5:26). The earth shook, the prison walls trembled, and a voice as if from above the cloud of darkness said, "seek no more to destroy my servants" (Helaman 5:29).

Frequently the Redeemer mentioned: "My hour is not yet come" and then as He approached Jerusalem for the last time, he announced to his disciples, "My hour is come."

Returning to the Apostle Paul, the devil seemingly was determined to destroy him; but until his time to die had come, all hell could not prevail against him. Paul says:
I am … in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times I received forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; … in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, … in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren. … in hunger and thirst … in cold and nakedness (II Corithians 11:23-27).

Until his mission was fulfilled his life and labors could not be terminated by any powers of earth or hell. But when his mission was completed, he went to his death as a martyr.

To the saints at Philippi he said: "For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:" (Philippians 1:23).

And Miletus when his people surrounded him, he confided to them his premonitions.
"And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me." And now he said I know that "… ye all … shall see my face no more" (Acts 20:22, 25).

"Then Paul answered [at Caesarea], What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." And they said, "The will of the Lord be done" (Acts 21:13-14).

He bore testimony in Jerusalem and in Rome and here in the capital of the world his work finished, he died a martyr according to tradition and prophecy. But not until his time to die had come, did he join the immortals.

Heber C. Kimball was given an unusual promise by the Lord, showing his control of our destinies. He was subjected to a test which, like the one given Abraham, was well-nigh unthinkable. Comfortless and in great perplexity he importuned the Prophet Joseph to inquire of the Lord, and the Prophet received this revelation: "Tell him to go and do as he has been commanded, and if I see that there is any danger of his apostatizing, I will take him to myself." (Orson F. Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball, Chapter 46)

God controls our lives, guides and blesses us, but gives us our agency. We may live our lives in accordance with his plan for us or we may foolishly shorten or terminate them.

I am positive in my mind that the Lord has planned our destiny. We can shorten our lives, but I think we cannot lengthen them very much. Sometime we’ll understand fully, and when we see from the vantage point of the future, we shall be satisfied with many of the happenings of this life which seem so difficult for us to comprehend.

We knew before we were born that we were coming to the earth for bodies and experience and that we would have joys and sorrows, pain and comforts, ease and hardships, health and sickness, successes and disappointments, and we knew also that we would die. We accepted all these eventualities with a glad heart, eager to accept both the favorable and the unfavorable. We were undoubtedly willing to have a mortal body, even if it were a deformed one. We eagerly accepted the chance to come earthward even though it might be for a day, a year, or a century. Perhaps we were not so much concerned whether we should die of disaster, of accident, or of senility. We were willing to come and take life as it came and as we might organize and control it, and this without murmur, complaint, or unreasonable demands.

We sometimes think we'd like to know what was ahead, but sober thought brings us back to accepting life a day at a time and magnifying and glorifying that day.

Sister Ida Allredge gave us a thought-provoking verse:
I cannot know the future, nor the path I shall have trod,
But by that inward vision, which points the way to God.
I would not glimpse the beauty or joy for me in store,
Lest patience ne’er restrain me from thrusting wide the door.
I would not part the curtains or cast aside the veil,
Else sorrows that await me might make my courage fail;
I’d rather live not knowing, just doing my small mite;
I’d rather walk by faith with God, than try alone the light.
My young brothers and sisters, God bless you. Life is good when we control it and master ourselves. It is one of great opportunity and tremendous privilege. May God bless us all to gain in knowledge, in wisdom, in faith, in works; bringing to us eternal glory. And this I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.