Editorial Note: In this General Conference address from 1967, fifty years ago, Ezra Taft Benson, who later became a president of the Church, speaks prophetically to issues seen in the news media today. Some of what he said could have been written in the last few days and weeks. Sometimes we forget how insightfully prophetic the apostles and prophets really are, because their messages are buried in the past. We are now reminded. Some academics have dismissed Ezra Taft Benson’s General Conference messages out of hand because he spoke a lot about Communism. Such dismissal is now seen as unwise—as usual. On the issue of race and the priesthood brought up in this address, Brother Benson was present when the revelation on the priesthood was received in 1978 and fully supported it afterward and while church president; he would have referred readers to Official Proclamation 2 in the Doctrine and Covenants for resolution of that issue. As for now, Elder Benson’s message serves as a guide to how to view current events—as conspiring men and women seek to harm the United States of America. As would be expected, his words run contrary to many of the false philosophies of our day and point us in the right direction toward solutions and public improvement.
In the Book of Mormon the prophet Nephi exclaims: "O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm." (2 Ne. 4:34.)
Prophesying of our day, Nephi said, ". . . they have all gone astray save it be a few, who are the humble followers of Christ; nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men." (2 Ne. 28:14.)
Precepts of men or principles of God
Yes, it is the precepts of men versus the principles of God. The more we follow the word of God, the less we are deceived, while those who follow the wisdom of men are deceived the most.
Increasingly the Latter-day Saints must choose between the reasoning of men and the revelations of God. This is a crucial choice, for we have those within the Church today who, with their worldly wisdom, are leading some of our members astray. President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., warned that "the ravening wolves are amongst us from our own membership and they, more than any others, are clothed in sheep's clothing, because they wear the habiliments of the Priesthood. ... We should be careful of them." (The Improvement Era, May 1949, p. 268.)
The Lord does not always give reasons for each commandment. Sometimes faithful members, like Adam of old, are called upon to obey an injunction of the Lord even though they do not know the reason why it was given. Those who trust in God will obey him, knowing full well that time will provide the reasons and vindicate their obedience.
The arm of flesh may not approve nor understand why God has not bestowed the priesthood on women or the seed of Cain, but God's ways are not man's ways. God does not have to justify all his ways for the puny mind of man. If a man gets in tune with the Lord, he will know that God's course of action is right, even though he may not know all the reasons why. The Prophet Joseph Smith understood this principle when he said, ... the curse is not yet taken off from the sons of Canaan, neither will be until it is affected by as great a power as caused it to come; and the people who interfere the least with the purposes of God in this matter, will come under the least condemnation before Him; and those who are determined to pursue a course, which shows an opposition, and a feverish restlessness against the decrees of the Lord, will learn, when perhaps it is too late for their own good, that God can do His own work, without the aid of those who are not dictated by His counsel." (Documentary History of the Church, Vol. , p. 438.)
The world largely ignores the first and great commandment—to love God—but talks a lot about loving their brother. They worship at the altar of man. Would Nephi have slain Laban if he had put the love of neighbor above the love of God? Would Abraham have taken Isaac up for a sacrifice if he had put the second commandment first?
The attitude of the world is reflected in a phrase of falsehood that reads, "Presume not God to scan, the proper study of mankind is man." But only those who know and love God can best love and serve his children, for only God fully understands his children and knows what is best for their welfare. Therefore, one needs to be in tune with God to best help his children. That's why the Church, under the inspiration of the Lord, encourages its members to first look to themselves, then their family, then the Church and if need be to other voluntary agencies to help solve the problems of poverty, unemployment, hunger, sickness, and distress. Those who are not moved by that same inspiration turn instead to government. Such man-made course of action does little good compared to the Lord's approach and often results in doing great harm to our Father's children, even though the intentions may seem to have been noble.
The first commandment first
Therefore, if you desire to help your fellowmen the most, then you must put the first commandment first.
When we fail to put the love of God first, we are easily deceived by crafty men who profess a great love of humanity, while advocating programs that are not of the Lord.
In 1942 Presidents Heber J. Grant, J. Reuben Clark, Jr., and David O. McKay warned us about the increasing threat to our constitution caused by revolutionists whom the First Presidency said were "using a technique that is as old as the human race—a fervid but false solicitude for the unfortunate over whom they thus gain mastery, and then enslave them. They a suit their approaches to the particular group they seek to deceive." (The Improvement Era, May 1942, p. 343.)
That timely counsel about a fervid but false solicitude for the unfortunate" could have saved China and Cuba if enough people knew what the Communist masters of deceit really had in mind when they promised agrarian reform.
False solicitude for the unfortunate
Such timely counsel could help save our country from Communism, as the same masters of deceit are showing the same false solicitude for the unfortunate in the name of civil rights.
Now there is nothing wrong with civil rights; it is what's being done in the name of civil rights that is alarming.
There is no doubt that the so-called civil rights movement as it exists today is used as a Communist program for revolution in America just as agrarian reform was used by the Communists to take over China and Cuba.
This shocking statement can be confirmed by an objective study of Communist literature and activities and by knowledgeable Negroes and others who have worked within the Communist movement.
As far back as 1928, the Communists declared that the cultural, economic, and social differences between the races in America could be exploited by them to create the animosity, fear, and hatred between large segments of our people that would be necessary beginning ingredients for their revolution.
Briefly, the three broad objectives were and are as follows:
1. Create hatred
2. Trigger violence
3. Overthrow established government
First, create hatred. Use any means to agitate blacks into hating whites and whites into hating blacks. Work both sides of the split. Play up and exaggerate real grievances. If necessary, don't hesitate to manufacture false stories and rumors about injustices and brutality. Create martyrs for both sides. Play upon mass emotions until they smolder with resentment and hatred.
Second, trigger violence. Put the emotional masses into the streets in the form of large mobs, the larger the better. It makes no difference if the mob is told to demonstrate "peacefully" so long as it is brought into direct confrontation with the antagonist. Merely bringing the two emotionally charged groups together is like mixing oxygen and hydrogen. All that is needed is one tiny spark. If the spark is not forthcoming from purely spontaneous causes, create it.
Third, overthrow established government. Once mob violence becomes widespread and commonplace, condition those who are emotionally involved to accept violence as the only way to "settle the score" once and for all. Provide leadership and training for guerilla warfare. Institute discipline and terrorism to insure at least passive support from the larger, inactive segment of the population. Train and battle-harden leadership through sporadic riots and battles with police. Finally, at the appointed time, launch an all-out simultaneous offensive in every major city.
Defense to be impaired
Police and national guard units will never be adequate to handle such wide-spread anarchy, especially if a large part of our men and equipment are drained away in fighting foreign wars. In self-defense, larger numbers are brought into fighting on both sides. The appearance of a nationwide civil war takes form. In the confusion, potential anti-Communist leaders of both races are assassinated, apparently the accidental casualties of race war.
Time the attack to coincide, if possible, with large-scale sabotage a water supplies, power grids, main rail road and highway arteries, communication centers, and government buildings With fires raging in every conceivable part of town, with wanton looting going on in the darkness of a big city without routine police protection, without water to drink, without electrical refrigeration, without transportation or radio or TV, the public will panic, lock its doors in trembling fear, and make it that much easier for the small but assembled and fully disciplined guerrilla bands to capture the power centers of each community. Overthrow the government! After complete control is consolidated (and that may take many months, as in Cuba), only then allow the people to discover that it was a Communist revolution after all.
Revolution through force and violence
If Communism comes to America, it will probably not happen quite like that. Even, though this is the basic formula used in so many other countries now part of the Communist empire, there is one very important difference. In China, in Cuba, and in Algeria, the segment of the population that the Communists used as the "battering ram" of their revolution of force and violence was the majority segment. In America, though, the Negro represents only 10 percent of the population. In any all-out race war that might be triggered, there isn't a chance in the world that Communism-led Negro guerilla units could permanently hold on to the power centers of government even if they could capture them in the first place.
It would be a terribly bloody affair, all Americans suffering mightily but with Negroes paying the highest toll in human life. And the Communists know this better than anyone else. They do not really expect to take America with a "war of national liberation" (which is their term for internal conquest through force and violence) unless the aggressive revolutionary force can be broadened to include not only the minority of Negroes, but also migratory farm laborers, the poor, the unemployed, those on welfare, other minority groups, students, the so- called "peace movements," and anyone who can be propagandized into mob action against established government But unless and until they can manipulate an overwhelming majority of the population into at least sympathizing with their revolutionary activities, they will use violence, anarchy, and sabotage, not as a means of seizing power, but merely as a support operation or a catalyst to an entirely different plan.
Internal strife and conflict
In such countries as Czechoslovakia, the Communists have used an entirely different method of internal conquest. Instead of the force and violence of a bloody revolution (a "war of national liberation), parliamentary and political means were used to bring about a more peaceful transition to Communism. The Communist strategists call this alternate plan a "proletarian" revolution.
This plan is as follows: Using unidentified Communist agents and non-Communist sympathizers in key positions in government, in communications media, and in mass organizations, such as labor unions and civil rights groups, demand more and more government power as the solution to all civil rights problems. Total government is the objective of Communism. Without calling it by name, build Communism piece by piece through mass pressures for presidential decrees, court orders, and legislation that appear to be aimed at improving civil rights and other social reforms. If there is social, economic, or educational discrimination, then advocate more government programs and control.
If riots come
And what if riots come? Then more government housing, government welfare, government job training, and, finally, federal control over police. Thus the essential economic and political structure of Communism can be built entirely "legally" and in apparent response to the wishes of the people who have clamored for some kind of solution to the problems played-up, aggravated, or created outright by Communists for just that purpose. After the machinery of Communism is firmly established, then allow the hidden Communists one by one to make their identities known. Liquidate first the anti-Communists and then the non- Communist sympathizers who are no longer needed in government. The total state mechanism can now openly and "peacefully" be transferred into the hands of Communists. Such is the so-called proletarian revolution. Such has happened in other, once free, countries. It has already started here.
Factors of internal conflict
The Communists are not entirely certain whether force and violence or legal and political means or a combination of both would be best for the internal conquest of America. At first, there was talk of splitting away the "Black Belt," those southern states in which the Negro held a majority, and calling them a Negro Soviet Republic. But, as conditions changed and more Negroes migrated to the northern states, they applied this same strategy to the so-called ghetto areas in the North. It now seems probable that the Communists are determined to use force and violence to its fullest, coupled with a weakening of the economy and military setbacks abroad, in an effort to create as much havoc as possible to weaken America internally and to create the kind of psychological desperation in the minds of all citizens that will lead them to accept blindly the application of legal and political means as the final blow.
Some wonder if it can happen here. Just take a good look at what has been going on around us for the past few years. It is happening here] If it is to be prevented from running the full course, we must stop pretending that it doesn't exist.
Let us consider some suggestions for our survival. The hour is late.
Factors of conspiracy becoming commonplace
The Communist program for revolution in America has been in progress for many years and is far advanced. While it can be thwarted in a fairly short period of time merely by sufficient exposure, the evil effects of what has already been accomplished cannot be removed overnight. The animosities, the hatred, the extension of government control into our daily lives—all this will take time to repair. The already-inflicted wounds will be slow in healing. But they can be healed; that is the important point.
Negroes victims not cause
1. First of all, we must not place the blame upon Negroes. They are merely the unfortunate group that has been selected by professional Communist agitators to be used as the primary source of cannon fodder. Not one in a thousand Americans—black or white—really understands the full implications of today's civil rights agitation. The planning, direction, and leadership come from the Communists, and most of those are white men who fully intend to destroy America by spilling Negro blood, rather than their own.
Beware anti-Negro reactions
2. Next, we must not participate in any so-called "blacklash" activity which might tend to further intensify inter-racial friction. Anti-Negro vigilante action, or mob action, of any kind fits perfectly into the Communist plan. This is one of the best ways to force the decent Negro into cooperating with militant Negro groups. The Communists are just as anxious to spearhead such anti-Negro actions as they are to organize demonstrations that are calculated to irritate white people.
Legal discovery of facts
3. We must insist that duly authorized legislative investigating committees launch an even more exhaustive study and expose the degree to which secret Communists have penetrated into the civil rights movement. The same needs to be done with militant anti-Negro groups. This is an effective way for the American people of both races to find out who are the false leaders among them.
Build up local police
4. We must support our local police in their difficult task of keeping law and order in these trying times. Police should not be encumbered by civilian review boards, or asked to be social workers. They have their hands full just trying to keep the peace. Recent soft-on-crime decisions of the Supreme Court, which hamper the police in protecting the innocent and bringing the criminal to justice, should be reversed. Persistent cries of "police brutality" should be recognized for what they are—attempts to discredit our police and discourage them from doing their job to the best of their ability.
Salaries should be adequate to hold on to and attract the very finest men available for police work. But, in questions of money, great care should be taken not to accept grants from the federal government. Along with federal money, inevitably there will come federal controls and guidelines that not only may get local police embroiled in national politics, but may even lead to the eventual creation of a national police force. Every despotism requires a national police force to hold the people in line. Communism is no exception. Our local police should remain free from federal control.
5. Further encroachment of government should be stopped and the entire process reversed. The solution to most, if not all, of the current problems involving civil rights is less government, not more.
Awaken citizens to know the menace
6. Lastly, we need a vast awakening of the American people as to the true nature of the Communist blueprint for revolution. Considering the degree to which the controlling influences of the federal government and many of the communications media are now furthering this Communist revolution, it is unrealistic to expect most of our present leaders or the networks to bring about this awakening. In fact, they may be expected to resist it. That means that individual citizens must stand up and assume more than their share of the responsibility. The speaker's platform, hand distribution of literature, study clubs, home discussions—all must be pressed into service. All of us should read the new book, Communist Revolution in the Streets, written by Gary Allen, with an introduction by W. Cleon Skousen. Each of us must be willing to discuss the problem openly with our friends—especially those of the Negro race.
The success or failure of Americans of all races to meet this challenge may well determine the fate of our country. If we fail, we will all lose our civil rights, black man and white man together, for we will live under perfect Communist equality—the equality of slaves.
Satanic threat to peace, liberty and God's work
As President McKay has stated, "The position of this Church on the subject of Communism has never changed. We consider it the greatest satanical threat to peace, prosperity, and the spread of God's work among men that exists on the face of the earth."
He has also counseled that "next to being one in worshiping God, there is nothing in this world upon which this Church should be more united than in upholding and defending the Constitution of the United States]" (The Instructor, Vol. 93 (1956), p. 94.)
May we unite behind the Prophet in opposing the Communist conspiracy and preserving our freedom and our divine constitution, I pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.