A Witness And A Warning: President Ezra Taft Benson
Saturday Afternoon Session: October 1979
The Lord has declared this "a day of warning, and not a day many words" (D&C 63:58).
My message is a witness and warning about some of the evils which threaten America--a land I
love with all my heart. There are other countries with this same problem. You who have seen
these dangers in the land you love will have a deep feeling for what I will say.
America is a place of many great events. Here is where Adam dwelt, where the Garden of
Eden was located. America was the place of former civilizations, including Adam's, the
Jaredites', and Nephites'. America is also the place where God the Father and His Son, Jesus
Christ, appeared to Joseph Smith, inaugurating the last gospel dispensation on earth before the
Savior's second coming.
This consecrated land has been placed under the everlasting decree of God. That decree is
recorded in the sacred Book of Mormon, a new witness for Christ, in these words:
"For behold, this is a land which is choice above all other lands; wherefore
he that doth possess it shall serve God or shall be swept off; for it is the
everlasting decree of God. . . .
"Behold, this is a choice land, and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall
be free from bondage, and from captivity, and from all other nations under
heaven, if they will but serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ" (Ether
The eventful destiny of America has also been revealed to God's prophets. To Joseph
Smith the Lord revealed that "the whole of America is Zion itself from north to south" (Teaching'
Of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book
Company, 1938, p. 362). Further, the Lord decreed this land to be "the place of the New
Jerusalem, which should come down out of heaven, the holy sanctuary of the Lord" (Ether 13:3).
To serve God's eternal purposes and to prepare this land for Zion, God "established the
Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom [He] raised up and redeemed the land
by the shedding of blood" (D&C 101:80).
The Constitution of the United States was ratified in 1789. The priesthood of God was
restored in 1829. Between those two dates is an interval of forty years. It is my conviction that
God, who knows the end from the beginning, provided that period of time so the new nation
could grow in strength to protect the land of Zion.
In the decade prior to the restoration of the gospel, many countries of South America
fought wars of independence to free themselves from European rule. Russia, Austria, and
Prussia, however, urged France to aid Spain and Portugal to restore their monarchies in South
America. This effort was repulsed by a proclamation from the United States government known
as the Monroe Doctrine. The heart of the Monroe Doctrine consists of these words: "The
American continents. . . are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by
any European powers."
The Lord had promised, "I will fortify this land against all other nations" (2 Ne. 10:12).
President Joseph Fielding Smith said that "the greatest and most powerful fortification in
America is the `Monroe Doctrine.'. . . It was the inspiration of the Almighty which rested upon
John Quincy Adams, Thomas Jefferson and other statesmen, and which finally found
authoritative expression in the message of James Monroe to Congress in the year 1823" (The
Progress Of Man, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., pp. 466-67).
Thus, in that four-decade period the United States had grown to sufficient strength that
she was able to provide a cradle of liberty for the restored Church of Jesus Christ.
But whenever the God of heaven reveals His gospel to mankind, Satan, the archenemy to
Christ, introduces a counterfeit.
Isaiah foresaw the time when a marvelous work and a wonder would come forth among
men. Isaiah also predicted there would be those who would "seek deep to hide their counsel from
the Lord, and their works are in the dark, and they say, Who seeth us?" He saw the time when the
work shall say of him that made it, "He made me not" (Isa. 29:15-16).
It is well to ask, what system established secret works of darkness to overthrow nations
by violent revolution? Who blasphemously proclaimed the atheistic doctrine that God made us
not? Satan works through human agents. We need only look to some of the ignoble characters in
human history who were contemporary to the restoration of the gospel to discover fulfillment of
Isaiah's prophecy. I refer to the infamous founders of Communism and others who follow in their
Communism introduced into the world a substitute for true religion. It is a counterfeit of
the gospel plan. The false prophets of Communism predict a utopian society. This, they proclaim,
will only be brought about as capitalism and free enterprise are overthrown, private property
abolished, the family as a social unit eliminated, all classes abolished, all governments
overthrown, and a communal ownership of property in a classless, stateless society established.
Since 1917 this godless counterfeit to the gospel has made tremendous progress toward
its objective of world domination.
Today, we are in a battle for the bodies and souls of man. It is a battle between two
opposing systems: freedom and slavery, Christ and anti-Christ. The struggle is more momentous
than a decade ago, yet today the conventional wisdom says, "You must learn to live with
Communism and to give up your ideas about national sovereignty." Tell that to the
millions--yes, the scores of millions--who have met death or imprisonment under the tyranny of
Communism! Such would be the death knell of freedom and all we hold dear. God must ever
have a free people to prosper His work and bring about Zion.
I am a witness to nations and people deprived of their freedom. I was there. I watched that
great Iron Curtain drop around nations which formerly had prized their freedom--good people. I
was aghast as these were written off by the stroke of a pen. I saw Poland abandoned by nations
with a heritage of freedom--the United States and Great Britain.
I was in Warsaw in June of 1946. I shared a room with seven other men in the Polonia
Hotel, the only hotel even partially intact in the great city of Warsaw. Our ambassador, Bliss
Lane, had his office in part of the building. He was so saddened that he resigned and wrote the
book I Saw Poland Betrayed, which detailed the failure of the United States and England to keep
their promise that the Poles would have a free election after the war.
I saw firsthand our great nation stand by at the time of the Hungarian revolution--when
"freedom fighters" with bare hands and stones resisted bullets, tanks, and artillery. I confess I was
ashamed at the response of my country--a nation which I believe the Lord intended to be an
ensign of freedom to all others. Freedom did not die that day (23 October 1956) for Hungary
alone. Hope died for many in other captive nations and has only recently been somewhat revived
by courageous men willing to speak against oppression.
Since that day, I have seen the Soviet Union, under its godless leaders, spread its ideology
throughout the world. Every stratagem is used--trade, war, revolution, violence, hate, detente,
and immorality--to accomplish its purposes. Many nations are now under its oppressive control.
Over one billion people--one-fourth of the population of the world--have now lost their
freedom and are under Communist domination. We seem to forget that the great objective of
Communism is still world domination and control, which means the surrender of our
freedom--your freedom--our sovereignty.
On 3 July 1936, the First Presidency published this warning to Church members:
"Communism is not a political party nor a political plan under the
Constitution; it is a system of government that is the opposite of our
"Since Communism, established, would destroy our American Constitutional
government, to support Communism is treasonable to our free institutions, and
no patriotic American citizen may become either a Communist or supporter of
Communism. . . .
"We call upon all Church members completely to eschew [shun] Communism.
The safety of our divinely inspired Constitutional government and the welfare
of our Church imperatively demand that Communism shall have no place in
America" (signed: Heber J. Grant, J. Reuben Clark, Jr., David O. McKay, The
First Presidency, in Deseret News, 3 July 1936; italics added).
More recently, President Marion G. Romney, in the First Presidency Message in the
September 1979 ENSIGN, wrote:
"Communism is Satan's counterfeit for the gospel plan, and it is an
avowed enemy of the God of the land. Communism is the greatest anti-Christ
power in the world today and therefore the greatest menace not only to our
peace but to our preservation as a free people. By the extent to which we
tolerate it, accommodate ourselves to it, permit ourselves to be encircled by its
tentacles and drawn to it, to that extent we forfeit the protection of the God of
this land" (p. 5).
The truth is, we have to a great extent accommodated ourselves to Communism--and we
have permitted ourselves to become encircled by its tentacles. Though we give lip service to the
Monroe Doctrine, this has not prevented Cuba from becoming a Soviet military base, ninety
miles off our coastline, nor has it prevented the takeover of Nicaragua in Central America, the
surrender of the Panama Canal, or the Infiltration by enemy agents within our American borders.
Never before has the land of Zion appeared so vulnerable to so powerful an enemy as the
Americas do at present. And our vulnerability is directly attributable to our loss of active faith in
the God of this land, who has decreed that we must worship Him or be swept off. Too many
Americans have lost sight of the truth that God is our source of freedom--the Lawgiver--and
that personal righteousness is the most important essential to preserving our freedom. So, I say
with all the energy of my soul that unless we as citizens of this nation forsake our sins, political
and otherwise, and return to the fundamental principles of Christianity and of constitutional
government, we will lose our political liberties, our free institutions, and will stand in jeopardy
No nation which has kept the commandments of God has ever perished, but I say to you
that once freedom is lost, only blood--human blood--will win it back.
There are some things we can and must do at once if we are to stave off a holocaust of
First: We must return to worship the God of this land, who is Jesus Christ. He has
promised that the righteous will be preserved by His power (see I Ne. 22:17). But we must keep
the commandments of God. We must pay our tithes and offerings, keep the Sabbath day a holy
day, stay morally clean, be honest in all our dealings, and have our family and personal prayers.
We must live the gospel.
Second: We must awaken to "a sense of [our] awful situation, because of this secret
combination which [is] among [us]" (Ether 8:24). We must not tolerate accommodation with or
appeasement toward the false system of Communism. We must demand of our elected officials
that we not only resist Communism, but that we will take every measure to prevent its intrusion
into this hemisphere. It is vital that we invoke the Monroe Doctrine.
Then we must put our trust in Him who has promised us His protection--and pray that
He will intervene to preserve our freedom just as He intervened in our obtaining it in the first
Third: We must do as the Lord commanded us by revelation in 1833: "Wherefore, honest
men and wise men should be sought for diligently, and good men and wise men ye should
observe to uphold; otherwise whatsoever is less than these cometh of evil" (D&C 98:10).
Men who are wise, good, and honest, who will uphold the Constitution of the United
States in the tradition of the Founding Fathers, must be sought for diligently. This is our hope to
restore government to its rightful role.
Last: We must study the inspired Constitution and become involved in the political
process ourselves. I quote the First Presidency statement that was read in sacrament meetings on
Sunday, 1 July 1979: "We encourage all members, as citizens of the nation, to be actively
involved in the political process, and to support those measures which will strengthen the
community, state, and nation--morally, economically, and culturally" (Letter from the First
Presidency, 29 June 1979).
I fully believe that we can turn things around in America if we have the determination,
the morality, the patriotism, and the spirituality to do so.
My single-minded concern is for the freedom and welfare of my countrymen and my
posterity, the freedom of all men.
I testify to you that God's hand has been in our destiny. I testify that freedom as we know
it today is being threatened as never before in our history. I further witness that this land--the
Americas--must be protected, its Constitution upheld, for this is a land foreordained to be the
Zion of our God. He expects us as members of the Church and bearers of His priesthood to do all
we can to preserve our liberty.
May God bless us that, with His help, we will not fa.il to bring to pass His purposes on
earth. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.