David O. McKay School of Education

David O. McKay :: Addresses on Education

Address to the BYU Student Body


President David O. McKay
with an introduction by President Ernest L. Wilkinson
Wednesday, October 8, 1952

In introducing to you this morning your President, I want to sketch in just a few words his devoted life. He was born in Huntsville, Utah, of which Ogden is a suburb, in 1873, the son of Scotch parents, David and Jennette Evans McKay. His father was one of the great patriarchs of the Church.

I shall never forget as a very small boy riding to Salt Lake to a general conference of the Church when I had the privilege of sitting in the seat behind President McKay's father on one of the old Bamberger cars. As the patriarch and his companion conversed, I remember his quoting from the Doctrine and Covenants "...retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated." (88:124)

President McKay, his son, has followed that example all of his life, and it is not unusual for him now, at the age of 79, to be at his office working in the morning at six a.m. Graduating from the University of Utah in 1879 [sic] as President and Valedictorian of his class, President McKay immediately became a member of the faculty of Weber Stake Academy which has now become Weber College. His powers as a teacher and administrator were so outstanding that in less than three years at the age of 29, he became principal of that institution. In that capacity he became a great educator, and was dearly beloved by all his students who still look upon him as their great teacher. Four years later, at the young age of 33 years, he was called to the Quorum of the Twelve and ordained an Apostle. Not desiring to surrender his connection with Weber Academy in the field of Education, which he thoroughly loved, he continued as President of the Board of Trustees of that institution until it was taken over in the 1920's as a State Institution.

President McKay always regretted that it was found necessary at that time for the Church to give up its administration of these Church Academies, which were scattered throughout the Church. Later he became Church Commissioner of Education; then a member of the Board of Regents of the University of Utah; then President of the Board of Trustees of the Utah State Agricultural College; in 1939 he became a member of the Board of Trustees of this University, and is now its President. This University has had the honor of conferring upon him both an Honorary Masters and Honorary Doctorate Degree. The University of Utah, Utah State Agricultural College and Temple University in Philadelphia, have also conferred on him honorary Doctorate Degrees. On the very day that he was ordained an Apostle in 1906 he became a member of the Superintendency of the Deseret Sunday School Union, and continued as a member or as Superintendent of that Union until 1934. He thus was in active charge of the Sunday Schools of our Church for a period of some 28 years.

President McKay has already proved himself to be one of the great missionaries of all time of our Church. In 1920-21 he made a world tour of the L.D.S. missions, traveling some 62,500 miles. During this world-wide tour he dedicated the land of China for preaching the Restored Gospel. While in New Zealand he spoke in English and Maori natives received the gift of interpretation of tongues, and gratefully understood his message. The following year he became the President of the European mission, during which time he also opened the Armenian mission. In 1934, upon relinquishing the general superintendency of the Desert Sunday School Union, he became a counsellor to President Heber J. Grant, whom he served as a counsellor for some eleven years. In 1945, he became a counsellor to President George Albert Smith, and in April of 1951, a year and a half ago, was confirmed, ordained, and set apart as President of the Church. President and Sister McKay have five sons and two daughters. It was my privilege to be a classmate of one of them at Weber Academy, and to teach another at the same institution. With this background I am honored to present to you at this time our Living Prophet--President David O. McKay.

PRESIDENT DAVID O. MCKAY:

Faculty and students of the Brigham Young University:
I appreciate the introduction by your President, Dr. Wilkinson, and I hesitate to make two corrections. I do it for the record. President Wilkinson said that I am from Scotch ancestry on my father's and mother's side. Brother John James, our distinguished Welshman, would be very uneasy if he heard that. My mother was Welsh and that you may always remember this fact I am going to relate this instance: I visited Malad soon after I was called to the Council of the Twelve. The grandfather of Brother Ralph Richards, one of our secretaries who drove us down, was President of the Malad Stake and just before the Saturday morning session of that quarterly conference began, I whispered to President Richards that I have Welsh blood in my veins. He, of course, was a pure-blooded Welshman. With a toss of his head or an expression on his face, I don't remember just which, he implied that I was making that claim simply because I was in Malad, a town principally of Welsh people. When I arose to speak to the congregation, I told them that "Just before this service began I whispered to President Richards that I have Welsh blood in my veins, but by the shake of his head or the expression on his face, he implied I said that merely because I am here with you good Welsh people. But I which to say to President Richards and to you that my mother was born in Plasagon House, ClneydyfagwyrCefn Cold Cwmer, near Merthyr-Tydfil, South Wales, and her name is Evans."

An old lady sitting in the front seat rose and said, "That's it, that's it, you are, you are." I had the supreme joy of standing in the room, with Sister McKay by my side in that Plasagon House in which Mother was born 102 years ago. The other item is in regard to the alleged gift of tongue. The occasion was a conference held at Huntly, New Zealand, a thousand people assembled. Before that time I had spoken through interpreters in China, Hawaii, and other places, but I felt impressed on that occasion to speak in the English Language. In substance I said, "I have never been much of an advocate of the necessity of tongues in our Church, but today I wish I had that gift. But I haven't. However, I am going to speak to you, my brothers and sisters in my native tongue and pray that you may have the gift of interpretation of tongues.

We will ask Brother Melra who is going to interpret for me, to make notes and if necessary he may give us a summary of my talk afterwards. Well, the outpouring of the gift of tongues on that occasion was most remarkable. Following the end of my sermon Brother Sid Cristy, who was a student of the Brigham Young University, a Maori, who had returned to New Zealand, rushed up and said, "Brother McKay, they got your message!" Well, I knew they had by the attention and the nodding of their heads during the talk. I said, "I think they have but for the benefit of those who may not have understood or had that gift, we shall have the sermon interpreted."

While Bother Melra was interpreting that or giving a summary of it in the Maori language some of the natives, who had understood it, but who did not understand English, arose and corrected him in his interpretation. President George Albert Smith and Brother Milton Hardy visited New Zealand several years after that event and Brother Hardy, hearing of the event, brought home testimonies of those who were present and he took the occasion to have those testimonies notarized. So it is the gift of interpretation rather than the gift of tongues, that was remarkable. President Wilkinson and the faculty and others who are interested in this great institution are not the only ones this morning I feel impressed are rejoicing about this occasion. Little did I realize when we were present at the dedication of the Fieldhouse that in so short a time I would witness what I see this morning -- every seat occupied by the studentbody. I glorify the name of our Heavenly Father for this blessing upon this institution, and commend you my fellow students, upon your enrollment in this great university. I said the present faculty and Board of Education are not the only ones who rejoice in this. President Brigham Young, the founder, Dr. George H. Brimhall and the presidents of the institution succeeding who have passed beyond, I am sure are not unmindful of this remarkable growth of the Brigham Young University. This morning I am asked to speak to you on the influence of the Church Institution. As I do so I am impressed with the responsibility of youth. I am always happy in your presence. This morning in expressing that happiness I wish to impress you with the responsibility that is yours as youth. In passing let me say how I appreciate the privilege and joys of youth. He was wise who said:

There are gains for all our losses.
There are balms for all our pains,
But when Youth, the dream, departs,
It takes something from our hearts,
But it never comes again.

Stronger under manhood's firm array,
Yet we feel that something sweet,
Followed Youth with flying feet,
But it never comes again.

Something beautiful is vanished,
And we sigh for it in vain.
We behold it everywhere
In the ridge and in the air,
But it never comes again.

That applies, I recognize, to our physical bodies and some to a great extent to our intellectual faculties, but not to the spirit within. The spirit always is young, and will continue to progress keeping all the accumulation of attributes, virtues and scars of the vices as we carry on in this world. In the words of Goethe, "The destiny of any nation at any given time depends upon the opinions of the young men under five and twenty." And I repeat in your presence what I said in conference the other day quoting a noted sociologist, who said, "Give us the young and we will create a new mind and a new society in a single generation."

How that is being done by the enemies of truth and advancement is impressively shown by an article in the London Daily Express, published a few months ago this year. "How Stalin Answered a Child's Prayer" is the caption. "Now children," said a teacher in Prague, "say a prayer to God for something nice to eat." They had been made hungry up to that time. The children prayed, the door was opened, and of course nothing happened. "Now let us see what Stalin can do," urged the teacher. The children repeated their appeal to the Soviet dictator, and as the door opened the second time a trolley of food was wheeled into the classroom. The teacher beamed and said, "You see, children, God did not answer your prayer, but Stalin gives you what you want. Three cheers for dear Stalin."

We know what was done toward corrupting the minds of youth within one generation in the days of Hitler, and we see now what is being done to corrupt the minds of youth behind the Iron Curtain. Unless our nation and the nations who love freedom take up the direct teaching of loyalty to truth, to government, to God, this poisonous teaching will corrupt millions. We shall have to counteract that teaching by inculcating in the hearts of youth ideals of integrity and the standards set forth by the Lord Jesus Christ. I wish to speak this morning in fifteen minutes now, first on the influence and responsibility of youth; second, on the need of moral and religious training; third, on the efforts in public school system; fourth, the opportunities of church schools, and conclude with the spirituality higher than ethics.

George E. Stoddard says that the aim of education is to develop a structure of thought and to improve human relations. A university is not a dictionary, a dispensary, nor is it a department store. It is more than a storehouse of knowledge, and more than a community of scholars. University life is essentially an exercise in thinking, preparing and living. Without further comment, I give you this definition: The aim of education is to develop resources in the child that will contribute to his well-being as long as long as life endures; to develop power of self-mastery that he may never be a slave to indulgence or other weaknesses, to develop virile manhood, beautiful womanhood that in every child and every youth may be found at least the promise of a friend, a companion, one who later may be fit for husband or wife, an exemplary father or a loving intelligent mother, one who can face life with courage, meet disaster with fortitude, and face death without fear.

Regarding the present condition of the world, Mr. W. C. Mullendor, President of the Southern California Edison Company comments: "Over far too long a period now we, the people of the United States of America, have been squandering our heritage and blindly following the old teachers, but often beguiling ways which lead backward and downward from the unfrequented heights of liberty to the lowlands of tyranny and despair." The great bulk of humanity has lived for the whole of human history thus beguiled and misled. During the first half of the twentieth century we have traveled far into the soul - destroying land of socialism and made strange alliances through which we have become involved in almost continuous hot and cold wars over the whole of the earth. In this retreat from freedom the voices of protesting citizens have been drowned by raucous shouts of intolerance and abuse from those who led the retreat and their millions of gullible youth, who are marching merrily to their doom, carrying banners on which are emblazoned such intriguing and misapplied labels as social justice, equality, reform, patriotism, social welfare.

Intoxicated with pride in our achievement, enmeshed in the interesting problems still unsolved, we have left unguarded the gate through which are pouring the destructive hordes and forces of a new invasion of barbarism. Hearing the dangers just inumerated [sic], the nation is threatened with the disintegrating influence of moral turpitude, honesty seems to be outmoded, the stability of the family life is conflict, loyalty and patriotism have lost their order, crime and lawlessness, particularly among young people, are increasing alarmingly. For example, during the first six months of 1951 crime jumped 5 per cent in cities, 4 per cent in rural areas compared to the same period last year. Auto thefts rose 18 per cent in the cities and 20 per cent in the rural areas during a six-month period as compared to 1950. Larcenies increased 7.9 per cent in urban communities, 12.9 per cent in rural districts. Sex offenses showed 6 per cent increase in the cities; they're down 2.4 per cent in rural areas. On the other hand, negligent manslaughter which was down 3.2 per cent in the urban areas arose 21 per cent in the rural districts. For males and females combined the frequency of arrest by age groups was in the following order: 23, 22, 21, 24, and 18.

Now here is an excellent opportunity for us to decide how these evil tendencies may be averted. From The Child, His Nature and His Needs, a publication of the Children's Foundation, pages 102 and 106, I will read this question: "Should moral instruction receive a definite place in the school curriculum?" I want to tell you students, who will be leaders in a few years in scholastic fields and business, that unless we do make morality and ethics and spirituality and religion our direct aim this nation will not be prepared to counteract the evil influence of the teaching behind the iron curtain, the leaders of which are purposely, designedly, you take my word for it, teaching youth corrupt ideals and principles. Now, our public schools, recognizing that, are setting forth ethical principles to be taught. But, note this, moral instruction is of the greatest usefulness where the teachers are in earnest, where they posses the necessary skill, where they see that moral instruction is only one item in the general program of moral education, and where all the moral forces in the school are called into play together.

Now, I pause long enough to ask the leaders of this nation, how is it possible to get leaders in our schoolrooms, hold them, have men of influence and women of superior ability to teach our children unless we are willing to compensate them properly in their efforts so to teach their children. It's folly for this nation to expect more teachers throughout the land to forsake other and more lucrative opportunities if they do not give to our teachers, our professors in the universities, in the high schools and in day schools a compensation that their position merits. We'll have to face it, giving only $5,000,000,000 for education in the United States and expending at the same time $20,000,000,000 to take care of crime, is inconsistent. It takes us back to that old story: Which will you have -- a fence around the cliff or an ambulance down in the valley?

Here are some of the ideals recommended by our public school officers in our morality code which are very commendable: self-control, self-kindness, sportsmanship, self-reliance, duty, reliability, good workmanship, teamwork, loyalty, obedience to duty, and to constituted authority. That's very commendable, obedience to all is necessary to protect the fundamentals of our government freedom, justice and equality, moral ideals, but unless you have teachers who will inspire the students and become as it were, heroes, ideals at least, in the minds of those students, these ethical principles will not become very impressive. Now admitting all that is necessary, pleading with our government, our state officials as well, and local boards, rightfully and respectibly [sic] to compensate our teachers, there is something higher and greater which our public school system cannot teach. That which the church school is unhampered in its teaching. To live an upright life, to conform to high ethical standards is the responsibility and duty of every teacher in the land.

Greater even than this is the responsibility of the religious teacher. His profession is higher than that of the teacher in the common school. For in addition in his belief in the efficacy of ethical and moral precepts, a religious teacher assumes the responsibility of leading the youth into the realms of spirituality. His duty comporting with his pretensions and profession is to open the eyes of the blind that they may see God. What is there in men so worthy of honor and reverence as this, that he is capable of contemplating something higher than his own reason, more sublime than the whole universe, that spirit which alone is self-subsistent, from which all truth proceeds without which there is no truth. Leading youth to know God, to have faith in his laws, to have confidence in his fatherhood and to find solace and peace in his love -- this is the greatest privilege, the most sublime opportunity offered the true educator.

"The most choice opportunity of the religious teacher should be to lead the child to see through the trouble and turmoil of a troubled world that," note students, "in all His dispensation God is at work for our good. In prosperity he tries our gratitude, in mediocrity, our contentment, in misfortune, our submission, in darkness, our faith, under temptation our steadfastness, and at all times our obedience and trust in Him." There is a perpetual design permeating all purposes of creation. On these thoughts, science again leads the student up to a certain point and sometimes leads him with his soul unanchored. Milikan is right when he says, "Science without religion obviously may become a curse rather that a blessing to mankind." But, science dominated by the spirit of religion is the key progress and the hope of the future. For example, evolution's beautiful theory of the creation of the world offers many perplexing problems to the inquiring mind. Inevitably, a teacher who denies divine agency in creation, who insists there is no intelligent purpose in it, will infest the student with the thought that all may be chance. I say, that no youth should be so led without a counter-balancing thought. Even the skeptic teacher should be fair enough to see that even Charles Darwin, when he faced this great question of annihilation, that the creation is dominated only by chance wrote; "It is an intolerable thought that man and all other sentient beings are doomed to complete annihilation after such long, continued slow progress."

And another good authority, Raymond West, said, "Why this vast spiniture of time and pain and blood?" Why should man come so far if he's destined to go no farther? A creature that travels such distances and fought such battles and won such victories deserves what we are compelled to say, "To conquer death and rob the grave of its victory." The public school teacher will probably, even if he says that much, will go no farther. In the Church school the teacher is unhampered. In the Brigham Young University and every other church school the teacher can say God is at the helm. God is the Creator of the earth, He's the Father of our souls and spirits. No question about it. You have your testimony -- if you haven't you shouldn't be on the faculty. Fosdick said that "Perpetuation of personality is the highest thing in creation." Church school teachers can add the Lord revealed to Prophet Joseph Smith the sublime truth: "This is my work and glory. To bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man."

Now in conclusion: Religion standing on the long experience of the race makes one bold and glorious admonition, she asserts that this power that makes for beauty, for goodness, for truth, is not less personal than we. This claim is justified because God cannot be less than the greatest of his works. The Cause must be adequate to the effect when, therefore, we call God a spirit. We have interpreted Him by the loftiest symbol we have. He may be infinitely more, he cannot be less. When we call God a spirit we use the clearest lens we have to look at the everlasting. As Herbert Spencer has well said: "The choice is not between a personal God and something less, but between a personal God and something more." The world needs religion. True religion. It's the world's greatest need and the responsibility of fulfilling that need and supplying it rests upon the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and every student in the Brigham Young University should be imbued with that ideal and inspired with a desire to proclaim it. God help us to teach the true religion as revealed in this dispensation by the Lord Jesus Christ to Joseph Smith. God bless you teachers in the Church schools that you may have the spirit of this great latter-day work and lead the students and the world to peace and happiness throughout eternity, I pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.