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Religion Notes

Benson Reiterates Mormons' Belief of Role in Saving U.S. From Destruction

September 20, 1986|From Times staff and wire service reports

Mormon Church President Ezra Taft Benson told a university audience recently that America faces a critical erosion of freedoms and reiterated a longtime church belief that Mormons will rescue the nation from destruction.

"For the past two centuries, those who do not prize freedom have chipped away at every major clause of our Constitution until today we face a crisis of great dimensions," Benson said this week at the church-run Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.

The 87-year-old Benson, contrary to earlier speculation by critics, has not expounded on ultraconservative political themes since he was installed as the church's prophet-president 10 months ago. But the BYU speech, tied to the 200th anniversary of the convening of the Constitutional Convention, reinvoked a familiar theme within the Mormon Church--one that Benson has addressed frequently in books and sermons.

He cited an 1840 quotation from church founder Joseph Smith: "Even this nation will be on the very verge of crumbling to pieces and tumbling to the ground, and when the Constitution is upon the brink of ruin, this people will be the staff upon which the nation shall lean, and they shall bear the Constitution away from the very verge of destruction."

Benson said that if the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is to perform that task, its members must be moral, righteous, law-abiding and involved in civic affairs and the political process.

Consistent with Mormon doctrine, Benson described the Constitution as a divinely inspired document and the Founding Fathers as men chosen by God to write the document.

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