Elder Ezra Taft Benson
of the Quorum of the Twelve
(Ensign, December 1971, p.53)
It has been well said that “there comes a time when the general defilement of a society becomes so great that the rising generation is put under undue pressure and cannot be said to have a fair choice between the Way of Light and the Way of Darkness.” (Hugh Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Mormon, 1957.)
We live in a wicked world. Never in our memory have the forces of evil been arrayed in such deadly formation. The devil is well organized. Never in our day has he had so many emissaries working for him. Through his many agents, his satanic majesty has proclaimed his intentions to destroy one whole generation of our choice young people.
Evidence of the dastardly work of evil forces is increasingly evident. On every side we see the sad and heart-rending results. The devil-inspired destructive forces are present in our literature, in our art, in the movies, on the radio, in our dress, in our dances, on the TV screen, and even in our modern, so-called popular music. Satan uses many tools to weaken and destroy the home and family and especially our young people. Today, as never before, it seems the devil’s thrust is directed at our youth.
A letter from a concerned father about the evil effects of some popular music is one of many. I quote from this well-informed teacher of youth:
This letter from a father, teacher of youth, and member of a college music department, although analytical, expresses the concern of many other parents and youth leaders.
The Church must not compromise standards before popular demands. Surely tobacco, coffee, and alcohol users have been alienated by uncompromising standards as much as today’s rocking miniskirts.
Never has the Church had a finer group of young people. They are choice spirits—sent to earth in this most challenging and important period of the world. Charged with the great responsibility of building up the kingdom of God on earth, they have an awesome challenge.
This great and momentous responsibility and challenge comes at a most difficult time. Never have the forces of evil been so insidious, widespread, and enticing. Everywhere there seems to be a cheapening, weakening, downgrading of all that is fine, good, and uplifting—all aimed at our youth while many of their parents are lulled away into a false security as they enjoy their comfortable complacency.
All is not well in Zion. The inspired Book of Mormon prophets saw this day and, as watchmen on the towers, issued grave warnings. I quote:
The Lord, through a modern prophet, has given us a solemn charge:
We love the youth of the Church and we know the Lord loves them. There isn’t anything the Church wouldn’t do that’s right to help our young people—to save them. They are our future. We have faith in them. We want them to be happy. We want them to be successful in their chosen fields. We want them to be exalted in the celestial kingdom.
We say to them, you are eternal beings. Life is eternal. You cannot do wrong and feel right. It pays to live the good, wholesome, joy-filled life. Live so you will have no serious regrets—no heartaches. Live so you can reach out and tap that unseen Power, without which no man or woman can do their best.
There must needs be opposition in all things. Freedom of choice is a God-given eternal principle. To escape Satan’s snares and booby traps by following the Lord is our assignment. It is not an easy one.
Using life as a laboratory, we can observe and study the lives of others as we might through a microscope. Observe that the man of God is a happy man. The hedonist, who proclaims “Do your thing,” who lives for sinful, so-called pleasure, is never happy. Behind his mask of mock gaiety lurks the inevitable tragedy of eternal death. Haunted by its black shadow, he trades the useful, happy life for the bleak forgetfulness of drugs, alcohol, sex, and rock.
A study of Satan’s methods can alert us to his seductions. In his cunning he knows where and how to strike. It is in youth when his victims are most vulnerable. Youth is the springtime of life when all things are new. Youth is the spirit of adventure and awakening. It is a time of physical emerging when the body can attain the vigor and good health that may scorn the caution of temperance. Youth is a time of timelessness when the horizons of age often seem too distant to be noticed. Thus, the “now” generation forgets that the present will soon be the past that looks to a life left in waste or a past rich in works. These are the ingredients in youth that make Satan’s plan of “play now and pay later” so irresistible. Yes, the devil uses many tools.
The Spirit of the Lord blesses that which edifies and leads men to Christ. Would his Spirit bless with its presence these festering festivals of human degradation cured in LSD, marijuana, and Speed? Would he be pleased by the vulgar display of unashamed nudity and immorality? The speech of the rock festival is often obscene. Its music, crushing the sensibilities in a din of primitive idolatry, is in glorification of the physical to the debasement of the spirit. In the long panorama of man’s history, these youthful rock music festivals are among Satan’s greatest successes. The legendary orgies of Greece and Rome cannot compare to the monumental obscenities found in these cesspools of drugs, immorality, rebellion, and pornophonic sound. The famed Woodstock festival was a gigantic manifestation of a sick nation. Yet the lurid movie and rock recordings of its unprecedented filth were big business in our own mountain home.
The Lord said, “For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me. …” (D&C 25:12.) It was pleasing unto the Lord where in Third Nephi in the great Book of Mormon we read: “… they did break forth, all as one, in singing, and praising their God. …” (3 Ne. 4:31.) It was pleasing unto Satan when in First Nephi, Lehi’s children and the “sons of Ishmael and also their wives began to make themselves merry, insomuch that they began to dance, and to sing, and to speak with much rudeness. …” (1 Ne. 18:9.)
And now a music scholar points to “a new direction in the rock-drug culture [which is] hailed by many ministers and the music industry as a silver lining in the clouds of gold. Religious rock is climbing up the ‘Top Ten’ charts. The growing resistance to the rock-drug scene is being diverted by this wholesome-appearing retreat from the new morality. But a review of religious rock materials unmasks an insidiously disguised anti-Christ. By reducing revealed religion to mythology, rock assumes the mantle of righteousness while rejecting the reality of sin. Without sin the new morality can continue in its Godless revel behind the pretense of religious robes. By reversing the roles of Jesus and Judas, one fast-selling album fits perfectly the warning of Isaiah: ‘Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness.’ ” (Richard Nibley.)
Little wonder that the leadership of the Church felt impelled to speak out against this sacrilegious, apostate deception by calling this wickedness to the attention of the members of the Church in a special item in the Church Priesthood Bulletin of August 1971.
Yes, we live in the best of times when the restored gospel of Jesus Christ brings hope to all the world. And the worst of times, for Satan is raging. With relentless vigor he plunges in the harvest.
How can we thwart his designs? The MIA scriptural recitation for last year gives us a pattern to follow. The Thirteenth Article of Faith of the Church contains an important key: “… If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.”
But will we really seek? To seek requires effort.
The record bins that beckon our young people with their colorful and often off-color jackets bury many masterworks that are virtuous or lovely under a vast bulk of crass commercialism.
The magnetism of TV and radio is in the accessibility of their mediocrity. Lovely is not an adjective to describe most of their products. The inventors of these wonders were inspired by the Lord. But once their good works were introduced to the world, the powers of darkness began to employ them for our destruction. In each medium—the phonograph, motion pictures, radio, and television—the evolution of decline from the inventor’s intentions can be easily traced.
May I quote from a musician who for many years has observed the influence of music on behavior:
Most of these heroes that are being glamorized today are no longer noble, accomplished, humble, or righteous. From reports in books, magazines, and newspapers—especially the youth sections—we learn that they are lewd, obscene, immoral, avaricious, and in some cases even cruel. It is the very life-style we are here to avoid that is paraded before our young people by their celebrated peers. To deflect the admiration of youth from these examples of the ugly life, we must start young. The care and feeding of children must include equal concern for their emotional lives as well as their physical, spiritual, and intellectual lives.
For young people to be in the world but not of the world has never been more difficult than today. But this burden must be shared by the parents. The family home evening is an important barrier to the works of Satan. The MIA program must protect our youth against every evil influence and should fill a vacuum left by rejecting worldly enticements. And, of course, a great panacea for all problems and personal doubts: prayer—private and family prayer, night and morning.
The critical and complaining adult will be less effective than the interested and understanding. And love and understanding are only effective when they are genuine. And to be genuine they must be motivated by love. We must love our young people, whether they are in righteousness or in error. In this way we can give them a chance to discern and to learn. But we must also give them a fair choice. Today many are not succeeding.
Yes, “There comes a time when the general defilement of a society becomes so great that the rising generation is put under undue pressure and cannot be said to have a fair choice between the Way of Light and the Way of Darkness.”
God grant that we as parents and leaders of youth may have the power and the good common sense to give them “a fair choice,” I humbly pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.