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E believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul-we believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things. (Articles of Faith, 13).
In this brief statement the Latter-day Saints proclaim the practical character of their religion-a religion that embraces not alone definite conceptions of spiritual matters and belief as to conditions in the hereafter, doctrines of original sin and the actuality of heaven and hell, but also and more particularly of present, current, every-day duties, in which self-respect, love for fellow-men, and devotion to God are the guiding principles.
Religion without personal morality, professions of godliness without charity, church membership without consistent conduct in the common affairs of life are but as sounding brass and tinkling cymbals-noise without music, the words of prayer without the spirit.
"If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this: To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world." (James 1:26, 27).
A good test of a man's religion is its utility. Religious
profession used as a cloak-and that too often reserved for Sunday wear, hiding in part the shabby rags of sin-is but sacrilege. In any attempt to analyze a religious system or creed it is pertinent to examine the results of its operation in the lives of its adherents. This is as simple and fair as to judge a tree by the quality of its substance and fruit. Altruism is an essential ingredient of a religion that is worth while.
"If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God' love his brother also." (1 John 4:20, 21).
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints invites attention to its work of unselfish, practical, unremitting benevolence. In missionary service the Church has been active since the date of its organization; and this systematic labor, because of its extent and unique methods, has attracted attention and stimulated comment in practically all nations of the earth. Actuated by a genuine love for humanity and the desire to obey the Divine command respecting such, the Church sends out every year hundreds of missionaries to proclaim its message to the world. These devoted servants comprise men and women called from all vocations, who serve without salary or any other form of material remuneration. Furthermore, they pay their own way in traveling to their appointed fields of labor and while serving therein, except so far as they may receive assistance from those who become interested in their work.
A desire common to young Latter-day Saints is to so live. that they shall be found worthy to be called into service to spend a period of years, generally from two to four, as traveling ministers of the Gospel of Christ. They offer
their message without money or price, carrying it to the doors in city and country, distributing literature, inviting conversation, but never forcing themselves upon unwilling hearers. Who can consistently affirm that such faithful servants as these are insincere or devoid of that love for fellow-men without which genuine love of God is impossible?
The benevolence that manifests itself in material giving is impressed as a duty upon members of the Church, and while every one is taught to assist the needy by individual effort, a system of orderly contribution and distribution is maintained. In each Ward and Branch of the Church an organization of women known as the Relief Society is operative. Its particular function is that of caring for the needy and the afflicted, without exclusive distinction as to whether the subjects of their ministration are members of the Church or not. The Relief Society receives contributions of money, clothing, food and other commodities and distributes these as occasion requires, beside maintaining a system of visitation to the needy, giving aid in nursing, comfort in bereavement, and relief from distress in every way possible.
The Church teaches the efficacy of prudent fasting, moderate abstinence from food at stated times, as an accessory to prayer; and the first Sunday of each month is observed as a fast-day. On that day the people are invited to meet for special devotional service, and by common consent and custom they contribute at least the equivalent of the meals omitted through the fasting of the family. These offerings are received by the local officers and are distributed under their direction to the worthy poor. If there be a surplus in any Ward it is applied to the needs of other Wards in which the proportion of dependent poor is greater.
By these and other methods, including the tithing system to be considered later, are the Latter-day Saints taught to give of their substance for worthy purposes, and in such a way as to avoid indiscriminate charity whereby perchance unworthy dependency would be fostered. We believe that the harmony of our prayers will become a discord if the cry of the deserving poor accompany our supplications to the throne of Grace.
AMERICA THE CRADLE OF LIBERTY
No King to Rule in the Land
HE commanding position of the United States among the world powers, and the prominent place the American nation is to maintain as the exponent and champion of human rights, were foreseen and predicted centuries before the beginning of the Christian Era. Such is the Book of Mormon record.
The prophet Nephi was one of the original company, who, under the leadership of his father Lehi, left Jerusalem in the year 600 B. C., and journeyed to the Arabian shore, thence voyaging to the American continent in a vessel they had constructed as, centuries earlier, Noah had built an ark under Divine guidance.
In the early stages of the exodus, while the travelers were journeying seaward through the deserts of Arabia, the Lord revealed unto Nephi that a part of the posterity of his brethren would be smitten by the righteous wrath of God; and it was specifically shown that the nation into which the little company was to develop would be isolated beyond
the seas from all other peoples. Thus runs the account of the revelation to Nephi the prophet, the events being chronicled in the past tense as though already accomplished:
"And it came to pass that I looked and beheld many waters; and they divided the Gentiles from the seed of my brethren. And it came to pass that the angel said unto me, Behold the wrath of God is upon the seed of thy brethren. And I looked and beheld a man among the Gentiles who was separated from the seed of my brethren by the many waters; and I beheld the Spirit of God, that it came down and wrought upon the man; and he went forth upon the many waters, even unto the seed of my brethren, who were in the promised land." (Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 13:10-12).
Lehi and his people were Hebrews; all other nations are designated in the Book of Mormon as Gentiles. As later parts of the record make plain, "the promised land" is the continent of America. The "man among the Gentiles," who was to come across the many waters and discover the descendants of Nephi's brethren upon whom the wrath of God had fallen, was Christopher Columbus whose mission was as surely foreappointed as was that of any prophet. Then follows the prediction of the migration of the Pilgrim Fathers, who are described as "other Gentiles" going forth out of captivity; while the subsequent occupation of the land by multitudes of the Gentiles who would prosper as a nation and would subjugate the Indians is impressively set forth. The struggle of the American colonies for independence was foretold, and the assurance that the power of God would be exercised to give them victory over "their mother Gentiles", or the British nation, was inscribed on enduring metal before the existence of the western world had found place even in the dreams of mankind.