The Crying Need in America: Individual Reformation — Joseph F. Smith

Prophet Statesmen, Joseph F. Smith

Excerpt from a President Joseph F. Smith’s article in the Improvement Era, year 1917, Volume 20: 738.

Character of a Nation Depends on Individuals. The character of a community or a nation is the sum of the individual qualities of its component members. To say so is to voice at once an ordinary platitude and an axiom of profound import. The stability of a material structure depends upon the integrity of its several parts and the maintenance of a proper correlation of the units in harmony with the laws of forces. The same may be said of institutions, systems, and organizations in general.

Some of the gravest mistakes of men, in administrative affairs, in politics, in statesmanship, are the consequence of misdirected efforts to strengthen the fabric as a whole instead of applying remedial measures to the defective parts, or correcting the discordant relationship. When citizens can be taught to live right lives, the grandeur and perpetuity of the nation will be assured.

The voice of the pessimistic agitator is heard in the land today. He is loud in denunciation of existing systems and vigorous in demand for new laws and governmental reforms. Progressive legislation is undoubtedly necessary, and abuse of power, neglect of duty, or other evils in national or local administration, should be promptly corrected; but the crying need of mankind is individual reformation. The thorough purification and effective regulation of society as a system through repressive legislation is a stupendous and well-nigh hopeless undertaking. The natural and rational plan of improvement must deal largely with the education of the society unity, the individual citizen.

Joseph F. Smith (1838-1913) served as the sixth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.