79th Semi-Annual Conference

Elder David O. McKay

October 6, 1908

Work is more effective than words—Nobility of true manhood and womanhood—Defenders of truth and doers of duty—Vile literature and poisonous journalism condemned.

"The world wants men, true men,

Who cannot be bought or sold;

Man who will scorn to violate truth—

Genuine gold."

Last Sunday afternoon, ten thousand voices declared, as one, in favor of prohibitory laws against the saloon traffic and against the violation of the Sabbath day. I thought, after the vote was taken, and several times since, that is the easiest part of the work; it was easy to say "aye" to the resolution, but what is wanted now are "men, true men, who cannot be bought or sold, who scorn to violate truth—genuine gold."

In ancient Israel, fifty thousand soldiers, under Zebulon, one day came to David. It is said that they knew the ways of war, that they could wield the bow and the arrow, and that they could all "keep rank" and "were not of double heart." (1 Chronicles 12:33)

Can all the ten thousand, and the 250,000, or more, represented by the ten thousand, all keep rank and be not of double heart? It is work that will count in this state. It is not the "aye" alone. "Aye," "aye" will not do it; work, work, will do it. "Not every one that sayeth unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." (Matthew 7:21)

We want men. There is nothing in life so admirable as true manhood; there is nothing so sacred as true womanhood. Manhood! Oh, what that means—to be a man, to be worthy of the honor that Antony gave to Brutus, when he pointed and said:

"This was the noblest Roman of them all:

All the conspirators save only he,

Did that they did in envy of great Caesar;

He only, in general honest thought

And common good to all, made one of them.

His life was gentle, and the elements

So mix'd in him that Nature could stand up

And say to all the world 'This was a man!'"

Wordsworth's heart leaped up when he beheld a rainbow in the sky. Burns' heart wept when his plowshare overturned a daisy. Tennyson could pluck the flower from the "crannied wall," and see, if he could read in it the mystery, "what God and man is." All these, and other great men, have shown to us, in the works of nature, the handiwork of God. Shakespeare could "[find] tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything." All, I say, are expressions of goodness, and praises to God invite; but the glory of creation, "the beauty of the world," says Shakespeare, "the paragon of animals," is man. "An honest man is the noblest work of God." We delight in associating with true men; it is good to be in their presence. "[They are] living light-fountain[s]," says Carlyle, "which [are] good and pleasant to be near." I often think that it is easy to be honest; and to be honest means that we are in harmony with divine law, that we are in keeping with the noblest work of God.

A dishonest man brings only misery into the world. Look at Judas—oh, what that man bought upon himself by not being true. He associated with his Lord and heard the divine truths from his Master's lips. It may be that once he felt, in his heart, the truth; but he let outside [109] influences come upon him. He let his appetite for greed lead him into dishonesty. Following that prompting he opposed the works of the Master, found fault with conditions around him. Six days before the passover, Mary, out of the great love in her heart, anointed Jesus. Who is it that finds fault? Not an honest man whose heart was in the truth; but the Judas, and even in his fault-finding you detect the lie: "Why was not this ointment sold for [so much money], and given to the poor?" Oh, dissembler! Oh, hypocrite! Not that he wanted the money for the poor, "but," says one of his companions, "because he was a thief, and had the bag" (John 12:5–6). He sat at meat with his Lord, near his Master's side, there in the presence of the Divine Man, pretending to be one with Him in friendship— not only friendship but discipleship; not only that, but a disciple in whom had been placed trust. There at the table, eating bread by the side of his Master, he was still untrue and had already bargained to betray his Lord into the hands of His enemies. Later he passes out from Christ's presence, out into the darkness; oh, God pity the man who leaves the light! Pity Judas that night, when he left the radiance of that room, the company of discipleship and the divine presence of the Lord; when he passed out into the darkness to give expression, not to his better self, but to the dishonesty within him, responding to the appeals of a morbid appetite, of a dishonest soul. Then came the culminating act of hypocrisy and deceit, when he implanted the kiss upon his Master and said: "Hail, master." (Matthew 26:49) It is not with such a man that you feel inspired; it is not in his presence that you feel illumined. Follow him to his death, and the feeling of pity and compassion for him is intensified when you see his sad end.

Compare his life with that of James, the brother of the Lord, or even James, the brother of John. We do not know much about them, but they were both true men. But the one who wrote his epistle, probably also gave the decision on circumcision, a man who was true under all conditions. He was a Jew, born with the prejudices of the Jews against the Gentiles. Yet, when the light came to his soul that Christ's truths were for all the world, his old traditions had to be swept aside, and he stood there in the face of his countrymen and declared the truth, which God had revealed to him, that the gospel was for all. Follow that man from there on in his just acts, the few we know, and see how he commanded the respect, even of his enemies. Why? Because he was true to his Lord; he was true to that which he knew to be right. When he had occasion, a few years before his death, to rebuke dishonesty, to call the attention of the people to evils that existed, and admonish them to be true to the gospel of Christ, he speaks such words as these:

"But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways." (James 1:6–8)

Then again:

"Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh. Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him show out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth." (James 3: 10–14)

The man who is true to his manhood will not lie against the truth. We are told that we can crucify the Lord afresh. If that be true, we can betray the Lord afresh. There is that within every man which is divine, a divinity within every man's soul. It cannot die. God renews it, inspires it, works to keep it alive. The man who will be true to the divine within, is true to his Lord, and is true to his fellowmen. The man who betrays that, the man who is untrue to that which he knows to be right, is wavering, is weakening. God pity him; he may go so far that he will step out of the light, out of that divine presence, and woe be unto him when he does; God help him.

Men and brethren, we have declared to the world that we have the gospel of Christ, that we are going to stand against vice. That "aye" the other day merely meant this: We have buckled on the armor; we have unsheathed our swords. Now, shall we make this charge? Or shall we waver and be driven by the wind and tossed? Shall we forsake this cause, in order to please men? Because we desire to give "aye service" rather than heart service, because of some political power that is brought to bear upon us? No! We will stand, true to ourselves, true to the divine within us, true to that truth which we have received. We ought to know that it is not good to have such evil surrounding [us] as saloons in our midst, to draw away our young and lead them into the darkness of misery and despair. Let us be true today; let us act, let us act! After leaving this conference, when we are thrown into the company of men who will try to tempt us, when we are thrown again under the influence of appetites that we have developed, let us, like James, be true to the death. As he stood there on the pinnacle of the temple, and the men, looking upon him then as a just man, said: "Where is the gate to Christ?" he bore his testimony of the Lord Jesus. Even then, historians tell us, they said: "We can't believe him, even though he is just;" and they hurled him down to beat him to death. James' death is inspiring; Judas' death is death! Death in its gloomiest form.

All men who have moved the world have been men who would stand true to their conscience—not only James, not only Paul, Peter, and all those ancient apostles, but all other great men in history. I often admire Luther; I cannot help but feel better when I read his words to the assembly at the Diet of Worms, all the Catholic church opposing him, and all powers of the land staring him in the face. "Confute me by proof of Scripture or by sound argument," said he; "I cannot recant otherwise. It is not safe for a man to do aught against his conscience. Here stand I; I can not do otherwise; God assist me." It was Joseph Smith who, after having a testimony of the Lord Jesus in his bosom, declared to the men who said, "It is from the devil"—ministers who had influence with him before, men whom he respected [111] as, at least, attempting to teach the word of God—to them he said: "I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it." And he was true to this testimony to the last. When he was going to his death, he declared to all the world: "I have a conscience void of offense toward God and toward all men" (History of the Church, 6:555). Why? Because he had been true to it; he was a man possessing divine manhood, for true manhood is divine; oh, it is glorious. It was the spirit that prompted our leader (President Joseph F. Smith) to say to the world: "I will be true to those who have trusted me; I can not do otherwise." That is the manhood that we all need in combating all kinds of error—not only the saloon, not only the tobacco habit, but another condition that is here in our midst, which is just as fatal as the saloon, which is just as poisonous, aye, more poisonous than the tobacco, bad as it is. I refer to the vile literature that is being circulated among the young.

The greatest power in the world today is the press. Think of the thousands, the hundreds of thousands, the millions, that daily are brought into contact with the thoughts that are published to the world. Speaking of this power, Carlyle, says:

"I many a time say, the writers of newspapers, pamphlets, poems, books, these are the real working effective church of a modern country. Nay not only our preaching, but even our worship, is not it too accomplished by means of printed books? The noble sentiment which a gifted soul has clothed for us in melodious words, which brings melody into our hearts—is not this essentially, if we will understand it, of the nature of worship? There are many, in all countries, who, in this confused time, have no other method of worship. He who, in any way, shows us better than we knew before that a lily of the fields is beautiful, does he not show it us as an effluence of the fountain of all beauty; as the handwriting, made visible there, of the great Maker of the Universe? He has sung for us, made us sing with him, a little verse of a sacred psalm. Essentially so. How much more he who sings, who says, or in any way brings home to our hearts the noble doings, feelings, darings and endurances of a brother man! He has verily touched our hearts as with a live coal from the altar. Perhaps there is no worship more authentic." (The Selected Works of Thomas Carlyle, 203)

Let me digress here a moment to say that the element of greatness all through these men I have named is sincerity, true consistency. A sincere man who sits down at night and pens that which his soul believes to be right, that which his soul tells him will be good for humanity, is exercising a power over the world that is beneficial. We should hail that expression of greatness, of goodness, with thanksgiving. But the insincere man, the man who will sit down at night and distort facts, who will wilfully misrepresent truth, who is a traitor to the divine within him which is calling, nay, longing for truth, what shall we say of that man? He is publishing falsehoods to the world, giving poison to young, innocent souls who are longing for truth. Oh, there is no condemnation too strong for the hypocrite, for the betrayer of Christ. We will not condemn him, but God will, in His justice; he must.

Too much time is taken up by our young people, and by our older ones, too, in reading useless pamphlets, useless books; "It is . . . worse than [112] useless," says Farrar, in that excellent little work on "Great Books:"

"to read through the squalid details of every police trial, or the nauseous revelations of divorce courts, or vague political conjectures, or the sensational items of 'the silly season.' There are papers which seem to exist for no other purpose than 'to chronicle small beer.' . . . How can we have time to think, or leave a margin to our life, if we spend hours every week in dabbling about in what Mr. Lowell called 'the stagnant goose-ponds of village gossip'? . . . But when the 'mems' and 'items' and 'pars' are full of gossip, scandal, and spite; when they are like the verminiferous dust in which are incubated the germs of envy, hatred, malice, and all uncharitableness—the less we notice them the better. They are undiluted poison to the heathy soul which loves charity and truth. There is one piece of advice which I would give with intense earnestness to all. It is this: Never be tempted by curiosity to read what you know to be a bad book, or what a very little reading shows you to be a bad book. Bad books—by which I do not mean merely ignorant and misleading books, but those which are prurient and corrupt—are the most fatal emissaries of the devil. They pollute with plague the moral atmosphere of the world." (8–10)

Men of Israel, it is time that we take a stand against vile literature. It is poisonous to the soul. It is the duty of a parent to put the poison, that is in the house, on the highest shelf, away from that innocent little child who knows not the danger of it. It is the duty of the parent also to keep the boy's mind from becoming polluted with the vile trash that is sometimes scattered—nay, that is daily distributed among us. There is inconsistency in a man's kneeling down with his family in prayer, and asking God to bless the leader of our Church, and then put into the hands of the boy, who was kneeling there, a paper that calls the leader a hypocrite. It ought not to be done; it is poison to the soul.

How can we tell? Maybe those are the great men who are writing the scurrilous articles, and these whom they attack are not the great men? Some may say: Give the children an opportunity the to hear both sides. Yes, that is all well and good; but if a man were to come into your home and say to you that your mother is not a good woman, you would know he lied; wouldn't you? And you wouldn't let your children hear him. If a man came and told you that your brother was dishonest, and you had been with him all your life and knew him to be honest, you would know the man lied. So when they come and tell you the gospel is a hypocritical doctrine, taught by this organization, when they tell you the men at the head are insincere, you know they lie; and you can take the same firm stand on that, being sincere yourself as you could in regard to your mother and brother. Teach your children, your boys and girls everywhere, to keep away from every bad book and all bad literature, especially that which savors of hatred, or envy, or malice, that which bears upon it the marks of hypocrisy, insincerity, edited by man who have lost their manhood.

"The world wants men, true men,

Who can not be bought or sold,

Men who scorn to violate truth—

Genuine gold."

Now, brethren, it is for us to say whether we will be the Judases or the Jameses, whether we will be true to the divine within us, in observing the word of wisdom, in Sabbath keeping, in giving to our children pure literature—the best [113] books, so that we can keep their souls free from the polluted atmosphere of poisonous journalism.

May God bless us all, that we may, above all, be true to the divine within us; be men, true men; be noble women, true to motherhood, true to wifehood, true to God; then we shall all be one. If all the world will take that same stand, every man give out only that which he understands to be right, some day we must all come to the truth; sincerity of life will bring all men to the truth, eventually. God hasten the day, I ask, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

McKay, David O. "Address for the 79th Semi-Annual Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." In LDS Conference Reports, Salt Lake City, October 6, 1908, by the Deseret News. Salt Lake City: The Deseret News, 1908, 108–113.