Selected Teachings on
Ezra Taft Benson (Quorum of the Twelve)
God, the Father of us all, uses the men of the earth, especially good men, to accomplish his purposes. It has been true in the past, it is true today, it will be true in the future.
"Perhaps the Lord needs such men on the outside of His Church to help it along," said the late Elder Orson F. Whitney of the Quorum of the Twelve. "They are among its auxiliaries, and can do more good for the cause where the Lord has placed them, than anywhere else.... Hence, some are drawn into the fold and receive a testimony of the truth; while others remain unconverted ... the beauties and glories of the gospel being veiled temporarily from their view, for a wise purpose. The Lord will open their eyes in His own due time. God is using more than one people for the accomplishment of His great and marvelous work. The Latter-day Saints cannot do it all. It is too vast, too arduous for any one people.... We have no quarrel with the Gentiles. They are our partners in a certain sense" (Conference Report, April 1928, p.59). ("Civic Standards For the Faithful Saints," Ensign, July 1972, p.59)
Orson F. Whitney (Quorum of the Twelve)
Perhaps the Lord needs such men on the outside of his Church, to help it along. They are among its auxiliaries, and can do more good for the cause where the Lord has placed them, than anywhere else. And the same is true of the priesthood and its auxiliaries inside the Church. Hence, some are drawn into the fold and receive a testimony of the Truth; while others remain unconverted—for the present; the beauties and glories of the gospel being veiled temporarily from their view, for a wise purpose. The Lord will open their eyes in his own due time.
God is using more than one people for the accomplishment of his great and marvelous work. The Latter-day Saints cannot do it all. It is too vast, too arduous, for any one people. Our part in it is the greatest. We have the gospel and the priesthood, with a mission to gather Israel, build the New Jerusalem, and prepare the way for the advent of the King of kings. And this duty has been laid upon us because we belong to the house of Israel. It is the God of Israel who is coming to reign and we are the right people to prepare the way before him.
But we don't own the steamships and the railroads and other means of rapid transit and communication, whereby the Lord's people are being gathered out from the nations—flying "upon the shoulders of the Philistines," as Isaiah predicted. The risen Savior, when he appeared to the Nephites and spoke of the glorious future, said that the Gentiles would assist his people in gathering to their promised lands. And are they not doing this? Is it not the ships and railroads of the Gentiles—"the shoulders of the Philistines"—that are bringing the children of Ephraim to this Land of Joseph, and carrying the children of Judah to their ancient homeland—dedicated for their return by direction of the Prophet of Ephraim—Joseph Smith?
We have no quarrel with the Gentiles. They are our partners in a certain sense. The name Gentile is not with us a term of reproach.... It simply means, with us, one who does not belong to the Church. We need the Gentiles, and they need us, but they don't know it, and we do. They are wiser than we are in material things—the things of Earth and Time. But when it comes to spiritual things—the things of Heaven and Eternity, we can teach them. We need their wealth and worldly wisdom, their wonderful skill in managing and manipulating temporalities. And they need the Gospel and the Priesthood. They need us, for we hold in our hands the Key to their eternal salvation.
Again I say, the Lord's Work has need of auxiliaries outside as well as inside, to help it along. Because of their worldly influence—which would depart if they connected themselves with the Church—many are kept where they are, where the Lord has placed them, and can best use them for the good of all. (Conference Report, April 1928, p.59-60)
Many beautiful lessons might be drawn from this passage of scripture [Alma 29:1-9], but I have only time to dwell upon one. It tells me that Providence is over all, and that he holds the nations in the hollow of his hand; that he is using not only his covenant people, but other peoples as well, to consummate a work, stupendous, magnificent, and altogether too arduous for this little handful of Saints to accomplish by and of themselves. Alma seems to have thought, for the moment, that man was doing God's work for him, instead of which it is God, who is doing his own work, and using men as his instruments. Nor is he limited in the choice of instruments to his own people. He sways the scepter over all nations, and they are all playing into his hands, knowingly or unknowingly. Alma knew this, but had momentarily lost sight of it.
All down the ages men bearing the authority of the Holy Priesthood—patriarchs, prophets, apostles and others, have officiated in the name of the Lord, doing the things that he required of them; and outside the pale of their activities other good and great men, not bearing the Priesthood, but possessing profundity of thought, great wisdom, and a desire to uplift their fellows, have been sent by the Almighty into many nations, to give them, not the fulness of the Gospel, but that portion of truth that they were able to receive and wisely use. Such men as Confucius, the Chinese philosopher; Zoroaster, the Persian sage; Gautama or Buddha, of the Hindus; Socrates and Plato, of the Greeks; these all had some of the light that is universally diffused, and concerning which we have this day heard. They were servants of the Lord in a lesser sense, and were sent to those pagan or heathen nations to give them the measure of truth that a wise Providence had allotted to them.
And not only teachers—not poets and philosophers alone; but inventors, discoverers, warriors, statesmen, rulers, et al. These also have been used from the beginning to help along the Lord's work—mighty auxiliaries in the hands of an Almighty God, carrying out his purposes, consciously or unconsciously.
"There's a divinity that shapes our ends, Rough hew them as we will."
The God of Israel used Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, to punish his chosen people for their sins. Jeremiah the Prophet was sent with the word of the Lord to Zedekiah, king of Judah, commanding him to submit to the Lord's "servant"—this same Nebuchadnezzar. And because Zedekiah refused to obey, a terrible fate befell him; his kingdom was overthrown, his eyes were put out, and he and his people were carried away captive into Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar was a great king; he built the "Hanging Gardens," one of the seven wonders of the world; but he arrogated to himself the glory for what God had done, and had to be humbled to the dust, and sent forth to eat grass like the ox, until "seven times" had passed over him, and he had learned the lesson "that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will."
Babylon was overthrown by Cyrus the Persian, a great and good monarch, called by the Lord "his anointed," and named by prophecy more than a hundred years before he was born. Cyrus was instrumental in restoring the captive Jews to their own country, that they might rebuild Jerusalem in time for the Savior's advent.
When the Medo-Persian empire became corrupt, it was overthrown by Alexander the Great. Alexander conquered the world and "wept," it is said, "because there were no more worlds to conquer." He died a drunkard, or from, a fever caused by excess of drink. But was that all he did? Dean Farrar says of him and of the great service he unwittingly rendered to the cause of Christ: "The immense field covered by the conquests of Alexander gave to the civilized world a unity of language, without which it would have been, humanly speaking, impossible for the earliest preachers to have made known the good tidings in every land which they traversed." "Wherever he went," says the historian McCabe, "he left the Greek language, ... all powerful in drawing the nations of the old world into a closer and more intimate contact with each other. ... At a later period the Hebrew Scriptures, translated into Greek, were made accessible to the whole world, and the way was thus paved for the mission of Him of whom these Scriptures testif."
This also from Farrar: "The rise of the Roman Empire created a political unity which reflected in every direction the doctrines of the new faith. The Gospel emanated from the capital of Judea; it was preached in the tongue of Athens; it was diffused through the Empire of Rome; the feet of its earliest missionaries traversed the solid structure of undeviating roads by which the Roman legionnaires—'those massive hammers of the whole earth'—had made straight in the desert a highway for our God. Semite and Aryan had been unconscious instruments in the hands of God for the spread of a religion which, in its first beginnings, both alike detested and despised."
Coming down to later times, we have but to open the Book of Mormon to see how the Spirit of the Lord rested upon a man among the Gentiles, impelling him across the great waters to the Land of Zion, a land reserved by Providence for the triumph of truth and freedom in the last days—the place for the building of the New Jerusalem and the beginning of the work of preparation that will have to be done before the Lord comes in his glory. Columbus was inspired to discover America for this purpose, though he knew it not. After him came the Pilgrim Fathers; and then Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Hamilton, and other Patriots of the Revolution, all moved upon by the same Spirit, to create the mighty fabric of this great Republic, a free nation, guaranteeing liberty to its citizens of every creed and of no creed, and raised up by the Almighty to play the part of a nursing mother to the restored Church of Christ.
True, the Latter-day Saints have been persecuted under the Stars and Stripes in various States of the Union; but, we must not make the mistake of supposing that it was because of the Flag, or of the Constitution, or of the genius of the American government, that these deplorable happenings took place. No; it was not because, but in spite of them. Those persecutions were inflicted by lawless force, by mob violence, ever to be execrated and condemned by every true patriot. Let us credit our noble Nation with what it has done in the direction of filling its God-given mission. In no other land—in no other nation upon this land, would the Lord's people have been treated with the same degree of consideration. In no other country on earth would this work have been permitted to come forth. This nation was founded purposely, that the Church and Kingdom of God might be established and all nations bask in its light and share in its blessings. (Conference Report, April 1921, p.32-35)