If you could delier just one message to the leaders of the world, what would it be? In October 1975, Elder Ezra Taft Benson delivered a powerful voice of warning and a call to repentance to the leaders of the world. In doing so, he echoed words of warning sent to the world by the Quorum of the Twelve. one hundred and thirty years beforehand.
What impressed me both about both messages is that the eternal truth declared to the great and mighty of the world is identical to the message that I preached on street corners and stairways in Siberia. It is the same message of the Restoration and the Doctrine of Christ that has been proclaimed since the initiation of this dispensation:
First, from 1845:
“Therefore we send unto you with authority from on high, and command you all to repent and humble yourselves as little children, before the majesty of the Holy One; and come unto Jesus [Christ] with a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and be baptized in his name, for the remission of sins (that is, be buried in the water in the likeness of his burial and rise again to newness of life, in the likeness of his resurrection), and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, through the laying on of the hands of the Apostles and elders, of this great and last dispensation of mercy to man.
“This Spirit shall bear witness to you, of the truth of our testimony; and shall enlighten your minds, and be in you as the spirit of prophecy and revelation. It shall bring things past to your understanding and remembrance; and shall show you things to come.
“By the light of this Spirit, received through the ministration of the ordinances—by the power and authority of the Holy Apostleship and Priesthood, you will be enabled to understand, and to be the children of light; and thus be prepared to escape all the things that are coming on the earth, and so stand before the Son of Man.
“We testify that the foregoing doctrine is the doctrine or gospel of Jesus Christ, in its fulness; and that it is the only true, everlasting, and unchangeable gospel; and the only plan revealed on earth whereby man can be saved.” (Messages of the First Presidency, 1:252–54.)”
Next from 1975:
“To the rulers and peoples of all nations, we solemnly declare again that the God of heaven has established his latter-day kingdom upon the earth in fulfillment of prophecies. Holy angels have again communed with men on the earth. God has again revealed himself from heaven and restored to the earth his holy priesthood with power to administer in all the sacred ordinances necessary for the exaltation of his children. His church has been reestablished among men with all the spiritual gifts enjoyed anciently. All this is done in preparation for Christ’s second coming. The great and dreadful day of the Lord is near at hand. In preparation for this great event and as a means of escaping the impending judgments, inspired messengers have gone, and are now going, forth to the nations of the earth carrying this testimony and warning.
The nations of the earth continue in their sinful and unrighteous ways. Much of the unbounded knowledge with which men have been blessed has been used to destroy mankind instead of to bless the children of men as the Lord intended. Two great world wars, with fruitless efforts at lasting peace, are solemn evidence that peace has been taken from the earth because of the wickedness of the people. Nations cannot endure in sin. They will be broken up but the kingdom of God will endure forever.
Therefore, as humble servants of the Lord, we call upon the leaders of nations to humble themselves before God, to seek his inspiration and guidance. We call upon rulers and people alike to repent of their evil ways. Turn unto the Lord, seek his forgiveness, and unite yourselves in humility with his kingdom. There is no other way. If you will do this, your sins will be blotted out, peace will come and remain, and you will become a part of the kingdom of God in preparation for Christ’s second coming. But if you refuse to repent or to accept the testimony of his inspired messengers and unite yourselves with God’s kingdom, then the terrible judgments and calamities promised the wicked will be yours.”
I am struck by the fact that even those who are born or elected into high station are still subject to the same rules of eternal gravity. Every individual must repent or be cast off from the presence of God. And what applies to individuals also applies to nations as a whole.
I had one other thought based on this talk that is bound to be somewhat more controversial and bound up in my own limited world view. I do not claim any divine inspiration for anythingthat follows. I notice as I read church history that the warning of destruction has been particularly strong at certain moments. In particular, in the period before the American Civil War, and also during the height of the cold war. Joseph Smith’s Civil War prophecy is the most obvious example of this for instance. He prophesied of a sweeping desolation and destruction that would follow the initiation of that war.
And yet at those moments we have also come back from the brink. At certain key moments we have elected leaders that I believe to be divinely inspired who have led to periods of national repentance and reflection. The election of Abrham Lincoln fits this paradigm as the nation began to seriously grapple with and overcome the original sin of slavery. Even as republicans fought a war against polygamy, they also laid the foundation, in the reconstruction amendments, for a national commitment to freedom of speech and religion. And I believe that period of renewal potentially saved the nation from the calamities that Joseph foresaw.
yPerhaps more controversially, I see the same period of national renewal after a period of deep corruption and decay in the Regan Revolution. Regan’s rhetoric led to a flourishing and rediscovery of the divinely inspired principles of the Constitution, and in particular to the notion of inalienable rights flowing from a divine creator.
Our nation has been blessed to avoid destruction and catastrophic moral decay. I hope and pray that we will continue to be blessed to elect leaders that will lead us to repentance and help us to avoid the calamities that Prophets have foretold since the restoration.