A Plague on the World
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“A Plague on the World,” New Era, July 1990, 4

The Message:

A Plague on the World

From an address delivered in the priesthood session of October 1989 general conference.

It is difficult to resist when your peers are pulling you down into the swamp of narcotics. It takes steel in your spine to say no.

I should like to say a few words on a subject that is much in the public press these days. It is the widespread use of illegal drugs with all of the ramifications associated therewith.

I received a letter the other day from a government official who for years has been involved in the fight against illegal drugs. He says: “I know from firsthand knowledge what a scourge illicit narcotics are to this country and others. The drain on the human and monetary resources of the world being caused by this dilemma is inestimable and threatens the very foundations of freedom. I have watched as families dissolved, morals collapsed, and lives were lost, both directly and indirectly due to the effect of drugs.”

I am confident this man knows whereof he speaks. He pleads for help, for public support, for Church support against this terrible scourge that is destroying so many. The Wall Street Journal recently carried the results of a national poll which indicated that “three out of four Americans have been touched personally by drugs. Half have personally used drugs or have a family member who has. A remarkable 43% say that drugs are the nation’s single most important issue.”

The article goes on to say: “A surprisingly high 70% of the voters surveyed believe at least half of the crimes committed in their neighborhoods are drug related. Also, 70% of those with children between the ages of 13 and 17 say that drugs are sold in their children’s schools.”

As most of you are aware, the president of the United States has described the drug problem as the gravest domestic threat facing our nation. He has launched a battle against illicit drugs, with some eight billion dollars to be spent on strengthening police forces, building more prisons, and implementing other measures. Notwithstanding this, “those responding to the poll were deeply skeptical that the battle can be won: Only a third believe a federal program would do ‘a great deal’ or ‘quite a bit’ to correct the drug problem.”

A woman respondent said, “No amount of money is going to stop it. It has to be a change within the hearts and minds of people. Young people have to think: ‘I have just one body, and I’m going to need it all my life’” (Wall Street Journal, 22 Sept. 1989, pp. 1–2).

I am inclined to agree with this woman. Stiffer enforcement measures may be necessary. But I believe that only when far greater numbers of people conclude within their hearts and minds that the fruits of drug-taking are only sorrow and trouble, remorse, and even death will things change to any significant degree.

I wish I could say that all of our people are free from this scourge. They are not, although I am pleased to note that drug use has declined among young people in some areas, including Utah.

We may not be able to change the nation or the world. But we can change the problem in our own lives as individuals and, in that process, move others in the same direction.

Some have even used as an alibi the fact that drugs are not mentioned in the Word of Wisdom. What a miserable excuse. There is likewise no mention of the hazards of diving into an empty swimming pool or of jumping from an overpass onto the freeway. But who doubts the deadly consequences of such? Common sense would dictate against such behavior.

Regardless of the Word of Wisdom, there is a divinely given reason for avoiding these illegal substances.

I am convinced that their use is an affront to God. He is our Creator. We are made in His image. These remarkable and wonderful bodies are His handiwork. Does anyone think that he can deliberately injure and impair his body without affronting its Creator? We are told again and again that the body is the tabernacle of the spirit. We are told that it is a temple, holy to the Lord. In a time of terrible conflict between the Nephites and the Lamanites, we are told that the Nephites, who had been strong, became “weak, like unto their brethren, the Lamanites, and that the Spirit of the Lord did no more preserve them; yea, it had withdrawn from them because the Spirit of the Lord doth not dwell in unholy temples” (Hel. 4:24).

Alma taught the people of Zarahemla: The Lord “doth not dwell in unholy temples; neither can filthiness or anything which is unclean be received into the kingdom of God” (Alma 7:21). Can anyone doubt that the taking of these mind- and body-destroying drugs is an act of unholiness? Does anyone think that the Spirit of God can dwell in the temple of the body when that body is defiled by these destructive elements? If any of you are tampering with these things, resolve forthwith, and with the strongest determination of which you are capable, that you will never touch them again.

You young men hold the priesthood of almighty God, and the revelation is clear that this priesthood cannot be exercised in any degree of unrighteousness. In holding the Aaronic Priesthood, you partake of the keys of “the gospel of repentance.” Begin immediately to implement that repentance in your own lives. It may not be easy to stand up to your friends. It may be most difficult to resist the demands of your body for more of this illicit material. Pray for strength. Seek help. God will bless you if you make the effort. And I promise you that you will be grateful for the remainder of your lives for the decision you have made.

I know it is difficult to resist following when your peers are pulling you along with others down into the swamp of narcotics. It takes a bit of steel in your spine to say no and then keep your resolution.

We recently deemed it prudent, for reasons of personal safety, to move our American missionaries out of one of the nations of South America. It was not an easy decision. We have many wonderful and faithful Latter-day Saints there. The people in that area are receptive to the gospel. For the most part, they are good people, law-abiding, and desirous of doing what is right. But the very life of that nation is threatened by powerful men of the drug cartel. There would be no such problem if the people of the United States and other nations refused to become a market for these narcotics. It is a supply-and-demand situation. There is great demand with a ready supply to meet that demand. Everyone who partakes of these illicit drugs has on his hands some of the blood of those who have been killed or wounded in the fight to stop the cultivation and exportation of these destructive products.

You cannot afford to tamper with them in the least. Certainly you must be grateful for your bodies and your minds, the very substance of your mortal lives. Certainly you must know that health is the most precious of assets. Certainly you recognize that, for the years that lie ahead, you will need health of body and clarity of mind if you are to live productively and with the respect of your associates. You would not knowingly break an arm or a leg just for the fun of it. Broken bones will mend and will function again in a normal way. But a mind warped by drugs or a body weakened or distorted by these evil things will not be easily repaired. The drug-induced destruction of self-worth and self-confidence is almost impossible to restore.

To you who may be partaking, I repeat, stop immediately. To you who at any time in the future may be tempted, I urge you to stand your ground. Reflect on the fact that you are a child of God our Eternal Father, endowed with those faculties of body and mind which will help you to take a place that is significant in the world in which you live. Do not throw away your future. Do not jeopardize the well-being of your posterity.

I watched on television the other evening a documentary on what are called cocaine babies. I have seen few things more pitiable. These children, born of addicted mothers, come into the world under a terrible handicap. Their future prospects are hopeless. Many of them doubtless throughout their lives will be cared for at public expense. You will bear this burden as taxpayers. That, of course, is serious. But more serious is the manner in which the gift of life has been so wickedly abused by parents who had not the will to resist the drugs that have all but destroyed their children.

In earlier centuries, there were plagues that swept across England and the nations of Europe. They struck like lightning, carrying tens of thousands to their death.

This modern drug scourge has become as a plague on the world. But in most cases, the death it brings is not swift, but rather, it follows a long period spent in misery and pain and regret. Unlike the plagues of old, from which there was no known defense, the defense is clear and relatively easy in the case of illicit drugs. It lies in simply refraining from touching them.

As I look at you young people, I recognize that, in as brief a period as ten years from now, the youngest of you will be twenty-two. Hopefully you young men will have completed honorable missions. Some of you will have completed your educational programs and will be employed in the vocations of your choice. Ten years pass so quickly. They are almost as sunrise and sunset. Do not blight your future. Do not impair your capacity. Do not offend God in whose image you were created.

Although I recognize that drugs are not mentioned specifically in the Word of Wisdom, I am confident that the promise attached to that revelation will apply also to those who refrain from these evil and vicious destroyers. I repeat, therefore, these marvelous words of the Lord:

“And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones;

“And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;

“And shall run and not be weary and shall walk and not faint.

“And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them” (D&C 89:18–21).

Let no member of this church, be he man or boy, girl or woman, fall prey to this frightful scourge. Some things are right; some are wrong. You know this as well as do I. God grant you the strength to stand free from this enslavement and from the personal holocaust of destruction which inevitably follows.

Illustrated by Richard Hull