Our Greatest Obligation


David O. McKay, ninth President of the Church, was born September 8, 1873, at Huntsville, Utah. At the age of 32, in April 1906, he was sustained as a member of the Council of the Twelve. He served as second counselor in the First Presidency to both Presidents Heber J. Grant and George Albert Smith. Forty-five years to the day after he was ordained an apostle, he was sustained as President of the Church, on April 6, 1951. President McKay died on January 18,1970, at age 96, having lived longer than any other General Authority in this dispensation.

“Our Greatest Obligation” is taken from President McKay’s address in general conference in the Salt Lake Tabernacle on April 14, 1953.

“For what is a man profited,” said the Savior, “if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matt. 16:26.)

The first recorded question of the Savior after his baptism in the River Jordan was, “What seekest thou?” (see John 1:38). In Matthew 16:24–26 [Matt. 16:24–26], he again refers to the dominant incentive prompting man’s actions in daily life. If a man seeks wealth, worldly honors, pleasures, and all that riches and honor can bestow, but neglects and leaves undeveloped the eternal riches of his soul, what is he profited?

Thus does the Lord make a simple though majestic comparison of material and spiritual possessions.

On another occasion, in the Sermon on the Mount, he admonished his hearers to seek “first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matt. 6:33.) Seeking to establish the kingdom of God and to foster his righteousness should be the paramount purpose of life.

Leading statesmen and clear-thinking educators, in public addresses and in magazine articles, frequently refer to what they declare is an apparent spiritual poverty of the present age, and they cite the need for higher moral and ethical standards.

Latter-day Saints should always remember two paramount obligations: (1) to put and to keep their homes in order; and (2) to proclaim the divinity of Jesus Christ and the necessity of his teachings to the salvation of the human family.

“Our home joys,” says Pestalozzi (Swiss educational reformer, 1746–1827) “are the most delightful earth affords, and the joy of parents in their children is the most holy joy of humanity. It makes their hearts pure and good; it lifts them up to their Father in heaven.”

Such joys are possible for most men and women if high ideals of marriage and home are properly fostered and cherished.

But there are destructive termites of homes and some of these are backbiting, evil-speaking, and faultfinding on the part either of parents or of children. Slander is poison to the soul. In the ideal home, there is no slanderous gossip about schoolteachers, about public officials, or about Church officials. I am more grateful now, after years have come and gone, to my father, who with hands lifted said, “Now, no faultfinding about your teacher or anybody else.”

Quarreling and swearing are also evils that lower the standards of the ideal home. I cannot imagine a father or mother swearing in the presence of children or even letting it pass their lips.

Another deterrent to happiness in the home is the refusal to bear the full responsibility of motherhood and fatherhood. Members of the Church who are healthy and normal should not be guilty of restricting the number of children in the home, especially when such action is prompted by a desire for a good time, or for personal gain, or to have as much as the neighbors, or by a false impression that with only one or two children in a family they can be better educated. These are excuses that no one should harbor, for they are unjustified.

With the high ideal of marriage as revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith, members of the Church should have only one goal, and that is to always remember that marriage, the foundation of society, is ordained of God for the building of permanent homes in which children may be properly reared and taught the principles of the gospel.

The following, I am sure, will strike a responsive chord in the hearts of the majority of parents in the Church:

“Every period of human life is wonderful; the irresponsible age of childhood, the thrilling years of adolescence and courtship, the productive, struggling, burden-bearing era of parenthood; but the most wonderful time of life comes when the father and mother become close friends of their grown-up, successful sons and daughters, and can begin to enjoy their children’s children. …

“Youth is confined with restrictions, limitations, schedules, and dominations; adolescence is full of mysteries, longings, and defeats; early fatherhood is absorbed in struggles and in the solution of problems; extreme old age is shadowed by eternal mysteries; but middle age and normal old age, if life has been rightly and fully lived, are filled with the thrills, not merely of success, but of companionship with children and grandchildren.

“Every normal individual should complete the full cycle of human life with all its joys and satisfactions in natural order: childhood, adolescence, youth, parenthood, middle age, and the age of grandchildren. Each age has satisfactions which can be known only by experience. You must be born again and again in order to know the full course of human happiness. When the first baby is born, a mother is born, a father is born, and grandparents are born; only by birth can any of these come into being. Only by the natural cycle of life can the great progressive joys of mankind be reached.” (R. J. Sprague.)

We appeal to all members of the Church to set their homes in order and to enjoy the true happiness of harmonious family life.

As already stated, the second paramount obligation is to proclaim the divine mission of Jesus Christ. Nineteen hundred years ago, a valiant defender of that cause said:

“This is the stone which was set at nought of your builders, which is become the head of the corner.

“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:11–12.)

The man who thus declared Jesus to be the one and only safe leader and guide in the world was an ordinary fisherman who lived nearly two thousand years ago. He grew to manhood, experiencing life among common folk such as you and me. He was not a dreamer. He was thoroughly a man of action. He was fairly prosperous, possessed qualities of leadership, and above all, he was honest.

Circumstances drew Peter into close relationship with Jesus of Nazareth. For nearly three years he accompanied Jesus almost constantly. He became intimately acquainted with the Master. Jesus’ philosophy of life became Peter’s philosophy. Not suddenly, but gradually, through careful, critical observation and inward experience, Peter arrived at a firm and sublime conviction, expressed clearly and unhesitatingly when he declared before his accusers, the leaders of the Jewish Sanhedrin, “… there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”

Furthermore, members of the Church declare that the Church of Jesus Christ stands with Peter, with Paul, with James, and with all other apostles who accepted the resurrection not only as being literally true, but as being also the consummation of Christ’s divine mission upon the earth. Religious leaders since history began have taught virtue, temperance, self-control, service, obedience to righteousness and duty; some have taught a belief in one supreme ruler and in a hereafter; but only Christ broke the seal of the grave and revealed death as the door to immortality and eternal life. To the unimpeachable evidence the ancient apostles gave of the resurrection of our Lord we add the sublime declaration of the Prophet Joseph Smith:

“And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!” (D&C 76:22.)

As Christ lived after death, so shall the human family, each one taking that place in the next world which he or she merits through action during earthly life. Since love is as eternal as life, the message of the resurrection is the most comforting, the most glorious ever given to man; for when death takes a loved one from us, we can look into the open grave and say, He is not here; he is alive.

Happy homes give to their inhabitants a taste of heaven on earth; acceptance of the divinity of Christ’s mission and compliance with the principles of his gospel give assurance of immortality and eternal life.

I testify that a knowledge of his existence and of the truth of his gospel is the source of the greatest comfort and happiness to man.

May the day speedily come when honest, sincere men and women throughout the world may have in their souls this assurance.