Grampa Bill's General Authority Pages
David O. McKay Mission Report

Delivered 4 April 1925

    Elder David O. McKay of the Council of the Twelve Apostles was the most widely traveled General Authority of his day. In 1920 and 1921 he toured virtually every mission in the world. Then, scarcely having time to catch his breath, he was called to preside over the European Mission from 1922 to early in 1925. He returned home just in time to be called on to give a report to the Ninety-fifth Annual General Conference of the Church. Given contextual clues within the talk, it appears that he was not forewarned that he was to speak to the conference, certainly not as the first speaker on the first day, following only introductory remarks by President Heber J. Grant.

    I have had a few surprises in my life, but I think none greater than this. However, it is a very agreeable surprise. I am thankful for the privilege of meeting this vast audience and partaking of the spirit of this inspirational gathering. It is a joy to look once again into the faces of close associates and dear friends. It is this element which makes the meeting this morning more appreciated than the meetings generally that I have attended during the past three or four years.

    I am glad to report, however, that the spirit of the meetings abroad, wherever we meet Latter-day Saints, is the same as that which we have here this morning. It matters not in what part of the globe the meeting is held, whether in the islands of the sea, in Japan, in Syria, in the Scandinavian countries, in England, Germany, France, Holland--wherever one meets a group of Latter-day Saints whose faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ is unwavering, there one finds the spirit of oneness, the spirit of love, the spirit of willing sacrifice for the good of humanity. God bless the Latter-day Saints all over the world that they may continue in that same spirit.

    It is a source of regret to me that such people should be so grossly misunderstood. May I read the following:

    "We desire to hear of thee, what thou thinkest, for as concerning this sect we know that everywhere it is spoken against."

    These are the words of some Jews from Jerusalem to whom Paul, then a prisoner, bound in Rome, had made an appeal for an honest hearing. They referred to the sect called Nazarene. Everywhere it was spoken against. Today after nearly two thousand years everybody acquainted with Christianity knows that Paul was falsely accused, and that that sect was vilified by those who spoke against it. It is a simple matter today to understand the wrong that was done to Paul and to the believers in the lowly Nazarene, but it isn't so easy for some people to see that today in the matter of persecuting a religious organization history is repeating itself. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as was the Church in the meridian of time, is everywhere spoken against, and its missionaries, are falsely accused. Paul, even at the time these men said they would like to hear him, was in Rome, because he had been accused of being a pestilent fallow, a mover of sedition, a profaner of the temple, all of which he denied before Festus. He denied these charges also before Felix, he denied them before King Agrippa, and bore his testimony before them, as President Grant has borne his testimony this morning, to the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ. But everywhere the people spoke against him.

    I have been impressed during the last few years with this fact, that many people, British particularly, seem to choose to believe the bad things that are said against this people in preference to the good. I have tried to analyze why this is so; and I have come to the conclusion that much of it is due to ignorance. There are two principal classes of men and women in the world who choose to fan this flame of ignorance. These two classes are, first, those who will vilify an honest people for mercenary purposes; and second, those who misunderstand or who misinterpret the doctrines of the Church of Christ and justify themselves in opposing it on the ground that they do not wish their people to be contaminated by false doctrines. The first class, those who wilfully tear down another's reputation to get gain, I think should be classed among the worst people on earth. The government handles a man who will take the life of another, and may make him forfeit his own life for that which he takes. I think next to the heinous sin of murder have men is the crime of murdering one's reputation to get gain. We and at least three women in the world who are guilty of this despicable thing. Such purveyors of falsehood have that within them which seems to feed upon the slander which is current among mankind. Oliver Goldsmith said that this spirit is like the tiger which, after having tasted human flesh, ever afterwards pursues men in order to satiate his appetite. So the slanderer who has once gratified his appetite with calumny, makes ever after the most agreeable feast upon murdered reputation. It is a difficult thing to oppose, indeed often it is best not to attempt to oppose it; for as one great thinker has said, "Slander has a strange constitution, the more you oppose it the more it grows." Thus, because of the activity of this class of people, and also because of the activity of those who choose to misinterpret the gospel of Jesus Christ and justify themselves in opposing it, we find throughout the world that the Church of Jesus Christ is spoken against, not because of what the Church is, but because of what people think it is. There is a vast difference between those two things.

    But, brethren and sisters, I am delighted to report to you that in spite of this condition the work of God is growing by leaps and bounds in the European mission. In Great Britain where I have spent much of my time during the past few years, I am pleased to report that the work is progressing, and that the outlook is most favorable. There 150 young men are devoting their time to the spreading of the truth and to the contradicting of these vile stories that have received such current circulation in that country. The same may be said of the other missions in Europe. In Holland the work is growing. Only last October on a Wednesday night, Amsterdam hall, just dedicated for the little branch there, was crowded to overflowing, and that is but typical of most of the meeting's held there.

    The French mission has just been organized, but in Switzerland the branches are growing, slowly it is true, but growing.

    In Belgium, part of the French mission, the work is increasing rapidly.

    In Syria, Brother Booth is devoting his life to the work among the Armenians, and the cause is in good hands. True we are not doing much missionary work there; but rather taking care of the little branch that is ours, waiting for the opening of that great mission.

    In the Scandinavian countries we find the same spirit of progress.

    In Germany the work is growing by leaps and bounds. You will be interested to know that last March in Koenigsberg when we held our conference, there were sitting on the stand in the beautiful gymnasium, part of a public school, seventy-five children who furnished music for the six hundred people assembled in a Sunday School session of conference. That night seventy-five adult voices furnished the music for the conference, the hall crowded to capacity, and as part of that service they rendered most efficiently and effectively part of Haydn's "Creation." On that same tour, on the following Tuesday at Stettin, we found the hall crowded to capacity at ten minutes to 7:00 o'clock. An excellent choir furnished the music. On our way to that service, publicly announced, we passed on our left the jail in which some of our elders had been incarcerated but a few years before, for preaching, or attempting to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. On the following Sunday in one of the large assembly rooms of a school house in Berlin there were assembled over one thousand children, Sunday School members, in one of the most inspirational Sunday School sessions I have ever attended. It is a significant fact that the street car officials of that great city, ran special cars for the benefit of the Latter-day Saint children. That afternoon we met in the Staat hall in Berlin, twelve hundred eighty-six people worshiping God there without molestation. Five minutes walk from where we met stands the jail in which President Clawson, my brother Thomas E., and some of their fellow-workers were incarcerated, a few years ago, for attempting to hold meetings such as we were holding there with permission of the Berlin authorities. On October 7, 1924, in Hamburg we held a most remarkable conference. On the Saturday night of which one hundred voices, nearly all of whom were members of the Church rendered Evan Stephen's "The Vision" in a most inspirational manner. Sunday night, as the concluding number of an inspirational, never-to-be-forgotten conference, that same choir sang "The Martyrs." These two great productions have been translated into German by one of our own brethren. The choir had been trained by one of our own elders.

    Saturday night the choir of one hundred voices was assisted by one hundred fifty children who sang "Praise to the man who communed with Jehovah." A man not in the Church was sitting by my side, and when those combined choirs sang so inspiringly and in perfect tune, so far as my ear could detect, I dropped my head because of the tears in my eyes, and I saw tears rolling down my companion's cheeks, impressed beyond expression. These are but a few incidents indicative of the progress now being made in the European mission. Another encouraging indication is the fact that leading papers in London and in Liverpool and other great cities of the European mission have refused to print slanderous stories about the so-called "Mormons." A few years ago these vile slanders were given free currency. I will add also that the Latter-day Saints in those missions are united with the elders in counteracting the falsehoods and vilifications and vituperations that are so generally accepted as true. Tracting societies, carried on by our own members, are quietly, though effectively, overcoming the ignorance that seems to be the cause of the misunderstanding against this great Church, which stands for all that the gospel of Jesus Christ contains.

    Recently I read a summary of the fundamental teachings of Christianity given by Albert P. Fitch, formerly professor in Amherst College, one of these modernists to whom President Grant has referred. The first fundamental in the spirit of Christianity he gives as the ethical and religious supremacy of Jesus Christ. This faith means believing what Jesus said regarding the moral and religious nature of God and man. The second fundamental he names as the acceptance of Christ's religious teaching and practice on the ground that it sets forth the principle which can be workable on our world, and the one principle potent enough to overcome our world. As the third condition in that teaching as to the nature and character of belief he begins with Jesus' God and he names the Father whom Jesus teaches as having redemptive love freely and supremely given, supremely exemplified in good will toward man. The fourth condition of this universal belief in Jesus means to be a son and a brother in this kingdom, this divine family which Jesus teaches; and to be a son and brother means to love our fellowmen the way God loves us.

    These this prominent writer gives as the fundamentals of Christianity. These the elders of the Church of Jesus Christ are preaching. Their aims are lofty, their purposes are sublime, and the world instead of speaking against them should encourage them and uphold them. Particularly this is true of the state of Utah. Every citizen of this state owes an obligation to the 2,000 missionaries who are out representing this state in honor. Why should anyone condemn the missionaries who are out preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ without price, paying their own expenses for teaching to the world the Fatherhood of God, the brotherhood of man, and bearing witness in kindness and love, that our Father has appeared to man, that his Son Jesus Christ has been raised from the tomb and now lives, bearing witness to the word of the immortality of the soul? Who should vilify people for standing on that sublime ground? They testify further that the Church of Christ is organized in its perfection, and if the world will accept that Church and apply its principles economically, educationally and socially, the brotherhood of man will be established and the millennium for which all honest souls are longing will he hastened.

    I testify to you here that God lives, that he is near to his servants, and will hear and answer them and guide them when they come to him. I know that my Redeemer lives. I know it! I know that he has spoken to man in this age. I know that his Church is established among men. God help us all to he true to it and help the world to see it as it is and not as ignorant men, and vicious men and women sometimes picture it, I pray, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

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