Gordon B. Hinckley, Conference Report, October 1965, pp. 50-54
I am aware that I speak to many times more outside this historic building than are here assembled. I seek the inspiration of the Lord that my words may find reception in your hearts.
One of the fascinating and challenging scenes of this season is the procession of millions of young men and women returning to universities. One senses not only their great expectations, but also their fears and frustrations. Others of their age are depressed by the fact that they are being drafted into the armed services to form a vast military reserve while their associates on active duty are involved in an undeclared but nonetheless real and bloody war in a distant and strange land.
Frustrating Time for Youth
No one need be reminded that this is a frustrating time for youth. Many find themselves in rebellion against the practices and institutions of our day. They are sincere in their discontent. They hunger for something better.
They have come to realize that there are values which money cannot buy. They miss the stability of old-fashioned home life; they hunger for a more personal relationship with teachers who might challenge their inquisitive minds. Many are disillusioned over old standards of patriotism and loyalty. Even in the churches too many have found themselves worshiping a dead ritual rather than the Living God. They have hungered for bread and have been given a stone (Matt. 7:9).
Those of you who witnessed or read of the Berkeley riots last spring, and lesser riots at other schools, cannot minimize the seriousness of the plight in which thousands of our young people find themselves.
I cannot agree with much of what they have done to voice their complaints, but I can agree that many of them deserve something better than they are getting. They are being cheated—by themselves in part—but more so by us their parents, their teachers, their leaders. They are entitled to more, and ours is the obligation to offer it. And so, I should like to speak to those of my own generation and propose in great earnestness a charter for youth based on the gospel which we espouse.
It is a four-point charter. It is a bill of entitlement, setting forth briefly some of those priceless values we owe every young American, and the youth of the world. They are—
1. A home to grow in.
2. An education worth striving for.
3. A land to be proud of.
4. A faith to live by.
A Home to Grow In
I mention first a home to grow in. I recently read an article written by a young man who roamed the Berkeley campus and its environs. His descriptions were clever, but his illustrations were tragic. He told of a girl, a student from an affluent home. Her father was a man of means, an executive of a large corporation, loyal to the company, loyal to his club, loyal to his party, but unwittingly a traitor to his family. Her mother had saved the civic opera, but had lost her children. The daughter, a child of promise, had become entangled in a student revolt, and without an anchor, had quit school, and had drifted to the beatnik crowd, her will-o'-the-wisp satisfactions coming only from nights of reveling and days of rebellion.
Of course, her father mourned and her mother wept. They blamed her, evidently unaware of their own miserable example of parenthood which had done much to bring her to the tragic circumstances in which she found herself.
As I read that account there passed through my mind the classic statement uttered at this pulpit by President McKay—"No other success can compensate for failure in the home."
It is the rightful heritage of every child to be part of a home in which to grow—to grow in love in the family relationship, to grow in appreciation one for another, to grow in understanding of the things of the world, to grow in knowledge of the things of God.
I was recently handed these statistics taken from the county records of one of our Southwest communities. In 1964 in this county of which I speak, there were 5807 marriages and 5419 divorces, almost one divorce for every marriage. Can we expect stability out of instability? Is it any wonder that many of our youth wander in rebellion when they come from homes where there is no evidence of love, where there is a lack of respect one for another, where there is no expression of faith? We hear much these days of the Great Society, and I do not disparage the motives of those who espouse it, but we shall have a great society only as we develop good people, and the source of good people is good homes.
It was said of old, "Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it" (Ps. 127:1).
Our children deserve such a home in which to grow. I am not speaking of the architecture or the furnishings. I am speaking of the quality of our family life. I am grateful that we as a Church have as a basic part of our program the practice of a weekly family home evening. It is a significant thing that in these busy days thousands of families across the world are making an earnest effort to consecrate one evening a week to sing together, to instruct one another in the ways of the Lord, to kneel together in prayer, there to thank the Lord for his mercies and to invoke his blessings upon our lives, our homes, our labors, our land.
I think we little estimate the vast good that will come of this program. I commend it to our people, and I commend it to every parent in the land and say that we stand ready to assist you who may not be of our faith. We shall be happy to send you suggestions and materials on how to conduct a weekly family home evening, and I do not hesitate to promise you that both you and your children will become increasingly grateful for the observance of this practice. It was John who declared: "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth" (3 Jn. 1:4). This will be your blessing.
And it was Isaiah who said: ". . . all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children" (Isa. 54:13).
We cannot afford to disregard the sacred mandate laid upon us to teach our children, first by the example of our own living, and secondly, by those precepts which, if followed, will bring peace to their lives. Every child is entitled to the blessing of a good home.
An Education Worth Striving For
I move to the second premise of this charter for youth—an education worth striving for. Time will permit little more than a brief mention of a few observations.
Education has become our largest business. On the basis of economics alone, it is larger than steel, or automobiles, or chemicals. On the basis of its influence upon our society, its impact is incalculable. Its very size, particularly in our universities, has brought into relief its most serious problem—a lack of communication between teacher and student, and a consequent lack of motivation of those who come to be taught.
A recent article in one of our national magazines contained this statement from a college teacher: ". . . there has hardly been a time, in my experience, when students needed more attention and patient listening to by experienced professors than today. The pity is that so many of us retreat into research, government contracts, and sabbatical travel, leaving counsel and instruction to junior colleagues and graduate assistants . . . What is needed are fewer books and articles by college professors and more cooperative search by teacher and taught for an authority upon which to base freedom and individuality." (J. Glenn Gray, Harper's Magazine, May 1965; p. 59.)
I am aware of the "publish or perish" pressure under which teachers work in some of our universities, but I should like to say to these teachers that your learned monographs will yield little satisfaction as the years pass if you discover that while you published, your students perished.
The great thoughts, the great expressions, the great acts of all time deserve more than cursory criticism. They deserve a sympathetic and an enthusiastic presentation to youth, who in their hearts hunger for ideals and long to look at the stars. Nor is it our responsibility as teachers to destroy the faith of those who come to us, it is our opportunity to recognize and build on that faith. If God be the author of all truth, as we believe, then there can be no conflict between true science, true philosophy, and true religion. And, further, as George Santayana has said,
"It is not wisdom to be only wise,
And on the inward vision close the eyes,
But it is wisdom to believe the heart."
Your students deserve more than your knowledge. They deserve and hunger for your inspiration. They want the warm glow of personal relationships. This always has been the hallmark of a great teacher "who is the student's accomplice in learning rather than his adversary." This is the education worth striving for and the education worth providing.
A Land To Be Proud of
I move to the next—a land to be proud of. Congress recently passed a law inflicting heavy penalties for the willful destruction of draft cards. That destruction was essentially an act of defiance, but it was most serious as a symptom of a malady that is not likely to be cured by legislation. Patriotism evidently is gone from the hearts of many of our youth.
Perhaps this condition comes of lack of knowledge, a provincialism that knows nothing else and scoffs at what little it knows. Perhaps it comes of ingratitude. This attitude is not new. Joshua, speaking for the Lord, doubtless had in mind this same indifference when he said to a new generation that had not known the trials of the old: ". . . I have given you a land for which ye did not labour, and cities which ye built not, and ye dwell in them; of the vineyards and oliveyards which ye planted not do ye eat" (Josh. 24:13).
Those who have paid in toil and tears for their inheritance have loved the land on which they lived. The forebears of many of those assembled in this Tabernacle today walked the long trail over the prairie and the mountains. In these valleys they grubbed and toiled to wrest a living from the desert. They came to love that for which they labored, and a great patriotism filled their souls.
We shall not build love of country by taking away from our youth the principles which made us strong—thrift, initiative, self-reliance, and an overriding sense of duty to God and to man.
A terrible price has been paid by those who have gone before us, this that we might have the blessings of liberty and peace. I stood not long ago at Valley Forge, where George Washington and his ragged army spent the winter of 1776. As I did so, I thought of a scene from Maxwell Anderson's play in which Washington looks on a little group of his soldiers, shoveling the cold earth over a dead comrade, and says grimly, "This liberty will look easy by and by when nobody dies to get it."
How we need to kindle in the hearts of youth an old-fashioned love of country and a reverence for the land of their birth. But we shall not do it with tawdry political maneuvering and enormous handouts for which nothing is given in return.
Love of country is born of nobler stuff—of the challenge of struggle that makes precious the prize that's earned.
This is a good land, declared by the Lord in the scripture in which we believe to be ". . . a land . . . choice above all other lands" (1 Ne. 2:20), governed under a constitution framed under the inspiration of the Almighty.
"Breathes there the man, with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
This is my own, my native land!"
(Sir Walter Scott, from "The Lay of the Last Minstrel," Canto VI, st. 1.)
This is what youth needs—pride of birth, pride of inheritance, pride in the land of which each is a part.
A Faith To Live By
And now the fourth premise of my charter—a faith to live by.
It was said of old that "where there is no vision, the people perish" (Prov. 29:18). Vision of what? Vision concerning the things of God, and a stem and unbending adherence to divinely pronounced standards. There is evidence aplenty that young people will respond to the clear call of divine truth, but they are quick to detect and abandon that which has only a form of godliness but denies the power thereof (2 Tim. 3:5), "teaching for doctrines the commandments of men" (Matt. 15:9; see JS—H 1:19).
I have sincere respect for my brethren of other faiths, and I know that they are aware of the great problem they face in a dilution of their teachings as some try to make their doctrine more generally acceptable. Dr. Robert McAffee Brown, professor of religion at Stanford, was recently quoted as saying:
"Much of what is going on at present on the Protestant scene gives the impression of being willing to jettison whatever is necessary in order to appeal to the modern mentality . . .
"It is not the task of Christians to whittle away their heritage until it is finally palatable to all." (The Daily Herald, [Provo, Utah], August 12, 1965, p. 13-A.)
To this we might add that what is palatable to all is not likely to be satisfying to any, and particularly to a generation of searching, questioning, seeking, probing young men and women.
In all the change about them, they need a constancy of faith in unchanging verities. They need the testimony of their parents and their teachers, of their preachers and their leaders that God our Eternal Father lives and rules over the universe; that Jesus is the Christ, his Only Begotten in the flesh, the Savior of the world, that the heavens are not sealed; that revelation comes to those appointed of God to receive it; that divine authority is upon the earth.
I know that young men and women will respond to this faith and this challenge. We have nearly twelve thousand of them today serving across the world as missionaries. Their strength is a certain faith. Their cause is the cause of Christ, the Prince of peace. Their declaration is a testimony that God has again spoken from the heavens. Their ministry is in the service of their fellowmen. Their joy, like that of the Master, is in the soul that repenteth (D&C 18:13).
I have been with them in the muddy back streets of Korea and in the crowded roads of Hong Kong. I have been with them in the towns and cities of America. I have been with them in the great capitals and the quiet villages of Europe. They are the same everywhere, serving for two or more years at their own expense in the cause of the Master and of mankind.
I earnestly hope that if there be any among those who are listening this day at whose door a Mormon missionary may knock, you will welcome him and listen. You will find him to be a young man with a faith to live by and a conviction to share. You will find him to be a happy young man, alert and lively, unashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ (Rom. 1:16) and with a capacity to explain the reason for the faith that is within him (1 Pet. 3:15).
And as you learn to know him better, you will discover that he likely grew up in a home where there was love and virtue, patience and prayer; that he was attending school when he left for his mission and hopes to return to sit at the feet of good counselors and able teachers and partake of wisdom and knowledge mixed with faith; that with a great inheritance from forebears who pioneered the wilderness for conscience' sake, he loves the land of which he is a part, and that he carries in his heart a certain quiet conviction of the living reality of God and the Lord Jesus Christ and of the assurance that life is eternal and purposeful.
Would that every young man and woman in the land might be blessed to develop and live under such a charter for youth—that each might have a home in which to grow, an education worth striving for, a land to be proud of, a faith to live by.
We their parents, their teachers, their leaders, can help them. God help us so to do that we may bless their lives and in so doing bless our own, I humbly pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.