'America, God mend thine every flaw': remedies for nation's ills 'found in self-restraint, not in restraining orders'

Warning that "more remedies for our nation's ills are to be found in individual self-restraint than in restraining orders," Elder Neal A. Maxwell addressed a patriotic service here Sunday, July 4.

Elder Maxwell of the Council of the Twelve was featured along with the Mormon Youth Symphony and Chorus at the service, part of America's Freedom Festival in Provo. The BYU Marriott Center was filled to capacity for the event."Reflecting on that special patriotic hymn, `America the Beautiful,' provides so much to ponder!" Elder Maxwell remarked. He selected phrases from the lyrics as points of discussion.

"As we sing, for instance, of a `patriot dream that sees beyond the years,' it reminds us of the special perspective which patriotism possesses. True patriotism takes a long view of this nation's needs."

In that light, he condemned the refusal, regardless of political party, to face America's mounting national debt and "destabilizing budget deficits." Such neglect robs unborn generations of economic freedom and future and may replace the "patriot dream" with nightmares, he warned.

"Patriotism which sees `beyond the years' leaves legacies to rising generations instead of debt. It leaves clean turf, not the debris of a selfish society."

Elder Maxwell applied the hymn's words, "confirm thy soul in self control," to "society's increasing lack of impulse control."

He lamented: "The lack of self-control, collectively and individually, adds to our debt, to America's devastating drug problem and to our growing crime. The quality of self-control is best grown in healthy family gardens, yet so many families are failing. Healthy families are the first places in which we learn how to balance rights and responsibilities."

The hymn refers to a "thoroughfare of freedom," yet many of America's streets, instead of being such thoroughfares, are corridors of drugs and pornography, Elder Maxwell commented.

"However beefed up, law enforcement cannot realistically be expected to compensate fully for widespread lack of individual self control."

A "good" America should be "crowned with brotherhood," according to the patriotic hymn, Elder Maxwell observed. But contrary to those words, "instead of increasing brotherhood, there is increasing separatism," he added. "There is even rising racism. There is also decreasing respect among our citizens for each other. Engulfing gangs remind us of failing families and neighborhoods."

The hymn speaks of gleaming alabaster cities undimmed by human tears, "yet our cities don't gleam," he said. "Many are decaying, covered with graffiti. They are dimmed with human tears of desperation by those who feel left out of the American dream! . . . Sorely needed, therefore, are wise expressions of patriotism which will improve the quality of life in our decaying cities."

The plea for God to "mend" America's "every flaw" will be answered depending upon individual behavior, he explained. "We can be `free from bondage, and from captivity,' if we serve God. (See Ether 2:12.)

"Being worthy of America's past and deserving God's blessings in the future are vital not only for America, but for the world. More hinges on what happens in America than we realize," he said.

America, with all its problems, can still be a beacon for all mankind, Elder Maxwell remarked. "It requires that America have and maintain a spiritual core in order that our hopes are not in vain. Without this spiritual core, our liberties, our cities, our fiscal policies, and our brotherhood will finally fail and falter.

"Virtue must, therefore," he declared, "reside in the people as well as in the leaders."

The Constitution is designed to protect Americans from excesses of power, "but it can do little to protect us from excesses of appetite or from our indifference to great principles or institutions!" he warned.

"In a real way, each generation of Americans has its chance to re-ratify the Constitution. We can do this by abiding by its principles and by leaving our own legacy to posterity, likewise, by both preserving our rights and by filling our responsibilities. Otherwise, expressions of patriotism are no more than verbal veneration without actual emulation!"

More remedies for the nation's ills, he said, are to be found "inside our souls than inside our courts. Or, in families than in legislative bodies! There is more need for neighborly affection than for litigation in resolving local disputes. Yes, courts can adjudicate between citizens, but courts cannot supply one citizen with esteem for his fellow citizens."

He concluded with this expression: "God bless America by helping us to mend our flaws!"

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