Sunday School Convention

April 4, 1907

(First Assistant Superintendent David O. McKay presided)


Addresses by David O. McKay

Morning Session in General Assembly

President Joseph F. Smith, whose name is upon our program this morning for an address of welcome to the Sunday school workers, is unavoidably absent.

I am very pleased, my brethren and sisters, to see so many present. We have received word from several of the distant stakes expressing deep regret that their workers are unable to be present with us this morning. I notice that several of the stake representatives who feared they could not be present have put forth special efforts and some of them are with us this morning, and no doubt many others will yet arrive.

The object of the convention is to bring about some unity in our work. Stake board members are present, and others who are representing them, all of whom are heartily welcomed and are invited, including those who are merely representatives to participate in the work of the departments.

I repeat that we have met for the purpose of getting closer together, that the General Board may be in closer touch with the stake boards, and that the stake boards may get in closer touch with the local boards. We need unity in the Sunday School work; we need unity of effort in classwork particularly. We need unity of effort in the opening exercises. We need unity of effort in everything that pertains to the development of the child's soul. That, in general, is the object of our meeting here today.

In order to carry out every suggestion offered, first you have been handed notebooks and pencils, and you are requested to kindly take notes freely and keep them, that you may present notes of every point that is suggested to your fellow workers who are not permitted to be present this morning. We would like this body of workers here, small in comparison to the great enrollment, and yet sufficiently large to be a leaven to the whole lump, to carry out the spirit of this convention, and that is the responsibility that is placed upon us here this morning, and the fact that we are few in number only increases that responsibility; and where we have only one or two, probably a president of the stake or the counselor in the stake presidency, or the superintendent of a local school to represent a whole stake, the responsibility is upon that person to inject into that stake the spirit of this Sunday School convention. Therefore we ask you to take notes freely; but not while the work is going on. I need not suggest to you that it is unwise to try to take many notes during the rendition of any exercise. In the very attempt, unless you are shorthand reporters, you will lose many valuable instructions the speaker may be giving. But just adopt one word, probably; let that suggest to you everything that that speaker says, provided you keep your mind on what he is saying. Just one word, leaven, for instance, will suggest to you all that has been said about responsibility of the members of this convention. No sentence, even, need be written. The little word leaven—in "leavening the whole lump"—will suggest the responsibility of the stake workers. So in regard to other workers. Some little word will suggest all that the speaker who is on the program will give to us in the Parents' Department, in the same way, and in the respective departments throughout the convention. Let us not scatter our efforts or try to take word for word the thoughts expressed, but only a few jotting, rather, and then during the noon hour, say, or after the afternoon session, write those notes out in detail, and put them away carefully so that they may be presented to your workers when you meet them.


Questions may arise in your minds, and you are respectfully asked to submit those questions to any member of the General Board, particularly to the ushers, or to those presiding in your respective departments. The General Board will meet at the proper time, already designated, and the questions pertaining to the general assembly will be answered according to the program. Questions relating to the department work will be answered in the respective departments this afternoon. After each paper is presented, the members of the stake boards are respectfully invited to participate in the discussion of the paper. Much of the success of the convention depends upon this part of the program. If you have nothing to say on those questions, then all that can be done will be done by the one to whom the work has been assigned, and he will be the one who will receive the benefit. We would like to exchange ideas. We want your suggestions. We want you to relate your experience for the benefit of the rest of those who are here gathered. We need your suggestions, and therefore we ask that no member of this convention feel, either here in general assembly or in the department, that there is not a responsibility resting upon him. As soon as a paper is read, the responsibility of speaking to that paper rests upon each one present, and he who sits and lets five minutes pass without expressing a thought, when he has opportunity, is not bearing off the responsibility that is placed upon him in the convention; and if two or three arise at once, let the members say which one should speak first. We hope the discussions will be spirited, and when the time comes they will be shut off and another point taken up.

We would like every point to be discussed, and the final question decided, so that you may go out from this convention, knowing what the decision of your department upon that particularly subject is. If we do that, then we are all working in harmony on these principles.

There may not be many here representing the Parents' Department, but all members of the stake boards who have been assigned to this department will pass as do the members of other departments to the room designated for that department; but it is suggested further that where we have the superintendent and his two assistants, that one of the assistants attend the Parents' Department, that this work might be disseminated as far and as widely as possible. Furthermore, where there is present a president of the stake, and no superintendent, it is suggested that the president of the stake—if he think it best, unless he has in his mind a particular department other than that, which he desires to visit—go into the Parents' Department.

It is desired that all the delegates wear badges, and these will be handed you at a suitable point as you march out into the respective departments. This will enable us to know each other when we meet during the day and render such aid to each other as may be convenient and necessary.

Another object of this convention is for you to get acquainted with every member of a stake board, and when you see a member with a badge it is sufficient introduction to you, and it will be expected that you will speak to and be sociable with him.

I pray that the Lord's Spirit will be with us, that the spirit of unity will be with us, with a desire to come to a unity in Sunday School work, that it may rest upon each member present, and that no spirit of dissension will find place in our midst, but that each one will be free to express his ideas, and just as free to come to a unity upon any subject presented when the members present in the department decide what should be done in their respective work. May God's Spirit have charge of the departments, the members of the boards, that they may be an inspiration to the stake workers who have traveled so many miles to be present with us. May His Spirit be with those who listen and take part in the departments; and if so, if this prayer is answered, this convention will result in good, not only to us who are present but to the children whose souls we have in keeping. God grant that this may be our happy lot, is my prayer in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Afternoon Session in General Assembly

Special effort will be devoted this afternoon to a consideration of classwork, and you will note by reference to your programs that it will be taken up under three heads; first, the selection of the aim; second, the development of the aim; and third, illustration and application. It is desired that all members in the various departments center their thoughts upon these particular subjects, and keep in mind the particular point under discussion, in order that rambling may be avoided.

Excellent reports have come from the various departments of the work this morning, of the spirit of unity, and of the lively discussion; we wish to commend that, and hope that the same unifying spirit may prevail this afternoon. That it may, it is suggested that when a paper in the discussion of selecting the aim is read that we have in mind the teacher preparing his lesson. What means can he employ to aid him in the selecting of that truth from the lesson? We will take it for granted that every lesson should have a central truth, a unified idea. If in discussing this, we will picture to ourselves the teacher selecting the truth from the text given in the preparation for the classwork. We can picture the teacher at home, preparing the lesson. Now what means can we put into her hand to assist her in arriving at that truth? In some cases it is to be selected from the books referred to, etc. But let us concentrate our minds upon these ideas, the suggesting of means that may be employed by teachers, so that when you get home you can suggest to these young girls, to these young men, who are incapable of unifying a lesson, though they want to, the ideas that will assist them in preparing their lessons. The responsibility is upon you to give them the means of unifying their work.

Then when we come to the development of the outline as to the aim, the teacher has everything in her mind preparatory to the presentation and inspiring of the lesson. The paper outline is thrown aside. Then let us keep our mind upon the class. What means, now, what suggestions, would be made in order to aid that teacher in the development of that aim? As we listen to the paper, let us note down the different points and fashion our discussion to that one end.

Then after the lesson is presented, the aim developed, what is there still to remain? The next paper, illustration and application. We will deal with that point. First, what is it? Second, how can it be best obtained? What suggestions can you stake workers get from this subject to carry home to your workers, to give them an illustration of what the truth means, and what the application of that truth into the child's life means, the difference between the application and the moralizing of a truth? Let us hold our attention to that.

Now that, in brief, is just a general outline of the work that our efforts will be centered upon this afternoon. It is hoped that we will not come out of the departments without arriving at some definite conclusions, without having some definite means in hand, which we may pass over through you, if you please, to the local workers who are hungering for these things. It is suggested, too, that we make our remarks in discussion just as brief as possible, and just as full of matter, too. But let us make them brief, because there are many who want to talk, and we are glad to see this; and let us strive to express the thought, and the stake workers who will may grasp it.

In conclusion, let us strive to reach three points: first, the choosing of the aim, how it should be done; picture the teacher studying in her library or in her home. Next, the development of that; picture the teacher before the class. And third, the illustration and application of that truth.

We pray that the Lord's Spirit may continue to be with us. We thank those who have aided so materially this morning in making the convention a success thus far, and we trust that everyone present will get that food for spiritual help and growth for which he has come. God bless us to this end is our prayer in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

McKay, David O. "A Sunday School Convention [Address]". The Juvenile Instructor 42, 9 (May 1907): 265–269.