Three Tests for Proposed Federal Programs: Ezra Taft Benson



April 1952

With you, I love this great land in which we live. I pray for the chief executive and his cabinet and the legislative and judicial branches, the officials of our states and our cities. But I wonder sometimes … what our founding fathers, our pioneer fathers, would do and say if they were here today. I’m sure they would give serious reflection to present conditions. I wonder if they would not recognize that our liberties have already been abridged, that there has been too much of a tendency for us to call upon our federal government every time we felt the need for the accomplishment of any particular objective. I wonder if we haven’t had a tendency to call for help for those things which our forefathers would have done willingly for themselves. Yes, I presume as a people we are to blame, but I feel that if they were here today, they would apply some very definite tests before any new service or new program were approved. May I just mention three:

First, I think they would ask the question: Can this service, assuming it is needed, be done more efficiently, more effectively by our federal government or should we do it ourselves on the local level? They believed that government is best which governs least. Government seems to be inherently wasteful and inefficient. Possibly it is because the profit motive and competition–the very life of private enterprise–are largely absent.

Second, How will it affect the morale and the character of the people? This seems to me to be of great importance. They were interested in the building of character. They recognized that character, not wealth or power or position, is of prime consideration.

Third, they would possibly ask: How will it affect our free institutions–the church, the school, the home, and our local form of government?

I believe if they were here, they would look for the answers to the decline of public morals. As they looked searchingly for the answers, they would probably observe evidence of weak and vacillating leadership in many places, not confined to one group or one party. They would find a tendency for men in high places to place political expediency ahead of principle. They would be concerned with the alarming growth of a something-for-nothing philosophy, a failure of people to stand on their own feet. They would probably find bad examples by unscrupulous politicians and by delinquent parents, and possibly a weakening of religious training, and the substitution therefore of a faith-destroying materialism.

I think … we need to rouse ourselves to the problems that confront us as a great Christian nation. We need to recognize that these fundamental, basic principles, moral and spiritual, lay at the very foundation of our achievements in the past. If we are to continue to enjoy our present blessings, we must have a return to these basic and fundamental principles. Economics and morals are both parts of one inseparable body of truth, and they must be in harmony. We need to square our actions and our policies with these eternal principles.

I wonder if we have forgotten the counsel of the prophets, the founding fathers, and our great statesmen. Surely we need a nationwide return to these fundamentals. We need a nationwide repentance to rid this land of corruption. We must return to the fundamental virtues that have made this nation great. There is a force in the universe which no mortal can alter. This nation does have a spiritual foundation. It has been established in keeping with great spiritual and moral principles, but there seems to be a tendency for us to lose our sense of uprightness and to do willfully those things which we must know to be wrong. This cannot be done with impunity.

Source: Ezra Taft Benson. Excerpt from General Conference Address, Saturday Morning Session, April 1952. Ezra Taft Ben­son (1899–1994) was an American Farmer and religious leader who served as thir­teenth Pres­i­dent of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1985 until his death, and as Sec­re­tary of Agri­cul­ture for both terms of Dwight D. Eisenhower’s presidency.

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Called Unto Liberty is researched, compiled, and edited (with occasional notes and commentary) by Steve Farrell, Founder and Editor In Chief of The Moral Liberal.

The Moral Liberal recommends Ezra Taft Benson’s: The Constitution: A Heavenly Banner

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