Instead of asking, how can we be saved from the next big depression? I believe there is a more pertinent and pressing question to answer:
How did the great depression save America?
The answer to the second question provides the right answer to the first.
The commentary about the great depression in American (1930’s) is replete. What lead to (extravagance or excess that F. Scott Fitzgeral’s The Great Gatsby portrays) or the reason for remaining in such darkness, despondency and depression (perhaps LBJ’s policies like the Great Society) for so long is controversial and not discussed here. We want to focus on the temporal lessons and spiritual outcomes of the depression so we don’t “repeat history” or “remain in darkness.” But lessons like blessings can come in unexpected ways.
“It seems to be the hardest thing in the world for people to grow in wealth and keep the spirit of the gospel.” The devil is ready to blind our eyes with the things of this world, and he would gladly robes of eternal life, the greatest of all gifts.” Heber J. Grant
The interwar era of the 1920s is known for its extravagance! During this time, the United States and major European Countries were seeing greater prosperity than ever before. With this prosperity came frivolous spending, the purchasing of items and investment on credit, shortening of skirts and morals. Source A recognizable shift from serving God to serving mammon. When the treasure on earth empty up and don’t seem unobtainable then men begin to lay up treasures in heaven.
While David Suzuki describes his personal familial victory after the music stopped playing he,
“My parents survived the Great Depression and brought me up to live within my means, save some for tomorrow, share and don’t be greedy, work hard for the necessities in life knowing that money does not make you better or more important than anyone else. So, extravagance has been bred out of my DNA.”
Even the “great recession” of 2009 that ensued had an impactful and measurable spiritual re-balancing effect. As President Monson says in his blog at the Washington Post.
There was, as many have noted, a remarkable surge of faith following the tragedy. People across the United States rediscovered the need for God and turned to Him for solace and understanding. Comfortable times were shattered. We felt the great unsteadiness of life and reached for the great steadiness of our Father in Heaven. And, as ever, we found it. Americans of all faiths came together in a remarkable way.
According to the prophet, after only ten years the spiritual rebuilding and “we will never forget” motto has begun to diminish, he continues:
Sadly, it seems that much of that renewal of faith has waned in the years that have followed. Healing has come with time, but so has indifference. We forget how vulnerable and sorrowful we felt. Our sorrow moved us to remember the deep purposes of our lives. The darkness of our despair brought us a moment of enlightenment. But we are forgetful. When the depth of grief has passed, its lessons often pass from our minds and hearts as well…
The changes and challenges that life offers such as the great depression or recession has saved America on many occasions by turning our hearts to God allowing him to rebuild without destroying and bless us (D&C 130:20). After all, obedience is the first law of heaven and painful change, compelled or not, can be the first step. Joseph Smith said it best, “no man is taller than when he is on his knees.” Being on our knees, we can be raised up unto God instead of the folly on men and weakness of the flesh. The spiritual lesson from both tragedies is simple and singular:
“Destruction allows us to rebuild our lives in the way He teaches us, and to become something different than we were. We can make Him the center of our thoughts and His Son, Jesus Christ, the pattern for our behavior. We may not only find faith in God in our sorrow. We may also become faithful to Him in times of calm.” President Monson
So let’s honestly evaluate and ask, as individuals and a nation:
Do we “desire that the Lord our God, who hath created us, should rule and rein over us? Or do we set at naught His counsel and will not that He should be our guide? Helaman 12:6