Gordon B. Hinckley, Conference Report, October 1968, pp. 55-58
My dear brethren and sisters, I seek the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
We have just sung a great hymn—"Come, O thou King of kings! We've waited long for thee, With healing in thy wings, To set thy People free." (Hymns, No. 20.) This hymn was written during those troubled years when our forebears were driven and pressed, when they were winnowed as grain thrown before the wind and tried in the crucible of persecution. They longed for the millennial day when the Lord will come to earth to reign as King of kings.
Theirs was not a hollow dream. The God of heaven has ordained that day. The prophets of all dispensations have spoken of it. We know not when it will come, but its dawning is certain.
Improve the world today
We need not wait, however, for that millennia] morning. We can improve today without waiting for tomorrow. We can alter circumstances ourselves, without waiting for others. We can hold back the forces that would debilitate and weaken us. We can strengthen the forces that will improve the world.
Reflecting on this, I have thought of the words of Paul to Agrippa when Paul described his experience on the road to Damascus. He saw a light from heaven and heard a voice speaking unto him, and he fell to the ground. And Jesus said, ". . . rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee . . . to make thee a minister and a witness . . .
"To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God" (Acts 26:16,18).
This is the business of the Church—to open the vision of men to eternal verities, and to prompt them to take a stand for equity and decency, for virtue and sobriety and goodness.
The greatness of America
More than a century ago Alex de Tocqueville, a French philosopher, visited America and out of the impressions of that tour wrote these interesting words:
"I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers, and it was not there; in her fertile fields and boundless prairies, and it was not there; in her rich mines and her vast world commerce, and it was not there. Not until I went to the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great."
Where has gone the goodness of America? What happened to her pulpits aflame with righteousness? Why are so many of her youth disillusioned and rebellious?
I am not one who believes that all is wrong with this land. There is so much that is right and so much that is good.
Our problems are legion
But neither do I believe that all is well. Our problems are legion, but we are not alone in these. Other lands, most lands, are similarly afflicted.
But this need not be a terminal illness. The course can be changed. We can bring about a regression of the dread disease which seems to trouble us.
Too often we think our society is a vast, impersonal establishment, complex almost beyond comprehension. But although both complex and vast, it is made up of individuals. It was to Saul, the individual, that the Lord spoke on the way to Damascus (Acts 9:3-6). Saul's life was changed that day, and thereafter Saul changed the world.
Problems of the kind we have today are not new. Ezekiel cataloged the evils of ancient Israel—immorality, dishonesty, oppression of the poor, robbery, and many others (Ezek. 22:23-29). And then the Lord said through Ezekiel: ". . . I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it." There then follows this tragic conclusion: "but I found none." (Ezek. 22:30).
Stand against evils
It is better today. There is a man. Yes, there are many men who will build up a wall and stand in the breach against the evils that would erode our society. But there is need for so many more.
The place to begin to reform the world is not Washington or Paris or Tokyo or London. The place to begin is with oneself. A wise man once declared: "Make of yourself an honest man and there will be one fewer rascals in the world."
From self the next step is the family. The Lord through revelation has laid upon parents the mandate to "teach their children to pray, and to walk uprightly before the Lord" (D&C 68:28).
Fathers and mothers are needed who will rise and stand upon their feet to make of their homes sanctuaries in which children will grow in a spirit of obedience, industry, and fidelity to tested standards of conduct. If our society is coming apart at the seams, it is because the tailor and the seamstress in the home are not producing the kind of stitching that will hold under stress. In the name of giving advantages, we have too often bartered away the real opportunities of our children.
Advantages for son
I clipped an interesting ad from one of our magazines the other day. It reads as follows:
"I want my boy to have all the advantages I can give him—
"Such as having to earn his own allowance by running errands, cutting lawns.
"Such as getting good grades in school—getting them because he wants to, and because he knows what it would do to me if he didn't.
"Such as being proud to be clean and neat and decent.
"Such as standing up and standing proud when his country's flag goes by.
"Such as addressing elder friends of his parents as 'sir' and 'ma'am.'
"Such as having to earn his own way in the world and knowing he has to prepare for it by hard work, hard study, and sacrificing some of the pleasures and ease his friends may get from too-indulgent parents.
"These are the advantages I want my son to have, because these are the things which will make him self-respecting and self-reliant and successful. And that is the happiness I want him to have." (Warner & Swasey, U. S. News & World Report, March 18, 1968, p. 1.)
To which I should like to add—I want my son to have yet other advantages.
I want him to read the great stories of the Old Testament in the very language of the Bible and become acquainted with the great men to whom Jehovah spoke.
I want him to read—along with his science and politics and business—the New Testament, the Gospels with their record of the matchless life of the Son of God, and the writings of the courageous men who testified of him and who sealed their undying witness with their lives.
I want him to read the testament of the New World, the Book of Mormon, as another witness of the divinity and living reality of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of mankind.
I want my son to have the advantage of faith in the living God, a faith that will carry him through the inevitable storms and strains of life, a faith that will discipline him against the temptations that will seductively beckon him.
Regret of serviceman
A young man came into my office the other day. He was dressed in uniform. He was on his way home from Vietnam. For a year he had walked through the furnace of battle in a hotly contested area along the Laotian border.
I had seen him just before he had left for Asia. Now he had come back, alive—miraculously, as he regarded it—thankful, but depressed in spirit.
He had just arrived at the airport and had a little time before his bus left for the small country town where he had grown up and where some of his family still live. We talked about the war. I noticed the campaign ribbons on his chest, including a citation for outstanding service.
I told him the town band would be out to meet him, that he could go home with pride. He looked up and said, "No, I'm ashamed."
"Ashamed of what?" I asked.
"Of what I've done," he replied. "I should have been stronger. I was weak. I gave in, first on little things and then on big ones. Oh, I did nothing that the men all about me were not doing. But I should have done better. My friends back home would have expected better things of me, and had I been stronger I might have helped some of those who, with the right example, would have had the strength to resist."
He lowered his head as we talked, and I saw tears fall from his cheek across the ribbons on his chest.
I tried to reassure him, but he found little comfort. He was a military hero, but he regarded himself as a moral coward.
Example of another young man
Not long after that I talked with another young man also recently returned from the war. He too had walked the jungle patrols, his heart pounding with fear. But reluctantly he admitted that the greatest fear he had was the fear of ridicule.
The men of his company laughed at him, taunted him, plastered him with a nickname that troubled him. They told him they were going to force him to do some of the things they reveled in. Then on one occasion when the going was rough, he faced them and quietly said, "Look, I know you think I'm a square. I don't consider myself any better than any of the rest of you. But I grew up in a different way. I grew up in a religious home and a religious town. I went to church on Sundays. We prayed together as a family. I was taught to stay away from these things. It's just that I believe differently. With me it's a matter of religion, and it's kind of a way of respecting my mother and my dad. All of you together might force me toward a compromising situation, but that wouldn't change me, and you wouldn't feel right after you'd done it."
One by one they turned silently away. But during the next few days each came to ask his pardon, and from his example others gained the strength and the will to change their own lives. He taught the gospel to two of them and brought them into the Church.
Difference in home teachings
The difference between these two young men lies in the homes from which they came. The first came out of a home where there was bickering, tyranny, drinking, neglect, abandonment, and finally divorce. When the storm of temptation blew against the young tree, the roots were in shallow soil, and it fell.
The second came from the same kind of town—small, dusty, and unimportant. The home from which he came was likewise modest, but a good man presided in that home as the father. He dealt with his wife with kindness, respect, and courtesy. The mother honored her husband and cast an aura of love about the home. And the son who left that home carried with him a fiber in his soul, a fiber that held firm under the tauntings of his associates, whose eyes he opened when he arose and stood on his feet as a quiet witness of the teachings of his parents.
This is the kind of strength that will come from fathers who quietly stand before their families as ministers and witnesses of the eternal verities which, when nurtured in the home, build character in the citizens of the nation.
The problem of alcohol
I repeat, the first place to take a position for right is with oneself. The second is with the family. The third is with the community and the state. Here again there is a call for men who will rise and stand against plans and programs that will expose our youth to influences that inevitably will trap some. There are many such influences and programs in every community. May I mention one specifically? I do so because it is an issue immediately before us, one we regard as having serious moral consequences, and one on which President McKay has spoken out unequivocally.
No one can honestly doubt that alcohol is a problem in our society. More than 26,000 people die each year on our highways in accidents that are alcohol-related. Drinking is recognized as a factor in a majority of serious crimes. It leaves in its wake a train of evils—broken homes, abandoned children, unemployment, and many other social problems.
This state presently has one of the lowest per capita consumption rates in the nation, less than half the average of those states that permit the sale of liquor by the drink. Under present law no adult who wants to drink is denied that privilege, and yet there is now a proposal, under the guise of better control, to greatly expand the availability of liquor, providing for public bars where people of all ages could be admitted. We are convinced that this would mean a much wider exposure of youth to alcohol, with, as we believe, consequent tragic results. We are not so naive as to think that every young man or woman who happens to be in the vicinity of a public bar would partake of a drink. But we are convinced that the wider the exposure, the more there will be who will partake.
Stand for the right
The leadership of a dedicated and concerned handful has grown to an army of many thousands of men and women from all walks of life and from all political parties who have risen and now stand in opposition to this effort. They are volunteers, working entirely without compensation; men and women of many churches, joining hands in a common cause and inviting others to exercise their franchise as witnesses of their stand against a program that would benefit a few at the expense of the many. This is but one example of what can happen when a few men rise and stand for principle. Others follow, a few at first, but the number grows. As in the clays of Saul, so it may be in our time. In so standing, we honor a great heritage and leave a greater inheritance.
May I close with three questions taken from the Jewish Theological Seminary:
"How shall we pass on our heritage?
"Will it be diminished or increased?
"Will we be the grandfathers, or only the grandsons of great men?"
God bless us with strength to stand for the right, I humbly pray as I leave with you my witness of the divinity of this work, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.