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An assassination of an Austrian archduke and duchess in June of 1914 ignited the first world war. Suddenly, factions were born and sides were taken by countries in all regions of the world. The United States of America did not join the war until April 6, 1917. Over a year later in November of 1918, the war ended. All the while, students attended Ricks College.
They still went to school, still had friends and still wrote in the paper, the Student Rays. Stories of soldiers and messages of strength plastered the pages of these papers throughout the entire year of war. Advice columns and jokes added color to these gloomy times.
According to the December 1919 edition of the Student Rays, Heber J. Grant, then the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, issued students a challenge to write an article on the topic of “the need today of a strong faith in God.” Whoever won would receive a book signed by Heber J. Grant. Artell Smith was the declared winner. This was his article.
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December 1919: “The Need today of a strong faith in God”
“Never before, in the history of the world, has the need of a strong faith in God been as essential as today; for we are living in the days when the coming of the Son of Man is near. The world has reached a stage of wickedness, referred to by the Christ when speaking of the time preceding his second coming, ‘For as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be.’ It is the time spoken of by Malachi, and seen in vision by John, the Revelator. In preparation for this great event, the Heavens have been opened the angel has flown to earth with the everlasting Gospel, and it is being carried to every nation and kindred and tongue and people by the servants of God.
These events, prophesied in times long since passed, have been fulfilled, and to further prove that we are living in the last days, the world is now undergoing a period of unrest, agitation and social upheaval. The morale of the laborer is broken, the love of men has been turned from God because of unrighteousness, and the standards of morality have been torn aside. … Even the United States is on the verge of a civil war between capital and labor. These unnatural conditions in the social life, have not only broken our political and social structure, but produced a tendency to ignore the spiritual and sacred, and men’s lives are turned towards wealth, and gratification of their selfish lusts and desires.
Especially among the younger generation are seen the results of the destruction of religious faith and social purity. The unnatural conditions of our present-day civilization do not require the physical and mental effort that produce stern and rugged character, but tend to break down the standards of moral life, degrade the nobility of sex, and destroy the veneration of virtue. Luring advertisements in directly assail the Word of Wisdom. Clever articles in the press minimize the harm of poisons forbidden by the Word of God. One of the results of the war was to even encourage their free use, urging the smoking of tobacco as beneficial. To maintain our standard, to believe, in spite of the attitude of the world, that these things must not be used, surely requires a strong faith in God.
From every side appear new creeds and new philosophies, filled with cunning and deceit, to explain the mystery of life, or do away altogether with God and religion, yet only by a strong faith can we remain unshaken. The Lord has also said that in these days there should arise false prophets and teachers, showing signs and wonders, and if it were possible they would deceive the very elect. In the world, even the greatest men of learning are devoting much time to the study of the signs and witchery that are becoming more manifest. And especially against the Latter Day Saints, the elect, because they have the Gospel, are the designs of these false prophets and miracle workers directed. Every means and device have been used, every sign and argument that could be conceived have been arrayed against us. Sacrifice and tribulations, which are producers of great faith, have ever been the lot of the followers of God. But the tactics of the evil one have changed, the world is beginning to speak well of us, the bitter persecutions are ceasing, and instead, flattery and assumed friendship are the weapons substituted to destroy our faith and teach us their ways.
Our strong faith must be nurtured by work and prayer. This strong faith cannot be built on inactivity but implies vigorous action. We must have an uncontaminated knowledge of God, founded upon Truth. Only through revelation have we a knowledge of Him, therefore if our Faith is not founded on the truth we are mere subject to the Evil One. Without a strong faith in God, one would question the justice of the calamities that are visiting the world, as part of the fulfillment of prophecy. We have just emerged from the greatest war that humanity has ever engaged in, we have suffered the scourge of plagues, and famine has stalked hand in hand with wars and pestilence. …
Every day we read of earthquakes, and calamities to come. Those void of faith ask, “If there is a God, where is His Justice?” Those with faith know that there is justice, and that it is but the working out of the Divine Law. This living Faith that ever sustains, built upon truth, is the heritage of every Latter-day Saint. It is our mission to carry it to the world. It is our privilege to use it to bring salvation to the unnumbered dead. Then to fulfill our mission of carrying the Gospel to all the world, of preparing the world for the second coming of Christ and bringing Salvation to the hosts of the dead, we must have a strong Faith in God.
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December 2018: The need today of a strong faith in God
Smith’s words carry an eerie reflection of the trials and issues of our day. While the U.S. is not in a traditional war, the troops still circle the globe, trying to keep the peace with a presence in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Libya and Niger.. There are countries that continue to threaten us. These “homeland security issues” are still the same. However, I believe the most profound similarities lie in the moral issues of their day.
Smith said, “The unnatural conditions of our present-day civilization do not require the physical and mental effort that produce stern and rugged character, but tend to break down the standards of moral life, degrade the nobility of sex, and destroy the veneration of virtue.”
In 1919, they struggled with laziness, the Word of Wisdom being broken, the law of chastity violated and false prophets leading people astray. Do we not still have those issues?
“I think we see the same thing on an exaggerated level,” said Rex Butterfield, the Religious Education Assistant Department Chair and an eternal family teacher at BYU-Idaho.
Nowadays, premarital sex does not seem to be a big deal. It’s advocated through advertisements, rampant on TV shows and many people are told that it’s okay to do with whomever you want.
Butterfield said sometimes holding hands in public is “more intimate than making out in private” because of the status that brings to a couple.
In a speech given in 2016 called Millennials in the Workplace, Simon Sinek, a British-American author, talked with business owners about their millennial workers. He said they described them as “entitled, narcissist, self-interested, unfocused, (and) lazy.”
That sounds a lot like those are people who have not produced “stern and rugged character,” as Smith described.
The issues of the world have not gone away but have become worse and more prevalent. These trials have become harder. With tougher trials comes the need for more faith.
Faith is formed through sacrifice and consistency. It’s said that to make something a habit you have to do it 25,000 times. If that is the case, then how great is the need for us to practice our faith every day and work at it?
Cort Beyler, a sophomore studying biochemistry, said having a schedule of reading scriptures and saying prayers keeps him doing the right things. He said it gives him a constant reminder.
“As long as you always have that constant reminder, you’ll know what to do,” Beyler said. “People that lose their faith and start getting into fanatic stuff like that, it’s mainly because they stopped reading their scriptures.”
It’s the primary answers — reading your scriptures, saying your prayers and going to church — that make the eternal difference. I once heard someone say that those simple answers are not enough. A companion of mine from my mission wholeheartedly disagreed with that person and told them, “If you can’t get the simple things down perfect, then how could you expect to do anything else right?”
The need was prevalent in 1919 for a strong faith in God, and that still remains in force. The temptations of the world have not changed since then; they’ve only amplified their forces and become louder. The only way to combat that is to continue to do the small things and know that, in the words of Smith, “Sacrifice and tribulations, which are producers of great faith, have ever been the lot of the followers of God.”