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5 Gospel Lessons from the “I Have a Dream” Speech

1. God is no respecter of persons.

By virtue of being sons and daughters of God, all men and women—no matter their ethnicity—have unalienable rights: the right to freedom and the right to happiness through the gospel. King spoke boldly that

“All men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the ‘unalienable Rights’ of ‘Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.’"

In like manner, God denies no one the opportunity to change through the gospel. God is no respecter of persons, and as Nephi explained it,

“He inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God” (2 Nephi 26:33).

2. Now is the time to change.

Both the gospel and King’s speech emphasize the urgency of now. King said,

“We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.”

Similarly, God asks us to change now—to start every day fresh with new determination to be better. Now is always the right time to take a step forward. Amulek taught,

"And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses, therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance” (Alma 33:34). 

3. Turn the other cheek.

With King’s speech came exhortations to “rise to majestic heights” and combat “physical force with soul force.” King also said,

“We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline.”

Despite the brutality that many civil right activists encountered, King encouraged them to resist using violence and to turn the other cheek, as it were. It was not an easy charge to follow, but it was a very worthwhile one. Christ likewise taught,

“Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you” (3 Nephi 12:43). 

4. Be your brother’s keeper.

Not only were there many unified African Americans supporting King’s cause, but there were many white men and women who also stood shoulder to shoulder with their fellow Americans. King notes that they exhibited the greatest unity and brotherly kindness:

“For many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.”

To care deeply enough about your fellow man is to be united in brotherly love one with another. As the Apostle Peter taught,

“Add to . . . godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity” (2 Peter 1:7).

5. Change for the better and don’t look back.

Dr. King taught the same principle that Christ teaches us: as we repent, change, and put one foot in front of the other, we must leave our mistakes and suffering in the past. King said,

“And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back.”

We all slip up and fall short of the glory of God. But through the gospel we can change for the better. But the trick is not looking back. Nephi taught this principle well:

“Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life” (2 Nephi 31:20). 

Originally published on LDS.com on January 19, 2015, lead image from Wikimedia Commons
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