Faculty Workshop at BYU

ADDRESS OF PRESIDENT DAVID O. McKAY

AT BRIGHAM YOUNG UNIVERSITY

FACULTY WORKSHOP

SEPTEMBER 18, 1953

[1] President Wilkinson, President Harris, members of the faculty of the Brigham Young University.

I am happy to see President Harris here today. I have spent many happy hours with him in this Institution since 1921, or about 1922. It was 1921 when we talked about asking him to accept the position of President of the Brigham Young University. I then had the responsibility of Commissionership. When I came back from a world tour he was in full charge and exerting a great influence which has continued throughout the years. He has done much in giving to this school a standard of excellence in scholarship as well as in spirituality.

I am very much pleased to see you sisters, and to hear Dr. Wilkinson's recognition of your loyalty to this great school.

I am happy that you are here, sisters, and I repeat, I esteem it a privilege to participate in this workshop, though I feel now, after listening to that comprehensive address given by your president, that there is little for me to say. I concur in admiration in his clear presentation of the present status of Brigham Young University, its physical properties, its great outlook, and in his tribute to former instructors who have passed to their eternal reward. I agree with President Wilkinson that we owe them much.

In anticipation of this moment, I thought I should like to talk to you as one teacher to another regarding our responsibilities and opportunities as Church school teachers. I have nothing new to offer you, so this will just be a sort of heart-to-heart talk about what our responsibilities and opportunities are during the coming year. I think there are none greater.

In an address given before the national citizens' commission for the public schools, in Cleveland, Ohio, June 12, 1951, Mr. Frank W. Abrams, Chairman of the Board of the Standard Oil Company in New Jersey made the following statement:

"There is nothing in this world more important than the education of our children. All the human virtues we prize, all the goals toward which we work, depend upon education. The key which unlocks the door to every enlightened hope, every ideal of man, is the key of ever greater understanding by man of himself and his environment. The greatest investment this country ever made is its investment in its public schools program."

[2] Dr. Robert M. Hutchins, in an address, "The Education We Need," now printed in "Ferment of Education," says:

"This is probably the first time in human history in which change on every front is so rapid that what one generation has learned of practical affairs, in the realm of politics, industry, business and technology is of little value to the next. What the father has learned of the facts of life is almost useless to his son. It is principles and everlastingly principles, not data, not facts, not helpful hints, but principles, which the rising generation requires if it is to find its way through the maze of tomorrow. No man among us can tell what tomorrow may be like. All we know of a certainty is that it will be different from today."

I hold in my hand a book entitled Moral and Spiritual Values in Public Schools (National Education Association, Washington D. C. Publication 1951.) In the first paragraph in Chapter 1, I find the following:

"A great and continuing purpose of education has been the development of moral and spiritual values. To fulfill this purpose Society calls upon all its Institutions. Special claims are made on the home and the school because of the central role of these two Institutions in the nurture of the young. By moral and spiritual values we mean those values, which when applied in human behavior, exalt and refine life and bring it into accord with the standards of conduct approved in our democratic culture.

"We accept," continues the report, "as established premises that the vast majority of American youth should and will continue to attend the public schools; that they will derive from that experience such important concepts as brotherhood, democracy and equality, that private schools including those in which a religion is taught, should and will continue to be permitted under our laws, and that the public schools should and will continue to be non-denominational. Our purpose is to proceed from these premises to develop proposals for the best possible education in moral and spiritual values within the conditions thus established."

With those high motives we are all in accord, and in an effort to establish or to teach moral and spiritual values, they present the following:

Human personality. Every public school teacher is free to emphasize that.

Second, moral responsibility.

Third, institutions as the servants of men.

Fourth, Common Consent.

Fifth, Devotion to Truth.

Sixth, Respect for Excellence.

Seventh, Moral Equality.

[3] Eighth, Brotherhood.

Ninth, The Pursuit of Happiness.

Tenth, Spiritual Enrichment.

Note how general those topics are, excellent in themselves, and yet you who have taught in the public school know how difficult it is to emphasize those virtues.

You know also that the great influencing factor in the schoolroom is the teacher, his personality, what he thinks, not just what he says, but what he is, really and truly in his heart—this is what influences his student.

Whenever I face a body of teachers I feel that I am addressing men and women who carry the second greatest responsibility in all the world. So important to me seems the calling and responsibility of a teacher—public school, private school—wherever he may be found as a leader and guide to youth.

Parenthood, of course, is the greatest, but oh, how few wise parents there are in the world. How many millions of young children are deprived of the proper teaching of father and mother! Let us face the facts, fellow teachers. On the proper education of youth depends the permanency and purity of home, the safety and the perpetuity of our nation. The parent gives the child an opportunity to live. The teacher enables him to live well. The parent who gives life and teaches his child to live abundantly is a true parent-teacher.

Today, however, the customs and demands of society are such that the responsibility of training the child to live well is largely and in too many instances shifted from the parent to the teacher. In the ideal state, the teacher would be but the parent's ally, training the mind and encouraging worthy habits and fostering noble traits of character inculcated by wise parental teaching and example. But in reality, the teacher, instead of being merely an ally, must become the foster-parent in training the child in the art of living. If that were all, his responsibility would be great enough. But it is not all. Often he faces even the greater task of overcoming the false teaching and the vicious training of unwise, irresponsible parents. In the light of self-evident facts is it not apparent to every thinking mind that the noblest of all noble professions is that of teaching, that upon the effectiveness of that teaching hangs the destiny of nations? "All who have meditated upon the art of governing mankind," says Aristotle, "have been convinced that the fate of empires depends upon the education of youth."

It is the teacher's responsibility to awaken in the child a love for truth, a desire to seek happiness in life through righteous living. A child misdirected may be the loss to mankind of an eminent scientist, a discoverer of new truths, a man whose light and vision might have hastened that future day of universal brotherhood and peace. Most truly is a child a fragile beginning of a mighty end. One of the greatest of life's tragedies is to see such a possible ending shattered in its early beginning

[4] Every person who enters the profession of teaching assumes the responsibility of co-operating with every youth under his tuition to make out of the living breathing soul an upright character. The responsibility of the teacher, however, does not end in his duty to teach truth positively. He enters the realm of what not to do as well as the realm of what to do. In the garden of the human soul, as well as in the fields of human endeavor, there are thorns and thistles as well as flowers and useful plants. He merits condemnation who would crush in a boy's mind a flower of truth and sow in its stead the seed of error. Touching this point, the greatest of all teachers has said:

"Whoso shall offend one of these little ones who believe in me," (that is, to cause one of these little ones to stumble) "it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depths of the sea."

Now, fellow teachers, it is "principles, eternally principles," not just facts and data. It is the greatest vocational opportunity in the world to teach our boys and girls in the United States and other countries to become noble men and women.

Speaking of public schools, the government has the right to say to every one of its teachers that your purpose is to teach those children to be loyal citizens, to be honest in their dealings with their fellow men—to impress children with the other attributes named in the list of virtues I quoted at the beginning of my talk.

In other words, as already stated this morning, the whole purpose of education is to train the child in uprightness. Train him to live as a social being and to be a contributive influence for progress in our republican form of government. But the public school teacher cannot go any further than that, and seldom, and I say this respectfully and appreciatively, in our public schools can teachers be free to enter into a discussion of the real things which direct and animate those young peoples' minds because, rightfully, religion must not be taught in our public schools. Our forefathers were wise when they separated the church and the state.

But in a church school you are unhampered. You may speak freely and touch the very heart of the student who comes to you appealingly. All students in the United States, and all teachers, are facing the eternal questions: "Where did we come from?" "Why are we here?" "Where do we go from here?" I think there is not a normal child living who does not have at some time or other in his or her life, that thought. In the Church School, when the youth questioningly pours out his heart to you, you can answer unhesitatingly in accordance with the revealed word of God.

I need not take time today to show how moral and spiritual truths may be taught in literature, science, art; indeed, in every subject in the curriculum.

[5] Our birth is but a sleep and

a forgetting;

The soul that rises with us,

our life's Star,

Hath had elsewhere its setting

and cometh from afar;

Not in entire forgetfulness,

And not in utter nakedness,

But trailing clouds of glory

do we come

From God, who is our home.

Heaven lies about us in our

infancy!"

The atheistic teacher who would reject pre-existence could say, and rightly that Wordsworth denied having in mind a pre-existent state, and let it go at that. But you have an opportunity to say yes, he did not write that regarding pre-existent state, but he remembered in his childhood that he felt that he came from somewhere, that he had had something which seemed to have been lost, which he emphasized in "We are Seven," and then rightfully you can emphasize the doctrine of pre-existence. It is not a theology class, but what a truth you are giving to that hungry soul who says, "Whence came we?"

In geology you can see the seam of coal, enough to last us for 250 years, 500 years—you study the story of the earth. The atheist teacher, one who does not believe in the divine guidance and creative power of God, can at once place Him, the Creator, back as a nonentity, or as some power that operates as electricity, or as atomic energy, or as some other force. But you who know that that something, that power, can manifest itself in personality and can answer the child's yearning about why we are here, and God's over-ruling power.

But I do wish to call attention to some practical principles, the application of which contribute to true success in life. Such principles may be inculcated without neglecting anything scientific, without depriving the student of research work. For answers to the real problems of life every thinking youth yearns. To enter into the soul of a boy in that critical period, and to sow the seed of truth, of faith, instead of doubt—that is your responsibility. Impress him with the fact that conformity to the Lord's word or law will invariably contribute to man's happiness and salvation. That is true. In other words, there is eternally operating in the moral world a law of compensation and retibution [sic] in actual degree to the extent of disobedience. In this sense of course the word "law" has a deeper significance than a rule or dictum prescribed by authority for human action. It means rather a uniform order of sequence.

Confirmation of this may be found in the Lord's statement to Cain, the first disobedient son in recorded history. "If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? And if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door."

[6] It is also stated by the Prophet Joseph Smith:

"There is a law irrevocably decreed in Heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated. And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated."

You tell me that that Vermont boy could give out such a philosophical statement of his own wisdom and learning, and I will answer you, my student, that that came from the inspiration of the Eternal Being who is our Father. If the student becomes conscious of the operation of this law, you may implant in his soul a faith that will be an anchor to his soul.

It is said that "the soul in the formative period of youth, while it is yet unspotted from the world, may be likened to a block of pure, uncut, Parian marble, in which lie boundless possibilities of beauty or of deformity. From the crude marble one will chisel a form of exquisite grace and symmetry; another a misshapen monstrosity, each visualizing in the formless stone the conception of his brain. Thus we are molded by our ideals."

Thoughts are the seeds of acts and precede them. Mere compliance with the word of the Lord without a corresponding inward desire will avail but little. Indeed, such outward actions and pretending phrases may disclose hypocrisy, a sin that Jesus most vehemently condemned.

"O generation of vipers," he cried on one occasion, "how can ye being evil, speak good things?" The Savior's constant desire and effort were to implant in the mind right thoughts, pure motives, noble ideals, knowing full well that right words and actions would inevitably follow. He taught, and modern physiology and psychology confirm "that hate and jealously and other evil passions destroy a man's physical vigor and efficiency. They pervert his mental perceptions and render him incapable of resisting the temptation to commit acts of violence. They undermine his moral health. By insidious stages they transform the man who cherishes them into a criminal."

You are free to state that in your class and in your private conversation. Charles Dickens makes an impressive use of this fact in his immortal story Oliver Twist wherein Monks is introduced first as an innocent, beautiful child, but as "ending his life as a mass of solid bestiality, a mere chunk of fleshed iniquity. It was thinking about vice and vulgarity that transformed the angel's face into the countenance of a demon." It is almost impossible to believe that such a devilish nature as Bill Sykes', depicted in the same book, could be found in human form, but Dickens himself says:

"I fear there are in the world some insensible and callous natures that do become at last, utterly and irredeemably bad. But whether this be so or not, of one thing I am certain: that there are such men as Sykes, who, being closely followed through the same space of time, and through the same current of [7] circumstances, would not give by one look or action for a moment the faintest indication of a better nature. Whether every gentler human feeling is dead within such bosoms, or the proper chord to strike has rusted and is hard to find, I do not know, but the fact is so, I am sure."

The operation of the same law is shown in Hawthorne's The Great Stone Face, how Ernest's constant yearning and attention upon that benign countenance, and his conformity to the principles and elements set forth by his mother, transformed him, and he truly radiated in himself the virtues he saw in the Great Stone Face.

The law operates negatively, also, for no man can disobey the word of God and not suffer by so doing. What a man continually thinks about determines his actions in times of opportunity and stress. A man's reaction to his appetite and impulses when they are aroused gives the measure of that man's character. In these reactions are revealed the man's power to govern, or his forced servility to yield. True, you may lie and not be detected. You may violate truth without its being known by anyone who would scandalize you, and yet you cannot escape the judgment that follows such transgression. The lie is lodged in the recesses of your mind, and impairment of your character will be reflected sometime, somehow in your countenance or bearing. Your moral turpitude, though only you, your accomplice and God may ever know it, will canker your soul. "The more I know intimately the lives of other men to say nothing of my own," said Huxley, in a letter to Charles Kingsley, "the more obvious it is to me that the wicked do not flourish, nor is the righteous punished. The ledger of the Almighty is strictly kept, and every one of us has the balance of his operations paid over to him at the end of every minute of his existence. . .The absolute justice of the system of things is as clear to me as any scientific fact. The gravitation of sin to sorrow," (a beautiful expression) "is as certain as that of the earth to the sun, and more so, for experimental proof of the fact within the reach of us all, nay, is before us all our lives, if we have but the eyes to see it."

Man is endowed with appetites and passions for the preservation of his life and the perpetuation of his kind. These, when held under proper subjection, contribute to the happiness and comfort, but when used for mere gratification, lead to misery and moral degradation. Associated with these natural instincts is a sin that always seeks seclusion. Every boy and girl among your 7,000 students will know to just what you refer. It is the prostitution of love, the noblest attribute of the soul. God has instituted marriage in the family as the proper condition of expressing in our lives this divine virtue. But sometimes men and women with low ideals and weakened wills permit their passions, like unbridled steeds, to dash aside judgement and self-restraint, and to cause them to commit sin that may sear their conscience, and leave in their hearts an everlasting regret.

In this day when modesty is thrust into the background, and chastity is considered an outmoded virtue, I appeal to you, fellow teachers, to teach youth [8] to keep their souls unmarred and unsullied from this sin, the consequence of which will smite and haunt them intimately until their conscience is seared and their character sordid. I repeat what I have often said before that a chaste, not a profligate life, is the source of virile manhood. It is the crown of beautiful womanhood, a contributing factor to harmony and happiness in family life, and the source of strength and perpetuity of the race. The Savior has said that "if any shall commit adultery even in his or her heart, he or she shall not have the Spirit, but shall deny the faith and shall fear." Resist evil and the tempter will flee from you. If you keep your character above reproach, no matter what others may think nor what charges they make, you can hold your head erect, keep your heart light and face the world undauntingly because you, yourself, and your God know that you have kept your soul untarnished.

Young woman, think what that means to you in your future life with your husband knowing that you have been true to him through maidenhood. Young man, what it means to you in the thought as you are true to your wife and rear your children, that during youth you were true to your future wife.

Health, happiness, peace of mind, character, come through self-restraint. It is significant that it was on the Mount of Temptation that Christ gained a victory over the tempter, and cried, "Get thee hence, Satan, for it is written, thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve."

The only thing which places man above the beast of the field is his possession of spiritual gifts. Man's earthly existence is but a test as to whether he will concentrate his efforts, his mind, his soul, upon things which will contribute to the comfort and gratification of his physical instincts and passions, or whether he will make as his life's aims and purpose the acquisition of spiritual qualities.

It is the responsibility and duty of a teacher as he appears before his class to have a hopeful attitude and a pleasing appearance. These boys and girls are lonesome enough when they first enter college, and they are yearning for hope and faith. You cannot afford to be gloomy and faithless. You know the destiny of truth, and the destiny of this Church.

First, radiate hopefulness and faith in the ultimate destiny of mankind, and the salvation of God's children. I ask you fellow teachers, what would the Lord be without his children? What good would the earth and all other planets be if it were not for the living beings? What a message in the divine declaration: "This is my work and my glory: to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.

Second, let the teacher radiate confidence and faith in what he teaches. Cherish an abiding assurance that Truth will eventually triumph.

Third, meet your classes with a prayerful heart. No matter how well prepared you may be you are always dependent upon that higher influence. Somebody, somewhere needs your word, your influence. Pray God that you will radiate it.

[9] Fourth, exemplify in daily life the moral and spiritual ideals of the Church of Jesus Christ. You and I know it is true.

If teachers are truly sincere in their desire to make character a true aim in education, to awaken faith in God and a desire to maintain the standards of the Church, they will manifest that faith and sincerity in daily action. They will be what they expect their students to become. Otherwise, their teaching becomes hollow and meaningless, their words as but sounding brass and tinkling cymbals.

To live an upright life, to conform to high ethical standards, is the responsibility and duty of every teacher in the land, and particularly of the Church school teacher.

Leading youth to know God, to have faith in his laws, to have confidence in his Fatherhood, and to find solace and peace in his love—this is the greatest privilege, the most sublime opportunity of the Church school teacher.

Will [sic] all my heart, fellow teachers, I say God bless you as you enter this school year and lead your students into paths of uprightness and faith.

Address of President David O. McKay at Brigham Young University Faculty Workshop [September 18, 1953]. Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.

(See BYU Special Collections, Index of Speeches of the Year)