103rd Semi-Annual General Conference

103rd SEMI-ANNUAL GENERAL CONFERENCE

ELDER DAVID O. McKAY

Of the Council of the Twelve Apostles

October 8, 1932

[64] My brethren and sisters, I have greatly enjoyed each session of this conference. The inspirational addresses given have buoyed us up and will aid us in determining upon definite lines of action during the next six months, in which the Church can be most benefited by united effort. To one of these fields of needed activity, I wish to direct your attention for a few minutes.

Our Greatest Obligation

An eminent statesman in the United States once wrote:

"If we work upon marble it will perish; if upon brass, time will efface it. If we rear temples they will crumble into dust. But if we work upon immortal minds, imbue them with principles with a just fear of God and love of fellow men, we engrave upon those tablets that which time cannot efface and which will endure through all eternity."

That thought, impressively expressed, gives an idea of the theme I should like to stress this afternoon. We are deeply perturbed, in these days, about great social questions. The best minds of the nation are now struggling with problems associated with one of the greatest financial crises that have ever swept this nation and the world. Important as this is, and other social and political questions, I believe that the profoundest problem which this country faces, indeed the greatest obligation upon the government today, national, state, and local, is to determine how best to guide, protect, and educate properly, childhood and youth. This may seem commonplace to many of you, so commonplace that you will wonder why I take up the time of so important an assembly to speak of it.

Attitude of the Nation's President

Be that as it may, I believe all agencies interested in child welfare could cooperate in this great work to the great good of our state and nation. There are phases of this problem which affect the happiness and peace of mind of every father and mother in the land. The question of [65] child health and guidance goes to the very root of our national life. No less an authority than the President of the United States, has aptly said:

"These questions are a complicated problem, requiring much learning and much action, and we need have great concern over this matter. Let no one believe that these are questions which should not stir a nation, that they are below the dignity of statesmen or governments. If we could have but one generation of properly born, trained, educated and healthy children, a thousand other problems of government would vanish. We would assure ourselves of healthier minds in more vigorous bodies, to direct the energies of our nation to yet greater heights of achievement."

In the Realm of Delinquency

In calling your attention to this important problem I have not in mind especially the tens of thousands of lads in quorum activity nor the one hundred thousand boys and girls enrolled in Primary in the Church nor the hundred thousand more young people engaged in Mutual Improvement work, or the two hundred and sixty thousand enrolled in Sunday School. Rather I have in mind the tens of thousands who are not enrolled in these quorums and associations, and also the boys and girls who are not affiliated even with church membership. I shall eliminate many of those, and ask you to consider this afternoon only that group who have crossed the border-line and entered the realm of delinquency--I shall not say criminality.

Neither have I in mind merely the church as an agency to guide these children and youth, but all agencies in the state which are engaged either directly or indirectly in winning back this group of boys and girls who are causing us great concern. In the realm of indifference and delinquency are the causes of mothers' heartbreaks, of fathers' chagrin, humiliation and sorrow. Comparatively speaking, there are not many in that realm, but I am wondering if all agencies are cooperating sufficiently to reduce to a minimum the number of boys who have crossed the border-line.

There were 5,705 cases of delinquency before the Juvenile Court during the year 1929-1930, and about as many cases of dependency and neglect. For the year beginning July 1st, 1931, and ending June 30th, 1932, there have come before that court in the Third Judicial District a total of 843 cases--627 boys, 216 girls, between the ages of ten and eighteen years.

Cooperative Effort Needed

The Utah Council on Child Health and Protection is at the present time carrying forward a plan to establish an organization in each county in this state for the purpose of aiding childhood and youth. Nearly half the counties have that organization now. These county officers may have access to the reports of the Utah White House Conference dealing with the relation of the churches, Boy Scouts, 4-H Clubs, and other agencies concerned in the welfare of childhood and youth.

[66] I hope that all men and women associated with these groups, will join us in the appeal for more cooperative effort in behalf of handling the problem of youth. In the report referred to I find this:

"For every case of delinquency there is somewhere a contributing factor to such delinquency. The delinquent acts are but surface symptoms of deeper stresses and difficulties reaching far into the social life of the community, and back into the earlier home and school life of the child. The community owes a debt of protection to children that it does not owe to adults. Guardians of the child have a duty to set such examples of honesty, sincerity and courage as will challenge the child's emulation, and in these patterns of character and good citizenship lies the cure of juvenile delinquency, rather than in the powers of the court."

It is estimated that about one-twelfth of a child's time is spent in school, approximately one-third, or four-twelfths, spent in sleep. Varying amounts above the four-twelfths are spent daily in the home. Let us say roughly that about sixty per cent of the child's time, during the eighteen years that we are considering now, is spent in the home, in sleep, and in school. That leaves forty per cent of a child's life to be spent outside of these influences. I ask you guardians of the home what you are doing to direct the efforts of childhood during that forty per cent of his life in which he is left alone to be really himself.

The Responsibility of Parents

The agencies that are affecting the child you well know. First comes the home. Upon fathers and mothers the Lord placed one of the greatest responsibilities that can come to human beings. Hear again what he says:

"Inasmuch as parents have children in Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized, that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the Living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying of the hands, when they are eight years old, the sin be upon the heads of the parents."

I believe that parents generally are doing this, yet I am convinced that there is still much opportunity for improvement in this regard. I am not thinking of the set hours in which you sit sown to teach these doctrines to your children, but of the example fathers and mothers give to their children as regards to the faith that is dear to your hearts. Your example will teach these principles, more effectively that what you say. Out of our homes come the future leaders of the government. If our homes were all they should be, the nation would be safe.

But too many homes are broken. Statistics tell us that "The so-called broken home appears in about one-third of all the delinquency cases which come before the juvenile courts throughout the country." However, in this state (Utah) out of the 5,705 cases of delinquency before the juvenile courts, 4,043 children were residing with both parents in their own homes. Such a report should challenge our best thought.

If in this state the majority of delinquents come from homes that are unbroken, I appeal to parents to think more seriously of the revelation [67] found in the sixty-eighth section of the Doctrine and Covenants, part of which I have just read to you.

The School a Responsible Factor

Next to the home the school is the responsible factor in child training. We have in the state forty school districts, with a school population of approximately 150,000. In 1929 fourteen school districts had persons specially appointed to deal with attendance and school coordination problems. Of these fourteen only seven districts had the services of one or more persons on full time, and were serving about sixty-five per cent of the school children of the state. Thirty-five percent, in round numbers, are without such service.

The Influence of the Church

Next in importance--in some respects I place it chief in importance--is the influence of the church. Of four thousand boys under the age of twenty-one who appeared before Judge Lewis L. Faucett of the State Supreme Court of New York, only three had belonged to a Sunday School. I saw in the public press of this city the other day the report that of 6,642 cases tried directly or indirectly over a period of several years by Judge Nielsen of the Juvenile Court only two per cent or 133, had attended Sunday School.

We might give at length ample proof of religious training as a safeguard in the community and as a preventative of delinquency.

There are three fundamental steps to take if we would win back these boys and girls. The first is to become acquainted with them, to know them. I was delighted yesterday by the reports given before the Aaronic Priesthood conference, which gave the number of young boys who had been brought into activity, who two years ago were inactive.

You all know that in 1931 the Church put forth an effort, under the auspices of the Sunday School, to account for every boy and girl who should be enrolled. In one year's effort 18,000 who previously had not been enrolled were brought into the fold.

Reaching the Wayward

Today I heard a report from a man who is interested in the 4-H clubs, to the effect that in one county, in two districts, every girl between the ages of twelve and twenty is enrolled in one or more organizations interested in girl's welfare. I cite these examples merely to show that the boys and girls who step over the border-line may be successfully reached. They are not all bad boys and girls. They are erring young people who need our help.

That brings me to the second step, the power of personality. You are not going to bring back erring youth unless you first let them know that you are interested in them. Let them feel your heart touch. Only the warm heart can kindle warmth in another. Wayward boys and girls are sometimes suspicious of people around them. Others get the [68] idea that they are not wanted. The kind hand or the loving arm, removes suspicion and awakens confidence. Your own experience bears ample evidence of the value of personal companionship.

The third essential is activity. We shall never accomplish the great object that is before us, in relation to childhood, until we realize that every boy and girl must have something to do. Generally speaking every child should be occupied in either sleeping, eating, working, studying or playing. Supervised play during the forty per cent of his active life outside the home and school is a very important factor.

Cooperation Needed

Now, let me just say a word further about the various groups that are interested in this work. I quote again from the Utah White House Conference report:

"The work of both the Boy and Girl Scout is well known. The program is definite, constructive, and very much worth while. Closer cooperation between Scouts and schools is urged.

"Service clubs have done and are doing some work looking to the betterment of boys and girls, but not in the amount and quality which might be done.

"The forest service is ready to do its part in the movement under consideration. It has provided mountain recreation centers, and is anxious to cooperate with the schools in teaching boys and girls how to use the forest areas to a greater degree.

"A splendid attitude is manifested by the newspapers of the state. They are ready and anxious to cooperate with the schools and any other agency in promoting the welfare of our children. They have done much in the respect by fostering wholesome activities, providing suitable reading matter, and encouraging, through publications, the commendable work of others.

"Evidently the most pressing need which has manifested itself to your sub-committee has to do with the bringing about of better cooperation between the public and private schools of the state and the various organizations mentioned."

The need of coordinating these and other agencies in their efforts to better childhood is apparent to every thinking person. The situation calls for a State Welfare Department, the special duty of which will be to employ the most modern methods of dealing with the problems of training youth and particularly to center attention upon the preventions of delinquency and other social ills.

As a summary of the message I have tried to convey to you, I quote the following lines:

"He stood at the crossroads all alone,

The sunrise in his face;

He had no thought for the world unknown,

He was set for a manly race.

But the road stretched east and the road stretched west,

And the boy knew not which road was best.

So he strolled on the road that led him down,

And he lost the race and the victor's crown,

He was caught at last in an angry snare,

Because no one stood at the crossroads there

To show him the better road.

[69] "Another day at the self-same place,

A boy with high hopes stood;

He, too, was set for a manly race,

He, too, was seeking the things that were good.

But one was there who the roads did know,

And that one showed him which way to go;

So he turned from the road that would lead him down,

And he won the race and the victor's crown,

He walks today the highway fair,

Because one stood at the crossroads there,

To show him the better road."

God inspire us all to make the Church of God effective in saving the youth of the land, in instilling in the hearts faith in God, in his Son, and in the restoration of the Gospel, I pray, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

McKay, David O. Address for the 103rd Semi-Annual Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In LDS Conference Reports, Utah, October 8, 1932, by the LDS Church. Salt Lake City: the LDS Church, 1932, 64-69.