Elder Joseph F. Merrill
Of the Council of the Twelve Apostles
Joseph F. Merrill, Conference Report October 1949, pp. 33-39
Brethren, sisters, and radio listeners, as a preliminary to other remarks I would like for a moment to refer to the Prophet Joseph Smith, mentioned this morning in both prayer and speech. It is because Joseph Smith lived and functioned that we are all here today, and I have said from this stand and from other stands that in my opinion Joseph Smith was a most marvelous man, the greatest prophet this world has ever seen, aside from Jesus Christ himself (D&C 135:3) and, as I believe history will declare, one of the greatest Americans that this country has ever known.
Why am I justified in saying all this? I believe that a real, serious, honest investigation of Joseph Smith, from the time of his birth to the time of his death, will justify anyone who goes carefully into all the history and all the things he did in saying that at least he was a most marvelous man, and in saying that, in coming to that conclusion, such an investigator would be guided by exactly the same standard that is used in judging greatness of all other people: by his works shall he be known, by his works he should be judged. And in my opinion every honest, conscientious, intelligent man and woman, in the light of his claims, ought to feel justified in going carefully into a study of this wonderful man.
A PRACTICAL RELIGION
In the few minutes allotted to me I desire to talk in plain, everyday language of some things that I believe are important for all of us to study and think about. First of all, the gospel of Jesus Christ as accepted and taught by the elders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a very practical religion—one that should enter into every phase of the lives of its members, whether this phase be spiritual or material. One of our basic teachings is that faith without works is dead. “…shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works” (James 2:18). Again, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21). Other of our teachings pertinent to my theme are articles 12 and 13 of our faith:
We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring and sustaining the law (A of F 1:12).
We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men . . . (A of F 1:13).
If we implement these articles in our daily lives, we will be good family members, good neighbors, good citizens, and good Church members.
CONSTITUTION DIVINELY INSPIRED
Again, we teach that the Constitution of the United States as it came to us from the founders of this republic is a divinely inspired document. From a declaration of belief as found in Section 134 of The Doctrine and Covenants, and approved by unanimous vote of an assembly of the Church held in Kirtland, August 1835, I make the following quotes:
We believe that governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man; and that he holds men accountable for their acts in relation to them, both in making laws and administering them, for the good and safety of society. We believe that no government can exist in peace, except such laws are framed and held inviolate as will secure to each individual the free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the protection of life.
We believe that all governments necessarily require civil officers and magistrates to enforce the laws of the same; and that such as will administer the law in equity and justice should be sought for and upheld by the voice of the people if a republic, or the will of the sovereign (D&C 134:1-3).
Further, we also support the statements in the Declaration of Independence that all men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed . . .
In the light of the foregoing statements. I am sure that all Latter-day Saints must believe that their religion imposes on them the sacred obligation of trying to be good citizens of the country under whose flag they live. In this country—the United States this obligation, among other things, entails the duty to vote in elections for public officers. And for whom should they vote? Obviously for those capable people who, they believe, will be true, if elected, to their oaths of office; those who will uphold the Constitution of the United States and the laws made in harmony with it. To do this is a duty that every loyal citizen of this country should feel honor-bound to discharge. The safety and perpetuity of our constitutional form of government demands it, so historians tell us.
As I view the situation, the national elections in 1950 and 1952 will be among the most critical and far-reaching in effects this country has had in a century. Powerful forces are being organized and heavily financed to defeat in these elections all candidates who voted for or support the Taft-Hartley labor law. If this movement is successful, misguided leaders of some organized groups will dominate the Congress of the United States, the White House, and every other office of the government, the functions of which would help to bring into existence a welfare state—that is, one which would operate according to the principles of socialism. Not that these leaders favor such a state, but the things they demand would inevitably bring it about, so wise men say. The result would be that our free enterprise system, the system that has operated in this country from its beginning, the one that has enabled it to become the marvel and the wonder of the modern world for the variety and magnitude of its ingenious productive capacity, this system would rather quickly be destroyed, so history teaches. Otherwise the monopoly of selfish labor leaders must be broken. Freedom and personal liberty—the pride and boast of America, the achievement of centuries of human sacrifice and bloody struggle are in great danger due to the rise of this destructive movement, engineered and directed by smart and misguided leaders in whose minds and hearts right, fairness, and justice apparently are given little or no consideration. Their followers apparently have had confidence in their leaders and have accepted as true the false and misleading statements and claims of certain men relative to the provisions of the Taft-Hartley labor law. So in the minds of many workers this law is oppressive, unfair, unjust, and robs workers of their rightful gains, made under the provisions of the repealed Wagner labor act.
PROVISIONS OF TAFT-HARTLEY LAW
But let me ask how many of these workers and other people have ever read the Taft-Hartley law and fully understand what its provisions are? My understanding is that this law was designed to protect the rights and freedom of employees and employers alike, and make unions and corporations equally responsible before the law for their contracts, obligations, etc. What right-minded citizen would have any other kind of law? In any case, two-thirds of the members of each branch of the United States Congress believe the Taft-Hartley bill would be at least a fairly good law, for they passed it over the president’s veto. Is this not significant in the light of the fact that many members of his party voted to override the veto?
But the question of whether this is a good or bad law has been, and is being, hotly debated. To make this law function more equitably it needs amendments, it is said. If so, let these be made. But in this situation what should the voters of the country do? From my point of view the right to vote imposes on everyone who has this right the obligation to make a full, fair, and unprejudiced study of the issues involved in an election, and then support candidates who stand for the principles and measures that the voter sincerely and honestly believes will be for the best good of all the people and therefore for the best interests of the country as a whole. If selfishness, greed, unrighteous motives, and ignoble ambition shall dominate in our elections, the freedom that has been the pride and glory of America will vanish—many people will be practically enslaved, as is the case in Russia today—so historians predict.
DESIRE TO GET MORE
But the outlook is none too encouraging, for unjustifiable and insatiable selfishness has already made deep inroads into the economy of this country and is still unsatisfied. The desire to get more and more for less and less, spurred on by some politicians, has been growing stronger and stronger among different groups of people, especially among labor unions.
At this point let me quote from an article in the March, 1949, number of the Reader’s Digest which was written by E. T. Leech, editor, The Pittsburg Press, as follows:
This country—indeed, the whole world—is being swept by an epidemic of the ‘gimmes.’ Nearly everybody wants to be given something at the expense of somebody else. This epidemic grows out of a belief that government can somehow provide aid and security for its people, no matter what the cost and how far in debt it already is.
The more government provides, the more is expected of it. One of the penalties of government assistance is a widespread lowering of the sense of responsibility. Individual stamina and self-determination go down at a time when public expenses are going up. This parallel development has destroyed other nations. It enabled a few thousand barbarians to overthrow the mighty Roman Empire. The Romans came to depend on the state for food, shelter and entertainment. In their eagerness for free security at state expense, they became so insecure they lost everything.
A state is just a large number of individuals. In the end, it is subject to the same limitations as the individual; it pays the same penalties for bad management. Take debt, for example. The U. S. Government owes over 250 billion dollars—more than $6000 for every American family. Other political subdivisions—states, cities, counties, school districts—owe 20 billions.
All of them are under terrific pressure to provide more services and greater benefits. All are having to boost taxes and borrow money to pour out to a never-satisfied public.
The popular idea is that these funds can be obtained from the rich and the big corporations—so that the majority of people can have the benefits without paying the cost. But nobody gets anything for nothing. Everybody shares the debt. Everybody pays taxes—direct or indirect.
There aren’t enough rich people to enable the government to finance itself at their expense. If government took all the wealth of corporations, it wouldn’t put the country on a sound financial keel. But it would put the corporations out of business and workers out of jobs. Meanwhile, all that the big companies pay to government becomes a part of the cost of the goods they produce—an important factor in the cost of living for everybody.
Only wider realization of these basic facts can stop the tragedy that must eventually happen if the ‘give-everything-to-everybody’ theory continues unchecked.
As an example of this “gimmes” craze, let us look at the demands certain officials are now making on several large corporations. They demand something new—insurance policies and life pensions, ranging from $100 to $150 monthly, both to be paid entirely by the employers—absolutely something for nothing. Who would provide the money for these benefits? The public, of course, those who buy the goods and services the companies sell. When cost of production goes up, prices rise. The experience of the past four years definitely proves this. But many of these company employees already get top wages—wages much higher than are generally paid employees and other workers engaged in ordinary commercial and other enterprises. Is there anything fair, right, or just in asking these other workers to provide free benefits for more highly paid company employees?
It might be said, however, that the policy of providing retirement benefits on a fifty-fifty plan is now current among teachers, federal civil service employees, and others—the employer and employee each paying half. This is considered a reasonable plan. The one in which the employer pays all is wrong in principle, bad as an example, injurious for employee and employer alike, even though some corporations pension their officers free of cost to the latter—an unwise and wrong practice that should be abandoned.
It is true, of course, that employees of corporations are generally organized in powerful unions to which truculent politicians bow and scrape and give support. The unions back up their demands by strikes and picket lines through which it is so dangerous to pass that other workers do not venture. Thus production stops, and the innocent public suffer. Is this not a hold-up game exactly in principle like that played by the bank robber? But our laws make the latter a grave crime while the former is befriended by truculent officials and politicians who have an eye on the source from which votes come. The situation appears to be getting very critical. Some group leaders apparently have the country by the throat and still are demanding the repeal of restrictions that limit their power. Unless this power is still further limited this country will be absolutely under the domination of these men.
CAMPAIGN OF EDUCATION
What can be done in the matter? Let a campaign for educating the public be vigorously carried on for the purpose of inducing all voters to make a careful study of all pertinent facts—not fancies and propaganda—relative to the “gimmes” craze. There are scholarly, experienced experts who talk and write on the situation for the worthy purpose of giving the truth to us. In our study let us go to them and avoid crackpots and propagandists even truculent officials. I will trust an informed American public. I am sure that a vast number of members of organized groups are loyal American citizens and would vote against men and measures that by word and act would tend to destroy America’s free enterprise system and that would imperil the right of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” to loyal Americans.
But the situation, I repeat, is threatening, critical. The elections in 1950 and 1952 will undoubtedly decide whether we shall have in America freedom or a monopoly controlled by group bosses—freedom under fair, right, and just laws impartially administered, or slavery under the dictatorship of these misguided bosses. By all means let this be the dominant issue. Other issues, though highly important, can wait on the determination of this one. Is not the Republic worth saving? Who doubts it?
SUPPORT OF CONSTITUTION
Why do I speak of these things? Because our religion, as I understand it, requires us to stand for the divinely inspired Constitution of the United States and to refuse support of all candidates and measures that would bring about a condition foreign to the spirit of that instrument and that would turn our government and country over to the control and dictates of autocratic bosses, whoever they may be.
Our religion teaches without reservation the fatherhood of God and the universal brotherhood of man, and that we should love our fellow men as we love ourselves. We are all enjoined to do this. All my life I have been in full sympathy with those who toil, those who earn their bread by the sweat of their brow (Gen. 3:19). For more than seventy years I have been one of them. I love the honest toiler. I ask no more of him than I ask of myself—which is—try sincerely to live the Golden Rule (Matt. 7:12) in all our relations with our fellow men. What more can we rightfully ask of anyone?
I pray that the Lord will give us all a desire, and the wisdom and the courage to do as he would have us do relative to these and all other matters that concern us and the welfare of our country, and I do it in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior. Amen.