In October 1975, President Gordon B. Hinckley spoke about the rising deteriorating standards in the media and in broader society. If his words were timely then, they are even more timely today.
“Our legislatures and courts are affected by this wave. Legal restraints against deviant moral behavior are eroding under legislative enactments and court opinions. This is done in the name of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of choice in so-called personal matters. But the bitter fruit of these so-called freedoms has been enslavement to debauching habits and behavior that leads only to destruction. A prophet, speaking long ago, aptly described the process when he said, ‘And thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.’ (2 Ne. 28:21.)” In summary, President Hinckley emphasized that “[t]he whole dismal picture indicates a weakening rot seeping into the very fiber of society.
Yet, his talk was not one focused on doom and gloom. Instead his was a message of needed hope and concrete counsel.
First, he noted that despite evils in the world, overall conditions in the world remain positive and there is much reason to rejoice. Indeed, “there are millions upon millions of good people in this and in other lands. For the most part, husbands are faithful to wives, and wives to husbands. Their children are being reared in sobriety, industry, and faith in God.” That was true when President Hinckley spoke in 1975 and I suspect it is still true today.
The truth is that there are many in society that share our values and standards. Even as society drifts, we are not alone. And “Given the strength of these, I am one who believes that the situation is far from hopeless. I am satisfied that there is no need to stand still and let the filth and violence overwhelm us, or to run in despair. The tide, high and menacing as it is, can be turned back if enough of the kind I have mentioned will add their strength to the strength of the few who are now effectively working. I believe the challenge to oppose this evil is one from which members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as citizens, cannot shrink. And if we are ever to begin, let it be now.”
So if we must act how can we do so? President Hinckley offered four specific suggestions or “points of beginning.”
First – “Begin with yourself”
Second – “A better tomorrow begins with the training of a better generation”
Third – “The building of public sentient begins with a few earnest voices”
and Finally – “Strength to do battle begins with enlisting the strength of God”
President Hinckley offers quite a lot of meat on each of these points, but I tink it will suffice to highlight a few things that stood out to me.
I was struck first by his call to self improvement: “We cannot hope to influence others in the direction of virtue unless we live lives of virtue. The example of our living will carry a greater influence than will all the preaching in which we might indulge. We cannot expect to lift others unless we stand on higher ground ourselves.”
Next, I loved the idea that what I do in my home raising my children matters as much if not more than what I do in the public sphere: “The home is the cradle of virtue, the place where character is formed and habits are established.”
Third was the emphasis to not let out voices be drowned out or to let a vocal minority advocating for sin overwhelm the large numbers who stand for righteousness:
“I am not one to advocate shouting defiantly or shaking fists and issuing threats in the faces of legislators. But I am one who believes that we should earnestly and sincerely and positively express our convictions to those given the heavy responsibility of making and enforcing our laws. The sad fact is that the minority who call for greater liberalization, who peddle and devour pornography, who encourage and feed on licentious display make their voices heard until those in our legislatures may come to believe that what they say represents the will of the majority. We are not likely to get that which we do not speak up for.
Let our voices be heard. I hope they will not be shrill voices, but I hope we shall speak with such conviction that those to whom we speak shall know of the strength of our feeling and the sincerity of our effort. Remarkable consequences often flow from a well-written letter and a postage stamp. Remarkable results come of quiet conversation with those who carry heavy responsibilities.”
In the end, I left uplifted and inspired to do better as I read President Hinckley’s talk. It is easy to get discourage when you feel like all of society is opposed to your values. But that isn’t quite true. There are so many people of good faith and we can work together with them and attempt to persude them. But we must first be our best selves and we must focus on teaching our children the same true principles.