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PBS
Martin Luther King waves to the crowd in a moment from Henry Louis Gates Jr.'s PBS documentary “Black America Since MLK: And Still I Rise," now on DVD.

Editor's note: “The Spoken Word” is shared by Lloyd Newell each Sunday during the weekly Mormon Tabernacle Choir broadcast. This will be given Jan. 15, 2017.

Every society is only as good as its people. It follows, then, that to build a better society we need a foundation of brave men and women who do the right thing. Often, that foundation is tested by struggle and conflict, but it may be that those very challenges are what bring out the greatness within people and nations.

For example, the perilous founding of this nation gave birth to such heroes as Washington, Adams and Jefferson. Almost a hundred years later, a contentious division among states called Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass into service.

And several decades after that, a bitter world war shaped the dynamic leadership of Roosevelt and Churchill. Then the right time met the right people once again when Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr. and others stood up for civil rights.

In each case, and in countless other stories that could be told, challenges and trials gave rise to greatness and darkness and despair gave way to light and hope. As Martin Luther King reminded us, “When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds of despair, and when our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, let us remember that … (God) is able to make a way out of no way, and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows” (see "Where Do We Go from Here?" in "A Call to Conscience: The Landmark Speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.," edited by Clayborne Carson and Kris Shepard, 2011).

We may never make headlines or change world history, but in our individual and quiet ways, we too can make a difference.

One woman did this by determining not to pass unhealthy family patterns to the next generation. She made conscious choices to give her children the stability she did not have as a child. She resolved to love and support her family unselfishly, and in just one generation, she gave them a new start. The odds may have not been in her favor, but she cared enough to make a lasting change and by so doing blessed generations.

“When our days become dreary,” we can remember that the “way out of no way” is to hold on to hope, trust the power higher than our own, and do our part to make the world a better place.

Tuning in ...

The “Music and the Spoken Word” broadcast is available on KSL-TV, KSL Radio 1160 AM/102.7 FM, ksl.com, KSL X-stream, BYU-TV, BYU Radio, BYU-TV International, CBS Radio Network, Dish Network, DirecTV, SiriusXM Radio (Channel 143), mormontabernaclechoir.org and youtube.com/mormontabchoir. The program is aired live on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. MST on many of these outlets. Look up broadcast information by state and city at musicandthespokenword.org/schedules.