A Witness and a Warning

President Ezra Taft Benson, Of the Council of the Twelve. A Witness and a Warning. Ensign, Nov. 1979, 31

The Lord has declared this “a day of warning, and not a day of many words” (D&C 63:58). My message is a witness and warning about some of the evils which threaten America—a land I love with all my heart. There are other countries with this same problem. You who have seen these dangers in the land you love will have a deep feeling for what I will say.

America is a place of many great events. Here is where Adam dwelt, where the Garden of Eden was located. America was the place of former civilizations, including Adam’s, the Jaredites’, and Nephites’. America is also the place where God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, appeared to Joseph Smith, inaugurating the last gospel dispensation on earth before the Savior’s second coming.

This consecrated land has been placed under the everlasting decree of God. That decree is recorded in the sacred Book of Mormon, a new witness for Christ, in these words:

For behold, this is a land which is choice above all other lands; wherefore he that doth possess it shall serve God or shall be swept off; for it is the everlasting decree of God. …

Behold, this is a choice land, and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall be free from bondage, and from captivity, and from all other nations under heaven, if they will but serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ (Ether 2:10, 12).

The eventful destiny of America has also been revealed to God’s prophets. To Joseph Smith the Lord revealed that “the whole of America is Zion itself from north to south (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1938, p. 362). Further, the Lord decreed this land to be “the place of the New Jerusalem, which should come down out of heaven, … the holy sanctuary of the Lord” (Ether 13:3). To serve God’s eternal purposes and to prepare this land for Zion, God “established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom [He] raised up … and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood” (D&C 101:80).

The Constitution of the United States was ratified in 1789. The priesthood of God was restored in 1829. Between those two dates is an interval of forty years. It is my conviction that God, who knows the end from the beginning, provided that period of time so the new nation could grow in strength to protect the land of Zion.

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Free Agency vs. Moral Agency

I often find myself in conversations with people who advocate against legislating morality in an attempt to "preserve the agency" of others. They say, "I would never ________, but it’s not my place to make it illegal for others to do it. We should preserve their agency and let them choose on their own whether to indulge in those acts." I understand the logic of the argument, but through my studies I have come to strongly favor legislating morality. Here are some great quotes that have helped me to come to this position:

LDS General Authorities

President Boyd K. Packer

"Covenants"

"Life is meant to be a test to see if we will keep the commandments of God. (See 2 Ne. 2:5.) We are free to obey or to ignore the spirit and the letter of the law. But the agency granted to man is a moral agency. (See D&C 101:78.) We are not free to break our covenants and escape the consequences.”

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Liberty in Law

I’ve been considering the differences between liberty and freedom recently. By talking with my good friend Carter about this, I was able, with plenty of help from him, to piece together my thoughts and hone my ideas into the visual depiction you see before you. I’ve come to believe that liberty is a really special, even sacred, experience within the spectrums of both government and freedom (Note that the government spectrum is not the freedom spectrum. Government influences freedom, obviously. But so do cartels and other forms of anarchist organizations.). I’ve come to understand through my study that freedom needs to be restrained, and when it is perfectly bridled, the people all experience liberty. But when powerful people have more freedom, the rights of others are trampled.

I was recently struck by the profound ideas contained in the incredible hymn, “America The Beautiful”. This is the chorus of verse 2:

America! America!
God mend thine ev’ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law.

(emphasis added, America the Beautiful)

Liberty is freedom restrained by moral self-government. It is the golden state of a nation that lives under People’s Law, where all people are guaranteed the full exercise of their unalienable rights and is based on discipline and personal restraint. Former LDS apostle Marion G. Romney said, “Obedience to the law of Christ is liberty” ("The Perfect Law of Liberty", Marion G. Romney, October 1981). This form of government is so good and just that the Lord has said: (more…)

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Rights, Agency, and Free Will

Unalienable Rights vs Vested Rights

The concept of a "right" is widely misunderstood. Humans have two kinds of rights. Unalienable rights come from God and are eternal.  Vested rights are civil agreements that have no eternal significance (however, our obedience to civil laws do have eternal significance–a topic for another article).  Unalienable rights establish the freedom to own weapons, such as guns, for use in defense or sustaining of life, but vested rights allow us to use the guns recreationally in designated ranges or to hunt on land we don’t own.  Vested rights are applications of unalienable rights, meaning that the government and society can only claim rights we received from God and then essentially gave to the government.  The government can’t exercise any power or use any rights the people don’t have individually.  Let me restate that: The government cannot do anything the people cannot do individually.  Something doesn’t become just simply because a group of people created a government to do it for them.

Now, when we talk about unalienable rights, we usually refer to the big three: "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness".  This phrasing in the Declaration of Independence came from Thomas Jefferson.  Thomas Jefferson took only one day to write down the list of the 27 complaints against the King. However, he spent 16 days studying what rights mean in Deuteronomy and Exodus.  He came up with a great list of unalienable rights which found fit well into the three aforementioned categories or themes of rights. (more…)

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