Spirituality in Leading and Teaching the Gospel

President David O. McKay

(Read by his son Robert R. McKay)

October 6, 1968, 138th General Conference

[108] And now, my brethren and sisters, just a word in parting. This truly has been a glorious and memorable conference. May our Heavenly Father sanctify the instructions, admonitions, and testimonies that we have heard throughout the various sessions. May he fill our hearts with love for one another in the true brotherhood of Christ.

At this time I should like to express gratitude for the support, blessings, and assistance of my counselors and members of the First Council of the Seventy, and the Presiding Bishopric. You can feel radiating from these men that for which Christ prayed when he offered that great intercessory prayer in which he said, among other things, "And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are." (John 17:11.)

These brethren prove daily, as was particularly evidenced in a sacred pre-conference meeting of all the General Authorities held in the Salt Lake Temple on Thursday, September 26, 1968, that they have that spirit of oneness, and we are united in praying that you presidencies of stakes, bishoprics of wards, presidencies of temples, presidencies of quorums, presidencies and superintendencies of auxiliaries may be so blessed that you too may say, "We strive to be one, as the Father and Son are one." God bless you that this may be true.

I am also most grateful for those unsung workers behind the scenes who give of themselves in rendering service beyond the call of duty to assist in the preparation of the hundreds of details and important matters that are necessary in order that these conferences may be carried on efficiently and smoothly.

You know, I am afraid too many of us are like that Scotsman of whom I have told you before who had lost his wife by death. His neighbor called on him to give comfort to him, saying what a good neighbor his wife had been, how thoughtful of others she had been, and what a good wife she had been to Jock, who was mourning her death. Jock answered: "Aye, Tammas, Janet was a guid woman, a guid neighbor, as you say. She was a' you say an' mair. She was, aye, a guid true wifey tae me, and I cam' near tellin' her sae aince or twice."

 

There come to mind some others to whom I wish to express gratitude. We have not heard from them. They are the men and women throughout the entire Church who are contributing of their time and means to the advancement of the truth—not just in teaching, but in genuine service in many ways. Some of these are struggling to make their own living. Some of them are wealthy men and women who have retired and who count their wealth in millions. It means something when a man of means will give to the Church a contribution of a million dollars, and then, in addition, say, "All my time is yours, to serve the Church." It means something to have a man leave his vocation, have his life's work interrupted, and receive a call to go away from the state, sometimes across the ocean to faraway places, to render service to the Church, not knowing for sure when he will return. God bless those who are rendering such service, and bless you all, for I think we can say for the Church, "We are striving to be one, Father, as thou and thy Son are one."

Now a word to you officers and leaders in the stakes and wards, in missions, and in temples. It was the divine character of Jesus that drew the women of Palestine to him, that drew as a magnet the little children to him. It was that divine personality which attracted men, honest men, pure men. It was also that divine personality which antagonized the impure, the evil men and women.

In the realm of personality, and in the kingdom of character, Christ was supreme. By personality, I mean all that may be included in individuality. Personality is a gift from God; it is indeed a "pearl of great price," an eternal blessing.

Fellow workers, you and I cannot hope to exert even to a small degree the personality of our great teacher, Jesus Christ. Each one's personality may be compared to the Savior's personality only as one little sunbeam to the mighty sun itself; and yet, though infinitely less in degree, each leader's, each teacher's personality should be the same in kind. In the realm of character, each leader and teacher may be superior, and such a magnet as to draw around him or her, in an indescribable way, those whom he or she would lead or teach. It is the radiation of the light that attracts.

However, no matter how attractive the personality may be, that leader or teacher fails in the work assigned if the leader or teacher directs the love of the member only to the personality of the leader or teacher. It is the leader's duty, or the teacher's duty, to teach the member to love—not the leader or teacher, but the truth of the gospel. Always, everywhere, we find Christ losing himself for his Father's will; and so also should our leaders and teachers, so far as their personalities are concerned, lose themselves for the truth he desires to have them teach.

When the people came to Jesus and asked for bread, or the truth, he never turned them away with a stone. He always had truth to give. He understood [109] it. It radiated from his being. He understood how to use illustrations, the natural things around him, to impress that truth upon his hearers. In other words, he was filled with his subject and then was enabled to give that subject to his hearers. It is not always what you say, but what you are that influences children, the young, or that influences your associates. "What you are," said the alleged wisest of Americans, "thunders so loud in my ears I cannot hear what you say."

Let me give you briefly five things among many others, that may characterize the successful leader or teacher in the Church:

First: Implicit faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ as the light of the world, and a sincere desire to serve him. This condition of the soul will make for companionship and guidance of the Holy Ghost.

Second: Unfeigned love for the child, or member. Unfeigned—remember how the word is used by the Prophet Joseph Smith in the great revelation in the Doctrine and Covenants: "by love unfeigned." Unfeigned love for the children or members, guided by determination to deal justly and impartially with every member of the Church. Honor the child or member, and the child or member will honor you.

Third: Thorough preparation. The successful leader knows his duties and responsibilities and also the members under his direction. The teacher knows his children, as well as the lessons.

Fourth: Cheerfulness—not forced but natural cheerfulness, springing spontaneously from a hopeful soul.

Fifth: Power to act nobly.

"If you want to be a teacher or leader just watch your acts and walk;

If you want to be a teacher or leader, just be careful how you talk."

If you want to radiate the light of the gospel, that radiation must first come from the leader himself. In the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord says, "If you keep not my commandments, the love of the Father shall not continue with you, therefore you shall walk in darkness." (D&C 95:12.)

That solicitous admonition given by the Savior is as pertinent today as it was when first expressed. Men and nations, having refused to "walk in the light," as Jesus said, stumble in darkness and know not whither they go. Motivated for centuries largely by selfish interests, the human race, judging from present world conditions, is still dangerously near the jungle where primitive passions dominate and govern.

Abraham Lincoln, in his day, declared to the people: "We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven; we have been preserved these many years, in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God....We have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated by unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to God who made us.

"It behooves us, then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness....

"I still have confidence that the almighty, the Maker of the Universe, will, through the instrumentality of this great and intelligent people, bring us through this as he has through all other difficulties of our country." And we all know how God did guide Abraham Lincoln.

There are many instances about which I could tell you wherein the hand of the lord has been manifest in guiding his servants. I know it is real. I know it as I know that you are assembled in this conference. I know one's spirit can be in tune, and hear that sweet, still, small voice. I know he will warn us. I know he will never say anything that is impossible to understand. I know he is our Father in heaven. He is just as real as my earthly father and mother, whom I hope to meet over there. The Savior, the Son of God, is at the head of this Church. I am not the head of this Church—Jesus Christ is our head! I know that the former Presidents of the Church knew that, and declared it. Joseph Smith, the Prophet, knew it. This is Christ's Church, and we are his messengers, his representatives, and it is our duty to keep in touch with him and know what his wishes are. You and I, and all who have repented of their sins and have been baptized into this Church, have had hands laid upon our heads and are entitled to the companionship and inspiration of the Holy Ghost. If we keep in tune with Christ and his teachings, we are entitled to fellowship with him. He does not love sin, he does not love lying, nor stealing, misjudging one another, nor condemning others. We have to keep our hearts pure and clean to be worthy of his fellowship.

God help us so to live that we may be found worthy to hear from him the whisperings of his Spirit, the whisperings of his voice, as he guides us and warns us and tells us what to do in order to come back into his presence.

Man is not living for himself. His selfish desires should be overcome and controlled, and he should render service to others. One of the greatest sayings of Jesus, when he was among the Twelve during his two and one-half years here, was the one that touched upon that same principle: "He that findeth his life shall lose it [that is the selfish part] and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it." (Matt. 10:39.) A paradoxical statement, but oh, how true! Thousands upon thousands in the church are willing to lose their lives in service to the building up of the kingdom of God.

I pray that God will give us strength to continue our mission here in life and, by our actions and our words, to teach others so that we shall bring the honest in heart to know the truth. May we show to all that the gospel has been established in this dispensation for happiness and joy and salvation here in this life, as well as in the life to come.

God keep our young people away from the low, from those who seek to follow the scheming plans of he who enthrones passion, who decries self-control, who renounces the sacredness of the family, and who, in the words of Marx himself, would "dethrone God." God inspire our young men and women to sustain and to fight for, and yes, if necessary, die for the light of Christ, that they will come to realize the truth of Christ's saying that if they are willing to lose their lives for his sake, they will find them.

God bless you all in your homes. Husbands, do not be cross when you enter your homes. Let us be kind, courteous. Have the same courtesy in your homes that you have when you are out in society. Thank your wives; thank your children; and say, "If you please," "Excuse me." These little things mean so much and make life so much sweeter.

Let us be courageous in defense of the right. Be not afraid to speak out for the right. Let us be true. Let us defend the weak, be charitable to our brothers, render help to the sick and the afflicted. The gospel is the spirit of kindness. Let us honor and sustain the priesthood in our homes.

I pray God to sanctify to our good, and the good of all who have listened in this day, and to the church membership everywhere, the blessings and testimonies of this great conference. In this parting, I leave with you, my dear fellow workers, my dear associates, and all members and friends everywhere, my blessings to each one of you, as God has given me power and authority to bless, and I do this in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

-David O. McKay. "Address for 138th general conference, Oct. 6, 1968," in Improvement Era, vol. 71, pgs. 108-109.