Elder David O. McKay

Of the Council of the Twelve Apostles

[8] It is a source of deep satisfaction to have the privilege of meeting the officers of Stakes and Wards and members of the Church in general in this great Conference. I am greatly surprised, however, to be called upon to address you at this session. I pray earnestly for the inspiration and guidance of God's Holy Spirit and for your sympathy and prayers.

I am not sure that I can give to you in the brief time allotted, in a manner that I should like to give it, the message that I have in my heart.

The Citizen's Responsibility

Many many years ago a wise man said, and it has echoed through the ages:

Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.

I wish to add as a corollary:

Punish a man when he is old, and he will not likely depart from the habits of a lifetime.

I am constrained to refer to the great concern in the minds of the leaders of our nation and of thinking men generally regarding the lawless condition now prevalent, particularly here in the United States. Recently a committee of the American Bar Association appointed to study existing conditions, reported that the criminal situation in the United States is undoubtedly worse than in any other civilized country. I think it is time that the people arouse themselves to a realization of their responsibility in regard to this condition. We are prone to dismiss all social responsibility by blaming the law and depending upon the [9] lawyers to bring about a reform. But I think the citizen carries much of the responsibility for this condition.

Prevention Rather than Cure

If we look at the statistics as they are published from time to time we are shocked to learn that our prisons are filled. We are astounded when we read of the vast sums of money expended in punishing lawless men and women and wayward boys and girls, who are considered enemies to society. It is difficult to ascertain definitely how much this sum is, about two and one half million dollars a day. One man estimates that we are spending ten billion dollars a year in the punishment of criminals; yet each year crime is eating deeper into the vitals of our civilization.

I suggest that we expend some of that vast sum of money to better advantage by putting forth more effort to stop the source of crime by giving a little more attention to the young. For, mind you, the average age of the criminal in the United States today is under twenty-one years. That is something which challenges our attention. We are not spending proportionately the amount in preventing lawlessness among our youth that we are spending in punishing those who become entangled in the meshes of the law. Men and women who are thus arrested and punished are not all bad. Some are misled, others are merely unfortunate.

The Power and Influence of Money

To understand more clearly conditions as they exist, I think it is well to consider the dominant influences of society today. If we go back through history we find that at one time the world was governed by the spirit of might, physical force was the aristocracy of the age. And naturally men chose to be strong in physical achievements. Later that period gave way to another aristocracy, or ruling power. The sons of these mighty physical men became the rulers, and so there developed an aristocracy of birth.

You and I are witnessing and have witnessed the decay of this aristocracy. Thrones are crumbling, their power is diminished. Titles can be purchased by money. Supplanting the aristocracy of birth has come the aristocracy of wealth. Money, it is said, can buy anything. Unquestionably one of the great factors that enter into the lawlessness following efforts to prohibit the sale and manufacture of liquor, is the great amount of profit that men find in that illicit traffic. If we can prevent the bootlegger from filling his purse we can better enforce the law against this liquor evil. And in passing let me urge every Latter-day Saint throughout the world to uphold the law against the sale, manufacture and transportation of intoxicants.

Well, we are in this financial age. We need to realize this when we examine and study the conditions that are influencing the youth of today. Many of them are seeking to be wealthy. They are thinking that success lies only in the obtaining of the dollar, and with that [10] unwise ideal they will sacrifice that which is higher and better than any material possession.

Do not misunderstand me, I would not underrate the value of wealth. I am cognizant of the fact that the second great commandment was to replenish and subdue the earth. I realize that one great purpose of life is to subdue matter, and I rejoice when I see the great reservoirs filled with water from which flows that element which will change the sagebrush flat into a waving wheat field, and that is wealth. I do not take second place to anyone in the realization of the good which this can do. I am merely emphasizing the thought that there is a nobler ideal in life than the accumulating of wealth.

The Aristocracy of Character

When God gave us the command to subdue matter, he meant us to use the power derived therefrom [sic], the power of material things, to realize something which is higher; and that is character, a life that will merit the inspiration of God. What the sunshine is to the field and to the flowers the Holy Spirit is to the life of man, and the Holy Spirit does not abide with base characters. He will not dwell in unclean tabernacles.

Well, now, my thought is that we should put forth every effort to supplant the aristocracy of wealth with the aristocracy of character, and awaken in the minds of the youth a realization that to be honest, to be dependable, to be a loyal citizen of the country, to be true to the standards of the Gospel, are the noblest ideals of life. The important problem is now to instill these lofty principles into the minds of young people, and thereby make them worthy citizens. I am glad to see evidences in our own country that men are now moving towards the beginning of the stream of humanity to correct evils, rather than to expend so much money on those who have drifted down the stream of society and have become contaminated by sin and hardened in lawlessness.

Child Guidance

On Christmas day, 1908, President Roosevelt invited 200 child welfare workers in all parts of the United States to attend a conference on dependent children, to be held in Washington, Jan. 25, 26, 1909. Much good came from that. Later President Wilson, referring to the Children's Bureau of the Untied States Department of Labor, expressed the hope that there might be set up certain irreducible minimum standards for the health, education, and work of the American child. Recently President Hoover said that the opportunity of the nation lies in the health and protection of its children, and in accordance with that thought he has appointed an investigating committee charged with the duty of getting at the facts of the physical health, mental equipment, and social well-being of children in the United States. Many of the leading men of the nation, educators, business men, doctors, etc., are volunteering their services to a nationwide investigation of conditions, with a view of ascertaining what forces are operative in child guidance.

During Leisure Hours

[11] I cannot refrain from calling your attention to what Utah is doing in regard to this important question. Let me say that I am not now thinking so much of the child when he is in the home under the influence of parents, neither am I concerned so much about him when he is in the public school under the influence of the teacher, although in both these basic environments much more emphasis might be placed upon character and loyal citizenship than we are placing upon it; I am concerned about the child when he is not in school, about what he is doing after school. In other words, it is time for the nation and for states to look after the youth during leisure hours. The leisure time of youth is the dangerous time. That is when he needs the training, and yet in some of our states we have compulsory education up to fourteen years of age, and in those same states have laws prohibiting the boy from working until he is sixteen. There you find a two years' period in which the boy is left practically to go his way. And what is his way? He will find the gang, and gangs are often the breeding grounds of bootleggers and organized vice squads.

In Chicago alone it is said there are thirteen hundred and thirty gangs, young boys who are going their own way, and whose efforts should be guided, no matter what it costs, along the paths of better citizenship. In Utah we have a law that compels the young man and the young woman to be in school until he or she is eighteen years of age. However, it is one thing to force a boy into school, it is another thing to arouse in his life an ideal, or a desire to emulate the best in life.

An Example Worthy of Imitation

In one of our school districts great strides have been taken in guiding and taking care of the leisure hours of youth, particularly during summer vacations, not only in recreation but in vocation. A few years ago the Granite School District inaugurated a plan of guiding these students in the proper way of citizenship. Brother Francis Kirkham, who is now a member of the national committee to which I have referred, was instrumental in introducing this, and Superintendent D. C. Johnson is carrying the work nobly forward. I am mentioning it now because it is an example worthy of imitation by all educators in the state and nation. Summer supervision for Junior and Senior high school students was inaugurated in 1920, when 1227 students were enrolled. In the summer of 1921, the enrollment increased to 1500. In 1930 in two important respects the policy in this district was changed in respect to compulsory enrollment. School officials do not now require enrollment in the activities of the summer, nor do they make a formal record of the credits earned as a requisite to unconditional promotion. Enrollment is wholly voluntary and the joy obtained through participation is the only reward offered. Notwithstanding they give no credits, make no compulsion, last year there were enrolled 4303 in activities as follows:








Av. Att.


Av. Att.


Av. Att.

1st Mo.







2nd Mo.







3rd Mo.







Total enrolled in the three activities 4303.

Total school population, 6-18 years of age, Jordan DistrictC6037.

In addition to those instructed by music teachers employed by the Board, 102 students were in regular classes under teachers employed by local municipal or civic organizations.

It cost the children nothing, it cost the parents nothing. The Jordan District carried this on at an expense that is merely nominal, only $1.33 per pupil.

But the teachers did not stop at instruction and play during the recreation period; they found also lucrative employment for the students. The total number of students thus placed and properly supervised in picking beans, thinning beets, delivering groceries and in other jobs, was 476. The number of boys contacted 111. Total number of employers cooperating 103. Total number of visits for all purposes 670.

Its Effect upon Citizenship

Now to show what effect this will have upon citizenship. During the school year there was a family in that district that refused to send the boys to school. The truant officer visited it and found antagonism on the part of the parents. The boys were not interested in school. Later the father was out of work and when the truant officer went there he threatened the officer by saying, AIf you take me to court there will be a serious tragedy in this end of the county. If you want to keep healthy, leave me alone. But the boys were compelled to go to school. The father however had to be arrested and the law was enforced.

During the summer vacation this same officer visited that home with the view of offering employment to the boys. When the father met him at the door, despondent, still bitter and defiant of the law, he said, Well, what do you want now?

Have you any employment?


Would your boys like to have a job?

You mean to say you have work for my boys? You come here with a job?

Those boys joined the working squad, went out and picked beans.

The father apologized and said, AI have misjudged you.

Those boys as well as the father now have an entirely changed attitude towards the law and towards citizenship. Success to that method. Success to the Utah school laws. Success to Milton Bennion who is recognized in the Untied States as a pioneer in moral teaching in the schools, and to others associated with him.

The Means Provided by the Church Organization

But now, brethren of the Church, do you realize that we have here in the organization of the Church the best means in all the world of training the youth? Your Deacon quorums, what are they but opportunities for the young boys to meet together and satisfy that spirit of brotherhood? There are 1041 quorums in which over 30,000 boys ranging from 12 to 15 years of age meet every week under an environment which is faith-promoting and character developing. Similarly grouped in 623 quorums are 18,500 Teachers, and 610 quorums over 23,000 Priests. Bishop, what is your Priests' quorum but an opportunity for you as a president of that quorum to get those young men around you as your bodyguard, young men who carve the social atmosphere of the ward, and whom you may lead in paths of honor, trustworthiness and faith? Continuing with auxiliaries, what do we find? In the Primary association 85,000 children between 4 years and 12 in the case of boys, and 4 years and 14 in the case of girls, all most efficiently supervised and instructed. In the Y.M.M.I.A. there are 42,813 youths, and in the Y.L.M.I.A. 42,042 young women. In the Sunday School 229,793 members exclusive of officers and teachers.

I look upon the organization of the Church as the greatest opportunity ever given to man for the proper training of youth. I make the statement without fear of successful contradiction. I hope the national investigating committee will look into the opportunities furnished by this Church. I hope while they are investigating they will consider the fact that Joseph Smith, when he outlined this organization, was not twenty-five years of age, unlearned in sociology, unschooled in economics; yet after one hundred years that which he gave by inspiration of God stands as the best social condition that the world has.

Not All Bad

God bless the officers of the Priesthood quorums and auxiliaries, that they may go forth from this conference with renewed determination to reach the youth. Young people are not bad, they just need guidance, that is all, and if you are leaders you may depend upon it the boys and girls of the Church will follow. Even these criminals in Chicago are not all bad. In the race riot of 1919, one of the gangs, called the Dirty Dozen, started out one day to harass the negroes just a group of boys misled. One of the boys jerked the trolley cord and held the rope while the others jumped into the car to create a disturbance and throw out the occupants. While he was holding that rope a negro woman slashed him over the heart with a razor. Only one of the gang was caught, the others fled, but the one caught said he heard Shakey, the boy who was cut, say as his last words, What will mother think? He was not all bad when his dying thought was a regret that he had wounded his mother.

I tell you the time has come for the nation, for the state, for the home, for the Church, to look more directly and particularly after the [14] boys and girls and train them in the way they should go, and when they are old few will depart from it.

God help us to utilize the quorums and the organizations to that end, I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

McKay, David O. In The 101st Semi-Annual Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- day Saints, Salt Lake City, October 3. 1930, by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1930, 8-14.