Civic Standards for the Faithful Saints

by Elder Ezra Taft Benson

General Conference - April 8, 1972

My beloved brothers and sisters, seen and unseen--and we are all brothers and sisters, children of the same Father in the spirit--humbly and gratefully I stand before you on this anniversary date of the organization of the restored church of Jesus Christ, 142 years ago. I love a general conference of the Church, except this particular part, and yet I rejoice in the opportunity to bear testimony to this, the greatest work in all the world.

Last fall I was invited by Baron von Blomberg, president of the United Religions Organization, to represent the Church as a guest of the king of Persia at the twenty-five hundredth anniversary of the founding of the Persian Empire by Cyrus the Great. Advised by the First PresidEmpire by Cyrus the Great. Advised by the First Presidency to accept the invitation, I left immediately following the October conference to join with representatives of twenty-seven world religions, some fifty monarchs, and other notables at this historic celebration in Iran.

King Cyrus lived more than five hundred years before Christ and figured in prophecies of the Old Testament mentioned in 2 Chronicles and the book of Ezra, and by the prophets Ezekiel, Isaiah, and Daniel. The Bible states how "the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus, King of Persia." (2 Chron. 36:22.) Cyrus restored certain political and social rights to the captive Hebrews, gave them permission to return to Jerusalem, and directed that Jehovah's temple should be rebuilt.

Parley P. Pratt, in describing the Prophet Joseph Smith, said that he had "the boldness, courage, temperance, perseverance and generosity of a Cyrus." (Autobiography of Parley Parker Pratt [Deseret Book Company, 1938], p. 46.)

President Wilford Woodruff said:

God, the Father of us all, uses the men of the earth, especially good men, to accomplish his purposes. It has been true in the past, it is true today, it will be true in the future.

This would certainly have been true of Colonel Thomas L. Kane, a true friend of the Saints in their dire need. It was true of General Doniphan, who, when ordered by his superior to shoot Joseph Smith, said:

We honor these partners 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 [p. 60] raised up these patriotic partners to perform their mission, and he called them "wise men." (See D&C 101:80.) 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." (Deseret News, November 2, 1964.) That tradition has been summarized in the book The American Tradition by Clarence Carson.

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." (D&C 98:7.)

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." (2 Ne. 4:34.)

President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., put it well when he said:

"Patriotism, said Theodore Roosevelt,

". . . to vote for wicked men, it would be sin," said Hyrum Smith. (Documentary History of the Church, vol. 6, p. 323.)

And the Prophet Joseph Smith said,

Joseph and Hyrum's trust did not run to the arm of flesh, but to God and correct eternal principles.

The warning of President Joseph Fielding Smith is most timely:

Another guideline given by the First Presidency was "to support good and consc

Another guideline given by the First Presidency was "to support good and conscientious candidates, of either party, who are aware of the great dangers" facing the free world. (Deseret News, November 2, 1964.)

Fortunately we have materials to help us face these threatening dangers in the writings of President David O. McKay and other church leaders. Some other fine sources by LDS authors attempting to awaken and inform us of our duty are: Prophets, Principles, and National Survival (Jerreld L. Newquist), Many Are Called But Few Are Chosen (H. Verlan Andersen), and The Elders of Israel and the Constitution (Jerome Horowitz).

But the greatest handbook for freedom in this fight against evil is the Book of Mormon.

This leads me to the second great civic standard for the Saints. For in addition to our inspired Constitution, we have the scriptures.

Joseph Smith said that the Book of Mormon was the "keystone of our religion" and the "most correct" book on earth. (DHC, vol. 6, p. 56.) This most correct book on earth states that the downfall of two great American civilizations came as a result of secret conspiracies whose desire was to overthrow the freedom of the people. "And they have caused the destruction of this people of whom I am now speaking," says Moroni, "and also the destruction of the people of Nephi." (Eth. 8:21.)

Now undoubtedly Moroni could have pointed out many factow undoubtedly Moroni could have pointed out many factors that led to the destruction of the people, but notice how he singled out the secret combinations, just as the Church today could point out many threats to peace, prosperity, and the spread of God's work, but it has singled out the greatest threat as the godless conspiracy. There is no conspiracy theory in the Book of Mormon --it is a conspiracy fact.

Then Moroni speaks to us in this day and says,

The Book of Mormon further warns that

This scripture should alert us to what is ahead unless we repent, because there is no question but that as people of the free world, we are increasingly upholding many of the evils of the adversary today. By court edict godless conspirators can run for government office, teach in our schools, hold office in labor unions, work in our defense plants, serve in our merchant marines, etc. As a nation, we are helping to underwrite many evil revolutionarieAs a nation, we are helping to underwrite many evil revolutionaries in our country.

Now we are assured that the Church will remain on the earth until the Lord comes again--but at what price? The Saints in the early days were assured that Zion would be established in Jackson County, but look at what their unfaithfulness cost them in bloodshed and delay.

President Clark warned us that

And he stated that if the conspiracy

Now the third great civic standard for the Saints is the inspired word of the prophets--particularly the living president, God's mouthpiece on the earth today. Keep your eye on the captain and judge the words of all lesser authority by his inspired counsel.

The story is told how Brigham Young, driving through a community, saw a man building a house and simply told him to double the thickness of hiw a man building a house and simply told him to double the thickness of his walls. Accepting President Young as a prophet, the man changed his plans and doubled the walls. Shortly afterward a flood came through that town, resulting in much destruction, but this man's walls stood. While putting the roof on his house, he was heard singing, "We thank thee, O God, for a prophet!"

Joseph Smith taught "that a prophet was a prophet only when he was acting as such." (DHC, vol. 5, p. 265.)

Suppose a leader of the Church were to tell you that you were supporting the wrong side of a particular issue. Some might immediately resist this leader and his counsel or ignore it, but I would suggest that you first apply the fourth great civic standard for the faithful Saints. That standard is to live for, to get, and then to follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

Said Brigham Young:

A number of years ago, because of a statement that appeared to represent the policy of the Church, a faithful member feared he was supporting the wrong candidate for public office. Humbly he took the matter up with the Lord. Through the Spirit of the Lord he gained the conviction of the course he should follow, and he dropped his support of this particular candidate.

This good brother, by fervent prayer, got the answer that in time proved to be the right course.

We urge all men to read the Book of Mormon and then ask God if it is true. And the promise is sure that they may know of its truthfulness through the Holy Ghost, "and by the power of the Holy Ghost [men] may know the truth of all things. (Moro. 10:5.)

We need the constant guidance of that Spirit. We live in an age of deceit. "O my people," said Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, "they who lead thee cause thee to err and destroy the way of thy paths." (2 Ne. 13:12.) Even within the Church we have been warned that

The Lord holds us accountable if we are not wise and are deceived.

And so four great civic standards for the faithful Saints are, first, the Constitution ordained by God through wise men; second, the scriptures, particularly the Book of Mormon; third, the inspired counsel of the prophets, especially the living president, and fourth, the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

God bless us all that we may use these standards and by so doing bless ourselves, our families, our community, our nation, and the world, I humbly pray, as I bear my witness to the truth of this great latter-day work in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

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