As graduation approached, a high school senior wrote on the whiteboard, “11 days until graduation!!” Someone drew a line through “graduation” and changed the sentence to read, “11 days until freedom!!” In one U.S. History course a study packet was prepared and handed out to the students. It was designed to help students prepare to pass the state required “End of Course” exam. As I looked it over, I was impressed with the content. It would make a great study guide not only for high school but for college as well. It contained concise information about people, places, documents, dates, movements, wars, politics, geography and social issues. It had internet resources for further study. I was disappointed when I found many of the packets were either left on desks or thrown on the floor. Some were tossed into trash cans in the hall.
I have known many students who get caught up in the exciting new social life at college. Their objectives are to get a degree and to have lots of fun in the process. Rather than paying the daily price of conscientious study and preparation for classes, they seldom buy textbooks, let alone read them. Their preparation for tests involves intensive cramming sessions in which they memorize summaries and then regurgitate the information for tests. After that, they can forget what they have “learned.” Using this “clever” study philosophy they consistently receive good grades and many even graduate with honors.
But sooner or later they have to pay the price for their short-sightedness. Eventually, competition among students, or fellow workers, becomes stiff. They find that other students or workers seem far more informed than they; they seem to be able to think more clearly, to analyze, and to create. All of a sudden thinking and decision-making is all important along with the ability to communicate. They wake up and ask themselves, “What have I done? I have deceived myself. My old short-cut techniques won’t work here. What do I do now?” They try to shift the responsibility, blaming their alma maters, their teachers, and then in honesty--themselves.
The laws governing mental or social or spiritual development are as immutable and unswerving in their spheres as are the laws governing physical development. It’s called the Law of the Harvest. You don’t become a great NBA basketball player overnight; you must pay a price. People grow mentally, socially, emotionally, and spiritually only to the degree they obey on a daily basis the laws governing such growth. “There is a law irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated. (D&C 130:20-21.) Ralph Waldo Emerson said that “every act rewards itself.”
Nations are also subject to basic principles. You can absolutely rely on this—a nation cannot violate basic principles with impunity, that is, without paying the price, any more than an individual can violate basic principles with impunity. We hear a lot of economic and political arguments going on around the country today. We hear words like “socialism,” “free enterprise,” “the welfare state,” “states’ rights,” “federal control,” “human rights,” “property rights,” and “communism,” Sometimes we wonder what these words mean because they are used with such a variety of meaning.
There appears to me, though, to be a trend to shift responsibility for life and its processes from the individual to the state. In this shift there is a general violation of the Law of the Harvest, or the law of justice. The attitude of “something for nothing” is encouraged. The government is often looked to as the source of wealth. There is the feeling that the government should step in and take care of one’s needs, one’s emergencies, and one’s future.
Just as students can become slaves to their own ignorance and bad habits by refusing to accept responsibility for their own education and moral growth, so, also, can an entire people be imperceptibly transferred from individuals, families, and communities to serfs of the Federal Government.
If you deprive a man of his right to fail in the righteous use of his property, you also deprive him of his right to succeed. If you remove from a man his right to “go to hell,” you likewise remove his free agency to go to heaven. Under a free enterprise economy, a little more than 6 percent of the population has produced nearly half of the world’s goods. To sap the self-reliant spirit of enterprising independent souls in the development of a welfare state can bring only “poverty equally divided.” When the responsibility for our own welfare is completely shifted from the shoulders of individuals and families to the state, a lethal blow is struck at both the roots of our prosperity and our moral growth. When we as a people do not use our freedoms responsibly and righteously, we will gradually lose these freedoms.
Just as high school students yearn for “freedom”, if we ignore basic principles in our desires for freedom from fear, we are sowing the seeds of slavery and we will reap the harvest even though we might rationalize to ourselves, “I am free.” “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap (Galatians 6:7). (Based on a discourse by Howard W. Hunter, March 8, 1966)