Saturday, November 24, 2007

President Benson and the Book of Mormon message

As I remember President Benson and his prophetic ministry, my recollection is that he challenged the saints to remember this admonition from the Lord:

"And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received-

"Which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation.

"And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all.

"And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written-

"That they may bring forth fruit meet for their Father's kingdom; otherwise there remaineth a scourge and judgment to be poured out upon the children of Zion." (Doctrine and Covenants 84:54-58).

President Benson taught that the church was still under condemnation for failing to publish and promote the Book of Mormon. His message invigorated the church to greater efforts, to study and teach the scriptures, and to focus on the Book of Mormon in particular.

President Benson's prophetic message was never exclusively on warning or calling the saints to somehow take action against secret conspiracies. The fact that he mentioned this concern in general conference certainly puts it in a catorgory of matters of abiding interest. But I cannot recall that he ever stipulated that messages about Gadiantons or secret combinations held the same weight of obligation or concern as other gospel messages. To me these messages were always of interest, but more by way of important information. I never felt motivated to get out and start rooting out the Gadiantons.

What I heard was in the context of general direction to be active in local political interests, and to make sure the church was well represented at that level. Instead of questing for Gadiantons to unseat, I read the Book of Mormon. I believe my wife even read it once, for perhaps the first and only time in her life.

This perception of areas of primary focus is bolstered by the general lack of reiterating any prophetic warnings to read Gary Allen's None Dare Call it Conspiracy, either by President Benson or any of the other prophetic leaders of our time. The fact that it was mentioned once hardly brings it into the range of primary interest.

I think you're pretty well on your own, if you insist on asserting that the church is under any condemnation for not feeling vitally concerned about Gary Allen's message. Whether we accept the counsel and teachings of President Benson or any other latter-day prophets is another thing altogether. I think you're well justified in remembering and being aware of this matter, but you have gone too far when you project your private concerns into the scope of obligations borne by the entire church.

Was there a CFR conspiracy to supress President Benson's statement?

Nah, I doubt it.

My guess would be that his comment about the "Dare" book was off-the-cuff, not in his text notes prepared beforehand. All the talks are supposed to be written down like that, because of programming time constraints for media broadcasts and etc. It seems not everyone is strict about following the prepared text. I'm sure they sometimes jot something in the margin while they're waiting to speak. I always do that with my talks.

I'm pretty certain that the Ensign version of the talk is transcribed from the prepared text. President Benson's talk is not the only one I've seen where the address delivered in conference differed from the later-published Ensign version.

BTW, does anyone recall when Lavina Anderson was on the Ensign staff?

Today the facility with which conference procedings are published is quite speedy. In 1972 it took months to get a text version of conference addresses into our hands. Now we get online versions in just a few days. Dramatic changes have taken place during the last thirty years, not the least of which is an obvious sense of far greater urgency to deliver the message to the ends of the earth. It has become a vital part of the communications from church leaders to deliver
timely counsel to the church.

When I was young, growing up in the Los Angeles area, my dad was in the bishopric for many years. Making the trip to LDS General Conference in Salt Lake City was a common observance. Going to the Tabernacle and sitting at the feet of the church leaders was one of the best ways to hear inspired counsel. Now we tune in on satellite broadcasts without even leaving the neighborhood.

One of the early exercises we undertook on John Redelfs' Zion list was directed toward sharing the conference messages. One of our members took it upon himself to copy his detailed conference notes to the list. Later we took it upon ourselves to transcribe conference talks from _Ensign_. Each of us picked a talk from the conference to type in and share online. Just a short time after we implemented this practice, the church started making the conference texts available online.

It was actually a pretty surprising coincidence. An idea whose time had come. Computers and word processing programs, together with world-wide telecommunications facilities, have truly changed the way we listen to a prophet's voice.

Here is an excerpt from a talk by President Benson in which he specifically addresses the concerns we have been discussing. A great talk -- I think it is perhaps one of the best treatments of these issues, and lays it out in good perspective. His counsel is directed to priesthood holders, but seems generally applicable.

I note that he explicitly asserts that for each of us, "putting our own house in order" is the highest priority. And he outlines a number of things that have been common and consistent in prophetic counsel for many years before, during, and since President Benson's administration.

No true Latter-day Saint and no true American can be a socialist or a communist or support programs leading in that direction. These evil philosophies are incompatible with Mormonism, the true gospel of Jesus Christ.

What can priesthood holders do? There are many things we can do to meet the challenge of the adversary in our day.

First, we should become informed about communism, about socialism, and about Americanism. What better way can one become informed than by just studying the inspired words of the prophets and using that as a foundation against which to test all other material? This is in keeping with the Prophet Joseph Smith's motto, "When the Lord commands, do it." (DHC, vol. 2, p. 170.)

The Foundation for Economic Education at Irvington-on-Hudson, New York, on which President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., served as a board member, continues to supply sound freedom literature. We should know enough about American free enterprise to be able to defend it. We should know what makes it possible for six percent of humanity-living under our free economy-to produce about one-half of the earth's developed wealth each year.

We should know why paternalism, collectivism, or unnecessary federal supervision will hold down our standard of living and reduce productivity just as it has in every country where it has been tried. We should also know why the communist leaders consider socialism the highroad to communism.

Second, we should accept the command of the Lord and treat socialistic communism as the tool of Satan. We should follow the counsel of the President of the Church and resist the influence and policies of the socialist-communist conspiracy wherever they are found-in the schools, in the churches, in governments, in unions, in businesses, in agriculture.

Third, we should help those who have been deceived or who are misinformed to find the truth. unless each person who knows the truth will "stand up and speak up," it is difficult for the deceived or confused citizen to find his way back.

Fourth, we should not make the mistake of calling people "communist" just because they happen to be helping the communist cause. Thousands of patriotic Americans, including a few Latter-day Saints, have helped the communists without realizing it. Others have knowingly helped without joining the party. The remedy is to avoid name-calling, but point out clearly and persuasively how they are helping the communists.

Fifth, each priesthood holder should use his influence in the community to resist the erosion process which is taking place in our political and economic life. He should use the political party of his choice to express his evaluation of important issues. He should see that his party is working to preserve freedom, not destroy it. He should join responsible local groups interested in promoting freedom and free competitive enterprise, in studying political issues, appraising the voting records and proposed programs, and writing to members of Congress, promoting good men in public office, and scrutinizing local, state, and federal agencies to see that the will of the people is being carried out. He should not wait for the Lord's servants to give instruction for every detail once they have announced the direction in which the priesthood should go. Each member should exercise prayerful judgment and then act.

Sixth, and most important of all, each member of the priesthood should set his own house in order. This should include:

1. Regular family prayer, remembering especially our government leaders.

2. Getting out of debt.

3. Seeing that each member of the family understands the importance of keeping the commandments.

4. Seeing that the truth is shared with members of the family, with neighbors, and with associates.

5. Seeing that each member is performing his duties in the priesthood, in the auxiliary organizations, in the temple, and in the civic life of the community.

6. Seeing that every wage earner in the home is a full tithe-payer and fulfilling other obligations in financial support of the kingdom.

7. Providing a one-year supply of essentials.

In doing these things a member of the Church is not only making himself an opponent of the adversary, but a pro-ponent of the Lord.

In the prophecies there is no promise except to the obedient. To a modern prophet the Lord said:

Therefore, what I say unto one, I say unto all: Watch, for the adversary spreadeth his dominions, and darkness reigneth;

And the anger of God kindleth against the inhabitants of the earth;

. . . I give unto you directions how you may act before me, that it may turn to you for your salvation.

I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise. (D&C 82:5-6, 9-10.)

May God give us the wisdom to recognize the threat to our freedom and the strength to meet this danger courageously. Yes, perilous times are ahead, but if we do our duty in all things, God will give us inner peace and overrule all things for our good. God grant it may be so.

(Ezra Taft Benson, Conference Report, 1961)

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