Address to the Brigham Young Student Body

by President David O. McKay

Wednesday, May 26, 1954

[1] Members of the student body of the Brigham Young University:

The dedication and naming of twenty-two buildings and thirteen laboratories and classrooms makes this occasion especially distinctive. The services thus far, unique and impressive, have awakened within us thoughts that inspire, and feelings too deep for expression. We have been in the presence of greatness, greatness of the past and greatness of the present.

I have just this thought, students: I hope you have felt that though you may not succeed as these scientists and men who have succeeded in the realm of education, or that you may not realize all your aspirations, that you will leave this service with the assurance that there is one element of success characteristic of all who have received tribute today, which may also be yours, and without which these men of science, literature, art, economics, and other educational fields of endeavor, would not have received the tributes from these eloquent men today. One common trait is theirs, and that is greatness of character.

Note the characteristics of true greatness. "The greatest man is he who chooses the right with invincible resolution; who resists the sorest temptations from within and from without; who bears the heaviest burdens cheerfully; who is calmest in storms, and most fearless under menaces and frowns; whose reliance upon truth, on virtue and on God is most unfaltering." Through the goodness of the Almighty, every normal person has the ability to achieve that greatness.

The services today have left us, I hope, with feelings that will remain with us to inspire us forever. Four topics suggest themselves as the source of these thoughts and feelings. I have time merely to name them.

First, it is an inspiration to associate with great souls, even in memory, and to realize that unselfish service to others does not pass unrewarded.

Second, this assembly of thousands is but another impressive demonstration of the fact that the church looks with favor upon proper [2] education.

Third, the highest aim in education is the awakening in the minds of youth a desire to live nobly.

And fourth—note this, fellow students—there has been awakened in our minds and in our souls the realization that the Brigham Young University is free, indeed has the obligation to teach the restoration of the Gospel and the divinity of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Weigh the significance of that responsibility, students.

As to the first—the mingling with greatness: We are reminded of the words of Carlyle that "Great men taken up in any way are profitable company. We cannot look, however imperfectly, upon a great man without gaining something by him. He is the living light-fountain which it is good and pleasant to be near. The light which enlightens, which has enlightened the darkness of the world; and this not as a kindled lamp only, but rather as a natural luminary shining by the gift of heaven; a flowing, light - fountain as I say, of native, original insight, of manhood and heroic nobleness in whose radiance all souls feel that it is well with them."

The second source of the feelings to which I have referred, is the need of making our educational system to comport with the physical needs of the students of this great country. Dr. Samuel Miller Brownell, United States commissioner of education on May 3, 1954 called upon all Americans to act promptly to improve education in the interest of national security. He brought out the following facts: The nation is short 340,000 classrooms. Although we are constructing, he says, 50,000 classrooms a year, we are falling behind at the rate of 67,000 every year. Another important point, to quote him: "The shortage of qualified teachers continues to grow. The nation started this year with a shortage of 72,000 prepared teachers for elementary schools. In one state, teachers are licensed who have only high school education, plus some special normal training. School enrollment is rising rapidly. There are 37,000,000 students in schools and colleges. By 1960 there will be 45,000,000. The nation still has 8,000,000 functional illiterates; that is, persons with less than five years of school. This constitutes an appalling national waste." And note this: "The drop-out rate is serious. A total of 495 of each 1,000—50 percent practically—who enter the fifth grade, fail to finish high school."

"In our beloved United States, we cannot look at these figures," says Dr. Brownell, "without being both appalled at the big job ahead and being thrilled at the challenge to the efforts and ingenuity of the American people and their educators."

Now one other thought while our minds are on our country: the President of the United States, speaking before a joint session of Congress, expressed [3] great concern as follows: "The United States and the whole free world are passing through a period of grave danger. We are moving through perilous times. Faced with a terrible threat of aggression, our nation has embarked upon a great effort to help establish the kind of world in which peace shall be secured. Peace is our goal!"

Grave as these outward dangers are, fellow teachers, fellow country-men, I think more threatening to the perpetuity of our nation is the evidence of the disintegrating influence of moral turpitude.

"Honesty seems to be outmoded. The stability of the family life is crumbling. Loyalty and patriotism have lost their ardor. Crime and lawlessness, particularly among young people, are increasing alarmingly," quoting J. Edgar Hoover. I will merely say that juveniles represent a large percentage of the arrests. Of over 1,750,000 arrests recorded in 1953, by 1,174 cities, 8.4 percent were persons 17 years of age or less, and 14.7 percent were under 21. Nearly half of the persons arrested for burglary were not yet 18, with two-thirds being under 16. Persons under 21 represented over half of the arrests for crimes against property. Of all persons under the age of 18 arrested in 1953 in these 1,174 cities, 87.8 percent were males and 12.2 percent females.

The aim of education is character, and that should be the aim in our public schools. I am thrilled today with gratitude for the Church school system, headed by the Brigham Young University, where, without apology, we can teach the principles of revealed religion, with character the chief goal in life.

A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things; and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. (Matthew 12:53)

Having in mind this highest aim in education, the awakening in youth the desire to live nobly, let me comment. From a human standpoint, we know very little about the Man of Nazareth. Did you note in the daily press the other day, when comments were made upon the great religious gathering to be held by the Protestant Churches, that it was said that the real question is whether Christianity after all is true. Christ is the only "name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." Nearly two thousand years have gone and today he is acknowledged among the sincere people as the one peerless person among all mankind, but not among all as divine.

Wherein lies his greatness? We do not honor him as a great discoverer; we do not worship his as a scientist, as a literary genius, nor as one noted in the realm of art, nor as one distinguished in the realm of invention, in statesmanship or war. In fact, in none of the realms in which men and women of the world have won their laurels do we pay deference to [4] Jesus. We revere him because of his wisdom and spirituality which exceed that of all other men who ever lived, and above all that, we revere, we worship him as our God.

In the realm of character He is supreme. He has said, "I am the light of the world; he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." Why cannot the world accept Christ? He also said to his disciples, "I have given you an example; as ye have seen me do, do ye also to one another."

The fourth condition that awakens these deep feelings, is the realization that the Brigham Young University is free, indeed has the obligation to teach the divinity of Jesus Christ, in whose perfection, we find every virtue; in whom is combined in wonderful harmony all the powers of the soul; in whose life and whose scanty teachings, I say scanty compared with what he gave, students, you can find every comfort, and if you go to him in humility and faith, every guidance and inspiration you need.

"He walks as a man," said one person, "associates with mortals, yet speaks and acts as a God. The crown of divinity rests upon his brow. The scepter of universal dominion clings to his hand . . .The smile of Jehovah transfigures his countenance. He is in the express image of God. The human soul, touched, thrilled, and swayed, exclaims, "Never man spake like this man."

God bless the University and his Church, as they strive to lead mankind to see in Jesus of Nazareth the Way, the Truth, the Light, our Elder Brother, our Savior, our Redeemer, our God, I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

And now it is my privilege and honor to represent you, my fellow workers, you the faculty of the Brigham Young University, you the student body, and the Church in dedicating these buildings for the purposes named briefly by the speakers and by me this morning. Some of these buildings have been used, some have just been erected. Upon all we shall invoke the blessing of God, if you will now join with me in this glorious duty. The names of persons to be associated with these buildings have already been presented to you, and when we come to them, I shall ask that they be inserted in that part of our dedication.

Our Father in Heaven:

We come to thee this day in gratitude, in love, in faith, not only because thou art the Creator of all the universe and the Bestower of all blessings, but principally because thou art our Father, whom we can approach, and be received as thine own. Thus to know thee and thy beloved Son, is to have eternal life.

[5] This large assembly of thy children, the program rendered in sermon and song, all buildings erected, including those to be dedicated this day, equipment furnished, instruments and mechanical devices that are in these buildings, even services of faculty members provided - all are in use and action because of divine instruction from thee to the end that thy children "shall teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom and all things that pertain to the Kingdom of God that are expedient to understand things both in heaven and in earth, under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things that are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of nations and the judgements which are on the land; and a knowledge of countries and of the kingdoms." All this and more, that thy Saints may be prepared in all things to magnify their calling whereunto thou hast called them and the mission with which thou didst commission them.

Thus hast thou emphasized the responsibility which rests upon thy people to carry the message of the restoration of the Gospel to all nations, kindreds, tongues, and peoples, thus dost thou emphasize the fact that it is not sufficient merely to testify to the world of the Restoration, but to present the principles of the Gospel in an intelligent manner, that the honest in heart may be convinced of the truth and may be led from paths of error into the way of righteousness.

To this general and glorious purpose, therefore, our Heavenly Father, we unitedly assemble and authoritatively dedicate twenty-two buildings, thirteen laboratories and classrooms, name and set them apart for the purposes for which they have been erected.

First, we dedicate the Amanda Knight Hall, a residence hall that has already been used for women, and the Allen Hall, in honor of Robert Eugene and Inez Knight Allen, a residence hall for men, in both of which may there ever be present the feeling of the ideal home from which students may come. May there ever radiate in these halls clean living and high thinking, to permeate the lives of all residents therein.

Particularly we have gathered today to dedicate this Fieldhouse in which we are here assembled as the center of recreational activity in the Brigham Young University, and we name it the George Albert Smith Fieldhouse. May all instruction, all contests, whether intramural or intercollegiate, be permeated with the spirit of honor, fair play, willingness to recognize superiority whether in strength or skill. May true satisfaction come to each contestant in the assurance that he did his best. To this and every other worthy end we dedicate the George Albert Smith Fieldhouse and pray that the memory of President Smith's genial nature and upright life may ever be an incentive to youth to maintain the standards of the Gospel.

We dedicate the Herald R. Clark Student Service Center, where in all mutual concourse the highest and best ideals of youth may dominate all associations and mutual activity.

Likewise, our Father in heaven, we dedicate the Knight-Magnum Hall in honor of Jennie Brimhall Knight and Jennie Knight Magnum, and set it [6] apart as a school home, furnishing not only convenience and comfort, but being permeated with the ideals of pure womanhood in which there will be a total absence of thoughts and actions that might tend to corrupt the modesty and chastity of maidenhood.

To this end, also, we dedicate Heritage Halls, in honor of the noble women to whom tribute has been paid this day by President Wilkinson and their names in the record will follow:

Emma Lucy Gates Bowen, Louie B. Felt, Estella Spillsbury Harris, Anna Meith Maeser, Aurelia Spencer Rogers, Ellis Reynolds Shipp, Mary Fielding Smith, Eliza R. Snow, Mima Murdock Broadbent, Ruth May Fox, Alice Merrill Horne, Romania Pratt Penrose, Alice Robinson Richards, Louise Yates Robinson, Lucy Mack Smith, Emmeline B. Wells.

May the lives of those women who have set worthy examples of purity and service, impress the girls and others who abide in these halls, and may the examples of these noble women ever be an incentive to future generations of young women so to live in maidenhood as to become worthy of the highest tributes of motherhood.

We name today a building already dedicated, the Carl F. Eyring Physical Science Center. We have heard of his success, his noble life, and we associate with that building all the names of the noble men, scientists who have this day been paid merited tribute by President Franklin S. Harris.

Orson Pratt, John A. Widtsoe, Charles E. Maw, Joseph K. Nicholas, James E. Talmage, Edwin S. Hinckley, Frederick Buss, George H. Hansen, Milton Marshall, Wayne B. Hales, Franklin L. West, Albert C. Boyle, Frank Warren Smith.

By virtue of the authority of the Priesthood and as President of the Board of Trustees, representing that body, I dedicate and set apart each of these residences and halls and rooms for the purpose for which they have been built and pray, O Father, that each may be protected and utilized for the blessing of students, for the advanccement [sic] of thy Church and for the blessing of mankind.

May there radiate from each of these buildings an aura of light as tangible as personality radiates from each individual, influencing all to live clean, up-right lives, to seek truth diligently, to be inspired so to live that others seeing their good deeds may live to glorify thee, our Creator, our Father, our God.

Bless this institution, that it may hold the respect of sister educational institutions and wield an influence throughout the world for good in all educational circles. To this end, Father, continue to bless the Board of Trustees, the President of this institution and his counselors in the Presidency, continue to uphold them and inspire them. Bless the faculty, [7] the deans, the student body and all associated with this center of learning. Give the instructors, we beseech thee, clear discernment between truth and error, that they may be successful in refuting the false philosophy of communism and other pernicious doctrines that would destroy the free agency of man, faith in our Father and Creator of Heaven and Earth and destroy faith, at least weaken it, and a belief in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Help us, O Father, to appreciate the sacrifices and accomplishments of the past; give us power and intelligence to contribute to the pressing and progressive demands of the present; give us an inspiration in all efforts that tend to establish peace on earth, good will toward men. From the high and glorious point of the revelation that thou gavest thyself to the Prophet Joseph, may we in every sense of the word, be loyal and true to the best that is within us, and consecrate our lives and our efforts to the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth, we humbly pray, in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Dedicatory Address and Prayer to the Brigham Young University Student body by David O. McKay [May 26, 1954]. Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.

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