In his April 1973 conference talk, he shared a quote from the French historian Alexis de Tocqueville (1805–1859), a contemporary of the Prophet Joseph Smith. After a visit to America, de Tocqueville wrote in his multi-volume work Democracy in America:
I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers, and it was not there; in her fertile fields and boundless prairies, and it was not there; in her rich mines and her vast world commerce, and it was not there. Not until I went to the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great. (As quoted in Prophets, Principles and National Survival, compiled by Jerreld L. Newquist [Salt Lake City, Publishers Press, 1964], 60; emphasis added.)
I believe many modern Americans are still good in the sense that they uphold moral values as given in the word of God, but we are witnessing the near culmination of a decades-long erosion of these values. Such views are not held up as they once were; in fact, they are shouted down by a growing intolerance that is teetering on the edge of fascism.
Elder Benson then went on to highlight some points from another famous book:
In 1787 Edward Gibbon completed his noble work The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Here is the way he accounted for the fall:
The undermining of the dignity and sanctity of the home, which is the basis of human society.
Higher and higher taxes and the spending of public monies for free bread and circuses for the populace.
The mad craze for pleasure, sports becoming every year more and more exciting and brutal.
The building of gigantic armaments when the real enemy was within the decadence of the people.
The decay of religion—faith fading into mere form, losing touch with life, and becoming impotent to warn and guide the people.
Is there a parallel for us in America today? Could the same reasons that destroyed Rome destroy America and possibly other countries of the free world? (Emphasis added.)
Consider also this quote from Ramsay MacMullen’s Corruption and the Decline of Rome
([Yale University Press, 1988], 281) found on the History Today website. Anything ringing a bell for you here?
Bribery and abuses always occurred, of course. But by the fourth and fifth centuries they had become the norm: no longer abuses of a system, but an alternative system in itself. The cash nexus overrode[d] all other ties. Everything was bought and sold: public office including army commands and bishoprics, judges’ verdicts, tax assessments, access to authority on every level, and particularly the emperor. The traditional web of obligations became a marketplace of power, ruled only by naked self-interest. (Emphasis added.)
Growing corruption in governments, including the possibility of treason, is often sidestepped or ignored by today’s mainstream media, which may be complicit. This is a strong indicator that we’re approaching a season of unmatched economic and political turmoil, not unlike the last years of the Roman empire. Stay tuned.
The prophets never panic and neither should we. Now is the time, however, to prayerfully prepare our families and homes for the winds of adversity. But be assured, as sure as there are tribulations ahead, guidance, protection, and peace are also readily available to those who take the Holy Spirit as their guide and treasure up the words of life (see D&C 45:57 and Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:37). Such will not be deceived.
Let us be at peace, but let us also act.