I come to you, my brethren and sisters, as we approach the close of this glorious conference, in a spirit of fasting and prayer in the hope that the Lord will see fit to sustain me during the few moments I stand before you. As I have been contemplating with anxiety this sobering experience, I have had reason to thank the Lord many times for his blessings.
Support of Family
While I was sitting alone in a room at my home following the morning session today, one of my boys came into the room and said, “Dad, I’ve observed you’ve been fasting and praying a good deal during this conference. I just wanted to come in to tell you that I have been doing the same. The Lord bless you.”
As I left the room, I was met by my good wife, ever loyal and devoted, who said, “The younger children have suggested that it might be well if we kneel in family prayer.” Then she added, “We had prayer this morning, but they’d like to join with you in prayer now.” I am grateful, my brothers and sisters, for the support of our families.
Gratitude for Brethren
I am grateful for the spirit of this great latter-day work. I am grateful for my brethren among whom I labor—for their support, their confidence, and their faith. My heart has responded to every message given at this conference and every testimony that has been borne.
My soul echoed the sentiments expressed in behalf of our great leader, President George F. Richards. I loved him almost as a son loves a father. I recall vividly standing in his presence—alone with him in his office—just before I left for the shores of war-torn Europe. I recall his last words of counsel. I shall never forget them and the sweet embrace which he gave me as I was about to leave on that emergency mission under the direction of the First Presidency.
I was happy to hear the words spoken regarding my good friend and brother, Frank Evans, whom I have loved many years and who was not only loved in the Church but also was loved by the people throughout rural America.
I am happy, my brethren and sisters, in the appointment of Brother Stapley to our Council, and I’d like to say to him, and I’m sure I echo the feeling of all of my associates, that he will see and feel and witness a love that is not excelled among men anywhere in the world as he sits in the Council of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve. I am grateful for these rich blessings.
I am thrilled, my brethren and sisters, with the sweet summary of the conference given by Brother Lee this morning and particularly with his testimony. I thank God that he has implanted in the hearts of men—strong men, good men—a burning testimony of the divinity of this great latter-day work.
Spirit of Brotherhood
There is a real spirit of brotherhood and fellowship in the Church. It’s a very powerful thing, somewhat intangible, but very real. I feel it, as do my associates, as we travel throughout the stakes and wards of Zion and throughout the missions of the earth. It matters not where we go. We may meet in a group with the priesthood, in one of the stakes, or out in one of the missions, but there is always that feeling of fellowship and brotherhood. It is one of the sweet things in connection with membership in the Church and kingdom of God. I have felt it way up in Alaska as I met with our brethren and sisters there. I felt it far up in East Prussia, throughout the missions of Europe, down in Mexico, in some of the islands of the sea and throughout this land of Zion. It is very real. Oh, I know, my brethren and sisters, it isn’t what it should be; it isn’t what it could be; it isn’t what the Lord would have it be, but nevertheless, there is nothing like it in all the world. It is one of the marks of the divinity of this great latter-day work, and I rejoice in it. The most important thing of all, to me, is the spirit of this great work in which we are engaged. It is that spirit which brings to our souls a conviction of the divinity of this work. One cannot fully explain it, and yet it is very powerful and very real.
Spiritual Uplift Experienced
One of my non Mormon friends who passed away only a few days ago, who was rather prominently known, who wrote for national magazines, and was chairman of the board of trustees of one of our great universities, some months ago came to this city to address a meeting of dairymen, most of whom were members of the Church After the meeting was over, he came up to my home for the purpose of a visit and a renewal of friendship. As I drove him back to the hotel that night, he turned to me, after being quiet for several moments, and said, “I don’t know what it is, but each time I come among your people I experience something that I never experience anywhere else in the world. It’s an intangible thing, but it’s very real.” He added, “I’ve tried to analyze it, I’ve tried to describe it; but the best thing I can do is to say that every time I come among your people, I get a spiritual uplift. What is it that gives me that feeling which I get nowhere else?”
Brethren and sisters, what is it? You feel it. We feel it in these great conferences of the Church. We feel it out in the stakes of Zion. We feel it in little branch meetings or in meetings with missionaries in the far parts of the earth. It’s a sweet thing. It’s a priceless thing. It is a mark of the divinity of this great work in which we are engaged.
I recall while living in the East some years ago, I invited one of my good friends, not a member of the Church, to attend our sacrament meeting. He promised that he would sometime. Weeks went by; I met him on the street one day following a Rotary luncheon, and he said, “I was up to your meeting last Sunday night, but you weren’t there.” I explained that I was visiting another ward, and then he said in answer to my inquiry as to whether he enjoyed the meeting, “Yes, I enjoyed it, especially the spirit of it, but,” he said, “I wish you would tell me one thing. Why is it that when your people come to the end of a meeting and the benediction is said that they don’t seem to have any place to go?” He said, “That group stood up, recognizing the meeting was over, but they just stood there and visited and visited until I thought I was never going to get out of that building. Finally, when I got into the foyer, it was more congested than ever.” Well, that is a further evidence of this spirit—this spirit of love, this spirit of brotherhood that is so real, my brethren and sisters, in the Church.
Impelling Force of Gospel
We witness it in our missionary activities. I recall vividly, and it was called to my mind by the remarks of Brother Sonne this afternoon, standing on the shores of war-torn Europe following the war and watching the mission presidents—several of whom are here before me this afternoon—come back to the shores of Europe. I wondered in my heart, What is it that causes them to leave the comforts of their homes and come over to these war-torn lands where there is a shortage of everything necessary for civilized living? What is it that causes a man to sell his grocery business and come way up into Norway on his third mission? What is it that causes a man to sell his business down in California and go up to Sweden? What is it that caused a man to turn over his furniture business in Salt Lake City and come over to the shores of war-torn Holland, where there was shortage of food, shortage of clothing, shortage of fuel and transportation, and where there were practically no comforts? What is it that causes a man to leave his chair in a university surrounded by all the comforts earned by a long life of service and go back into war-torn France? And so on. I tell you, my brethren and sisters, it is marvelous. There isn’t anything like it anywhere.
What is it that causes our young missionaries to want to go out and serve without any hope of material reward? I interviewed one of them down in a California stake recently. We couldn’t accept him because he wasn’t old enough. He broke down and cried. He said “Brother Benson, ever since I was a deacon I’ve wanted to go on a mission.” He stated, “The last few months my fiancee and I have been planning my mission and what would follow, and what support she would give while I was out in the field.” And he told how his parents had prayed that the time might come that he would be considered worthy to go out and represent the Church in the world. Nearly six thousand of them are out in the world as we meet here today. What is the impelling force back of it?
How did the Prophet Joseph know as a young man that men and women would respond to the call to fill missions, to go out into the world representing an unpopular cause, to carry this glorious message? How did he know that the Saints, when and if they accepted the gospel, would respond to the call of gathering and come to Zion. Yes, the spirit of this work, my brethren and sisters, is a marvelous and a priceless thing.
Now during this critical period, and it is a critical period that we are passing through, I hope that we will keep ever burning in our hearts the spirit of this great work which we represent. If we do so, well have no anxiety; we’ll have no fear; we’ll not worry about the future because the Lord has given us the assurance that if we live righteously, if we keep his commandments, if we humble ourselves before him, all will be well. I turn to two passages of scripture today which I’d like to read:
. . . Be strong and of good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest (Josh. 1:9).
This was the Lord’s admonition to his son, Joshua, encouraging him to trust in God. Joshua answered that admonition in counsel to his people in these words:
. . . choose you this day whom ye will serve . . . but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord (Josh. 24:15).
Essentials for Security
Embodied in these two passages of scripture are the two principal essentials for security and peace: first, trust in God; and second a determination to keep the commandments, to serve the Lord, to do that which is right. Latter-day Saints who live according to these two admonitions—trust in God and keep the commandments—have nothing to fear.
The Lord has made it very clear in the revelations that even though times become perilous, even though we be surrounded by temptation and sin, even though there be a feeling of insecurity even though men’s hearts may fail them and anxiety fill their souls if we only trust in God and keep his commandments we need have no fear.
In modern revelation the Lord has pointed this out very clearly. Even before the Church was organized, when there were only a handful of people following the leadership of the boy Prophet, the Lord said to his Saints,
Therefore, fear not, little flock; do good; let earth and hell combine against you, for if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail…
Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not (D&C 6:34,36).
He has also said,
. . . it is my purpose to provide for my saints, for all things are mine (D&C 104:15).
Real Dedication Required
My brethren and sisters, it is not going to be enough just passively to accept the teachings, standards, and ideals of the Church. It will require real activity, real dedication to the principles of righteousness if we are to face the future unafraid. But if we have the courage, sound judgment, and the faith so to do, then no matter what happens we will be able to face any situation with courage and with faith and with the assurance that God will sustain us. I know this to be true, my brethren and sisters. I know that now is the time probably more than any other time in our lives to live the gospel. We should not be lulled away into a false security as Nephi said many would be in the last days. We should not be pacified and feel in our hearts that we can sin a little, that we can attend to our meetings part of the time, that we can pay a token tithing, that we can live the gospel when it is convenient, and all will be well. We must not be “at ease in Zion” (2 Ne. 28:24-25) and say, “Zion prospereth, all is well” (2 Ne. 28:21). But we must live the gospel plan every day of our lives in its fulness. Therein is safety. Therein will come a satisfaction which comes from righteous living which will enter our hearts, give us the courage and the strength that we need. There is no security in unrighteousness. The sinful always live in despair.
Need for Righteousness
We have a great mission. We must be prepared, both young and old. We must stand as a leaven among the nations, true to the principles of righteousness.
We need to be humble. We need to be grateful. We need as families to kneel in family prayer, night and morning. Just a few words added to the blessing on the food, which is becoming the custom in some parts, is not enough. We need to get onto our knees in prayer and gratitude, as Alma admonished (see (Alma 34:18-27). We need the spirit of reverence in our houses of worship referred to by President McKay in his beautiful address last night at Priesthood meeting. We need to keep the Sabbath day holy. We need to close our businesses on Sunday, and as Latter-day Saints, refrain from making purchases on the Sabbath except in cases of emergency. We need to refrain from going to moving pictures on the Sabbath, and if we are operating show houses, we should close them on Sunday. We should not seek pleasure in any form on the Sabbath day. We should stand firm in opposition to Sunday baseball and other amusements regardless of what much of the Christian world may do. We should oppose gambling in all of its forms including the parimutuel betting at horse races referred to so effectively by Brother Moyle. We should refrain from the habit of card playing against which we have been counseled by the leaders of the Church. We should stand united in opposition to the wider distribution and use of alcohol and other things declared by the Lord to be harmful.
Commandments to Observe
If we keep the commandments, we will refrain from joining secret orders and lodges. Our first allegiance will be to the Church and the priesthood quorums. We will attend our meetings. We will take our families with us to the sacrament meeting and sit with them and worship with them. If we keep the commandments, we will pay our tithes and offerings, our fast offerings, and our welfare contributions. We will respond to the calls in the Church, and we will not resign from office when called under the authority of the Holy Priesthood. We will follow the counsel of the leadership of the Church and call our families together periodically in home evenings in order that the home might be safeguarded and the solidarity of the family increased. We will read the scriptures in our homes as the Lord has admonished us. We will not violate the sacred covenants we have taken upon ourselves in the waters of baptism and in the temples of the Lord, nor will we desecrate or cast to one side the garments of the Holy Priesthood. We will attend to our temple work. We will become saviors on Mount Zion in very deed.
If we keep the commandments we’ll be good citizens. We’ll exercise our right to vote. We’ll follow the counsel which the Lord has given in the revelations regarding our obligation to seek out “honest men and wise men” (D&C 98:8-10) who will stand for principle, men who will put principle ahead of political expediency. We will seek men of faith who believe the Constitution was inspired and that this nation has a spiritual foundation. If we are living the gospel, we will feel in our hearts that the First Presidency of the Church not only have the right, but are also duty bound under heaven to give counsel on any subject which affects the temporal or spiritual welfare of the Latter-day Saints, regardless of whether or not some men may think such counsel may have political implications.
We must stand firm for that which we know to be right, my brothers and sisters, and uphold these men who have been sustained as our leaders in modern Israel. All this we will do, and more, if we live the gospel. We will keep ourselves clean and unspotted from the world. We will live lives of purity. We will be true to our wives and families. We will live according to the gospel plan.
May God bless us, my brothers and sisters, that we may trust in God and keep his commandments. That is all the Lord expects of us. Joy and happiness will enter our hearts as we do so. It is the wicked who flee when no man pursueth. The righteous are bold as a lion. People who live righteously have nothing to fear. In spite of the turmoil, anxiety, and insecurity which may seem to be everywhere we will be able to stand erect and go forward with courage and faith. We must not compromise with evil. “They enslave their children’s children who make compromise with sin.”
God bless Us to live the gospel, to be grateful for all that we have and are, and for all that we enjoy, in this the kingdom of God, I humbly pray, and I bear fervent testimony to you to the truth of the words that have been spoken at this conference, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Face the Future Unafraid
Elder Ezra Taft Benson
Of the Council of the Twelve Apostles
Ezra Taft Benson, Conference Report, October 1950, pp. 142-149