David O. McKay, October 7, 1944

To the leaders in stakes, in wards, and in quorums of the Church, I wish to say that there is present need for the putting forth of greater effort than ever before to teach the Word of Wisdom. The man or woman who keeps the Word of Wisdom is true to himself or herself. The man who is honest with his God in paying his tithes and offerings is usually honest with his fellow men. The man who speaks the truth is one who should be chosen to teach your children, and leaders in stakes and wards should be more careful than ever to see that the teachers in our auxiliaries and in our quorums are men who are true to themselves, to the Church, and to their God.

Sunday School Teachers and the Word of Wisdom

You know that too many of our girls today are indulging in nicotine. Designing men, by attractive, insidious advertising, are leading youth astray. Recently (and that is just a few weeks ago) several young girls, some of whom are members of the Church, were playing cards, and nearly all of those present were smoking. One of the girls who herself was smoking, said during the game while a cigaret was in her hand: "Next Sunday I begin to teach a Sunday School class. I am going into religion!"

A Catholic girl who spoke to a Mormon girl who was not smoking, said: "I do not understand that. Your Church does not believe in smoking. Why is she appointed to teach a Sunday School class?"

"Well," said the Mormon girl, "you smoke."

"I know, but I am not teaching."

When that young girl was asked to teach a Sunday School class I think some bishop slipped! Young men and young women whom we appoint to teach our children should be asked specific questions regarding their attitude toward the standards of the Church. I should not like to have any little grandchild of mine sit in a class Sunday morning and listen to a girl teach the Word of Wisdom, or any other principle of the gospel, and then have that grandchild see her teacher smoking a cigaret. A girl who accepts the responsibility of teaching, and who indulges in smoking and drinking is guilty of hypocrisy, dishonesty of the worst kind.

A Lesson from "Les Miserables"

Jean Val Jean as Monsieur l'Mayor -- you will remember in that great work of Victor Hugo's (Les Miserables) -- came one day upon some laborers who were very busy pulling up nettles. The nettles were lying there -- thrown out to die. The great leader picked up one and said: "This is dead, but it would be well if we knew how to put it to some use. When the nettle is young the leaves make excellent greens, even when old it has filaments and fibers like hemp and flax. Cloth made from the nettle is worth as much as that made from hemp. Chopped up, the nettle is good for poultry; pounded, it is good for horned cattle."

He named some other uses and added, "If we would take a little pains the nettle would be useful; we neglect it, and it becomes harmful, then we kill it."

He then paused and said: "How much then are men like nettles! My friends, remember this, that there are no bad herbs and no bad men; there are only bad cultivators!"

I think the man or woman who stands before a class to teach the standards of the Church who himself or herself does not live up to those standards is a "bad cultivator."

Suggested Questions for Teachers

Bishops, do not hesitate to ask the men and women who you choose to teacher our children the following questions direct:

Can you support the authorities of the Church? Are you in harmony with the bishopric? With the stake presidency? the general authorities?
Do you keep the Word of Wisdom when you are out in society, on the street, or wherever you are?
Do you pay your tithing?
Do you keep the Sabbath day holy?
Are you honest in your dealings with your fellow men?
Do not hesitate to put these and other pertinent questions directly to teachers, when you call them. Appeal to them and try to make them realize that to be a teacher is to be a leader, a copartner with the Creator in molding souls.

The Moulding of Souls

The thought behind the following lines is worthy of a better dress than the author has put it:

The sculptor may chip the marble block,
The painter a blot erase,
But the teacher who wounds a little child
May never his fault efface.
O realize then, indifferent one,
In moulding a plastic soul
The blight you cause, the scar you make
May meet you at Judgement's Roll.

God help us as teachers and leaders to set worthy examples to our children, I pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

McKay, David O. "Address for the 115th Semi-Annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." In Conference Reports of the LDS Church, SLC, UT, Oct. 7, 1944, 115-116.