Saturday, July 7, 2018

President Thomas S. Monson on American prosperity and dependence on God

President Thomas S. Monson (1927–2018) was sustained to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1963. He served as a counselor in the First Presidency with Presidents Benson, Hunter, and Hinckley and then became Church president in 2008. He led the Church for almost a decade until his passing in January 2018.
"Too many Americans have been screaming ever louder for more and more of the things we cannot take with us and paying less and less attention to the real sources of the very happiness we seek. We have been measuring our fellowmen more by balance sheets and less by moral standards. We have developed frightening physical power and fallen into pathetic spiritual weakness. We have become so concerned over the growth of our earning capacity that we have neglected the growth of our character.
"As we view the disillusionment that engulfs countless thousands today, we are learning the hard way what an ancient prophet wrote out for us 3,000 years ago. 'He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase' (Eccl. 5:10).
"The revered Abraham Lincoln accurately described our plight. 'We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown; but we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us. We have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken succession, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of preserving and redeeming grace, too proud to pray to God that made us.'
"Can we extricate ourselves from this frightful condition? Is there a way out? If so, what is the way? We can solve this perplexing dilemma by adopting the counsel given by Jesus to the inquiring lawyer who asked, 'Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.' (Matt. 22:36-39)
"First, then I would suggest that each American love the Lord, our God, and with our families serve Him in righteousness."
- Thomas S. Monson, "America Needs You," Conference Report, October 1964, pp. 140-142
Click here to read the full talk

A young Elder Monson (age 37) shared these thoughts the year after his call to the Quorum of Twelve. While he expressed gratitude for the privilege he felt as a resident of the United States, he also recognized the troubles of the country at the time, in the aftermath of the assassination of President Kennedy, racial rioting and other tensions, increases in crime, and so on.

It's always interesting to compare the perspective of a past generation. President Monson was concerned in 1964 about confused priorities: desire for physical wealth and prominence instead of things of more lasting value. In neglecting the things that matter most, he worried: "We have developed frightening physical power and fallen into pathetic spiritual weakness." So how do we fare, 54 years later? In general, we can only believe that conditions are at least as bad today!

And President Monson shifts the focus back even earlier, a full century before his time, when Abraham Lincoln described similar issues and concerns:

The antidote suggested by President Monson is that we remember the two great commandments: love God with all our hearts, souls, and minds; and love our neighbors as we love ourselves. As we learn to turn our hearts upward to God and outward to our neighbors, the proper perspective returns and the whole nation is blessed.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2018)

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