80th Semi-Annual Conference

October 5, 1909

ELDER DAVID O. MCKAY

The care and training of children. The blessing of work. Hugo's admonition to a young man. Exhortation to officers and members of the Church. Good work of three Elders.

[88] Yesterday morning when our President suggested to this vast assemblage that they move nearer together in their seats, in order to give brethren and sisters who were standing a little room to sit down, there was a universal movement throughout this tabernacle. It was surprising to those who could look [89] over the audience, to see how just a little on-sixteenth of an inch, multiplied by probably ten thousand, made room for so many people. There was a universal response to that suggestion. Some were unable to give even the sixteenth of an inch, but they wiggled all the same. (Laughter). I thought, why cannot all Israel respond as readily to his suggestion to guard well their children. We can move ever so little, perhaps; but let us move and do something to improve the environment into which our children are thrown.

"Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 19:14). How many times, dear parents, has God visited your homes and given into your charge one of these precious souls? Did you hear, at each visit, the Savior's words: Suffer this little babe to come back to me, and forbid him not; for of such is the kingdom of heaven?

Last evening, about five o'clock, four brethren were riding down Main Street in an automobile. Just as they passed First South Street, they heard a little plaintive cry, "Papa! Papa! Papa! Wait." The father was the chauffeur, and his ready ear recognized his son's voice. He brought the machine instantly to a standstill. As the men looked out they saw coming out of that bustling, jostling crowd of humanity a little nine-year-old boy, out of breath, panting, crying, because of his effort to overtake the machine, which he had spied going along Main Street, to get to his father. The father said, "Say, where have you been, my son?" "I have been looking for you." "Well did you leave the place where we appointed to meet?" "Yes, I went up to see where you were." He understood that he was to meet up here, in front of the tabernacle. The father evidently meant to meet the child further down the street. Through a misunderstanding, however, the son had become separated from his parent, and the little child was thrown into that vast throng, unprotected. He knew his way home; he was safe. If he had missed his father, he would have taken the street car and, probably before the shades of night closed in upon him, he would be safely nestled with father and mother and brothers and sisters in one of the most cheerful home in this city.

I believe that illustrates the keynote of warning that was sounded to us Sunday morning. Fathers, is there a misunderstanding between you and your sons? Is there one wandering amidst the throngs of life, surrounded with all kinds of temptations, and you expecting to meet him at an appointed place which he does not know? He may not come out from that throng and cry, "Father, father!" and if he should, your ears might be deaf to that call, because of the concentrations of your mind upon the affairs of life. So you might speed by him and leave him in the midst of evil, to find his own way home. Take your sons with you along this road of life, that you may have them with you in that eternal home where there is everlasting peace and contentment. When our children are given us, and that admonition ("Suffer them to come back to Me") is given, three means of developing them are at hand: the first is home influence; the second, activities—avenues of action, including vocations and avocations; and third, social environment. In all three of [90] these there must be the predominating element of salvation—I mean, now, physically, intellectually, spiritually. And what is it? Work. Work in the home. Work; legitimate work, in the avenues of life. Work, legitimate work in the social world.

Of work in the home I shall say nothing this afternoon. We have had excellent sermons on home life; and we shall hear more. The importance of home, as a saving influence, not only of children but of communities and of the nation, we fully realize, I believe; and it is well we do, for today some educators in our leading universities are saying that the home, as an institution, is doomed. Put that doctrine with some of the doctrines that we heard this morning educators are preaching, and see if we had better not guard well our children from some of the so-called educational theories of the day. Our homes are homes of salvation. Home is the safeguard of the nation.

I desire to say a word about work as a means, I say, of salvation to the individual. Work! O how often do we read in the scriptures about the blessings that come from doing. Eternal life rests upon the knowledge of God and His Son Jesus Christ. Now, [we know] "This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent" (John 17:3). How do you get that knowledge? In another place He says, "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself" (John 7:17). There you have the doing, the work, associated with the knowledge, and knowledge bringing eternal life—[to know God] "is eternal life." To do is to know.

In our physical being there is not development, there is no growth, without activity; in the intellectual world there is no advancement without effort, work; and in the spiritual world, in the development of our spirits, there is not growth without effort. There is no salvation without work. I do not mean now, redemption from death—Christ has done that; He has given us all that we need to get by way of salvation. The doctrine of work does not rob Him of any of His glory. "By grace are ye saved, through faith; and that not of your selves: it is a gift of God" (Ephesians 2:8). But aside from that, the individual growth and advancement, the individual knowledge, the advancement in God's truth, depends upon the doing of God's will. Let us teach ourselves that; let us teach our children and give them something to do; let them know the sin of idleness.

Joseph Smith, the prophet, has repeatedly given us the assurance that God will not support the idler, that the idler has no place in this Church. The children should know it—O these young men, some of whom belong to us, who are looking forward to a life of ease, to clean clothes, soft white hands—the result, they think of leisure or of wealth! I say, these young men should be warned of the danger of that kind of life. I have here an admonition from Hugo, given by a supposed reformed criminal to a young man who had just started out on a criminal career. I will read it:

"My boy, you are entering, by sloth, into the most laborious of existences. Ah! You declare yourself an idler; [91] then prepare yourself for labor. Have you ever seen a dreadful machine called a rolling-mill? You must be on your guard against it. It is crafty and ferocious; and if it catch you by the skirt of the coat, you will be drawn in bodily. This machine is indolence. Stop while there is yet time, and save yourself! Otherwise, it is all over with you; ere long you will be among the cogwheels. Once caught, hope for nothing more. . . . No more rest for you! The iron hand of implacable toil has seized you. You refuse to earn you livelihood, to have a [calling] and to do your duty; it bores you to be like other men: Well! you shall be different. Labor is the law; he who rejects it as a bore must have it as a punishment. You do not wish to be a laborer; you will be a slave. Toil only releases you on one side, to seize you again on the other. You would not be its friend; you shall be its [slave]. Ah, you did not care for the honest fatigue of men; you shall know the sweat of the damned. While others sing, you will groan. You will see other men working afar off, and they will seem to you to be resting. The digger, the reaper, the sailor, the blacksmith, will appear to you in the light like the blessed inmates of paradise. What radiance surrounds the anvil! What a joy to guide the plow and bind the sheaf! What delight to fly before the wind in a boat! But you, idler, dig, drag, roll, walk! Pull at your halter. You are a beast of burden in the [service] of hell! So your desire is to do nothing? Well, you shall not have a week, a day, an hour, free from oppression. You shall not be able to lift anything without agony. Every passing minute will make your muscles crack. What is a feather for others will be a rock for you. The simplest things will become difficult. Life will become monstrous about you. To come, to go, to breathe, will be so many terrible tasks for you.

"What precipices are sloth and pleasure! To do nothing is a sorry resolve to take place; are you aware of that? To live in indolence on the goods of others, to be useless, that is to say, injurious! This leads straight to the depths of misery. Woe to the man who would be a parasite! He will be vermin! Ah, it does not please you to work! Ah, you have but one thought—to drink well, to eat well, and sleep well. You will drink water; you will eat black bread; you will sleep on a plank, with fetters riveted to your limbs, and you will feel their cold touch at night on your flesh! You will break those fetters; you will fly. Very good. You will drag yourself on your stomach through the bushes, and eat grass like the beasts of the field. You will be recaptured, and then you will pass years in a dungeon, chained to the wall, groping in the dark for your water-jug, gnawing at frightful black bread which dogs would refuse, and eating beans which maggots have eaten before you. You will be a woodlouse in a cellar. Oh, have pity on yourself, wretched boy, still so young, who were at your nurse's breast not twenty years ago, and who have doubtless a mother still! I implore you to listen to me. You want fine black cloth, polished shoes, to scent your head with fragrant oil, to please the girls, and to be a pretty fellow. You will have your hair shaved close, and wear a red jacket and wooden shoes. You want a ring on your finger; you shall wear an iron collar on your neck, and if you look at a woman, you will be beaten. And you will go in there at twenty, you will come out at fifty [years of age]. You will go in young, red-cheeked, healthy, with your sparkling eyes, and all your white teeth and your curly locks, and you will come out again broken, bent, wrinkled, toothless, horrible, and gray-headed! Ah, my poor boy, you are on the wrong road; indolence is a bad adviser, for robbery is the hardest of all labors. Take my advice, and do not undertake the laborious task of being an idler. To become a rogue is inconvenient. It is not nearly so hard to be an honest man. Now go, and think over what I have said to you."

A social environment may be included in all our Church influences. As I look at the organization, given through the Prophet Joseph Smith to the world in this dispensation; [92] as I occasionally catch a glimpse of the possibilities of the quorums and organizations in this Church, I feel to exclaim, O Lord, my God, how marvelous are thy works! "Great is [thy] wisdom, marvelous are [thy] ways! and the extent of [thy] doings none can find out[!]" (D&C 76:2) The organization of the Church is so perfect that every man, woman and child within the Church can find something to do; and therein depends the advancement of the person's spiritual welfare. He has a chance to work in the Church of Christ, no matter how young a boy or how old a man. Now, think, what that means. You go over, in you minds, the organizations as revealed to us in this dispensation. Go first from the First Presidency, down through the Twelve, the High Priests, the Seventy, elders, priests, teachers, and deacons, all that line of Priesthood. See that mighty army of men, ready to do—what? Called upon to do what? To work for the Lord. We heard, this afternoon, that not one of those men have been called to the position to honor him, but he has been called into the service of the Lord. What does it mean? It means work; work means knowledge; knowledge means eternal life. O, brethren and sisters, shall we not, as parents, put our boys and girls into that environment? If we do not, are we not unmindful of the call of Christ to suffer the children to come back to Him? Are we negligent as parents, in seeing that our boys as deacons go to these quorum meetings? Are we negligent, as parents, and fail to see that our daughters get to their auxiliary meetings? Think of it. The note has been sounded; are we going to move? Presidents of quorums: The Lord has said to you, as you will read in the 107th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, that it is your duty to meet with your quorum. If you are the president of a deacon's quorum, you are to meet with twelve deacons and preside over them, to meet in counsel with them, and to teach them their duties. O, deacons, throughout the world, respond to that call! Do your duty, bishops, you who hold the presidency of the Aaronic Priesthood; guide the young men in this activity. Are they slothful? Are they inactive? If they are, some of the results of inactivity mentioned before as befalling the idle individual will afflict the quorum in your ward. Mark it, it will not fulfill its place in the councils of the Church, unless it be active as a council, as a quorum. This is true of the teachers, of the priests, the elders, the Seventies, the high priests, and all.

I remember visiting, recently, the sugar factory, in Sugar City, Idaho. Brother Austin took me through it when every wheel was quite; the engine was cold; the chimneys stood like specters; the wheels were dry and covered with dust; the sparrows were building their nests in wheels that a few months before hummed with industry. Men had to be hired to keep the dust off the machinery, to make repairs, to keep the factory from going into decay. I thought, that is always the result of inactivity. No sugar was manufactured in that inactivity. There were no laborers employed, except those hired to keep the factory from going into absolute decay. But when the power was turned on, then raw products were changed to useful articles, which are carried into the homes, throughout the world. Sometimes part of the machinery is [93] shut up, closed down, and only one part—that of refining—used. I sometimes think that in our Church we are using just part of the machinery that God has placed in our hands. So many of these quorums are lying in inactivity; dust is accumulating. Shall we not work and get them into prominence, bring them into operation? As presidents of quorums, let us meet in council; let us think over what men in our quorums are neglecting their duty. In 1899, in one of the elders quorums in this city, three young men were called to preside. At their first meeting there were only six men present in the elders quorum. "Well," they said, "this will not do; let us institute systematic visiting." And so they did. Those men, as presidents, carrying the responsibility, went out to visit the elders of that quorum. They went into one house, and asked the man to take up elder's work, but he said, "No, I will not go to [the] elders' meeting." "May we have a meeting here tonight?" was asked. "Yes." They sang, prayed, spent an hour or so with the man and his wife. At the conclusion of it, the man promised that he would attend elders' meeting. The wife, who was unconverted, and who knew little or nothing of the workings of the Church, who lacked a knowledge of it, because of inactivity, began to cry because her husband's going to meeting would make him away from home. "A mission will be next," she said. However, that young man promised to go to the meeting on this condition; that he would not be asked to take part. "All right," said the brethren. But it was not long before he was willing to take part on the program. They assigned him a subject, and the brother who told me of this incident, said it was painful to see what that poor man suffered the first time he stood up before his brethren. Those in the meeting deeply sympathized with the man who was making his first effort in public. At the conclusion of it the brother said, "You did well." "No," said the man, "I want another chance; I believe I can do better." He did do better, and he became a strong power in influencing other elders of his crowd to come out to their meetings.

They went into another home and met a similar spirit of indifference. They asked permission to pray, and were told "No." They talked to the man a little while, and finally he said, "Well, you may kneel down and pray, if you want to." "Will you kneel with us?" "No." After a little kind persuasion, he knelt down. At the conclusion of the meeting in that home, this second elder, following the brethren to the door, broke down and cried, confessed that he had been out away from the influence of the Church, had been in another environment and said, "Keep with me, work with me, and help me to get back into Church environment." The president of that elders quorum is now sitting on this stand, a member of the presiding bishopric. He and his fellow workers increased the attendance of the quorum from six to over one hundred during that year.

There is a practical example of doing. What was accomplished in this elders quorum in this city can be done throughout the entire Church. My brethren and sisters, the quorums and organizations are means put into our hands whereby we may bring our children back to Christ. "Suffer [them] to come." God help us in guiding them, and [94] may He keep us true; that we may increase our own testimonies in this work; that we may know of its eternal application to our needs; that we may know what happiness comes through living virtuous, pure lives. Let us take up our children and carry them with us, along this road of life. No other purpose of life is more worthy, more admirable. Let us teach them to work, and to realize that the privilege to work is a gift, that power to work is a blessing, that love to work is success. Amen.

McKay, David O. "Address for the Eightieth Semi-Annual Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." In LDS Conference Reports, Salt Lake City, October 5, 1909, by the Deseret News. Salt Lake City: the Deseret News, 1909, 88–94; reprint, Hawkes Publishing Inc., Salt Lake City, 1909.