Pres. Hinckley decries 'secularizing of America'

The people of this land are paying a terrible price for the "secularizing of America," President Gordon B. Hinckley said Aug. 4 at BYU.

Speaking during the Provo City Community Centennial Service, commemorating 100 years of Utah statehood, the prophet declared: "I am more deeply concerned about the growing moral deficit in the nation than I am about the monetary deficit."A few months ago Lady Margaret Thatcher, former prime minister of Great Britain, spoke on this campus and in other places while she was visiting Utah. Lady Thatcher said, `You use the name of Diety in the Declaration of Independence and in the Constitution of the United States, and yet you cannot use it in the schoolroom.'

"This is symptomatic of what I refer to as the secularizing of America," President Hinckley explained. "Reverence for the Almighty, gratitude for His beneficent blessings, pleadings for His guidance, are increasingly being dropped from our public discourse."

The prophet was the main speaker during the centennial event held in BYU's Marriott Center. A packed congregation filled what seemed to be every available seat in the building.

Inspirational and patriotic music for the evening was performed by the Mormon Youth Chorus and Symphony, directed by Robert C. Bowden. Musical pieces included a stirring rendition of "Battle Hymn of the Republic" and the singing of the National Anthem, during which the audience participated. A singular moment occurred as Jane L. Carlile, chairwoman of the Provo City Municipal Council, led the some 22,000 attending in reciting the "Pledge of Allegiance."

During the patriotic service, Provo Mayor George Stewart presented President Hinckley with the Provo City Centennial Service Award, citing the prophet as "world leader, articulate teacher, timeless example, beloved friend." The award was a ship's clock which chimed a bell on the hour.

The mayor also presented to Sister Marjorie P. Hinckley, who accompanied her husband, a green and white centennial blanket. Also attending the service were BYU Pres. Merrill J. Bateman of the Seventy, and his wife, Marilyn; and government and civic leaders.

During his address, President Hinckley noted the nation's Founding Fathers' reliance on the God of Heaven and quoted George Washington's first inaugural address on April 30, 1789, in Federal Hall in New York: "Said he on that occasion: ` . . . It would be peculiarly improper to omit, in this first official act, my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being, who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States a government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes . . . . In tendering this homage to the great Author of every public and private good, I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own; nor those of my fellow citizens at large . . . . No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand, which conducts the affairs of men, more than the people of the United States.' "

Speaking of the "terrible social illnesses" running rampant today, President Hinckley said, "People who carry in their hearts a strong conviction concerning the living reality of the Almighty and of accountability to Him for what we do with our lives and our society are far less likely to become enmeshed in those problems which inevitably weaken our society."

He then expounded on some of those problems. "The Congress and the

U.S.T president have recently enacted and signed new legislation concerning welfare. But only a new set of rules to deal with an old problem is unlikely to produce a cure.

"There must be a change of attitude, the taking on of a sense of accountability for one's actions," President Hinckley continued. "We are shutting the doors of our homes against the God of the universe. Divine law has become a meaningless phrase. What was once so commonly spoken of as sin is now referred to as only poor judgment. Transgression has been replaced by misbehavior.

"Marriage was once generally regarded as a sacred sacrament. Fortunately, it still is with many, and most of you in this hall can testify to that. But for the people of the nation as a whole it is becoming an increasingly secular ceremony. We are losing something. We are losing something that speaks of accountability, not only to one another, but to God who is our Father and who will stand in judgment upon us."

President Hinckley expressed concern for children, "millions who come into the world with handicaps, seemingly impossible to overcome, children whose lives are blighted by neglect and abuse by parents and others, children, many of whom have limitless capacity but almost no opportunity. In the long term this may well be the most serious problem facing our nation because its consequences multiply and reach forward through generations."

Continuing, the prophet said: "You may ask why I am speaking along these lines tonight. You say that this is not the case in Provo. And I reply, `I know that, and I am grateful.' But we are not without the problem right here. Furthermore, the problem exists in your nation, and in your world, and in your generation - and you cannot close your eyes to it because you will have to bear the burden of it.

"Every young man must be made to realize that in fathering a child he takes upon himself a responsibility that will endure as long as he lives. Let every young woman know that in giving birth to a child, she places upon herself a responsibility from which she will never be entirely free."

President Hinckley spoke of a recent poll indicating that a majority of Americans believe that the private lives of public officials need not be considered as a factor in their eligibility for public office. "How far we have come from the time of George Washington who stated in that first inaugural address the mandate `that the foundations of our national policy will be laid in the pure and immutable principles of private morality.' "

President Hinckley continued: "There is so much of goodness in so many of her people. We live under a constitution that after more than two centuries stands as the greatest bulwark of human freedom to be found anywhere on earth.

"I think of our own inheritance in this state of Utah. These communities are singular in their origins. I know it was the inspiration of the Almighty leading a people to a place where they could worship God according to the dictates of their own conscience and where they could extend the same privilege to all others, `let them worship how, where, or what they may.' (11th Article of Faith.)

"There followed those of other denominations - Catholics and Protestants of various persuasions, Jews and Greeks, and more recently, Muslims. I think that almost without exception those who came in early days were men and women who believed in and worshiped God, although their interpretation of Him may have varied.

"My great interest is that we preserve for the generations to come those wondrous elements of our society and manner of living that will bequeath to them the strengths and the goodness of which we have been the beneficiaries."

The Rev. Dean L. Jackson of Provo's Rock Canyon Assembly of God Church offered the invocation, and John D. Chamberlain, president of the Provo Utah Stake, gave the benediction.

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