Brethren and sisters: It is truly a joy to meet with you. I want to take this opportunity to thank you and to tell you how grateful I am for your thoughtful solicitations and your faith and prayers. God bless every one of you for your integrity and devotion to the work of the Lord! It is an honor and a continual joy to be associated with you in the Church of Jesus Christ.
We are grateful for the blessing of the Lord to his Church in all the world, for the assurance of his divine guidance and inspiration. With deep gratitude we acknowledge in your presence the Lord’s nearness and his goodness, and in that spirit of prayerful appreciation, proclaim that our souls respond in harmony with the glorious vision given to the Prophet Joseph Smith.
“Hear, O ye heavens, and give ear, O earth, and rejoice ye inhabitants thereof, for the Lord is God, and beside him there is no Savior.
“Great is his wisdom, marvelous are his ways, and the extent of his doings none can find out . . .
“For thus saith the Lord—I, the Lord, am merciful and gracious unto those who fear me, and delight to honor those who serve me in righteousness and truth unto the end” D&C 76:1-2,5
I deeply sense my inadequacy in trying to express in words the message I have in my heart this morning. I earnestly pray for your help and assistance, and especially for the inspiration of the Lord, that we may sense his presence during this opening session and all the sessions of this conference. I am delighted to see these doorways crowded by interested listeners. It is a sight we all should take to heart, a manifestation of those who love the Lord and keep his commandments.
Two Great Forces
I cannot get my thoughts off the fact that there are two great forces in the world more potent than ever before, each force more determined to achieve success, more active in planning, and, on the one side, scheming, than ever before.
Satan Sought Power
These two great forces are hate and love. Hate had its origin in our preexistent state. There is a significant reference in the Apocalypse to “a war in heaven” Rev. 12:4 It is not only significant, but seemingly contradictory, for we think of heaven as a celestial abode of bliss, an impossible condition where war and contention could exist. The passage is significant because it implies a freedom of choice and of action in the spirit world. In the Pearl of Great Price we are given this account: “Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down;
“And he became Satan, yea, even the devil, the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto my voice” Moses 4:3-4 italics added).
Two things you will note in that passage: one, that Satan was determined to destroy the free agency of man. Free agency is a gift of God. It is part of his divinity. The second point is that he desired to supplant God. I quote, “Give me thy glory” (see Moses 4:1
The world does not comprehend the significance of that divine gift to the individual. It is as inherent as intelligence which, we are told, has never been nor can be created.
In the spirit of hate, as is manifest today in the world, the very existence of God is denied, the free agency of man is taken from him, and the power of the state supplanted. I do not know that there was ever a time in the history of mankind when the Evil One seemed so determined to take from man his freedom.
Free Agency Fundamental
A fundamental principle of the gospel is free agency, and references in the scriptures show that this principle is (1) essential to man’s salvation; and (2) may become a measuring rod by which the actions of men, of organizations, of nations may be judged.
“Therefore,” we are told in the scripture, “cheer up your hearts, and remember that ye are free to act for yourselves—to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life” 2 Ne. 10:23
“For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves” D&C 104:17
“Therefore, it is not right that any man should be in bondage one to another.
“And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood” D&C 101:79-80
“My independence is sacred to me,” said Brigham Young, “it is a portion of that same Deity that rules in the heavens. There is not a being upon the face of the earth who is made in the image of God, who stands erect and is organized as God is, that would be deprived of the free exercise of his agency so far as he does not infringe upon other’s rights, save by good advice and a good example” (Discourses of Brigham Young, 1943 ed., p. 62).
The history of the world with all its contention and strife is largely an account of man’s effort to free himself from bondage and usurpation.
Man’s free agency is an eternal principle of progress, and any form of government that curtails or inhibits its free exercise is wrong. Satan’s plan in the beginning was one of coercion, and it was rejected because he sought to destroy the agency of man which God had given him.
God-Given, eternal principle of progress
When man uses this God-given right to encroach upon the rights of another, he commits a wrong. Liberty becomes license, and the man, a transgressor. It is the function of the state to curtail the violator and to protect the individual.
Next to the bestowal of life itself, the right to direct our lives is God’s greatest gift to man. Freedom of choice is more to be treasured than any possession earth can give. It is inherent in the spirit of man. It is a divine gift to every normal being. Whether born in abject poverty or shackled at birth by inherited riches, everyone has the most precious of all life’s endowments—the gift of free agency, man’s inherited and inalienable right. It is the impelling source of the soul’s progress. It is the purpose of the Lord that man becomes like him. In order for man to achieve this, it was necessary for the Creator first to make him free. To man is given a special endowment not bestowed upon any other living thing. God gave to him the power of choice. Only to the human being did the Creator say: “. . . thou mayest choose for thyself for it is given unto thee” Moses 3:17 Without this divine power to choose, humanity cannot progress.
With free agency, however, there comes responsibility. If man is to be rewarded for righteousness and punished for evil, then common justice demands that he be given the power of independent action. A knowledge of good and evil is essential to man’s progress on earth. If he were coerced to do right at all times or helplessly enticed to commit sin, he would merit neither a blessing for the first nor punishment for the second. Man’s responsibility is correspondingly operative with his free agency. Actions in harmony with divine law and the laws of nature will bring happiness, and those in opposition to divine truth, misery. Man is responsible not only for every deed, but also for every idle word Matt. 12:36 and thought.
Freedom of the will and the responsibility associated with it are fundamental aspects of Jesus’ teachings. Throughout his ministry he emphasized the worth of the individual and exemplified what is now expressed in modern revelation as “his work and his glory” Moses 1:39 Only through the divine gift of soul freedom is such progress possible.
Individual Freedom Threatened
Force rules in the world today. Individual freedom is threatened by international rivalries and false political ideals. Unwise legislation, too often prompted by political expediency, if enacted, will seductively undermine man’s right of free agency, rob him of his rightful liberties, and make him but a cog in the crushing wheel of regimentation.
Though it is not a pleasing thought, we must realize that over half the world is under the influence of hate, as manifest by the Chinese leader, manifest by the communist group in Russia, and manifest right next door to us in Cuba. Accompanying the spirit of hate is the denial of the existence of God. Satan was cast down because he tried to replace the Creator. But his power is still manifest. He is active and is prompting at this moment the denial of God’s existence, of the existence of his Beloved Son, and denying the efficacy of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Associated Press sometime ago related some instances that are taking place in China to change men’s minds in a nation of over six hundred million people, whose hearts, whose minds have been changed as far as they could be changed by the spirit of hate. Forty-five or fifty years ago there was a spirit of tolerance and respect in China for Americans. In a school at Peking, which was fostered by Americans, I personally saw some of the most active young men in junior high school that I have ever seen in my life. I have never seen more courtesy in any country in the world. Today all that is changed. The Associated Press made this report:
Power Based on Hate
“A decade ago Mao Tze-Tung’s newly-created People’s Republic of China threw its Red Shadow across an alarmed Asia. Today, the lengthening Shadow has crept half way across the earth to the Americas. No one can say with certainty where it will stop . . . In his sixty-sixth year this round-faced lofty-browed son of peasants has been raised by his communist followers to the eminence of a demi-god. His words, actions, and even his thoughts, are holy writ for 630 million people. He is one of the most powerful men on earth, and much of his power is based on the most debilitating of human emotions—hate. Hatred for the United States, hatred for rich landlords, for counter-revolutionaries, for Chiang Kai-Shek, hatred for anyone who fails to conform. ‘Hatred,’ said a traveler recently returned from Mao’s China, ‘has become an institution, particularly hatred for the United States. It is horrible to see this vast human machinery run by only one fuel—hatred! If it used love instead it could become the most powerful nation on earth'” (Associated Press, appearing in the Salt Lake Tribune, Sunday, December 11, 1960).
A Modern Assault Upon God
In the spirit of hate these men would supplant God. In the spirit of hate they deny his existence. They deny the existence of his Only Begotten Son. They would destroy the free agency of man. Here, in the spirit of love, we praise his name and teach his precepts.
Jesus, the Man of Love and Goodwill
Let us for a moment or two consider Jesus, the man of love. He revered and worshiped God, and is himself revered and worshiped by all Christian nations and classes of individuals. “Whatever may be the surprises of the future,” wrote Renan, “Jesus will never be surpassed.”
Millions of people, speaking different languages and cherishing various ideals, worship him and revere him today. We revere him because his wisdom and spirituality comprehend and exceed that of all others. He it is who said, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” John 8:12 He also said to his disciples, “. . . I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you” John 13:15
First, in the spirit of love, let us consider Jesus’ attitude toward God. That is the great question before the world today. The communists deny him, Mao ridicules him, and they have poisoned untold millions of minds against Christ
What about Jesus as manifest in the flesh? In announcing his birth the heavenly hosts sang, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” Luke 2:14 In that message there is godliness, peace, and brotherly kindness.
Godliness, Jesus exemplified every hour of his earthly existence. On the banks of the Jordan at the beginning of his ministry, we hear him say to John: “Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness” Matt. 3:15
On the Mount of Temptation, which rises just above the Jordan where Jesus was baptized, he was tempted by that Tempter who tried to supplant God; tempted with all the things of earth and the power thereof. We hear him say in sublime majesty, “Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” Matt. 4:10
When he taught the disciples to pray, he included in the first petition godliness—”Hallowed be thy name” Matt. 6:9
Addressing the Twelve at the Last Supper, he said, “This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” John 17:3
That is the spirit of love, the spirit of faith in God the Creator of heaven and earth through his Beloved Son. God is worshiped by his Only Begotten Son.
“Peace be unto you”
What about the condition of peace?
Peace has been defined as the happy, natural state of man, the “first of human blessings.” Without it there can be no happiness, and “Happiness,” said the Prophet Joseph Smith, “is the object and design of our existence, and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 255).
Jesus said, “. . . In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” John 16:33
On the same occasion, he said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you . . .” John 14:27 All through his life peace was on his lips and in his heart, and when he came forth from the tomb and appeared unto his disciples, his first greeting was, “Peace be unto you” John 20:21
Peace as taught by the Savior is exemption from individual troubles, from family broils, from national riots and difficulties. Such peace refers to the person just as much as it does to communities. That man is not at peace who is untrue to the whisperings of Christ—the promptings of his conscience. He cannot be at peace when he is untrue to his better self, when he transgresses the law of righteousness, either in dealing with himself by indulging in passions or appetites, in yielding to the temptations of the flesh, or whether he is untrue to trust in transgressing the law.
Peace does not come to the transgressor of law, Peace comes by obedience to law, and it is that message which Jesus would have us establish among men—peace to the individual that he may be at peace with his God; perfect harmony existing between his Creator and himself, perfect harmony existing between himself and law, the righteous laws to which he is subject and from which he never can escape; peace in the home, families living at peace with each other and with their neighbors.
There are some who would say his teachings are not applicable today.
The Testimony of Joseph Smith
A few years ago there was a boy among boys who saw him, who heard him and received his teachings. Joseph Smith saw the Redeemer, and he has given that testimony to the world; he has recorded his message, and emphasized again the eternal truth that Christ’s teachings are divine and as applicable to the civilized world today as to the people among whom Jesus walked and talked.
The Power of Thinking
Fundamental in all Christ’s teachings was the crime of wrong thinking. He condemned avarice, enmity, hate, jealousy as vehemently as he did the results that avarice, enmity, and hate produce. Modern psychology, as all students know, proves the virtue of such teachings regarding the injury that follows the harboring of hate. He who harbors hatred and bitterness injures himself far more than the one towards whom he manifests these evil propensities.
Equally applicable to present conditions are his teachings regarding the value and sacredness of human life, the virtue of forgiveness, the necessity of fair dealings, the crime of hypocrisy, the sin of covetousness, the saving power of love, the immortality of man.
Attacks upon Peace and Righteousness
If men ever reject the fact that Christ is our Lord and Savior and fill their souls with hatred as that nation of over six hundred million people are compelled to do, and not only deny Christ, but deny that his mission is to redeem man from the sordid life of selfish indulgence and sin, and lift him into a realm shown only by him of self-sacrifice, generosity, beauty, and love; if the majority of nations fail to recognize Christ as the only “name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” Acts 4:12 if doubting men reject the possibility of obtaining that spiritual assurance of Christ’s divinity disclosed by Thomas when he reverently exclaimed: “My Lord and my God” John 20:28 if the acts of men generally be in accordance with such rejection rather than in accordance with their acceptance of him as the Divine One, then this world will continue to be torn by contention, made miserable by hideous warfare, and ignominiously wrecked on the shoals of materialism, selfish indulgence, and disbelief and hatred.
Rejecting Him will bring the bondage of the Jungle
Without Jesus of Nazareth, the Crucified Christ, the Risen Lord, the traits of the jungle will hold the human family in bondage.
In conclusion, the obligation and duty rests upon the Church of Jesus Christ to proclaim the mighty truth that the Man of Galilee, the resurrected Christ, is truly the Way, the Truth, and the Life John 14:6that he is in very deed the Savior of all mankind.
Pernicious efforts and sinister schemes are cunningly and stealthily being fostered to deprive man of his individual freedom and have him revert to the life of the jungle. With faith in the revealed word of God, let all true believers in individual freedom cherish the spiritual ideals of the Christ, and ever strive to make real the dream that all men shall be free, and that someday many nations will unite, not for war, but for peace and the establishing of the kingdom of God on earth. That this condition may soon be possible and real and that men may strive to bring it about, I humbly pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.