My People Will I Preserve
By Apostle Arthur A. Oakman
A Sermon Given November 1957 at Norwalk,
Connecticut, Metropolitan New York District Conference
|Apostle Arthur A. Oakman|
I wonder how I may present my point of view. Perhaps if I tell you what happened to me on the first day of January 1939, it may help, because I am conscious of the fact that essentially the same set of circumstances are present today as were present then—perhaps on a more horrific scale than they were then. I was supposed to preach in Birmingham, England, on the first day of January which happened to be Sunday. It happened to be our second wedding anniversary. I was perplexed [because World War II was about to begin]. Munich had come and gone. And although the world was brought, at Munich, to the edge of disaster and had looked into the jaws of the abyss and had drawn back shuddering from fear, none of us felt that it would be too long before from the depth of that abyss the whole world would be plunged into darkness and the effects of selfishness would be revealed in blood, fire, and vapors of smoke. Men were crying "Peace," as they are crying "Peace" today, and there was no peace.
But I was perplexed. It was not fair to minister to those people some platitude about peace when I knew that they needed to be strengthened for what they were about to face, like you do today. And I prayed much about that and went into the pulpit and was still perplexed. They had the opening hymn and the prayer and someone sang a solo. I was introduced and I still was perplexed. As I addressed myself to the task, the scripture from the Inspired Version came to my mind which is borrowed from the prophecy of Enoch:
And the day shall come that the earth shall rest. But before that day the heavens shall be darkened, and a veil of darkness shall cover the earth; and the heavens shall shake, and also the earth. And great tribulations shall be among the children of men, but my people will I preserve; and righteousness will I send down out of heaven, and truth will I send forth out of the earth, to bear testimony of mine Only Begotten; his resurrection from the dead; yea, and also the resurrection of all men (Genesis 7:68–69; italics added).
My mind was directed to that part of scripture which says "great tribulations shall be among the children of men, but my people will I preserve." That's where we are today. I wish it could be different but it isn't. The facts are, brethren and sisters, that this nation must be chastised for its wickedness, its pride, its whoredoms, and its adulteries— for its worship of the golden calf. It must be chastised because of the secret cancers that prey upon its body, which are not now removed by the efforts of the best men. I refer to the secret underground kingdoms of vice, graft, and corruption which are robbing this nation of its substance. God has made this land rich. There is no richer country on God's earth. And because it is rich, it is the purpose of the devil to impoverish it.
I don't believe in the devil. I believe that he is, however. I believe that the idea systems that he has organized— which blanket the minds of men with ignorance, superstition, and fear—I believe that these idea systems which have brought corruption, greed, and graft, and wickedness, and selfishness, and pride, inspired as they are of him, must be broken. This is a land of promise. Not only is this true from within but without. There are men in lands abroad who are inspired of the pit, and who look with longing and greedy eyes upon this land. In secret places that we know not of, plans have already been laid for the invasion and destruction of this country.
I don't want to frighten you people, because there is nothing to be afraid of. But as a watchman upon the towers of Zion I must lift up the warning voice, lest my conscience be not purged; and lest by my failure to utter a warning, some of you may be ensnared.
The other day I was talking to a man who had a considerable amount of money. He said to me, "You have said that the time will come when there will be an economic depression."
"Yes," I said, "that is true."
"When is it going to come?"
I said, "What difference is it going to make?"
"Well," he said, "if you thought it was going to come this year, I would change all my stocks and bonds into cash."
I said, "What do you want, a divine tip-off? God is not in the business of saving somebody's stocks and bonds."
"Well," he said, "you do believe that there is to be a depression?"
"No," I said, "I do not believe it, I know it."
"I have worked for forty years to get what I have got and I do not want to lose it."
I felt like telling him that if he had worked half as hard to be like Jesus Christ as he did to make $150,000, the question would never have arisen.
By what means does his satanic majesty destroy the agency of man? By fear. He centers people's attention upon the question of their financial and economic security, like he did this man. [Satan] makes him afraid.
The day war broke out [World War II] on the third day of September 1939, I was in church in Manchester [England]. One of the elders had stayed home to listen to [Prime Minister Neville] Chamberlain make his declaration of war. Although we were certain there was going to be a war, we just did not know. We were like the boy who stole the jam and had it all over his face and he hoped for a miracle so that his mother would not notice it. We knew it was war, but we hoped that maybe it wasn't. This young man came into the audience, and I invited him to tell us what the result was and he said, "Well, brethren and sisters, it is war." And the spirit of depression and darkness that fell over that congregation you could almost cut with a knife. Somebody suggested that we sing "God Moves in a Mysterious Way." When we came to the verse, "Ye fearful Saints, fresh courage take; the clouds ye so much dread are big with mercy and shall break in blessings on your head," something happened to that group of people, and it was as if they were lifted up by some unseen hand and were placed above the course of time, enabled to see and be delivered from the fear which was seizing upon other people.
A middle-aged lady came to me after that service and broke down and wept.
"My husband and I have labored for thirty-five years and have built a little home at the base of the peak, the first mountain of the Penine Range which forms the backbone of the British Isles. Now it is gone."
That woman's life was utterly and completely shattered. "Put not your trust in riches," the Heavenly Father says. What does it matter how much we have, so long as we have enough to live cleanly and decently to give us enough strength to serve God.
Some years ago I knew a man in California who was worth a quarter of a million dollars. There were other men who were pretty rich out there. We had a missionary by the name of Guy Levitt who was a president of the Seventy. Guy was one of these remarkable men. He had an electric personality. He could put his finger on the pulse of a social situation by merely walking Into it. At this particular occasion he got up in a prayer and testimony meeting and spoke in prophecy and told the men of the ministry that God loved them enough, and so much, that because some of them had set their hearts on riches that He was going to take those riches away from them. I had forgotten all about that.
Time passes, 1934–1957. Twenty-three years [passed and] the telephone rang.
"Can I talk to you? I want to see you," [the caller said].
I thought, "Oh! Oh!"
This man had come to Zion some ten years prior to that time against the advice of the bishop; against the advice of the apostle. He had a quarter of a million dollars, and he was going to show the Church how to build Zion. He came [into] one business venture after another [and they] failed. His choice of partners, based on a faulty interpretation of the nature of man, and of these men in particular [caused his failures], and now after ten years he had lost his quarter of a million dollars and was scrabbling out a living on a farm in Kansas. He was a high priest.
A very close personal friend of mine (he wasn't a very devout man years ago), he said, "I want to see you." I tried to put him off because I thought he wanted me to give him some personal revelation about how to invest his money. I really thought that's what he wanted, and he thought that I had some discernment and could tell him what he could do with his ready cash and he could redeem himself. I put it off and put it off, and finally I had to see him.
He came to the house and sat down at the kitchen table and drew from his pocket a piece of paper and said,"Do you have a pencil?"
"Yes." I got a pencil.
He said, "I have got some ideas about the Kingdom I would like to share with you."
"Marvelous," I said. "Let's have them." That man began to outline on that piece of paper the finest diagrammatical representation I have ever seen concerning eternal life. It was amazing! That man had the Spirit of God with him and he said, after he had laid it out, "I want to know if you think I ought to teach this to the priesthood in my district." I said, "Sure you should. That is the essence of life."
He said, "It cost me a quarter of a million dollars. Do you remember the prophecy that Levitt delivered in Berkeley?"
"Yes," I said, "I remember. Was it worth it?"
He said," You're asking me, 'Was it worth it?' What does it matter what we eat as long as we have strength to serve God? What does it matter what we wear so long as we are neat and clean? What does it matter if we live or die; if by living, or if by dying, we can advance the Apostle Arthur Oakman cause of the Kingdom?"
This man was secure. Now, ladies and gentlemen, when you live in a situation where your money is insecure, when you do not know if you will be a pauper or not, and you get to worrying about it until you are sick of worrying about it, till you cannot worry about it any longer, then you are fit to discover some real values.
Look at the present situation squarely. We cannot forever go on kiting money. We cannot forever go on living on a deficit. Somebody has to pay the piper. We are living in the same kind of false paradise economically as we did in the days of the golden glow of the days of Calvin Coolidge, prior to 1929. And it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that the day will come when you will see this land infested with marauding bands of armed men. In some parts of the country there will be chaos. What do you think the Prophet meant when he said, "It is yet day when all can work. The night will come when for many of my people opportunity to assist will have passed" (DC 142:5)? I am concerned with regard to it, brethren and sisters, deeply concerned with it. I made a statement this afternoon to the ladies which needed clarification and I will try to clarify it now. I do not think all debt is wrong. A man who contracts to buy a home and goes into debt and makes some obligations, I do not think that is wrong. Any contract or relationship which uses capital for legitimate expansion of business, that is not what I mean when I say we should not go into debt. What I mean is when we spend money we have not got for something we do not need. Will Rogers once said that advertising is the greatest magic of all time. It makes you spend money you have not got for something you do not need.
I beg of you, if you are young or old, that you see to it that you are not in bondage to your enemies. Keep the law governing temporalities, and the law governing temporalities will keep you. There is many a man in this Church that has come to disaster because he has figured that every man should be his own bishop. I am not making an appeal for money to the bishop. I know that stability and sturdiness, that the undergirding power that is found by those who built their house upon the rock, Christ Jesus, is the thing that we are after—for a people of stability, a people of integrity; people who can have the world rock and fall down about their ears, and they will just turn around and build it again.
The Destruction Which Must Come upon This Land
Now, with respect to the destruction which must come to the people of this land, which will come—it is inevitable, what can I say? Into the hands of man has been committed the power to destroy the physical universe. Lord Afton, the great English historian, who was the editor of the Cambridge Universal History, states as a result of his study of the course of time that all power corrupts, and that absolute power corrupts absolutely. I suppose he had in mind men like Hitler, Napoleon, Caesar, Machiavelli, and others whom he had studied in the course of time. He knew that this was the pattern of their lives. Napoleon, a son of the revolution himself, became a dictator. Cromwell, who took up the cause of the common man against the king, himself became a dictator. All power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
I was reminded when I read that the first time of a statement made by our Lord, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and (because it is given to me, you go forth) teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." Now while we have in our hands tremendous physical powers in the atomic sense; while we have given to us the capacity to destroy our visible universe with unquenchable fire, yet there is in the Lord Jesus something additional. For in him all power is wedded to perfect goodness.
Years ago, before the last World War, I was in Ottendorf [Otterndorf?] in Lower Silesia on the borders of Poland. We had a man there named August Vice [Weiss?] who was the branch president, and in the First World War he had earned two Iron Crosses. I said to him one day, "August, we are going to have another war, aren't we?"
He said, "Yes, when this field of grain is white, war will be declared." He was a farmer, you see.
I said, "What is the worst thing that could happen in the next war?" You always want to know the worst. August Vice [Weiss?] was a brave man. He had captured two hundred British soldiers single-handed on the Western Front. How they ever got into a position to be captured is more than I know, but they were. And his second Iron Cross [was earned] when he slew single-handed an Indian chieftain from India—Gurkha from the Himalayas.
I said, "August, what is the worst that can happen?"
He said, "The worst that I can think of is that if my government should require me to raise a gun, point it at you, and pull the trigger. I could not do it, if I knew it was you. I would not do it. They would have to kill me first."
Then I was reminded that in the First World War we had a German missionary by the name of Olatt [Ohlert?] who one day upon the Western Front trained his gun upon the breast of a man, and the Spirit of God told him three times not to fire. In 1923 the man upon whom he trained the gun was preaching the gospel in German in his own town. The devil centers our attention upon threats to our physical security and fear and death, because our mind is centered upon these things, and death stalks abroad and we are overtaken. What is the worst thing that could happen in this coming holocaust? The worst thing that could happen is that the forces would so far come and engulf the world and would destroy this Church. That is the worst that could happen. We have the promise that great tribulations shall be among the children of men, but "my people will I preserve."
God Will Sanctify the Atmosphere above Zion
I had a peculiar experience in 1954. It was at Conference. I will relate it here for whatever good it might do you. It was at that Conference that I had the responsibility, along with [Apostle] Percy Farrow, of directing the priesthood prayer meetings on Sunday morning and every morning of the week. On the last morning of that series I was made to know that the time would come that it would be necessary for the Almighty to sanctify the atmosphere above Zion for the distance of 15,000 furlongs. And I knew too that He had the power in His hands, by miraculous means if necessary, to preserve every hair of every head that it was His will to preserve. Ladies and gentlemen, the only safe place there is, is "the secret place of the Most High," as the Psalm says. If God preserves you, you are preserved, and if He does not, you are not preserved.
The forces of destruction will be let loose, and the inhabitants of the earth be made to mourn; and the Church people will mourn too. Days of sorrow and weeping will come upon us. And we shall be made to feel the nature of the wrath that comes upon people of wickedness.
President Frederick M. Smith said in one of his last revelations, "The promise has been given that no power shall stay the hand of God in the accomplishment of his purposes among his people; and as the church shall move forward in its great work, the fulfillment of prophecy may cause the Saints to tremble at the exhibition of divine power, yet they shall rejoice in the protection of his grace" (DC 135:3).
When those days come it is the will of God that His people do not fear. It is the will of God that His people look up and seek His grace, that in the midst of such conditions their testimony might be forthcoming to a perplexed and smitten people, and that their testimony may restore to them some measure of faith and hopeful—perfectly persuaded —that when these days of sorrow and destruction come upon the people of this country, brief as they may be yet terrible, that there will be created an opportunity by reason of this judgment that will open the ears of men, and unstop their ears and open their hearts to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. A brighter and more prosperous day will be seen and experienced by the people of this Church than they have ever experienced before. Blessed and holy is he or she who, through these days of comparative peace and prosperity, shall develop their talents—whether they be young or whether they be old—and shall spend their energies and make sacrificial efforts, that they may be equipped to minister solace and comfort and reconstruction to people who are around them. That is the calling of our Church.
Years ago there was a righteous man who lived in [near] a very, very wicked city. Because he was a righteous man in touch with the Spirit of revelation, the Heavenly Father told him:
"Abraham, I am about to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah...."
"[Abraham asked] Lord, if I can find fifty righteous people in this city, will you preserve it?"
"Yes," He said, "if you can find fifty, I will preserve the city."
Can you imagine the day that Abraham went out into that city with high hopes and a light heart to find fifty righteous people? Can you imagine him searching the length and breadth of that wicked place, his heart sinking lower and lower as the hours and the days went by? And finally admitted failure and said:
"Lord, I cannot find fifty, but I am sure there are twenty."
The Lord said, "All right, for twenty I will save it."
Again the journey was undertaken and again the search was made. Abraham said, "I cannot find twenty."
The Lord came down from fifty to twenty. Maybe He'll go down to ten. He said, "Lord, will you save this city for ten righteous people?"
The Lord said, "Yes, you find ten and I will save it."
Why would the Lord save Sodom and Gomorrah for ten righteous people? Don't you see that if the Almighty had ten righteous people in the midst of a wicked situation who could be bound together in the fellowship of the Church, He had an instrument in His hand by which He could save that city, because their testimony could be endowed by the power of the Spirit and cause sufficient wicked people of the city to repent.
You know, folks, prophecy is simply looking forward into the past, [and] backwards into the future.
How about Norwalk, Connecticut? New Haven? Who knows but perhaps twenty righteous people might save the city if the twenty were really, truly concerned about the business of bearing their testimonies. I believe the Almighty would and can save city after city, if in these cities He can find people He can use to save the inhabitants of the earth. That is our calling.
The Next War Will Be Total
Let me say there is no place to hide; there is no place to run to. There is no escaping. The next war will be total. Every citizen will be mobilized in respect to it, and although the forces of destruction which may be let loose may be terrible, not only here but abroad, yet even though those forces of destruction may be terrible in their aspect, yet it is possible to make our contribution to the sons of men without fear and in the consciousness of the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and the fact that this Church is engaged in the task of building up the Kingdom of God on the face of the earth.
Do you want to live if there is to be no Kingdom? I do not. Life does not have any sense or meaning apart from the cause of Christ. If that is not going to prevail, then let us eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.
Now just one other word. The picture looks dark, does it not? Many years ago [Apostle] Orson Hyde said, in 1841, that the gospel of Jesus Christ would be preached in Japan, and that was before Commodore Perry opened up the Yokohama Harbor in 1864. He said [that] before the gospel of Jesus Christ is preached in Japan, Japan will have to be subjugated by American arms. And we have lived to see Japan subjugated by American arms. How do you think that the Iron Curtain will be opened up? Hitler arose between Communism and Democracy, a vile form of dictatorship which robbed men of their agency. Democracy and Communism were used by the Almighty to destroy Fascism from the face of the earth. And it will never reappear. As a result, partly at least, Germany has been opened up to the preaching of the gospel in a freer and a better way than it ever was before. But how many of our men can speak Russian? Suppose it [the Iron Curtain] was broken down.
This gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the world, and then (and not until then) shall the end come. How can the gospel of the Kingdom be preached for a witness unless there is a Kingdom to witness to?
The Duty of Our Church
You know, we talk about the people of the North Country. Personally, I believe there is a people up there, just like the Good Book says. I believe they have been bringing forth righteous fruit all this generation. I believe that they have been hid from this world because this world is not worthy of them. If they were ever discovered, who do you think would be the first people up there selling them cigarettes and beer? That is a fact. They will look upon them as a vast new virgin market. It is about the best thing we have to offer them. They would be far more advanced than we are with respect to government, with respect to sociology—would they not? That is why I believe they are hidden. That is why there is a barrier set between us and them.
These environments which must be created by the people of our Church, in the days that are to come, shall be free and clean and pure as far as it is possible, to make them talk about education. We confuse education with schooling. Schooling is just a part of the process of education. But what educates our children is the environment— what they see on the street, what they experience at school, what they experience at home. The total environment situation is the foundation of education. I challenge any body to successfully refute that. So long as the cities in which our children live are corrupt, I care not how well we may do our work at home, in some respects those children will be affected by it—their environment. It is the business of this Church to look forward to the time when such communities, when the children of this earth can come into this world and grow to maturity unsullied by conflicting idealisms with their souls whole, at peace within themselves and with the world, and when such young people grow to maturity, to be offered to the world as an offering to a sin-cursed world, to preach the gospel. Now the people that are committed to that kind of an idealism, and let it dominate their personal life and their home life, have nothing to fear. In fact, my friends, it is impossible for that kind of man to be afraid.
So as we look forward into the future then, let us not be afraid, but let us be conscious of the fact that these things of which I have spoken must surely come; for as the Book of Mormon says, "For the kingdom of the devil must shake, and they which belong to it must needs be stirred up unto repentance" (2 Nephi 12:23). A terrible thing to contemplate! But it is in the hands of God. And if we will offer ourselves more perfectly than ever before for the ministry of salvation and peace, I am sure the good Lord will bless us and keep us; availing to bring peace and release and freedom, for I am sure He will do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. But I am equally sure that He will not do for us what we can do for ourselves. "Men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; for the power is in them wherein they are agents unto themselves" (DC 58:6d).
"A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee" (Psalm 91:7). "He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty" (Psalm 91:1). We are in the hands of God to do with us as seemeth Him good. Let our souls then rest content, and let us in every place bear our testimony now of those things which are to come. And when the day of desolation shall come, we shall be able to stretch forth a helping hand and preach the saving word, which I am sure it is our duty and our high privilege to do.
I am sure that God has nothing but good for us, and in spite of the shadows and clouds which gather around us with speed, and gather toward the storm, let us be assured that after the storm and the earth is cleansed once more, and the air is sweet and nature is revived, so will it be, and a more glorious opportunity to spread abroad the ministry of Jesus will be vouchsafed to this people. I am sure of these things. I know God is, and that His Son Jesus Christ is the Lord of Creation, and I know that all that we may achieve under Him will be achieved as we recognize Him and give Him the place of rightful Lordship in our lives. May God bless each one of you all the time and in every place, is my prayer.
(Vision 41 [September 2002]: 7–10)