Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A 46-year-old time capsule

That was then...
this is now.

I take you back to the year 1965.  It was a time of unrest in America.  Students were burning everything from bras to draft cards, with a few American flags and effigies of Presidents thrown in for good measure.

A prophetic voice sounded in the form of Gordon B. Hinckley, then an apostle of the LDS Church.  (We would do well to note that Mitt Romney’s father was probably in attendance at the meeting.  It is clear that he raised his children according to the principles outlined by Hinckley.  Obama was probably never taught anything of the sort, since his mother was one of the protesters of the day.  Just sayin’.)

Hinckley opened the Saturday morning session of the LDS General Conference on October 2, 1965.  His sermon was titled, “A Charter for Youth.”

Below are excerpts from his remarks: 

It is a four-point charter. It is a bill of entitlement, setting forth briefly some of those priceless values we owe every young American, and the youth of the world. They are—

1. A home to grow in.
I mention first a home to grow in. I recently read an article written by a young man who roamed the Berkeley campus and its environs. His descriptions were clever, but his illustrations were tragic. He told of a girl, a student from an affluent home. Her father was a man of means, an executive of a large corporation, loyal to the company, loyal to his club, loyal to his party, but unwittingly a traitor to his family. Her mother had saved the civic opera, but had lost her children. The daughter, a child of promise, had become entangled in a student revolt, and without an anchor, had quit school, and had drifted to the beatnik crowd, her will-o'-the-wisp satisfactions coming only from nights of reveling and days of rebellion.

Of course, her father mourned and her mother wept. They blamed her, evidently unaware of their own miserable example of parenthood which had done much to bring her to the tragic circumstances in which she found herself.

As I read that account there passed through my mind the classic statement uttered at this pulpit by President McKay—"No other success can compensate for failure in the home."

It is the rightful heritage of every child to be part of a home in which to grow—to grow in love in the family relationship, to grow in appreciation one for another, to grow in understanding of the things of the world, to grow in knowledge of the things of God.

I was recently handed these statistics taken from the county records of one of our Southwest communities. In 1964 in this county of which I speak, there were 5807 marriages and 5419 divorces, almost one divorce for every marriage. Can we expect stability out of instability? Is it any wonder that many of our youth wander in rebellion when they come from homes where there is no evidence of love, where there is a lack of respect one for another, where there is no expression of faith? We hear much these days of the Great Society, and I do not disparage the motives of those who espouse it, but we shall have a great society only as we develop good people, and the source of good people is good homes.

It was said of old, "Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it" ( Ps. 127:1).

2. An Education Worth Striving For
I move to the second premise of this charter for youth—an education worth striving for. Time will permit little more than a brief mention of a few observations.

Education has become our largest business. On the basis of economics alone, it is larger than steel, or automobiles, or chemicals. On the basis of its influence upon our society, its impact is incalculable. Its very size, particularly in our universities, has brought into relief its most serious problem—a lack of communication between teacher and student, and a consequent lack of motivation of those who come to be taught.

A recent article in one of our national magazines contained this statement from a college teacher: ". . . there has hardly been a time, in my experience, when students needed more attention and patient listening to by experienced professors than today. The pity is that so many of us retreat into research, government contracts, and sabbatical travel, leaving counsel and instruction to junior colleagues and graduate assistants . . . What is needed are fewer books and articles by college professors and more cooperative search by teacher and taught for an authority upon which to base freedom and individuality." (J. Glenn Gray, Harper's Magazine, May 1965; p. 59.)

The great thoughts, the great expressions, the great acts of all time deserve more than cursory criticism. They deserve a sympathetic and an enthusiastic presentation to youth, who in their hearts hunger for ideals and long to look at the stars. Nor is it our responsibility as teachers to destroy the faith of those who come to us, it is our opportunity to recognize and build on that faith. If God be the author of all truth, as we believe, then there can be no conflict between true science, true philosophy, and true religion.

3. A Land To Be Proud of
I move to the next—a land to be proud of. Congress recently passed a law inflicting heavy penalties for the willful destruction of draft cards. That destruction was essentially an act of defiance, but it was most serious as a symptom of a malady that is not likely to be cured by legislation. Patriotism evidently is gone from the hearts of many of our youth.

Perhaps this condition comes of lack of knowledge, a provincialism that knows nothing else and scoffs at what little it knows. Perhaps it comes of ingratitude. This attitude is not new. Joshua, speaking for the Lord, doubtless had in mind this same indifference when he said to a new generation that had not known the trials of the old: ". . . I have given you a land for which ye did not labour, and cities which ye built not, and ye dwell in them; of the vineyards and oliveyards which ye planted not do ye eat" ( Josh. 24:13).
We shall not build love of country by taking away from our youth the principles which made us strong—thrift, initiative, self-reliance, and an overriding sense of duty to God and to man.

A terrible price has been paid by those who have gone before us, this that we might have the blessings of liberty and peace. I stood not long ago at Valley Forge, where George Washington and his ragged army spent the winter of 1776. As I did so, I thought of a scene from Maxwell Anderson's play in which Washington looks on a little group of his soldiers, shoveling the cold earth over a dead comrade, and says grimly, "This liberty will look easy by and by when nobody dies to get it."

How we need to kindle in the hearts of youth an old-fashioned love of country and a reverence for the land of their birth. But we shall not do it with tawdry political maneuvering and enormous handouts for which nothing is given in return.

Love of country is born of nobler stuff—of the challenge of struggle that makes precious the prize that's earned.

This is a good land, declared by the Lord in the scripture in which we believe to be ". . . a land . . . choice above all other lands" ( 1 Ne. 2:20), governed under a constitution framed under the inspiration of the Almighty.

4. A Faith To Live By
And now the fourth premise of my charter—a faith to live by.

It was said of old that "where there is no vision, the people perish" ( Prov. 29:18). Vision of what? Vision concerning the things of God, and a stem and unbending adherence to divinely pronounced standards. There is evidence aplenty that young people will respond to the clear call of divine truth, but they are quick to detect and abandon that which has only a form of godliness but denies the power thereof ( 2 Tim. 3:5), "teaching for doctrines the commandments of men" ( Matt. 15:9; see  JS—H 1:19).

I have sincere respect for my brethren of other faiths, and I know that they are aware of the great problem they face in a dilution of their teachings as some try to make their doctrine more generally acceptable. Dr. Robert McAffee Brown, professor of religion at Stanford, was recently quoted as saying:

"Much of what is going on at present on the Protestant scene gives the impression of being willing to jettison whatever is necessary in order to appeal to the modern mentality . . .

"It is not the task of Christians to whittle away their heritage until it is finally palatable to all." (The Daily Herald, [Provo, Utah], August 12, 1965, p. 13-A.)

To this we might add that what is palatable to all is not likely to be satisfying to any, and particularly to a generation of searching, questioning, seeking, probing young men and women.

In all the change about them, they need a constancy of faith in unchanging verities. They need the testimony of their parents and their teachers, of their preachers and their leaders that God our Eternal Father lives and rules over the universe; that Jesus is the Christ, his Only Begotten in the flesh, the Savior of the world, that the heavens are not sealed; that revelation comes to those appointed of God to receive it; that divine authority is upon the earth.

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