Brethren and sisters:
It is trite to say we are living in perilous times (2 Tim. 3:1). There are numberless troubles, disputes, dissensions, dangers, complexities, everywhere. People in every land want and earnestly pray for peace, and yet the outlook for peace is seemingly becoming darker and more gloomy. Talk of war is getting louder; and war preparations are being accelerated, particularly in means so destructive that if generally and widely used, nearly total extinction of human life would result. The recent world war was so expensive and destructive that everywhere the feeling was prevalent at its close that nations never again would engage in such a foolish and disastrous conflict. But what do we now see? Notwithstanding, no treaties of peace with major nations have yet been made, rearmament programs are going forward as rapidly as is feasible.
Why do the conditions here indicated exist? There are many reasons, some of which have been stated many times from this pulpit. These may all be summed up in a single sentence—failure to live as the Lord has indicated we, his children, should live. Some fundamentals of this way are given to us by the Prophet Joseph Smith in articles 11, 12, 13, of our faith, which are as follows:
11. We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may (A of F 1:11).
12. We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring and sustaining the law (A of F 1:12).
13. We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men… (A of F 1:13).
Article 11 is an ideal statement of religious tolerance, a condition sadly lacking in the world today, as indicated in so many places, examples of which are the bloody conflict that has recently cost the lives of thousands in the deadly fight between Moslems and Hindus in Pakistan, and the expulsion from Czechoslovakia of missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Religious tolerance is perhaps the most difficult of all types of tolerance for devout people to grant, giving which they could also be tolerant in other matters related to moral standards.
The Golden Rule
Speaking of how the Lord would have us live in all our relations with human beings, there is another sentence that beautifully expresses the way. It is: “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you” (Matt. 7:12). This is known as the Golden Rule. The second great commandment requires us to love our neighbor as ourselves. To do this, must one not comply with the requirements of the Golden Rule?—not always an easy thing to do, but a divine requirement, nonetheless. If all individuals, peoples, and nations would do this, peace would come at once to every part of the currently disturbed world. The measure of peace that we have or shall have will be proportionate to the degree of fullness to which the aggressor observes the Golden Rule.
But as to aggressors, they are found everywhere—locally, nationally, and internationally; and wherever found they all have in common at least one fault—excessive and inordinate selfishness. They want, and usually insist on having, more of something that does not rightfully belong to them and, if necessary, will fight to get it. As a rule, however, they prefer to satisfy their unrighteous desires and wicked cravings by other means than physically fighting for them. Blood shedding is not as general, therefore, as it might otherwise be; for example, does Russia want war? Why should she? Has not communism made rapid progress in the control of peoples and nations since fighting ceased in World War II?
But the fear of a war, of appalling bloodshed, is so great in this country that our government is spending many billions of dollars annually to ward it off, seemingly believing that an up-to-date readiness to fight is the surest preventive of war. The people of the United States most certainly do not want another war of nations, and the majority of them are willing to do everything feasible to prevent it. How far it is necessary to go to attain this objective is a debatable question.
But it is not of war between nations and the danger of it that I desire to speak further, for I feel that an immediate greater danger of destruction of the best interests of the people in the United States lies within our borders rather than beyond them. And these dangers are rooted in the unreasonable and damnable selfishness that is manifest on every level of our society by individuals, groups, and organizations.
For many years this country has had anti-monopoly laws to govern business corporations. The federal government and the states have set up controls and boards and commissions to administer these laws, the purpose being to protect the public against unfair commercial practices and unreasonable charges for the goods and services of corporations. The intent of these laws has met with overwhelming public approval. But during recent years another form of monopoly has been developing that, if not controlled, imposes a type of slavery on the country unknown and undreamed of by the founders of our glorious republic, which, from its beginning, has served as a cherished ensign to all the world of personal liberty and free enterprise.
But these two essentials of a free people are being more and more restricted in this country. They have been practically destroyed in Russia and some other communistic controlled countries where it is claimed a people’s democracy rules—a highly absurd claim in the light of the facts.
What do I mean by the words “free enterprise”? I mean individual freedom of action and of opportunity. Everyone born in mortality, according to our teachings, comes from God, our Father, with the priceless gift of “free agency” and will be held accountable for its use. Naturally, in the exercise of this gift one may not, without sinning against God and man, do anything knowingly to hurt, or injure a fellow human being. Further, our Church teaches that the Constitution of the United States as given to us by the founding fathers of our republic is a divinely inspired document, designed to protect the citizens in the enjoyment of their inalienable rights among which are ”life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’ Hence, are not restrictions to our freedom of action, insofar as we do not harmfully interfere with others, violative of the spirit of the Constitution and our Bill of Rights?
America has become great in many lines of human endeavor, in fact the greatest nation on earth, due unquestionably to its free enterprise or capitalistic system. This system is our pride and the envy of some other peoples. Because of our great corporations, industrial and financial, America astonished the world, particularly Adolf Hitler, by the speed of her preparations and participation in the recent world war.
But there are developing tendencies, sponsored by selfishness, greed, and ambition that, if unchecked, will soon or late bring sorrow and ruin to our country. Among these tendencies is that of “something for nothing,” at least “more and more for less and less”—more pay for less work. And as I see it, in whatever words these tendencies are expressed, they all lead to some type of national socialism. And generally, socialism is an enemy of free enterprise in the development of which, I repeat, this country has become the greatest on earth. Then why does any honest, patriotic, intelligent citizen of America prefer socialism to free enterprise? Is it not in free enterprise that free agency, a divine gift to every human being, finds an environment favorable to growth and development and to living in harmony with our beautiful doctrine of eternal progression?
Now to give point to what I have said, let me give a few illustrations.
Recent experiences have convinced us that some labor unions have a monopolistic power that, if fully exercised, would spell ruin to industrial America. The exercise of this power employs a method that is a twin brother to that used by the bank robber. The corporation hands over just as the cashier does. In the case of the corporation, you and I—that is, the public—pays the bill. The recent settlements between coal-and-labor and steel-and-labor are good illustrations of this fact. Immediately following the announcements of the settlement of the disputes, up went the price of steel and of coal. Yes, when costs go up, the public pays and almost always does so if the corporation is to remain solvent.
After fighting ceased in the last war, a labor union operating in the automobile field demanded an increase of wages of thirty cents an hour but insisted there should be no increase of prices—an absurdity. In any productive enterprise, labor is a large factor in the cost of operation. In our competitive free-enterprise system how can labor costs materially go up unless prices go up, if the corporation is to remain solvent? What answer does recent history give? Beginning in the autumn of 1945, wage increases occurred in nearly all productive industries. A rise in prices followed. Because of this, labor demanded and got a second wage increase. Prices again rose, followed by a demand for and receipt of a third wage increase. More recently, steel and coal workers have received a fourth raise in wages and other money benefits resulting, as I said a moment ago, in another rise in prices.
But why cannot a prosperous corporation raise wages without raising prices, is a question that many ask. I have already given an answer, but I now explain a bit by quoting from an annual report I received about two weeks ago from a large corporation:
Costs of operation in 1949 remained high, and additional expenses were incurred in changing models and in preparing for the introduction of new products. At the same time, to strengthen the business and to prepare for the future, the company intensified its marketing efforts to meet more competitive conditions and expanded its research and engineering programs to provide a continuing flow of new and improved products on a long-range basis. The expenses resulting from these activities had a marked effect on the company’s profits for 1949, which were 9 percent of revenue.
Use of Profits
Every other large productive corporation could make similar statements. Compare 1950 models of automobiles with those of 1920. Have not huge amounts of money and time been spent to perfect and manufacture the modern automobile? Where did this money come from? Of course from profits, stockholders, and borrowings. How absurd for well-paid workers to say that the profits belong to them! But in the long run, who gets most of the profits? I answer, the workers and the public, not the stockholders: the workers, in jobs; the public, in better goods and services. But it is the savings of these thrifty stockholders who risk their money and are satisfied with relatively small returns on their investment that make it possible for corporations to come into existence and create jobs for the workers and goods for the public. How foolish and senseless to contend that the stockholders should get no returns on their ventured money, and that depreciation reserves should not be set up! Fourteen years ago when we were in London, we came to know that labor leaders in Britain were agreed that working invested capital was entitled to five percent annual dividends and that funds for depreciation should be provided. But in these respects I fear that Britain has since been influenced by what she sees in America—selfish demands of unions, irrespective of what is fair and just.
Now, in view of the eminent leadership position American industry has attained in the world, how is it that in recent years moves have been made that ultimately will practically destroy our free-enterprise system and end in socialism or statism or a welfare state (take your choice of terms)?—moves that are substituting highly inflationary financial policies for the time-honored soundness of the past and moves tending to create the feeling that the government offers the best social security available in this country, etc.
In giving answer I am speaking on my own responsibility, expressing my personal views and speaking plainly, using homely, everyday language. As I see it, the leaders of these moves are in general office-hungry politicians, longing for the emoluments, influence, and power of public office. These candidates for office have courted, and are courting, the support of selfish, ambitious, and powerful leaders of labor unions, as well as the ne’er-do-well elements in our population. Through the abundant and widespread use of misleading propaganda in which they have indulged and do indulge, the minds of the public in great measure have become confused and multitudes won over. Compare, if you please, half-century-old platforms of political parties with those that go out today under the same party names.
Time allotted to me will not permit of further elaboration, but I appeal to all honest, patriotic people and lovers of freedom to whom my words may come, to make careful study of the matters of which I have spoken with the view of determining what is the wise and safe thing for them to do in order to serve unselfishly the best interests of the people of this country and of other countries who accept our moral standards. In every case let us beware of the bearers of “Trojan gifts.”
As I see the situation, we are faced in this country with two alternatives, repentance or slavery—turn away from indulging in the unreasonable, excessive, and wicked selfishness manifest in many of the things we do or lose the freedoms that have been our pride and glory, the freedoms that every parent should desire from the depths of his soul to pass on to his descendants. Yes, it is repentance or industrial slavery. Which will you choose?
My remarks are directed particularly to Latter-day Saints, for they believe, as I do, that our religion is so broad and practical that it covers every phase of our life’s activities, material as well as spiritual. “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:26). Our faith in a real, personal, Living God is unquestioned among us. Let us humbly, diligently, and persistently, through earnest prayer and righteous living try to keep ourselves in tune with the mind and will of God as it has been revealed to us, I humbly pray in the name of Jesus Christ our Redeemer. Amen.
Elder Joseph F. Merrill
Of the Council of the Twelve Apostles
Joseph F. Merrill, Conference Report, April 1950, pp. 57-62