Society has made a great effort to modernize the world in education, communication, travel, health, commerce, housing, and in many other ways, so as to increase the standard of living; but what has this socialization and modernization done to the family—the basic institution of society? Never before has there been greater instability. The divorce rate is higher now than at any time in history. Modernization has transferred the responsibility of education from the family to public institutions where modern thought has become paramount and moral principles have become abandoned. The crime rate has increased alarmingly. Drug addiction, disobedience to law, increase in venereal disease, and corruption in all forms seem to be accepted. In this day of modernization, freedom of thought and action is sponsored and promoted without consideration of the responsibilities that must accompany such freedoms if society is to be stabilized. Surely we would agree that the family institution has been seriously, if not irreparably, damaged in our society.
In the past, churches have taken a leading role in teaching men to have faith in God and to develop moral stability. What is happening to organized religion as a stabilizing force in society? Many of the largest of the Christian churches have reported losses in membership and also in income to carry on the work of their religious endeavors. Here again modernization has taken a heavy toll.
Modernism has become the order of the day in some religious thought. Modernists advocate a restatement of traditional doctrine on the grounds that today’s modern scholastic and scientific advances require a new critical interpretation of the Bible and the history of dogma. The term “modernism” is often used interchangeably with “liberalism.” Its advocates claim that religious truths are subject to constant reinterpretation in the light of modern knowledge; therefore, new and more advanced concepts are required to express modern thought and progress.
The Bible has been the subject of attack by modernists. It is said by some that science refuses to support the authenticity of such Biblical accounts as the creation of the world, placing life upon the earth, Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden, the flood, and many other happenings in the Old and New Testaments. What is claimed to be superior knowledge in this day of enlightenment causes some men to look upon these accounts as fables. Because of this, can believers in Christ repudiate them? In an attempt to regain the confidence of communicants who have ceased to believe, many liberal churches have abandoned one doctrine after another, even to the extent of failing to stand by the doctrine of the existence of a personal God. They no longer uphold as a reality the resurrection of the crucified Savior, and the doctrine of the atoning sacrifice has lost its credibility. Under such circumstances, how can organized religion maintain its place as a stabilizing influence in society?
In this day of increased knowledge, higher thought, and a modernization of the old, the simple has been overlooked and the profound sought after. The basic, simple, fundamental truths of the gospel are being ignored....
From the earliest days of the Christian church, spurious gospels have been taught—not really gospels ... for there is only one gospel of Christ. Today is not different. We are surrounded by frustrations and advances in thought and learning which raise questions and doubts. These seem to drag men down and destroy faith and morality. Where, then, is hope in this world of frustration and moral decay? It lies in the knowledge and understanding of the truths taught by the Master, which must be taught by the Church of Christ without deviation and believed in and lived by its membership. These are eternal truths and will be so in perpetuity regardless of changing circumstances in society, development of new scientific achievements, or increase of man’s knowledge.
I believe we can be modern and enjoy the fruits of a modern world and its high standard of living, and I believe we can have the benefits of modern scholarship and scientific advances without turning to the theories of the modernist. I believe the principles of the gospel announced by the Savior in his personal ministry were true when they were given and are true today. Truth is eternal and never changing, and the gospel of Jesus Christ is ever contemporary in a changing world.
The knowledge explosion of which the world is so proud is not of man’s creation. It is his discovery of portions of the unlimited knowledge and information which is part of God’s knowledge. How we use it is determined by whether we are of the eternal kingdom of God or a part of the temporary understanding of the world. The question is simply this: are we seeking to find our place in the world in the realm of worldly thought, or are we seeking to find our place in the unchanging kingdom of God? (Ensign, January 1974, p.53)