Nations Cannot Endure In Sin: Chiasmus in Ezra Taft Benson’s “A Message to the World”

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President Ezra Taft Benson (history.lds.org)

Ezra Taft Benson served as president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from November 1985 to May 1994. Prior to this he served as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles beginning in October 1943. Professionally, he worked in agriculture and government, both in his native Idaho and in Washington D.C. Significantly, from 1953 to 1961 — while serving as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles — he served as the United States secretary of agriculture under President Eisenhower.

In his address at the October 1975 General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, President Benson referenced the Lord’s commandment to Joseph Smith in January 1841 “to make a solemn proclamation of my gospel … to all the kings of the world, to the four corners thereof, to the honorable president-elect, and the high-minded governors of the nation in which you live, and to the nations of the earth scattered abroad.” This proclamation was to be written “in the spirit of meekness and by the power of the Holy Ghost” (see D&C 124:1-14).  

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Proclamation of 1845 (archive.org)

Before he could fulfill this commandment, Joseph Smith suffered martyrdom in June 1844, but on April 6, 1845 the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles published a proclamation:

“To all the Kings of the World;
To the President of the United States of America;
To the Governors of the several States;
And to the Rulers and People of all Nations”.

After quoting several paragraphs from this bold and prophetic proclamation, President Benson declared, “It seems fitting and proper to me that we should reaffirm the great truths pronounced in this declaration and that we should proclaim them anew to the world.”

Ezra Taft Benson’s 1975 proclamation, titled “A Message to the World,” includes a bold and prophetic passage that is cited in our ebook, A Chiastic Analysis of ‘The Family: A Proclamation to the World’ (Westbench Publishing, 2016). A careful reading of this passage shows it to be a chiasm. This article presents a diagram and detailed analysis of this significant and striking chiasm.

[Note: For an in-depth study of chiasmus in the 1845 Proclamation, refer to our article: “To All the Kings of the World: Chiasmus in the 1845 Proclamation of the Twelve Apostles”]


Diagram and Analysis:

A: The nations of the earth continue in their sinful and unrighteous ways. Much of the unbounded knowledge with which men have been blessed has been used to destroy mankind instead of to bless the children of men as the Lord intended.
B: Two great world wars, with fruitless efforts at lasting peace, are solemn evidence that peace has been taken from the earth because of the wickedness of the people. Nations cannot endure in sin. They will be broken up but the kingdom of God will endure forever.
C: Therefore, as humble servants of the Lord, we call upon the leaders of the nations to humble themselves before God, to seek his inspiration and guidance.
D: We call upon rulers and people alike to repent of their evil ways. Turn unto the Lord, seek his forgiveness, and unite yourselves in humility with his kingdom. There is no other way. If you will do this, your sins will be blotted out, peace will come and remain, and you will become part of the kingdom of God in preparation for Christ’s second coming.
D: But if you refuse to repent, to accept the testimony of his inspired messengers, or to unite yourselves with God’s kingdom, then the terrible judgments and calamities promised the wicked will be yours.
C: The voice of warning is unto all people by the mouths of his servants (See D&C 1:4). If this voice is not heeded, the angels of destruction will increasingly go forth, and the chastening hand of Almighty God will be felt upon the nations, as decreed, until a full end thereof will be the result.
B: Wars, devastation, and untold suffering will be your lot except you turn unto the Lord in humble repentance. Destruction even more terrible and far-reaching than attended the last great war will come with certainty unless rulers and people alike repent and cease their evil and godless ways. God will not be mocked (D&C 63:58). He will not permit the sins of sexual immorality, secret murderous combinations, the killing of the unborn, and disregard for all his holy commandments and the messages of his servants to go unheeded without grievous punishment for such wickedness. The nations of the world cannot endure in sin.
A: The way of escape is clear. The immutable laws of God remain steadfastly in the heavens above. When men and nations refuse to abide by them, the penalty must follow. They will be wasted away. Sin demands punishment.

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Conference Report, Oct. 1975 (archive.org)

A=A: “[U]nbounded knowledge” is governed by “[t]he immutable laws of God.” The first half describes the misuse of “[m]uch of the unbounded knowledge with which men have been blessed,” resulting in the destruction of mankind. The second half, in contrast, describes “[t]he way of escape,” which is to “abide by” the “immutable,” or unchanging, “laws of God.” “[M]en and nations” have the choice to obey or rebel and are, therefore, masters of their own destiny.

B=B: “Two great world wars” equals “[w]ars, devastation, and untold suffering” and “[n]ations cannot endure in sin” equals “nations of the world cannot endure in sin.” Evidence of the wickedness of mankind are the “[t]wo great world wars” that rocked the nations in the first half of the 20th century. Without repentance, “[w]ars, devastation, and untold suffering” will continue and become “even more terrible and far-reaching.” The sins that the world is guilty of are “sexual immorality, secret murderous combinations, the killing of the unborn, and disregard for all his holy commandments and the messages of his servants.” The unrepentant “nations of the world” will “be broken up,” but the “kingdom of God will endure forever.”

C=C: The phrase “humble servants of the Lord” equals “his servants” and “we call upon the leaders of the nations to humble themselves before God, to seek his inspiration and guidance” contrasts with “[i]f this voice is not heeded, the angels of destruction will increasingly go forth, and the chastening hand of Almighty God will be felt upon the nations, as decreed, until a full end thereof will be the result.” In contrast to the “leaders of the nations,” the “servants of the Lord” are “humble” and declare “the voice of warning.” If the leaders of the nations “seek [the Lord’s] inspiration and guidance,” they can avoid the prophesied “full end” of all nations (see D&C 87:6). But, if not, “the chastening hand of Almighty God will be felt upon the nations.”

D=D:The declaration “repent” contrasts with “refuse to repent.” The central focus of this chiasm emphasizes that if the people and nations of the earth choose to repent, “your sins will be blotted out, peace will come and remain, and you will become part of the kingdom of God in preparation for Christ’s second coming.” If they choose to resist, “then the terrible judgments and calamities promised the wicked will be yours.”


Conclusion:

Chiasmus in Ezra Taft Benson’s “A Message to the World” emphasizes the crucial choice placed before the people and nations of the latter days. Either we can repent and enjoy spiritual and national peace or we can rebel and experience complete destruction. Whatever those around us may choose, we can find personal security by choosing to abide by the “immutable laws of God” and unite ourselves with the kingdom of God, which will “endure forever.” “There is no other way” to experience peace and safety during the days of turmoil preceding “Christ’s second coming.”


Note: Ezra Taft Benson’s “A Message to the World” appears as chapter 14 of his excellent book, This Nation Shall Endure (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1977).

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