Elder Joseph L. Wirthlin
Second Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric
Paul declared: "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation." (Romans 1:16.) Others define the gospel as tidings of great joy, some as the body of doctrine promulgated by the Savior and his apostles, and it may be termed the constitution of God's kingdom; but Paul's definition causes one to pause and contemplate the intriguing term "godly power" as an element in the plan of salvation and whether or not man can acquire and develop godly power.
The Power of God Made Manifest
The power of God is manifested by and through the priesthood. It was through the power of God that worlds were created, providing a tangible evidence of God's power. The power of God is evidenced and keenly felt in righteous words, honest deeds, sincere emotions, and clean thoughts of men. The power of God is creative, both in a spiritual and temporal sense, for all things were created, first, spiritually and then temporally. By his power the earth was formed; by his power light and darkness were separated; by his power the land and water were separated; by his power the vegetation, fowls of the air, the fish of the sea, and all earthly creatures were brought into being; but the most important of all these was the creation of man in the exact image of his Creator. The finite mind cannot comprehend or understand the full significance of the creation nor of the principles and the powers involved therein, but we do know that the creation was a great and stupendous work accomplished by actual, spiritual, mental, nd, who knows but what some physical effort was necessary on the part of our Heavenly Father. There must have been an element of work, of effort, in it, or else why the declaration found recorded in Genesis 2:2, "And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made," an indication of the necessity for rest after such a tremendous accomplishment.
When Adam was placed in the Garden of Eden to enjoy its beauty, comforts, and food already produced, the Lord enjoined him merely to prune the garden and keep it in good condition; but soon thereafter the fall came as foreordained, and Adam was cast from the garden. He found himself in the lone and dreary world, far different from the orderly Garden of Eden. The voice of the Creator declared to him that if he were to eat, in fact to exist, it would depend upon his efforts whereby in the sweat of his brow and the toil of his hands should he eat his bread, pointing out, too, that noxious weeds and thistles would stand in his way, creating the necessity for more work and effort. With Adam leaving the garden there came into being the most important project among men, namely, that of agriculture which produces food and raiment for man, the first two physical requisites, and moreover affords more actual work than any other industry. But Adam was not left unqualified to meet this new condition, for his Eternal Fathe had bestowed upon him the mental and physical potentialities to create by his labors all the necessities of life. So man from the beginning possessed the potential power of creating his requirements through work. The words "create" and "work" are synonymous. Hence, the power of God is work, by which I mean the conscious exercise of spiritual, mental or physical effort and activity.
Man's Growth Comes Through Work
The very spiritual, mental, physical makeup of man fits him for work and the acquirement of godly power there through. Think, if you will, of all God's creations, there are none comparable to man spiritually, mentally, or physically. In the mind of man, the plan is formulated, and physical instruments, such as the hand, bring into actual existence the plan of the mind. There is nothing comparable to the hand as a useful tool. The things that can be done and accomplished by the hand are innumerable. The most delicate mechanical instruments, such as the electric eye, the radio, radar, all forms of transportation and buildings, are the creations, first, of the mind, influenced by the spirit of inspiration, and, secondly, the hand of manman, the son of the Eternal Creator.
We have spoken of man's mental and physical attributes but what of the spiritual? There is no question but what the development of the spirit depends entirely upon the mental and the physical work of man. Therefore, any individual who denies himself the privilege of work denies himself salvation and exaltation in the kingdom of God. He denies himself the power of creation. First, he imposes on others and their efforts the responsibility of providing temporal sustenance. Secondly, his mind being idle, he becomes open to the influences of the evil one, for as it has been said, "An idle mind is the devil's workshop." Mental progression stops. "No man can be saved in ignorance." Physically he becomes weak, subject to disease, and as medical science has declared, his span of life is shortened ten to twenty years, which is logical because the body, like a machine out of use, becomes rusty and obsolete. Spiritually, he loses contact with the divine. His spiritual body literally starves and becomes emaciated and weak The experiences of mortality have done him but little good.
The Lord knew his children in the spiritual world, fully realizing that upon their return to his presence, there would be a great difference in achievementssome taking full advantage of the opportunities in mortality, thereby achieving highly. Others would achieve in a partial way. Then there might be the indolent and careless. Therefore, out of justice and proper rewarding, the Lord indicated that his children would be judged by their works and very properly established three glories as a rewardthe celestial for those who achieved highly, the terrestrial for those who achieved partially, and the telestial for those who were indolent and careless.
Idleness a Demoralizing Agency
The modern day trends in religion advocate the corrupt philosophy that man's salvation is assured by grace alone, which contradicts the teaching of the Master, "Faith without works is dead." And why should faith without works be dead? Because the godly power of work, the power of God unto salvation, has not been invoked. Moreover, men are being taught a demoralizing, and might I say a most degenerate doctrine that the world owes them a living without physical or mental effort upon their part. There has been nothing in history which has undermined and destroyed the moral fabric of the people more than this false doctrine, not a new doctrine, for it had its inception in the council of heaven when the Son of the Morning, Lucifer, proposed to save mankind without any effort upon their part. Men are encouraged to lean upon the government for their sustenance rather than to depend upon their God-given powers to create by the sweat of their brow and the work of their hands the necessities of life. It is odd that thee are those who think that our government has an inexhaustible resource of money which will always be available.
Robert Ingersoll's Opinion of Government Support
On this point may I quote Robert Ingersoll. I do not agree with him on many things, but on this point, he is right. Said he:
In the first place the government does not support the people, the people support the government. The government is a perpetual pauper. It passes 'round the hat and solicits contributions; but then you must remember that the government has a musket behind the hat. The government produces nothing. It does not plow the land, it does not sow corn, it does not grow trees. The government is a perpetual consumer. We support the government. Now, the idea that the government can make money for you and me to live onit is the same as though my hired man should issue certificates of my indebtedness to him for me to live on. Some people tell us that the government can impress its sovereignty on a piece of paper, and that is money. Well, if it is, what is the use of wasting it making one dollar bills? It takes no more ink and no more paperwhy not make one thousand dollar bills? Why not make a hundred million dollar bills and all be billionaires? How do you get your money? By work. You have to dig it out of the ground.That is where it comes from. Men have always had a kind of hope that something could be made out of nothing.
Labor a Sacred Obligation
The only preventive for further decadence in the morals, intelligence, spiritual, and materialistic affairs of man is not less work, but more work, the proper understanding between employee and employer, both of them realizing that they have sacred obligations to one another. He who would hire the laborer should realize that there is imposed upon him a sacred obligation, namely, as stated in Luke that the laborer is worthy of his hire. On the other hand, he who labors with his hands should remember his obligation of an honest day's labor. It is as the writer of Proverbs declares in 10:4: "He becometh poor that dealeth with a slack hand: but the hand of the diligent maketh rich." The last sentence of this verse that "the hand of the diligent maketh rich," impels me to quote to you a statement of Abraham Lincoln:
Labor was prior to capital, but property is the fruit of labor. Property is desirable and is a positive good to the world. That some should be rich shows that others may become rich and hence is just encouragement to industry and enterprise. Let not he who is houseless pull down the house of another, but let him work diligently and build one for himself, thus by example insuring that his own shall be safe from violence when built.
The power of God which is work, creative work, as I have defined it, is the foundation stone of salvation, temporally, spiritually, and mentally. The cornerstone on which this great republic rests is that of work and free enterprise. Should the cornerstone deteriorate, the national structure will collapse. The cornerstone must be strengthened and reinforced by greater endeavor, for there is now resting upon this nation a burden of debt the like of which the world has never known before, stupendous beyond the imagination and comprehension of the average mind; and its liquidation, if it is liquidated according to just and honest principles, can only be accomplished through the application of godly power, namely, work on the part of its citizens. This statement is sustained by an excerpt taken from a bulletin published by the Tax Foundation in New York City:
The relation between average earning power and the average debt load on the individual is significant. A large part of the debt is held by banks, insurance companies, and other savings and investment institutions. The future welfare of millions of people depends on the continued solvency of these institutions and that depends on maintaining the value of their assets, including government bonds. But the value of the government bonds depends on the labor and earnings of the people and on their capacity to provide enough taxes to pay the interest and redeem the principal of the debt.
Anything short of this will bring bankruptcy and chaos to all. One cannot think or speak of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ as being the power of God unto salvation, spiritually, mentally, and temporally but what there comes to mind the memory of the intrepid pioneerhe who saw and understood the Gospel with all its implications and obligations, accepting them wholly, willingly, and with no reservations as to workhence his memorable achievements. There stands to his memory an everlasting monument in the form of the restored Church of Christ a great state, the emblem of which is the beehivea symbol of industry, thrift, and no place for the idler but an attitude of helpfulness to the aged, the widowed, and the fatherless. As heirs to all these blessings, there stands before us the challenge of the pioneer, and if we accept it, we will take from his gnarled hand of toil the torch of the gospel of salvation to exemplify its ideals, its saving power in unceasing work.
We are a blessed people in that we have a living prophet of God, whose counsel on the matter of work is as follows:
I have never seen the day when I was not willing to do the meanest work [if there is such a thing as mean work which I doubt] rather than be idle. . . . I assert with confidence that the law of success here and hereafter is to have a humble and prayerful heart and to work, work, work.
Of all Christian peoples and American citizens, we should stand out preeminently as a people full of faith in the Creator, a people of integrity, and a people which demonstrates and proves to the world that the power of God in the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is the power and the efficacy of work as I have defined it.
I humbly pray that every man, woman, and child in Israel will understand the full significance of work, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.