President Ezra Taft Benson's forthright admonitions in his addresses covered many subjects and helped shape many lives. On this page are highlights of some of the most significant of his sermons.
Pride: `Great stumbling block'
"Pride is the universal sin, the great vice," President Benson declared at the April 1989 general conference, repeating the statement for emphasis.
Another statement in the conference address, which he emphasized in the same manner, was, "Pride is the great stumbling block to Zion." He then urged, "We must cleanse the inner vessel by conquering pride." (See Alma 6:2-4; Matt. 23:25-26.)
Earlier in the talk, President Benson echoed a comment he had made in an address at general conference of April 1986: "In the scriptures there is no such thing as righteous pride - it is always considered a sin. Therefore, no matter how the world uses the term, we must understand how God uses the term so we can understand the language of holy writ and profit thereby. (See Mosiah 3:11; 3 Ne. 6:18.)"
He explained: "Most of us think of pride as self-centeredness, conceit, boastfulness, arrogance, or haughtiness. All of these are elements of the sin, but the heart, or core is still missing.
"The central feature of pride is enmity - enmity toward God and enmity toward our fellowmen. Enmity means `hatred toward, hostility to, or a state of opposition.' It is the power by which Satan wishes to reign over us."
The prophet explained pride is essentially competitive in nature in which one pits his will against God's.
"Our will in competition to God's will allows desires, appetites and passions to go unbridled. (See Alma 38:12; 3 Ne. 12:30.)"
In his 1986 address, President Benson said: "Pride does not look up to God and care about what is right. It looks sideways to man and argues who is right. Pride is manifest in the spirit of contention.
"Was it not through pride that the devil became the devil? Christ wanted to serve. The devil wanted to rule. Christ wanted to bring men to where He was. The devil wanted to be above men.
"Christ removed self as the force in His perfect life. It was not my will, but thine be done.
"Pride is characterized by `What do I want out of life?' rather than by `What would God have me do with my life?' It is self-will as opposed to God's will. It is the fear of man over the fear of God."
President Benson observed that the two groups in the Book of Mormon that seemed to have the greatest difficulty with pride are the `learned and the rich.' (2 Ne. 28:15.) "But," he added, "the word of God can pull down pride."
Constitution: Principles are eternal
President Benson delivered two landmark speeches on the U.S. Constitution during his presidency, one at a BYU devotional Sept. 16, 1986, and the other at general conference Oct. 3, 1987.
Similar in content, the talks were in observance of the bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution, which was ratified Sept. 17, 1787.
On both occasions, the prophet warned: "We are fast approaching that moment prophesied by Joseph Smith when he said: `Even this nation will be on the very verge of crumbling to pieces and tumbling to the ground, and when the Constitution is upon the brink of ruin, this people will be the staff upon which the nation shall lean, and they shall bear the Constitution away from the very verge of destruction.' (July 19, 1840, Church Historian's Office, Salt Lake City.)"
He listed four things that citizens must do to befriend and safeguard the Constitution:
"1. We must be righteous and moral."
"2. We must learn the principles of the Constitution and then abide by its precepts."
"3. We must become involved in civic affairs."
"4. We must make our influence felt by our vote, our letters, and our advice."
At BYU, President Benson said understanding the significance of the Constitution requires understanding basic eternal principles that have their beginning in the pre-mortal councils of heaven.
"The first basic principle is agency.
"The second basic principle concerns the function and proper role of government.
"The third important principle pertains to the source of basic human rights.
"The final principle . . . is that governments should have only limited powers.
"At the conference session, the prophet declared: "I reverence the Constitution of the United States as a sacred document. To me its words are akin to the revelations of God, for God has placed His stamp of approval upon it."
Families: Safeguard eternal unit
Like prophets who came before him, President Benson emphasized the family as an eternal unit.
At the priesthood session of April 1986 general conference, he said: "Young men, the family unit is forever, and you should do everything in your power to strengthen that unit. In your own family, encourage family home evenings and be an active participant. Encourage family prayer and be on your knees with your family in that sacred circle. Do your part to develop real family unity and solidarity. In such homes, there is no generation gap.
"Your most important friendships should be with you own brothers and sisters and with your father and mother. Love your family. Be loyal to them. Have a genuine concern for your brothers and sisters. Help carry their load so you can say, like the lyrics of that song, `He ain't heavy; he's my brother.'
"Remember, the family is one of God's greatest fortresses against the evils of our day. Help keep your family strong and close and worthy of our Father in Heaven's blessings. As you do, you will receive faith and strength which will bless your lives forever."
Testimony: Witness of the truth
Like the Book of Mormon prophet Alma (See Alma 4:19), President Benson at the October 1988 general conference took opportunity to bear "pure testimony."
"As a special witness of Jesus Christ, and as His humble servant, it is now my obligation and privilege, as the Spirit dictates, to bear pure testimony and witness to that which I know to be true," he said.
Among the verities of which he bore witness were the following:
"I testify that wickedness is rapidly expanding in every segment of our society. It is more highly organized, more cleverly disguised and more powerfully promoted than ever before."
"I testify that as the forces of evil increase under Lucifer's leadership and as the forces of good increase under the leadership of Jesus Christ, there will be growing battles between the two until the final confrontation. As the issues become clearer and more obvious, all mankind will eventually be required to align themselves either for the kingdom of God or for the kingdom of the devil."
"I testify that not many years hence the earth will be cleansed. Jesus the Christ will come again, this time in power and great glory to vanquish His foes and to rule and reign on the earth.
"I testify to you that a fulness of joy can only come through the atonement of Jesus Christ and by obedience to all of the laws and ordinances of the gospel."