A Prophet of Certitude: Counsel from President Ezra Taft Benson


A Prophet of Certitude:

Answer to Prayer

“It is my testimony, my brothers and sisters and friends, that God does hear and answer prayers. I have never doubted that fact. From childhood, at my mother’s knee where I first learned to pray; as a young man in my teens; as a missionary in foreign lands; as a father; as a Church leader; as a government official; I know without any question that it is possible for men and women to reach out in humility and prayer and tap that Unseen Power; to have prayers answered. Man does not stand alone, or at least, he need not stand alone. Prayer will open doors; prayer will remove barriers; prayer will ease pressures; prayer will give inner peace and comfort during times of strain and stress and difficulty. Thank God for prayer” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1956, p. 104).

The Holy Ghost

“We hear the words of the Lord most often by a feeling. If we are humble and sensitive, the Lord will prompt us through our feelings. That is why spiritual promptings move us on occasion to great joy, sometimes to tears. Many times my emotions have been made tender and my feelings very sensitive when touched by the Spirit.

“The Holy Ghost causes our feelings to be more tender. We feel more charitable and compassionate with each other. We are more calm in our relationships. We have a greater capacity to love each other. People want to be around us because our very countenances radiate the influence of the Spirit. We are more godly in our character. As a result, we become increasingly more sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Ghost and thus able to comprehend spiritual things more clearly” (Ensign, Apr. 1988, p. 4).

Faith in Jesus Christ

“Faith in Him is more than mere acknowledgment that He lives. It is more than professing belief.

“Faith in Jesus Christ consists of complete reliance on Him. As God, He has infinite power, intelligence, and love. There is no human problem beyond His capacity to solve. Because He descended below all things (see D&C 122:8), He knows how to help us rise above our daily difficulties.

“Faith in Him means believing that even though we do not understand all things, He does. We, therefore, must look to Him ‘in every thought; doubt not, fear not’ (D&C 6:36).

“Faith in Him means trusting that He has all power over all men and all nations. There is no evil which He cannot arrest. All things are in His hands. This earth is His rightful dominion. Yet He permits evil so that we can make choices between good and evil” (Ensign, Nov. 1983, p. 8).

We Will Know Him

“Nothing is going to startle us more when we pass through the veil to the other side than to realize how well we know our Father and how familiar His face is to us” (Ensign, Dec. 1988, p. 6).

Commitment to the Lord

“We must put God in the forefront of everything else in our lives. He must come first, just as He declares in the first of His Ten Commandments: ‘Thou shalt have no other gods before me’ (Ex. 20:3).

“When we put God first, all other things fall into their proper place or drop out of our lives. Our love of the Lord will govern the claims for our affection, the demands on our time, the interests we pursue, and the order of our priorities” (Ensign, May 1988, p. 4).

Faith and Works

“I believe that, while we should ask the Lord’s blessing on all our doings and should never do anything upon which we cannot ask his blessings, we should not expect the Lord to do for us what we can do for ourselves. I believe in faith and works, and that the Lord will bless more fully the man who works for what he prays for than he will the man who only prays” (God, Family, Country: Our Three Great Loyalties, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1974, p. 329).

Food Storage

“The revelation to store food may be as essential to our temporal salvation today as boarding the ark was to the people in the days of Noah” (Ensign, Jan. 1974, pp. 69, 80).

Debt

“[One] reason for increase in debt … is the rise of materialism, as contrasted with commitment to spiritual values. Many a family, in order to make a ‘proper showing,’ will commit itself for a larger and more expensive house than is needed, in an expensive neighborhood. Almost everyone would, it seems, like to keep up with the Joneses. … As a result, there is a growing feeling, unfortunately, that material things should be had now, without waiting, without saving, without self-denial” (Ensign, June 1987, pp. 3–4).

Work

“The earth was cursed for Adam’s sake. Work is our blessing, not our doom. God has a work to do, and so should we. Retirement from work has depressed many a man and hastened his death. … We should work at taking care of the spiritual, mental, social, and physical needs of ourselves and of those whom we are charged to help. In the church of Jesus Christ, there is plenty of work to do to move forward the kingdom of God. Missionary work, family genealogy and temple work, home evenings, receiving a Church assignment and magnifying it are but a few of our required labors” (Ensign, Oct. 1986, p. 2).

Home Teaching

“[Home teaching is] a program so vital that, if faithfully followed, it will help to spiritually renew the Church and exalt its individual members and families. … A home teaching call is to be accepted as if extended to you personally by the Lord Jesus Christ” (Ensign, May 1987, p. 48).

Responsibilities of Parents

“In the Doctrine and Covenants, we read: ‘Women have claim on their husbands for their maintenance, until their husbands are taken’ (D&C 83:2). This is the divine right of a wife and mother. She cares for and nourishes her children at home. Her husband earns the living for the family, which makes this nourishing possible. With that claim on their husbands for their financial support, the counsel of the Church has always been for mothers to spend their full time in the home in rearing and caring for their children.

“We realize also that some of our choice sisters are widowed and divorced and that others find themselves in unusual circumstances where, out of necessity, they are required to work for a period of time. But these instances are the exception, not the rule” (To the Mothers in Zion, pamphlet, Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1987, p. 5).

To Husbands and Fathers

“We do not find the Savior leading the Church with a harsh or unkind hand. We do not find the Savior treating His Church with disrespect or neglect. We do not find the Savior using force or coercion to accomplish His purposes. Nowhere do we find the Savior doing anything but that which edifies, uplifts, comforts, and exalts the Church. Brethren, I say to you with all soberness, He is the model we must follow as we take the spiritual lead in our families” (Ensign, Nov. 1987, p. 50).

Importance of Good Homes

“No nation rises above its homes. In building character the church, the school, and even the nation stand helpless when confronted with a weakened and degraded home. The good home is the rock foundation—the cornerstone of civilization. There can be no genuine happiness separate and apart from a good home, with the old-fashioned virtues at its base. If your nation is to endure, the home must be safeguarded, strengthened, and restored to its rightful importance” (in Conference Report, April 1966, p. 130).

Honor Parents for the Good They Do

“Let us also learn to be forgiving of our parents, who, perhaps having made mistakes as they reared us, almost always did the best they knew how. May we ever forgive them as we would likewise wish to be forgiven by our own children for mistakes we make” (Ensign, Nov. 1989, pp. 6–7).

Chastity

“Do not be misled by Satan’s lies. There is no lasting happiness in immorality. There is no joy to be found in breaking the law of chastity. Just the opposite is true. There may be momentary pleasure. For a time it may seem like everything is wonderful. But quickly the relationship will sour. Guilt and shame set in. We become fearful that our sins will be discovered. We must sneak and hide, lie and cheat. Love begins to die. Bitterness, jealousy, anger, and even hate begin to grow. All of these are the natural results of sin and transgression.

“On the other hand, when we obey the law of chastity and keep ourselves morally clean, we will experience the blessings of increased love and peace, greater trust and respect for our marital partners, deeper commitment to each other, and, therefore, a deep and significant sense of joy and happiness” (“The Law of Chastity,” BYU 1987–88 Devotional and Fireside Speeches, Provo: Brigham Young University, 1988, p. 51).

To the Youth

“Young [people], the family unit is forever, and you should do everything in your power to strengthen that unit. In your own family, encourage family home evenings and be an active participant. Encourage family prayer. Be on your knees with your family in that sacred circle. Do your part to develop real family unity and solidarity.

“In such homes there is no generation gap. That is another tool of the devil. Your most important friendships should be with your own brothers and sisters and with your father and mother. Love your family. Be loyal to them. Have a genuine concern for your brothers and sisters. Help carry their load” (Ensign, Nov. 1986, p. 81).

A Prophet’s Blessing

“Now, in the authority of the sacred priesthood in me vested, I invoke my blessing upon the Latter-day Saints and upon good people everywhere.

“I bless you with increased discernment to judge between Christ and anti-Christ. I bless you with increased power to do good and to resist evil. I bless you with increased understanding of the Book of Mormon. I promise you that from this moment forward, if we will daily sup from its pages and abide by its precepts, God will pour out upon each child of Zion and the Church a blessing hitherto unknown—and we will plead to the Lord that He will begin to lift the condemnation—the scourge and judgment. Of this I bear solemn witness” (Ensign, May 1986, p. 78).

Flooding the Earth with the Book of Mormon

“The time is long overdue for a massive flooding of the earth with the Book of Mormon for the many reasons which the Lord has given. In this age of electronic media and mass distribution of the printed word, God will hold us accountable if we do not now move the Book of Mormon in a monumental way.

“We have the Book of Mormon, we have the members, we have the missionaries, we have the resources, and the world has the need. The time is now! …

“I have a vision of homes alerted, of classes alive, and of pulpits aflame with the spirit of Book of Mormon messages.

“I have a vision of home teachers and visiting teachers, ward and branch officers, and stake and mission leaders counseling our people out of the most correct of any book on earth—the Book of Mormon.

“I have a vision of artists putting into film, drama, literature, music, and paintings great themes and great characters from the Book of Mormon.

“I have a vision of thousands of missionaries going into the mission field with hundreds of passages memorized from the Book of Mormon so that they might feed the needs of a spiritually famished world.

“I have a vision of the whole Church getting nearer to God by abiding by the precepts of the Book of Mormon.

“Indeed, I have a vision of flooding the earth with the Book of Mormon. …

“I do not know fully why God has preserved my life to this age, but I do know this: That for the present hour He has revealed to me the absolute need for us to move the Book of Mormon forward now in a marvelous manner. You must help with this burden and with this blessing which He has placed on the whole Church, even all the children of Zion.

“Moses never entered the promised land. Joseph Smith never saw Zion redeemed. Some of us may not live long enough to see the day when the Book of Mormon floods the earth and when the Lord lifts His condemnation (see D&C 84:54–58). But, God willing, I intend to spend all my remaining days in that glorious effort” (Ensign, Nov. 1988, p. 4–6).

There Is a Power in the Book

“[The Book of Mormon] helps us draw nearer to God. Is there not something deep in our hearts that longs to draw nearer to God, to be more like Him in our daily walk, to feel His presence with us constantly? If so, then the Book of Mormon will help us do so more than any other book.

“It is not just that the Book of Mormon teaches us truth, though it indeed does that. It is not just that the Book of Mormon bears testimony of Christ, though it indeed does that, too. But there is something more. There is a power in the book which will begin to flow into your lives the moment you begin a serious study of the book. You will find greater power to resist temptation. You will find the power to avoid deception. You will find the power to stay on the strait and narrow path. The scriptures are called ‘the words of life’ (see D&C 84:85), and nowhere is that more true than it is of the Book of Mormon. When you begin to hunger and thirst after those words, you will find life in greater and greater abundance” (Ensign, Nov. 1986, p. 7).

The Book of Mormon Brings Men to Christ

“The Book of Mormon brings men to Christ through two basic means. First, it tells in a plain manner of Christ and his gospel. It testifies of his divinity … and the Atonement and the first principles of the gospel. … It proclaims we must endure to the end in righteousness and live the moral life of a Saint.

“Second, the Book of Mormon exposes the enemies of Christ. It confounds false doctrines and lays down contention (see 2 Ne. 3:12). It fortifies the humble followers of Christ against the evil designs, strategies, and doctrines of the devil in our day. The type of apostates in the Book of Mormon are similar to the type we have today. God, with his infinite foreknowledge, so molded the Book of Mormon that we might see the error and know how to combat false educational, political, religious, and philosophical concepts of our time” (Ensign, May 1975, p. 64).

Scripture Study

“When individual members and families immerse themselves in the scriptures regularly and consistently, … other areas of activity will automatically come. Testimonies will increase. Commitment will be strengthened. Families will be fortified. Personal revelation will flow” (Ensign, May 1986, p. 81).

Following the Counsel of Leaders

“One who rationalizes that he or she has a testimony of Jesus Christ but cannot accept direction and counsel from the leadership of His church is in a fundamentally unsound position and is in jeopardy of losing exaltation” (Ensign, May 1982, p. 64).

Humility and Pride

“The central feature of pride is enmity—enmity toward God and enmity toward our fellowmen. … Pride is essentially competitive in nature. We pit our will against God’s. When we direct our pride toward God, it is in the spirit of ‘my will and not thine be done.’ As Paul said, they ‘seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s’ (Philip. 2:21). …

“The proud cannot accept the authority of God giving direction to their lives (see Hel. 12:6). They pit their perceptions of truth against God’s great knowledge, their abilities versus God’s priesthood power, their accomplishments against His mighty works. …

“Pride is the universal sin, the great vice. … Pride is the great stumbling block to Zion” (Ensign, May 1989, pp. 4–7).

Improving Individuals

“Some may ask why we as a people and church quietly and consistently seek to change individuals while there are such large problems all about us. … But decaying cities are simply a delayed reflection of decaying individuals. … The commandments of God give emphasis to improvement of the individual as the only real way to bring about the real improvement in society” (A Plea for America, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1975, p. 18).

“The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ takes the slums out of the people, and then they take themselves out of the slums. The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature” (Ensign, Nov. 1985, p. 6).

Preserving Freedom

“What can we do to keep the light of freedom alive? Keep the commandments of God. Walk circumspectly before Him. Pay our tithes and fast offerings. Attend our temples. Stay morally clean. Participate in local elections, for the Lord has said, ‘Honest men and wise men should be sought for diligently, and good men and wise men ye should observe to uphold’ (D&C 98:10). Be honest in all our dealings. Faithfully hold our family home evenings. Pray—pray to the God of heaven that He will intervene to preserve our precious freedoms, that His gospel may go to every nation and people. Yes, in the words of the Lord Himself: ‘Stand ye in holy places, and be not moved, until the day of the Lord come’ (D&C 87:8). Those ‘holy places’ are our temples, stakes, wards, and homes” (This Nation Shall Endure, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1977, pp. 9–10).

[photos] President Ezra Taft Benson was a picture of strength when counseling the Saints (above), yet he seemed to draw strength from them also, as when he acknowledged their good wishes at general conference (below, left).

[photos] President Benson’s responses to the counsel at general conference ranged from joy (left) to reflective contemplation (above).