As the United States faces its third century, it is time for Americans to return to God and his teachings, President Gordon B. Hinckley, first counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said Sunday evening.

"An acknowledgment of the Almighty and a return to the teachings of God will do more than all else to keep our ship of state on a steady course as she sails into the third century of nationhood," President Hinckley said in an address at Brigham Young University.Addressing the annual Freedom Festival Fireside in the Marriott Center, the general authority said loving God and following his teachings is the answer to the evils and conflicts that beset America, including pornography, abortion, drugs, and "squandering of our resources on evil pursuits."

"Here is the answer to the great epidemic of litigation which consumes time, saps our financial strength, and shackles our entrepreneurial spirit. Here is the answer to tawdry politics which place selfish interest above the common good."

President Hinckley expressed appreciation for all that is good and great about America, including its natural beauty, the strength and consistency of government and the goodness of people. He told of his visits to many other lands and of how he has come to love America.

He said the United States has come through wars, both civil and international, with victory and found peace. But he said things have changed.

"Now we are a people of contention with strident and accusatory voices heard in argument across the nation. We rose from scratch to become the greatest industrial power in the history of the earth," he said.

"Now we have lost much of our competitive edge, and seen other nations move ahead of us in various fields in both research and production."

As a nation he said too many people forget God, put his commandments aside and "in all too many ways we have substituted human sophistry for the wisdom of the Almighty."

Expressing his love for America, President Hinckley praised the various facets that make America great.

"I love America for the tremendous genius of its scientists, its researchers, its laboratories, its universities, and the tens of thousands of facilities devoted to the increase of human health and comfort, to the sustenance of life, to improved communication and transportation.

"The standard of living of its people has been the envy of the entire earth. Its farmlands have yielded an abundance undreamed of in many other places," he continued.

He expressed his greatest love for America's spiritual strength. "It is a land of churches and synagogues, of temples and tabernacles, of pulpits and altars."

Quoting from the book of Ether in The Book of Mormon, President Hinckley said, "Behold, this is a choice land, and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall be free from bondage, and from captivity, and from all other nations under heaven, if they will but serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ."

Sunday evening's fireside began the final week of celebration for America's Freedom Festival at Provo. The Mormon Symphony and Chorus performed a variety of patriotic and religious anthems.