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Rediscovering Lost Values

King urges for faith in his earliest known recorded sermon

February 28 1954

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King delivered the sermon to a large Baptist church in Detroit in late February 1954, just days after finishing his final comprehensive examination and a few weeks before the graduate school approved his dissertation outline. In the Detroit sermon, King told the familiar biblical story of Joseph and Mary, who realized, while walking to Nazareth, that they had left Jesus behind in Jerusalem. just as Joseph and Mary had returned to rejoin Jesus, King advised, society should rediscover the precious values that had become lost in the rationalizations that guided behavior in the modern world. "If we are to go forward," he said, "if we are to make this a better world in which to live, we've got to go back. We've got to rediscover these precious values that we've left behind." Despite the many technological advances and material comforts of American society, King argued, humanity had lost the spiritual compass provided by a deep and abiding faith in God. "The real problem is that through our scientific genius we've made of the world a neighborhood, but through our moral and spiritual genius we've failed to make of it a brotherhood." King insisted that "all reality hinges on moral foundations," that "this is a moral universe, and ... there are moral laws of the universe, just as abiding as the physical laws." Decrying ethical relativism—"Now, I'm not trying to use a big word here"--King expressed a belief in moral absolutes that evoked enthusiastic responses from the congregation.

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Audio excerpts

NPR: Hear excerpts from a 1954 King sermon, 'Rediscovering Lost Values.' 

Martin Luther King's I Have A Dream Speech

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