In this chapter we will continue to look at change and reform. We’ll begin with Jacksonian reform in the early Republic, and then by looking at more recent social change in the 1960s’ Great Society and Youth Rebellion.
We will also examine the impact of the revolution in technology over the last 200 years, and a consumer culture unmatched in the history of the world, and the spiritual impact those changes can have.
Andrew Jackson’s presidency was a period marked by political, economic, and social reform. Social movements, focused on humanitarian goals and improving the quality of life, occurred often. Efforts to improve the conditions of prisons, mental institutions, abolitionism, religious communitarian movements, and others were made. Many reformers were involved in more than one movement, as abolitionists became women’s rights advocates, legal reformers looked at slavery, and religious revivals looked to improve their community.
The idea of a free public education, another point of reform, went hand in hand with universal manhood suffrage because the common man needed training and knowledge in order to be a contributing and voting member of the Republic.
Between1810 and 1820 the number of American colleges doubled, and the number of primary schools grew at a fast rate. At the forefront of those advocating free public education was Horace Mann. He believed that for a republic to survive, an educated citizenry was vital. He also believed that increased education would eliminate poverty and create general prosperity for the nation. In a report to the Massachusetts State Board of Education in 1846 Mann argued:
I believe in the existence of a great, immortal, immutable principle of natural law … which proves the absolute right to an education of every human being that comes into the world; and which, of course, proves the correlative duty of every government to see that the means of that education are provided for all … Education, then, beyond all other devices of human origin, is the great equalizer of the conditions of men—the balance-wheel of the social machinery. I do not here mean that it so elevates the moral nature as to make men disdain and abhor the oppression of their fellow-men. This idea pertains to another of its attributes. But I mean that it gives each man the independence and the means by which he can resist the selfishness of other men. It does better than to disarm the poor of their hostility towards the rich: it prevents being poor.
Over the following decades, education evolved from something only available to the wealthy, through tutors with small groups of children, to a public, compulsory education provided by local and state governments. After the Civil War, women’s colleges emerged which offer higher education to women.
At the same time, Temperance (anti-alcohol) societies sprung up around the country. These societies were organized to publicize the evils of drinking. They believed this would protect the collective morality of society and families. Many of the leaders of this movement were women who were also involved in the women’s suffrage movement. Groups such as the Women’s Christian Temperance Union organized rallies and helped elect candidates committed to stricter laws against consuming and selling alcohol. They advocated “temperance pledges” and abstinence from all liquor. Advocates argued that many of society’s evils, particularly crime and poverty, could be traced to “demon rum,” which was dangerous to the country as a whole. Abraham Lincoln addressed the issue in 1842:
Turn now, to the temperance revolution. In it, we shall find a stronger bondage broken; a viler slavery, manumitted; a greater tyrant deposed. In it, more of want supplied, more disease healed, more sorrow assuaged. By it no orphans starving, no widows weeping. By it, none wounded in feeling, none injured in interest. … And what a noble ally this, to the cause of political freedom. With such an aid, its march cannot fail to be on and on, till every son of earth shall drink in rich fruition, the sorrow quenching draughts of perfect liberty … And when the victory shall be complete—when there shall be neither a slave nor a drunkard on the earth—how proud the title of that Land, which may truly claim to be the birth-place and the cradle of both those revolutions, that shall have ended in that victory. How nobly distinguished that People, who shall have planted, and nurtured to maturity, both the political and moral freedom of their species.
The battle for temperance often pitted rural, native-born Americans against urban immigrants, often colored by anti-immigrant sentiment. The movement continued throughout the 19th century into the 20th century Progressive Era. These groups eventually gained enough political strength to pass the 18th amendment in the early 20th century with Prohibition (which was later overturned by the 21st amendment).
The Second Great Awakening was also part of this reform environment, and an integral part of the establishment of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In religious terms the Second Great Awakening emphasized the ability of each person to achieve salvation through submission to Jesus Christ. Free will and individual understanding of scripture were all important in working out one’s own salvation. Revivalist preachers, such as Charles Grandison Finney, traveled with their dramatic message of a revival of religious devotion. “Revival is a renewed conviction of sin and repentance, followed by an intense desire to live in obedience to God. It is giving up one's will to God in deep humility,” Finney preached. It was in this heightened environment of religious questioning and personal salvation which moved Joseph Smith to find answers praying in the Sacred Grove.
Despite these reforms efforts, poverty, access to quality education, and poor living conditions continued. In 1962, socialist intellectual and writer Michael Harrington published “The Other America,” which criticized the lack of public and government attention to the cycle of poverty and those outside the middle class. “The poor are increasingly slipping out of the very experience and consciousness of the nation … the development of the American city has removed poverty from the living, emotional experience of millions upon millions of middle-class Americans. Living out in the suburbs it is easy to assume that ours is, indeed, an affluent society,” he wrote. “Only the larger society, with its help and resources, can really make it possible for these people to help themselves.”
Political pressure, created by an increased attention to civil rights and economic inequality, fostered support of government efforts and programs. These efforts were spearheaded by President Lyndon Johnson and they moved forward much like previous reform traditions. A “Great Society” was envisioned. It was without poverty or discrimination, and all Americans enjoyed equal educational and vocational opportunities. Government programs, moving beyond the provisions of the New Deal, began taking on a federal responsibility for housing, income, employment, and health problems. In the following 1964 address, President Johnson outlined his program, and connected his vision to earlier ideas of community and the “pursuit of happiness.”
The purpose of protecting the life of our nation and preserving the liberty of our citizens is to pursue the happiness of our people. Our success in that pursuit is the test of our success as a nation.
For a century we labored to settle and to subdue a continent. For half a century we called upon unbounded invention and untiring industry to create an order of plenty for all of our people.
The challenge of the next half century is whether we have the wisdom to use that wealth to enrich and elevate our national life, and to advance the quality of our American civilization.
Your imagination and your initiative, and your indignation will determine whether we build a society where progress is the servant of our needs, or a society where old values and new visions are buried under unbridled growth. For in your time we have the opportunity to move not only toward the rich society and the powerful society, but upward to the Great Society.
The Great Society rests on abundance and liberty for all. It demands an end to poverty and racial injustice, to which we are totally committed in our time. But that is just the beginning.
… The solution to these problems does not rest on a massive program in Washington, nor can it rely solely on the strained resources of local authority. They require us to create new concepts of cooperation, a creative federalism, between the national capital and the leaders of local communities … Those who came to this land sought to build more than just a new country. They sought a new world. So I have come here today to your campus to say that you can make their vision our reality.
There were four general areas of Johnson’s programs. The first was a War on Poverty: raised minimum wage, programs to train poorer Americans for new and better jobs, cabinet-level Department of Housing and Urban Development, and federal housing programs. The second was education: student loans, scholarships, and grants were increased to allow more students to attend college. Programs, likeHead Start, began and federal funding of education increased with the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The third was racial inequality: Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Johnson issued an executive order requiring government contractors to ensure that job applicants and employees were not discriminated against with “affirmative action.” These measures brought Johnson into conflict with his fellow Southern Democrats, but his experience in Congress helped him push through legislation without southern support. And finally, Medicare extended medical insurance to older Americans under the Social Security system. Congress also passed the Medicaid Act of 1968 to provide for the medical expenses of those below the poverty line. This was not universal health care, but it was the first step in providing money for medical services to those who could not afford it.
Many of these Great Society programs continue today and have been expanded and enlarged. It can be argued that they are successes and failures. Many of the programs have helped lift people out of poverty, increased access to education, provided a safety net for those unable to provide for themselves, and increased awareness of social, racial, and economic inequities. However, poverty still remains, racial inequality is still entrenched in some areas of the country, and many argue that a spirit of entitlement has been fostered as the responsibilities of federal and state governments have increased. The Vietnam War undermined many of President Johnson’s other projects. This eroding support weakened his congressional power and took funds from those programs.
During this same time period, large groups of young people, disenchanted with the Vietnam War and attuned to the perceived systemic wrongs of the American system, began to organize and protest. The baby boom generation was the largest cohort in the history of the United States. Between 1946 and 1964, 76 million babies were born. This generation was the first to experience the culture of television, consumer power, rock and roll, and the creation of the word “teenager.” Their parents had grown up during the Great Depression and World War II, but they were growing up in a time of rapid economic growth and opportunity.
Despite the abundant opportunities, many in this generation were anxious about the status of the world and the conformity of the suburbs they lived in. Young, highly educated, unoccupied masses created an atmosphere of rapid social change. Many baby boomers questioned aspects of post-war society, including materialism, the war in Vietnam, racial injustice, and gender inequalities.
While the vast majority of young people did not protest or organize, the influence of such movements cannot be overlooked, and their rejection of parental and societal traditions would be far-reaching. Those protesting were often referred to as a “counterculture,” because they were opposing the established culture.
Many students organized on college campuses. One of these groups was the Students for a Democratic Society, founded in 1960. Inspired by the Civil Rights Movement, college students began to organize politically, and were radical in their rhetoric and goals. In 1962 they issued a statement in Port Huron, Michigan, calling for “participatory democracy”—direct individual involvement in the political controversies of the day and explained their disillusionment with the world they were inheriting.
We are people of this generation, bred in at least modest comfort, housed now in universities, looking uncomfortably to the world we inherit.
When we were kids the United States was the wealthiest and strongest country in the world … Freedom and equality for each individual, government of, by, and for the people—these American values we found good, principles by which we could live as men.
As we grew, however, our comfort was penetrated by events too troubling to dismiss. First, the permeating and victimizing fact of human degradation, symbolized by the Southern struggle against racial bigotry, compelled most of us from silence to activism. Second, the enclosing fact of the Cold War, symbolized by the presence of the Bomb, brought awareness that we ourselves, and our friends, and millions of abstract "others" we knew more directly because of our common peril, might die at any time … we began to see complicated and disturbing paradoxes in our surrounding America. The declaration "all men are created equal … rang hollow before the facts of Negro life in the South and the big cities of the North …
Not only did tarnish appear on our image of American virtue, not only did disillusion occur when the hypocrisy of American ideals was discovered, but we began to sense that what we had originally seen as the American Golden Age was actually the decline of an era.
Another youth protest movement occurred on the University of California Berkeley campus in 1964. This was the first 1960’s campus student movement to make global headlines. Students protested universities’ impersonality, requirements, restrictions on student political activities, and dormitory rules. Many leaders of this movement had also been involved in civil rights protests in the South, initiating many students into politics. The most dramatic moment of the protest was a takeover of the campus, including common areas and administration buildings. They borrowed many of the sit-in tactics of the Civil Rights Movement. One of the leaders, Mario Savio, inspired young people by saying,
“There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part; you can't even passively take part, and you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop. And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!”
As the 1960s progressed, the youth movement gained cultural power. The archetype of the hippie emerged, striking out at social norms in dress and grooming standards, sexual morality, and drug use. Youth culture developed its own popular music and language.
Direct protest with marches and rallies continued. The escalation of the Vietnam War, and the draft related to the war, encouraged even more radicalized student movements. This conflict divided America and proved to be a disastrous piece of Cold War foreign policy for both countries.
The legacies of the 1960s continue to influence us today—changed morals and definitions of family, questioning of gender roles, increased acceptance of casual drug use and sexual activity, and a sense of moral relativism. However, the questions raised by many in the youth rebellion have also contributed to the political conversation, increased attention to American hypocrisy, and college campuses’ environment and the power of young people to influence culture.
The postwar focus on consumer culture was another evolution in American society. The rise of big business after the Civil War increased the number of consumer goods available and the reach of mass industries. Advertising and media influence increased in the 1920s with radio and filmT. This growth was somewhat hampered by The Great Depression and World War II. But even during the war, advertisers focused on the idea that freedom and victory would mean new consumer opportunities, for example “after victory kitchens.”
In 1947, the United States had the world's most productive and prosperous economy, consumer demand being one driver of its success. In the 1950s, with only 6% of the world's population and the rest of the world rebuilding after unprecedented wartime destruction, the United States produced 50% of the world's manufactured goods: 57% of its steel, 62% of its oil, and over 80% of its cars. The growth of suburban housing, the expansion and prosperity of the middle-class through increased educational opportunities of the G.I. Bill, and high wages in manufacturing fed the consumer market. A new American dream entered the lifestyle, a fusion of need and desire that was focused on baby boom families. With the emergence of television, and the creation of new products to sell for all these new households, the businesses increased expenditure on advertising by 400%.
Consumer culture and technological advancements have increased in the last 60 years. Planned obsolescence forces consumers to buy new products on a consistent basis, and advertising promotes the need for new things. The majority of Americans buy much of their consumer lifestyle on credit. This mass consumerism helps drive much of our prosperity through wages and business growth. Technology has enabled gains and connections throughout the world, many of which have been used to facilitate the teaching of the gospel. However, there are real costs to consumer culture, many of which are paid by workers in other countries who toil under terrible conditions in sweatshops to make cheaper products. There are also spiritual dangers. We have received wise counsel as members of the church about how we can live in this world, remain righteous, and keep focused on things of eternal value. The following conference address from 2006 deals with some of these issues and offers some guidance on how to live in the culture and time we are in.
Last summer, my wife and I had the opportunity to travel to San Diego, California, and see Shakespeare’s Macbeth at the Old Globe Theatre. We saw two performances, because our daughter Carolyn was playing the part of one of the three witches in that play. Of course, we were delighted to see her in the play and even more delighted when, at a dramatic moment, she said those famous lines:
“By the pricking of my thumbs, / Something wicked this way comes” (act 4, scene 1, lines 40–41). When I heard that, I thought how useful it would be to have an early-warning system which would tell us about the approach of evil and allow us to be prepared for it. Evil is coming toward us, whether or not we have an early-warning system.
On a later occasion, my wife and I were driving cross-country one night and were approaching a great city. As we came over the hills and saw the bright lights on the horizon, I nudged my wife awake and said, “Behold the city of Babylon!” Of course, there is no particular city today which personifies Babylon. Babylon was, in the time of ancient Israel, a city which had become sensual, decadent, and corrupt. The principal building in the city was a temple to a false god, which we often refer to as Bel or Baal.
However, that sensuality, corruption, and decadence, and the worshipping of false gods are to be seen in many cities, great and small, scattered across the globe. As the Lord has said: “They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world” (D&C 1:16).
Too many of the people of the world have come to resemble the Babylon of old by walking in their own ways, and following a god “whose image is in the likeness of the world.” One of the greatest challenges we will face is to be able to live in that world but somehow not be of that world. We have to create Zion in the midst of Babylon.
“Zion in the midst of Babylon.” What a luminous and incandescent phrase, as a light shining in the midst of spiritual darkness. What a concept to hold close to our hearts, as we see Babylon becoming more widespread. We see Babylon in our cities; we see Babylon in our communities; we see Babylon everywhere.
And with the encroachment of Babylon, we have to create Zion in the midst of it. We should not allow ourselves to be engulfed by the culture which surrounds us.We seldom realize the extent to which we are a product of the culture of our place and time. During the days of ancient Israel, the people of the Lord were an island of the one true God, surrounded by an ocean of idolatry. The waves of that ocean crashed incessantly upon the shores of Israel. Despite the commandment to make no graven image and bow down before it, Israel seemingly could not help itself, influenced by the culture of the place and time. Over and over again—despite the prohibition of the Lord, despite what prophet and priest had said—Israel went seeking after strange gods and bowed down before them.
How could Israel have forgotten the Lord, who brought them out of Egypt? They were constantly pressured by what was popular in the ambience in which they lived. What an insidious thing is this culture amidst which we live. It permeates our environment, and we think we are being reasonable and logical when, all too often, we have been molded by the ethos, what the Germans call the zeitgeist, or the culture of our place and time. Because my wife and I have had the opportunity to live in 10 different countries, we have seen the effect of the ethos on behavior. Customs which are perfectly acceptable in one culture are viewed as unacceptable in another; language which is polite in some places is viewed as abhorrent in others. People in every culture move within a cocoon of self-satisfied self-deception, fully convinced that the way they see things is the way things really are.
Our culture tends to determine what foods we like, how we dress, what constitutes polite behavior, what sports we should follow, what our taste in music should be, the importance of education, and our attitudes toward honesty. It also influences men as to the importance of recreation or religion, influences women about the priority of career or childbearing, and has a powerful effect on how we approach procreation and moral issues. All too often, we are like puppets on a string, as our culture determines what is “cool.”
There is, of course, a zeitgeist to which we should pay attention, and that is the ethos of the Lord, the culture of the people of God. As Peter states it, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9). It is the ethos of those who keep the Lord’s commandments, walk in His ways, and “live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God” (D&C 84:44). If that makes us peculiar, so be it.
My involvement with the building of the Manhattan temple gave me the opportunity to be in the temple quite often prior to the dedication. It was wonderful to sit in the celestial room and be there in perfect silence, without a single sound to be heard coming from the busy New York streets outside. How was it possible that the temple could be so reverently silent when the hustle and bustle of the metropolis was just a few yards away?
The answer was in the construction of the temple. The temple was built within the walls of an existing building, and the inner walls of the temple were connected to the outer walls at only a very few junction points. That is how the temple (Zion) limited the effects of Babylon, or the world outside. There may be a lesson here for us. We can create the real Zion among us by limiting the extent to which Babylon will influence our lives.
When, about 600 years B.C., Nebuchadnezzar came from Babylon and conquered Judah, he carried away the people of the Lord. Nebuchadnezzar selected some of the young men for special education and training. Among them were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. They were to be the favored ones among the young people brought to Babylon. The king’s servant instructed them that they were to eat of the king’s meat and drink of the king’s wine.
Let us clearly understand the pressures that the four young men were under. They had been carried away as captives by a conquering power and were in the household of a king who held the power of life or death over them. And yet Daniel and his brothers refused to do that which they believed to be wrong, however much the Babylonian culture believed it to be right. And for that fidelity and courage, the Lord blessed them and “gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom” (Dan. 1:17).
Seduced by our culture, we often hardly recognize our idolatry, as our strings are pulled by that which is popular in the Babylonian world. Indeed, as the poet Wordsworth said: “The world is too much with us” (“The World Is Too Much with Us; Late and Soon,” in The Complete Poetical Works of William Wordsworth , 353). In his first epistle, John writes: “I have written unto you … because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one. “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world” (1 Jn. 2:14–15).
We do not need to adopt the standards, the mores, and the morals of Babylon. We can create Zion in the midst of Babylon. We can have our own standards for music and literature and dance and film and language. We can have our own standards for dress and deportment, for politeness and respect. We can live in accordance with the Lord’s moral laws. We can limit how much of Babylon we allow into our homes by the media of communication.
We can live as a Zion people, if we wish to. Will it be hard? Of course it will, for the waves of Babylonian culture crash incessantly against our shores. Will it take courage? Of course it will. We have always been entranced by tales of courage of those who faced fearsome odds and overcame. Courage is the basis and foundation for all of our other virtues; the lack of courage diminishes every other virtue that we have. If we are to have Zion in the midst of Babylon, we will need courage.
Have you ever imagined that, when it came to the test, you would perform some act of bravery? I know I did, as a boy. I imagined that someone was in peril and that, at the risk of my own life, I saved him. Or in some dangerous confrontation with a fearsome opponent, I had the courage to overcome. Such are our youthful imaginations! Almost 70 years of life have taught me that those heroic opportunities are few and far between, if they come at all.
But the opportunities to stand for that which is right—when the pressures are subtle and when even our friends are encouraging us to give in to the idolatry of the times—those come along far more frequently. No photographer is there to record the heroism, no journalist will splash it across the newspaper’s front page. Just in the quiet contemplation of our conscience, we will know that we faced the test of courage: Zion or Babylon?
Make no mistake about it: much of Babylon, if not most of it, is evil. And we will not have the pricking of our thumbs to warn us. But wave after wave is coming, crashing against our shores. Will it be Zion, or will it be Babylon? If Babylon is the city of the world, Zion is the city of God.
The Lord has said of Zion: “Zion cannot be built up unless it is by the principles of the law of the celestial kingdom” (D&C 105:5) and, “For this is Zion—the pure in heart” (D&C 97:21).
Wherever we are, whatever city we may live in, we can build our own Zion by the principles of the celestial kingdom and ever seek to become the pure in heart. Zion is the beautiful, and the Lord holds it in His own hands. Our homes can be places which are a refuge and protection, as Zion is. We do not need to become as puppets in the hands of the culture of the place and time. We can be courageous and can walk in the Lord’s paths and follow His footsteps. And if we do, we will be called Zion, and we will be the people of the Lord. I pray that we will be strengthened to resist the onslaught of Babylon and that we can create Zion in our homes and our communities—indeed, that we may have “Zion in the midst of Babylon.”
We seek Zion because it is the habitation of our Lord, who is Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer. In Zion and from Zion, His luminous and incandescent light will shine forth, and He will rule forever. I bear witness that He lives and loves us and will watch over us.
This devotional talk by Elder Bateman covers the time period of this lesson, and examines the interesting connections between technological change, social reform, and the restoration of the gospel since the time of Joseph Smith. He argues that this is not an accidental convergence, but part of the divine plan. He also testifies of the importance of both a temporal and spiritual education, as we confront the ever-changing times we live in and wrestle with opposition in all things.
In a dank, dark dungeon during one of Joseph Smith’s bleakest hours, the Prophet pleaded with the Lord to make Himself known and to remember His suffering saints. Listen to Joseph’s pleadings: “O God, where art thou? . . . How long shall thy hand be stayed, . . . behold from the eternal heavens the wrongs of thy people? . . . Yea, O Lord, how long shall they suffer these wrongs and unlawful oppressions, . . . O Lord God Almighty, . . . stretch forth thy hand; . . . Remember thy suffering saints.” (D&C 121:1-6.)
In response to Joseph’s prayer came one of the most remarkable revelations of this dispensation, the 121st Section of the Doctrine and Covenants. First, Joseph was told that his adversity and afflictions would be “but a small moment” (D&C 121:7). He was assured that those who wreaked vengeance on the saints would receive their just dues.
All Knowledge to be Revealed
And then the Lord told Joseph that great knowledge was about to be revealed to the earth through the power of the Holy Ghost. The scripture states: “God shall give unto you knowledge by his Holy Spirit . . . that has not been revealed since the world was until now” (D&C 121:26). The Lord went on to say that it would be “A time to come in the which nothing shall be withheld, . . . All thrones and dominions, principalities and powers, shall be revealed . . . And also, if there be bounds set to the heavens or to the seas, or to the dry land, or to the sun, moon, or stars—All the times of their revolutions, all the appointed days, months, and years, . . . and all their glories, laws, and set times, shall be revealed in the days of the dispensation of the fulness of times” (D&C 121:28-31).
The Lord makes clear that in the last days, the dispensation of the fulness of times, all things will be revealed. (See D&C 101:23-34.) All knowledge includes the laws that govern the earth as well as those which are spiritual in nature. The Apostle Paul prophesied 1800 years earlier “That in the dispensation of the fulness of times” the Lord will “gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth” (Ephesians 1:10).
One might interpret “all things in Christ” to refer only to spiritual laws, but it is more since the great Jehovah made “all things” (John 1:3). The Apostle Peter also spoke of a period of “refreshing” coincident with a “restitution of all things” which would precede the Second Coming of the Lord (Acts 3:19, 21). It is true that we understand these apostolic prophecies to refer to the Restoration of the gospel in the last days. But the Lord’s statement to Joseph Smith in Liberty Jail indicates that more than spiritual truths will be revealed. He states that knowledge pertaining not only to the heavens, but also to the seas, the earth, thrones, dominions, etc. will be made known.
On an earlier occasion, the Lord revealed to the Prophet Joseph that “all things . . . are spiritual” (D&C 29:34). All laws and knowledge have a spiritual purpose. For this reason the Lord has instructed us to become educated in temporal as well as spiritual things.
Doctrine and Covenants section 88 states that we should “be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things . . . that are expedient for [us] to understand;
“Of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things . . . at home, things . . . abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations.” (D&C 88:78-79.)
From this section one understands that secular knowledge is also important to us and the Lord tells us why: “That ye may be prepared in all things when I shall send you . . . to magnify [your] calling” (D&C 88:80).
Church educational institutions have a dual purpose: to provide both a temporal and a spiritual education. Temporally, BYU-Idaho prepares you to provide for yourself and your family. It prepares you to make a contribution to the communities in which you live. Spiritually, it educates you in the laws of the Kingdom so that you can contribute to the establishment of the Church. Ultimately, of course, the purpose of this educational opportunity is to bring you to Christ.
The Pattern for Revealing Spiritual Truths
As Latter-day Saints, we understand the pattern by which a new dispensation is initiated and spiritual truths are revealed. It begins with the Lord calling a prophet, angels are then sent to instruct him (see Moroni 7:29-32). Others are called to assist. The priesthood is transmitted to them with its keys and powers. Through the priesthood, the Gift of the Holy Ghost is given as a personal guide and to establish the Church. A book is often provided which contains the fulness of the gospel and serves as a witness of the Lord and His work (see Exodus 24:12, Ezekiel 2:9-10, 1 Nephi 1:11). The calling of Joseph Smith was not the first to follow this pattern. The callings of Moses, Ezekiel, Lehi, and, undoubtedly other prophets followed these steps. Even John the Revelator’s commission to write the history of the earth and its dispensations included an appearance from the Lord, an angel to guide him, and a book (see Revelations 1, 5:1-2).
The Source of Temporal Knowledge
Now, what about temporal knowledge? How is it revealed and to whom? It is clear that secular inventions and innovations generally do not come through prophets. Their mission is special as they focus on spiritual things. However, secular knowledge has the same source as does spiritual truths. God is omniscient and the source of all truth. The Savior said, “I am the way, the truth, and the light” (John 14:6). The Light of Christ is given to every man and woman and anyone who responds to the Light may be a conduit for secular knowledge. I enjoy Elder Neal A. Maxwell’s description of God’s omniscience:
God, who knows the beginning from the end, knows, therefore, all that is in between. . . .
Below the scripture that declares that God knows “all things” there is no footnote reading “except that God is a little weak in geophysics”! We do not worship a God who simply forecasts a generally greater frequency of earthquakes in the last days before the second coming of His Son; He knows precisely when and where all these will occur. God has even prophesied that the Mount of Olives will cleave in twain at a precise latter-day time as Israel is besieged. (Zechariah 14:4.)
There are no qualifiers, only flat and absolute assertions of the omniscience of God.1
The Burst of Secular Knowledge Coincident with The Restoration
It is apparent that secular knowledge has flowered since the time of Joseph Smith, that the Lord has been flooding the earth with temporal knowledge as well as spiritual. Let me illustrate the explosion of temporal knowledge with two statements, the first from Stephen E. Ambrose’s book, Undaunted Courage, and the second William J. Bernstein’s The Birth of Plenty. Speaking of the early 1800s, Ambrose wrote:
A critical fact in the world of 1801 was that nothing moved faster than the speed of a horse. No human being, no manufactured item, no bushel of wheat, no side of beef, no letter, no information, no idea, order or instruction of any kind moved faster. Nothing had moved faster, and, as far as Jefferson’s contemporaries were able to tell, nothing ever would.2
The horse had been the mainstay of land transportation since the dawn of history. As far as anyone knew in the early 1800s, it would remain that way. It took Thomas Jefferson ten days to travel from Monticello to Philadelphia. In less than 50 years, with the advent of the steam locomotive, the trip was cut to one day. The invention of the telegraph in 1837 brought instantaneous communication across the globe that abruptly altered the political, social and economic affairs of nations. And these inventions were just the beginning.3
In describing the dramatic changes that occurred in the first half of the 19th century, William Bernstein writes:
When we look at the [facts], it becomes crystal clear that something happened … in the early nineteenth century. Before then, the rate of improvement in the lot of mankind was small and stuttering, and after, substantial and steady … Until approximately 1820, per capita world economic growth – the single best way of measuring human material progress – registered near zero … Then, not long after 1820, prosperity began flowing in an ever-increasing torrent; with each successive generation, the life of the son became observably more comfortable, informed, and predictable than that of the father.4
The pattern of world economic wellbeing described by Bernstein is illustrated in a graph developed by a Scottish economist, Angus Maddison. Maddison graduated from Cambridge University in 1948 and, for the next 30 years, served as an economist for one of the world’s largest international aid organizations. During this time he became fascinated with the problems of the developing world and the differences in wealth between rich and poor nations. In 1978 he accepted a professorship at a Dutch university and for the next 20 years developed a model of world economic growth for the last 2000 years. The results were both stunning and unexpected.
As the graph illustrates, the economic wellbeing of the average individual, measured as real per capita output or income, “did not change at all during the first millennium after the birth of Christ. Over the next 800 years, between A.D. 1000 and A.D. 1800, things did not get much better.”5 There were few innovations and the improvement prior to 1800 was marginal.
The real progress begins in 1820 when the graph suddenly turns upward and begins a long steady climb to unprecedented heights. Maddison indicates that the exact timing of the turn is somewhat arbitrary. American data suggests that it may have been a few years before 1820 while British data suggests a date as late as 1830. Regardless, it is clear that sometime during the first half of the nineteenth century, world economic growth took off and continued upward despite wars, famines, and social strife.6
Bernstein describes Maddison’s findings with the following words: “Beginning around 1820, the pace of economic advance picked up noticeably, making the world a better place to live in. What happened? An explosion in technological innovation the likes of which had never before been seen.”7
The Foundations for The Explosion of Secular Knowledge in The 1800s
What caused the sudden change in economic wellbeing? It was an explosion in technological innovation unlike anything the world had seen. It was an explosion of ideas and knowledge in an environment that allowed the innovations to take hold. During the period of the enlightenment, and even before, the Lord prepared the earth not only for the return of the gospel, but the reception and dispersion of secular knowledge that had never before been revealed (see D&C 121:26, 28-29). Four environmental foundations necessary for the use of the technological innovations were put in place during the centuries prior to 1820. They included laws that secured property rights, safe havens for scientific rationalism, efficient capital markets, and the bases for improved transportation and communications.8
Prior to the 1700s there were very few technological discoveries. The major innovations were the three-crop rotational system, the horseshoe and horse collar, the water mill, the windmill, the four-wheeled cart and the printing press. The first economically viable steam engine came into existence in the late 1700s. The steam engine was important because it provided the foundation for the nineteenth century to escape from the limitations of animal muscle, wind, and water. It provided the power that led to modern manufacturing and the steamship and railroad. The barriers to the use of electricity for communication were finally overcome in the early part of the nineteenth century. Thus the foundations were laid for the explosion of knowledge that began with the openings of the heavens in 1820.
The Explosion of Secular Knowledge—Post 1820
One could make a long list of the scientific discoveries that followed 1820. These discoveries brought more change in the lives of people between 1825 and 1875 than at any other time in history. Railroads and steamships brought swift and reliable travel for the first time. Roads were macadamized which tied nations and continents together. Factories were mechanized into highly productive units. The telegraph brought instantaneous global communications. The instantaneous flow of information eliminated great inefficiencies in world markets and increased productivity. Cars, telephones, airplanes and computers followed. Advances in medicine improved health and extended life. Eventually, rockets became a reliable means of extraterrestrial transportation for human beings and satellites.
For a few moments, I will examine some of the key innovations of the last 50 years and their implications for the spread of the gospel. In doing so, I appreciate being able to use some materials developed by Brother Gerrit Gong of BYU and Clint Melander at Church headquarters.
The first innovation is the satellite. The Russians launched the first satellite into orbit on Friday, October 4, 1957, the first day of October general conference that year. The United States followed in 1958. To date, eight countries have independently launched satellites into orbit on indigenously developed launch vehicles. In addition to Russia and the U.S., other countries include France, Japan, China, the United Kingdom, India and Israel.
The Church began using satellites for communications 25 years ago. Today, the Church leases transponders on six satellites that provide downlinks to more than 2,900 stakes, districts and missions around the globe. The satellite coverage allows 87 percent of Church membership to receive a signal. It will not be long before the other 13 percent are also within range. Satellites have allowed the Church to develop a global communications network that is extraordinarily important for a worldwide Church. This allows members to receive general conference and Church leaders to communicate with other leaders across the globe.
Last week, Elder Scott and I held a videoconference with the Area Presidency in West Africa regarding missionary work, the strengthening of stakes and temple worship. This coming Sunday, President Monson, Elder Holland, Sister Lant and I will be part of a satellite stake conference broadcast for all of the stakes in Samoa and Tahiti. Satellites have become an important medium for communicating with the members of the Church.
The Internet is a network of networks created from computers and cables that stretches across the globe. It delivers packets of information anywhere in the world, generally well under a second. It began in 1969 when communications were established between UCLA and the Stanford Research Institute. In 1990, CSNET came into being which linked universities in North America and then Europe. In 1995, popular interest exploded as the U.S. Government transferred control of the Internet to independent organizations.
In 1991, British computer scientist, Tim Berners-Lee, created the World Wide Web and posted the first Web site on August 6. 1991. The World Wide Web consists of the documents, sounds, videos and collections of data that ride on the Internet. Access to the Internet is highest in Japan at approximately 90 percent. North America is second at 70 percent. Penetration in Australia and Oceania is 54 percent and Europe follows with 39 percent. Asian penetration is eleven percent. The dominant language, of course, is global English.
The vast majority of searches regarding the Church are under the term “Mormon” rather than under the official Church name (about 23 million hits per day). The majority of the hits are sympathetic in nature i.e., most hits represent a positive interest in the Church. Still, there is a significant interest and number of hits directed to negative or even antagonistic information.
The Internet is a missionary tool. Many individuals use the net to find out information on the Church. Often, after the first meeting with the missionaries, investigators will go to the Internet to learn more. The Internet is also a key source of communications not only for the general populace but also for the Church. E-mail is a key method of communicating with leaders across the earth. The Internet is also a source for receiving general conference and other broadcasts.
In today’s world, one cannot talk about innovation without mentioning the iPod. Some call the iPod the first consumer icon of the 21st century. When you see a young person with earbud headphones, chances are they are listening to one. The iPod and other MP3 players are handheld digital storage devices that come in different sizes and are generally used for music. The smallest, the iPod Shuffle, holds 120 songs. Video iPods with 60 GB of memory can hold up to three general conferences.
Ipods are becoming more and more useful. They are used not only for listening to music, but educational materials may be stored on them. They can be used to study a foreign language or listen to general conference. Brothers and sisters, do not waste time with long periods of listening to the world’s music. Rather, use the devices in productive ways to increase your understanding of the world and the Lord’s work.
The next chart illustrates the pervasiveness of electronic equipment. According to a recent Business Week magazine article, “human beings produced more transistors than they did grains of rice” in 2005.9 Those transistors powered 2 billion cell phones, 1.5 billion televisions, 820 million personal computers, 190 million Game Boys, 70 million iPods, 50 million PDAs and 3.2 million BlackBerrys.
Given Geoffrey Moore’s law that the power of semiconductor chips will double roughly every 18 to 24 months, electronic devices will become even smaller, less expensive and more capable. Access to information will become more personal, available anytime, and anywhere.
Not only are electronic devices proliferating, but there is also a convergence. Last year, mobile phone manufacturers shipped 850 million phones to global customers. The current cost for a regular unit is about $30. The industry goal is to reduce that cost to $20 in the near future.
The first mobile phone produced by Motorola, nicknamed “The Brick” weighed 2 pounds and cost $3,995. It was nothing more than a wireless phone. The new Apple iPhone weighs 4.8 ounces and offers voice, multimedia, and Internet on a touch screen. It will cost between $400 and $600 depending on storage capacity.
Moore’s law fuels the technology convergence that is taking place. As the picture illustrates, devices conveying video, voice, data, and multi-media are converging to a personal, portable, affordable handheld device that almost everyone, everywhere will own or be able to access.
Can you think of Church uses for such a device? It will be useful for missionary work, family history searches, communications, education, and many other needs. I also know that Satan—who has already found many uses for the various devices—will continue to tempt people with material that he places on the new ones.
Now, may we return to the beginning. In a dank, dark dungeon called Liberty Jail, the Lord revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith that He would unleash “knowledge by [the] holy spirit . . . that has not been revealed since the world was even until now” (D&C 121:25).
Moreover, the knowledge would not only pertain to the spiritual realm but also include knowledge pertaining to the earth (see D&C 121:25, 29-31). From the time of Christ until 1820, Angus Maddison’s data supports the notion that the heavens were almost sealed during the dark ages. Finally, a small stream of light began to emerge between 1500 and 1800. And then Maddison says something happened. The switch was turned on and a flood of knowledge pierced men’s minds beginning about 1820.
Brothers and sisters, you are living the miracle, the promise made by the Lord to His prophet 170 years ago. It is interesting that the world is just beginning to understand what has happened, but still does not perceive the Source. The technological inventions and discoveries of the last 170 years are a clear witness that our Father in Heaven and His Son deliver on Their promises. They control the universe. They know the pace and the extent of the discoveries needed for the gospel to reach every nation, kindred, tongue and people.
I testify to you that the gospel of Jesus Christ was restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith and that President Gordon B. Hinckley has all of the priesthood keys necessary to save and exalt you and me. I testify that the Savior performed the Atonement so that our shortcomings will not limit us if we exercise faith in Him, repent, and partake of the ordinances and covenants associated with His work. Finally, the Lord is the Source of all truth including the marvelous scientific discoveries and inventions that have improved mankind’s lot during the last 200 years. May our testimonies of Him deepen and may we enjoy the power of His Holy Spirit in our lives is my prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
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