By Elder David O. McKay of the Council of the Twelve.

Delivered at the annual Mutual Improvement Association (M.I.A.) Conference, June 1919

The ultimate aim of Mutual Improvement work is to aid in bringing to pass, under the inspiration and guidance of the Lord, "the immortality and eternal life of man" (Moses 1:39).

Aim and Purpose of the M.I.A.

We have as the direct and immediate purpose, the establishing in the hearts of the young men and young women a testimony of the divinity of God's work, without which eternal life cannot be obtained: "for this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent" (John 17:3).

A Means of Accomplishment

As a means of accomplishing this ultimate end, we have placed at our disposal and use the records of God's revelations to men [and] the record of His hand-dealings with mankind. This includes, as you readily see, not only that which we have in sacred literature, known as the fundamental works of scripture, but also God's records in creation. Associated with these fundamental works of creation and revelation, we have access to all man's relationships with each other as social beings, and his attitude in relationship toward God and His work.

It is the records of God's hand-dealings with man that we are to consider now for a few moments. We call them lessons. We take from these records (in scripture, in nature, or in life) some chapter, some incident, [or] some paragraph, upon which we build a lesson, which we present to the young men and young women with the special purpose of convincing them of the truth and, having once convinced them, of moving them, if possible, to action to introduce that truth into their lives.

Commanded to Teach

We are definitely instructed by the Lord to devote special attention to this phase of our work. In section 88[, verses 77–80,] of the Doctrine and Covenants, we find the following commandment:

"And I give unto you a commandment that you shall teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom. Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend [900] you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand; [o]f things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms—That ye may be prepared in all things when I shall send you again to magnify the calling whereunto I have called you, and the mission with which I have commissioned you."

Can you get in all literature a more comprehensive statement of the field into which teachers must enter for the purpose of being prepared to teach the word of God than in that revelation?

The Great Obligation is Preparation

We are a church of teachers. The Mutual Improvement Association is just one organization of teachers. Even the young men and young women whom you leaders teach are themselves in turn teachers. In the Latter-day Saint home, the father and mother are required to be teachers of the word, expressly required so by the revelation of the Lord. Every auxiliary organization, every quorum, is made up of a body of men and women . . . who are in the ultimate sense of the word, teachers; therefore this revelation refers to all.

Now, the great obligation upon a teacher is to be prepared to teach. A teacher cannot teach others that which he himself does not know. He cannot make his students feel what he does not feel himself. It is ridiculous to attempt to lead a young man or a young woman to obtain a testimony of the work of God if the man or woman who is attempting to lead does not have that testimony himself or herself.

How to Prepare

There are three things which must guide all teachers. First, get into the subject—any subject taken from this universe of facts mentioned in the revelation I read; second, get that subject into you; third, try to lead your pupils to get the subject into them—not pouring it into them, but leading them to see what you see, to know what you know, to feel what you feel.

As a means to this end, there has been established throughout the Church classes known as teacher-training classes.

What Are the Teacher-Training Classes?

I will assume, in order to bring the organization and plan definitely before us, that we are now members of a ward [901] in which no teacher-training class has been organized. We understand that the recommendation of all of the general boards of auxiliary organizations and also of the General Authorities (as they relate to the priesthood quorums), is that once a week, all officers and teachers of the associations of the ward meet for the purpose of getting facts [and] of learning methods that will better enable them to reach the souls and lives of the boys and girls in the classes.

The Bishop's Duty to Organize the Class

It is the bishop's duty to call the heads of all the auxiliary associations—at least the president of the Relief Society, the superintendent of the Sunday School, and Mutual Improvement, Primary, and Religion class presidents—[in council meeting for] the express purpose . . . to choose by unanimous approval, by prayer, and under the inspiration of the Lord to which they are entitled, some man or woman in that ward who will stand as a leader, as a teacher-trainer of the young men and young women who are going to take the course. It is the bishop's right, of course, to name him [or her], but he will ask the others for suggestions.

The Teacher-Trainer—His Qualifications and Duties

In that connection, may I merely suggest that the teacher-trainer be chosen from the ranks of those who remain more-or-less permanently in the ward. You may have some man who stands preeminently, perhaps, as an educator; but as soon as the school year closes, he may go to some other place. Then you are left; the result is that there may be a feeling that there is nobody else to succeed him, and your teacher-training movement receives a setback which it may be difficult to overcome. Better to have one even less experienced in the science of pedagogy and psychology, and who is permanently residing with you, and above all, whose heart is in the work of the Lord and in the teacher-training organization established for the instruction and development of those who have to teach the youth of Israel.

After all, the technical learning is secondary, if we keep in mind the ultimate aim of the work. We must never lose sight of that. It is the Spirit which teaches the spirit. What you are is what will influence your children, not what you say. The Spirit of the Lord is what is going to reach those teachers and teach your children, and the world must come to it. So do not say you haven't somebody in your ward who can take the leadership of the class. You have some man who [902] stands preeminently as a preacher, as a teacher of righteousness.

However, the teacher-trainer should not be a preacher. The teacher-training organization is in every sense of the word a class. If you members depend upon the teacher-trainer for giving the lesson, expounding it as he would expound a principle of the gospel from the pulpit, you will find that there will be little development on the part of the teachers. Expect preparation from all the officers and teachers from all auxiliary organizations, and all that the teacher-trainer is to do is to guide in this and that elucidation of the lesson and topics of the lesson assigned. You may have preachers in these teacher-trainers, but you will not have the development of the class. It is a class in every sense of the word, and every officer and teacher of the Mutual Improvement Association is expected to prepare on each particular lesson, and recite promptly when called upon.

So, under the direction of the bishop, in consultation with all these local officers and teachers, the teacher-trainer is chosen.

When to Hold and How to Conduct Classes

Next, it is suggested that four lessons be held during the month. The time of meeting will be determined upon by the bishopric of the ward, in consultation with those who are interested. If no priesthood meeting is held Sunday morning, it is suggested that nine o'clock Sunday morning would be an excellent time. But we have no right—and neither is it desirable—to suspend the priesthood quorum when it is established to study at that hour. Where the priesthood meeting is held Sunday morning, the class may be held at another hour during the week most convenient to all interested

On the first week, the time will be devoted to The Art of Teaching; the second week, separation into auxiliary groups; the third, consideration of The Art of Teaching; [the] fourth, separation into auxiliary groups.

That means simply this: that at the first night assembly or first Sunday morning, we meet for opening exercises, under the direction of the bishopric, the Sunday School superintendent, [and] by the request of the auxiliary associations [which are] conducting the exercises. After prayer and singing and any instruction which the bishop may have, the teacher-trainer then presents to the class The Art of Teaching, and develops the lesson assigned. There is no separation into groups, the hour is devoted only to the consideration of principles underlying the art of teaching.

One week from that time we meet in the same place under [903] the same conditions and [in] the same body of workers; but after opening exercises, the Relief Society members, officers, and teachers retire to the place assigned; the Young Men's Mutual Improvement officers and teachers go to their place assigned; the Young [Women's] to theirs, etc.

Function of the Auxiliary Group

Now, what most concerns us this morning, what most concerns all the classes throughout the Church, is what shall be considered when we meet as a group of Mutual Improvement officers and teachers, and as other groups, in that hour. It has been suggested that this be the application hour; and the thought has become quite general that the lesson which was developed one week before in The Art of Teaching will now be applied to each particular auxiliary group work. That, however, is not practical. The lessons from The Art of Teaching—"How to get attention," "How to keep order," "How to question," "The difference between a leading question, a direct question, and so on" —all those principles will be applied in every lesson that you prepare and present. Better spend the time of that auxiliary group in consideration and preparation of the lessons which are to be given to your Mutual Improvement workers. That is what you need. Every teacher must be prepared on his or her lesson when he or she meets those boys or girls; for, mind you, your presentation of that lesson, your attitude toward the truth in that lesson will largely determine the boys' and girls' attitude toward it and their attitude toward Mutual Improvement work in general. You turn them away next Tuesday night from your class feeling in their youthful hearts that they have received nothing by coming, and you will find difficulty in getting them to come back the following Tuesday. But on the other hand, if you have thrilled them, or if unable to do that, if you have given them one thought which has appealed to them, you will find that their intention and desire to return will be manifest by their presence one week later.

So, this hour may be devoted to the consideration of the specific lesson which will be given either one week or two weeks hence.

President Brimhall has explained to us a course of study for the Mutual Improvement Advanced Senior class. He has named eighteen specific lessons, every one of which contains from one to many truths vital to the advancement of those boys and girls along the road to eternal life. But who has the responsibility of presenting those vital truths to our parents and somewhat indifferent boys? You, my fellow teachers, [y]ou [904] have the responsibility of abstracting from the lesson those truths which will be not only vital but appealing and applicable to the students!


Now we come to the second heading, "The Lesson and Application." I want to assume that I am now a member of the ward, teaching in the Mutual Improvement Association, and I have come to the teacher-training class for the second week. After the opening exercises, I pass into my room with my fellow workers in the advanced class of Mutual Improvement workers. The lessons which have been assigned for consideration the next month are four. The first of these, which I shall present two weeks hence, I will assume is the lesson (which I have picked out at random because you have all had it) in the Improvement Era, (Vol. 21, Jan., 1918, p. 273) entitled, "The Ethics of Industry."

Now, what is expected of me before I go into my Mutual Improvement work? First, that I have read that lesson (read everything in the [m]anual and all references pertaining to it).

But, after all, I have been reading the lesson prepared by some other person. I have not yet made that lesson mine, and until it is mine, until I feel that I have a message to give to those boys and girls, I am not prepared as the Lord has asked me to prepare when he calls upon me to give his [w]ord. It must be mine; what I want to give to the boys and girls is what will count when I meet them.

Outlining the Lesson

And so it is my duty, before going into this group on that second lesson day, not only to have read what is said here, but to have arranged that lesson in outline form so that I can give to my class a definite message. The following is only suggestive: [905]

Subject: The Virtue of Industry

Text: [Doctrine and Covenants sections] 58:26, 29; 75:29; 60:13.

Aim: Industry merits divine reward; sloth, divine rejection.

Definition: Sloth: disinclination to exertion or labor; laziness; habitual indolence; sluggishness; "sloth is the mother of poverty."

Definition: Industry: quality, or habit of attention to any useful or productive pursuit, work, task [that is] manual or mental; earnest, steady, or constant application to business: "Industry begets wealth."

I. One's heart must be in work 58:26–29.
II. Element of diligence should characterize all we do.
     1. Missionary work particularly 60:13.
III. The reward of industry 130:18, 19, 20.
IV. Relation of rest to industry 59:9–19.

Illustrations: The Savior, Abraham Lincoln, Joseph Smith, President Grant.

Application: Not specific vocation, but in study and probably world problems.

You will note that I have chosen, because I know my boys, this message called the Aim: "Industry merits divine reward, sloth divine rejection." I believe it. Boys, I know it.

Now, the question is, can we lead them to think it[?] I find that I have had to rearrange the topics given in the manual; and so, as I come before the brethren there, I say, "Brethren, you have asked me to give this lesson two weeks from now. I would like to present to you the way in which I am going to give it. I have thought in the first place, I would like to give to those boys the following message: 'Industry merits divine approval, divine approbation, divine blessing; and sloth, divine rejection.' First, I want to show them that their heart must be in their work; second, that the element of diligence must characterize all that they do; and third, that every diligent effort put forth receives 100 percent reward. Now, I believe it; God has spoken it.

"First, then, I will just say this, and all my heart is in it:

'For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things, for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward. Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness.'

"I will present that to the boys. The first condition is to have your heart in your work. Love your work, whatever it is. Blacksmithing? Boys, love it. School teaching? Love it. Preaching the gospel? Put your heart into it. The Lord requires diligence.

"Well, but the boys will say, 'I do not love it.'

"There is the secret. They do not love it, because they do not understand it. There was never a child who could do something and do it well, who did not like to do it.

"Haven't you noticed the little children in the class, when you have presented some thought which awakens a thought in the child's mind, and you ask the question—how eagerly that little child pleads for recognition? Why? Because the child has something to give.

"The man, fixing the automobile, delights in repairing it, because he understands that; but you who do not understand it, dislike it. You cannot put your heart in it, simply because you do not understand it.

"There is the secret. Whatever your work is, learn it. Industry? You will never learn it by slothfulness.

"That leads right to the next point, logically, putting in enthusiasm, putting in the elements of diligence. And what a beautiful application to missionary work. Turn then to the 60th [906] Section, 13th verse, of the Doctrine and Covenants, and there is the admonition of the Lord to the missionaries: you are going forth to teach. Diligence and industry are required of you—no wasting of time, no slothful attitude toward your work, and so on.

"Third, 'Industry inevitably brings its reward.' A beautiful section not mentioned in the text, but which came to me as I prepared it. Section 130[, verse 18]: 'Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection." [T]hat comes through his own effort, and it will be an eternal reward and determine his place in the next world. Whatever degree of intelligence we have attained to will be the result of our own individual effort."

I present this to the other workers, my associates in that class, other senior teachers. One says, "That will be all right, but I have placed in my outline an element you have left out of yours."

"What is it?"

"The element of rest, as it relates to industry."

"How would you present that?" I ask.

"Well, what does the Lord say in Section 59 [verse nine] about keeping the Sabbath day holy, and why? That thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, that you may conserve the energy which you put with industry and diligence into your work. (I am paraphrasing.) That you may store up the energy to make more successful the performance of your duty. To keep holy the Sabbath is one of our slogans." I accept his suggestion, and improve my outline.

The Illustration

Then, as part of my preparation, I present to my associates suggestive illustrations of the truth that God approves of the industrious, and that he disapproves of the slothful. For example, Abraham Lincoln. Do you see him studying there by the lamplight, by the firelight from the wood in the grate, in the old fireplace, away late in the night, struggling industriously? Did God bless him? [O]r the Prophet Joseph, what was the gospel to him? Everything. "If my life is of no value to my friends, it is of no value to me." Thy will first. All in the work of God.

Perhaps [for] the boy who likes baseball, I would use the story of President Grant. Do you know his companions laughed at him when he started to play? How did he win their confidence? How did he win the championship? He put his heart into it. Industry. In music, in all the worthy accomplishments of life, what has brought our leader where he is? Industry and [907] the guidance of the Spirit of God. These are illustrations to be used as necessary to make the lesson clear.


But my preparation is not complete. I am not yet prepared to go before my class. That is the lesson as it is presented by the Mutual Improvement workers and as it appealed to me. Before I leave my co-workers, I am to explain to them how that truth may be applied to my boys and girls.

"O," you say, "they will have already applied it. Here is a boy who drives a delivery wagon. Don't you think he has already concluded to try to be more industrious, more earnest, more enthusiastic in the performance of his work?"

"Yes," I answer, "and if I am sure he has made that application, I will not repeat it." In everything I say, in making an application, I want to give my class a new thought. Here is something which he has not applied: "What kind of industry, enthusiasm, boys, have we put into the preparation of our Mutual Improvement lessons? Are they worth looking at? Are they worth giving time to? If so, what should characterize our effort if we expect to get the spiritual reward promised in these lessons?" There is an application. Or perhaps there are some young men in the advanced class who are observing the world movements. They hear of I.W.W.'s. They hear of Bolshevism.

They see men and perhaps hear them, in our cities, who are railing against the captains of industry. Apply: "The idler shall not eat the bread of the laborer." Make the application, and teach the boy by that application that the divine government of God is placed here, and men who assail it shall be rejected, because they are slothful, many of them[;] they are idle, and attacking the very men who have won what they possess through the efforts of industry. There is your application, and you present it and discuss [it]—teachers with teachers.

It takes about an hour, perhaps an hour and a half, to make that lesson yours; and when you discuss it with your fellow workers, you still have another week, another opportunity of refreshing your minds; and when you at length come before your boys and girls on the appointed Tuesday night, you do not have to read from the manual, making the words lifeless and spiritless, but you stand there giving them the message that you have prepared. You are free and unhampered to read their lives, needs, and their desires.

Two of those lessons could be discussed in the auxiliary group on the second Sunday, and the other two on the fourth Sunday. Perhaps this is more than you can get through in the allotted time. And the best of all, you are teaching diligently, you are prepared in all things whatsoever the Lord has commanded you in that lesson.

The Spirit of Teaching

About the spirit of teaching, I wish to say just this: One day, after the Lord had been crucified, Peter said, "I am going fishing." He knew the business of fishing: he was a fisherman. But he did not see clearly what his mission was as a fisher of men. And Thomas and some of the others said, "We go too." And one morning we find them there with a great net full of fishes, with a fire and loaves, and find them eating, and the Lord in their midst, who said, "Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?"

I will not enter into a discussion of what "these" means. I am going to take it for granted this morning that the Lord had in mind temporal blessings, wealth, etc.

"Simon, lovest thou me more than these?"

"Yea, Lord, thou knowest I love thee."

"Feed my lambs." (John 21:15)

There is the secret of the spirit of teaching. Feed the boy—feed the girl. Let the boy know you are interested in him. When you meet him on the street, let him know that you are interested in him. Let love radiate from your heart and then you have a good element in which to sow the seeds of truth, which will bear fruit in that boy's life, which will eventually give him immortality and eternal life, which is in very deed the glory of God, which may God grant may be our experience and our ability, I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

McKay, David O. "Teacher Training Classes." The Improvement Era 22 (July 1919): 899–908.

See also:
McKay, David O. "Teacher Training Classes." Young Woman's Journal 22 (Oct. 1919): 371–378.
McKay, David O. "Teacher Training Classes." Found in Utah Pamphlet 103, 33, July 1919, #30.