“Two Contending Forces” is a speech given by President David O. McKay on May 18, 1960, at Brigham Young University.
Author: David O. McKay
Type: Talk or Speech
President Wilkinson, members of the faculty, and students of the Brigham Young University: No one can face this audience of 10,000 students and friends without his soul being filled with emotion. It is difficult for me to keep back the tears. I have visited this school many times since Dr. Brimhall’s day, with Dr. Harris, Dr. McDonald and Dr. Wilkinson. I think I have never been more overwhelmed with a reception than this morning. The greatness of this institution, its opportunities, its responsibilities, one cannot fully realize.
I was due here two weeks ago, and had a theme to deliver which I thought was timely and appropriate, but I come with another theme this morning-Two Contending Forces. Those forces are known and have been designated by different terms throughout the ages. “In the beginning” they were known as Satan on the one hand, and Christ on the other.
In Joshua’s time they were called “gods of the Amorites,” for one, and “the Lord,” on the other. Paul spoke of “the works of the flesh” on the one hand, “fruits of the spirit” on the other. They are often spoken of as “selfishness” for one, “life of service,” the other. In these days, they are called “domination by the state,” on one hand, “personal liberty,” on the other; communism on one hand, free agency on the other.
As a text I say to you, “Choose you this day whom ye will serve.” (Josh. 24:15.)
Choice of Theme
Two incidents since this appointment was made have prompted me to choose this theme. One was a young girl, an unmarried mother, taken to the hospital recently, where she gave birth to a little boy whom she preferred never to see, saying, “It would be easier that way.” No mother stood by her side; very few knew where she had been living recently. A kind woman, a truly Christian woman, took care of her. The little baby boy was turned over to the Relief Society. He will never know his father. It is just as well-the human rat. He will never know his mother. Let us hope that some couple will be made happy by mothering and rearing and loving the unknown babe. That is one, the fruit, the result of one of the forces operative in this universe since the story of man.
The other President Wilkinson has referred to, the wreck of the summit conference last Monday. Two forces are operative. A great battle of ideas is in progress in’ the world today-has been for years. I want to say a few words about that a little later, and shall repeat much of what you know already because I shall quote from an instructor in this institution. There is no question, students, that we are living in what may be the most epoch-making period of all time. Scientific discoveries and inventions, the breaking down of heretofore approved social and moral standards, the uprooting of old religious moorings-all give evidence that we are witnessing one of those tidal waves of human thought which periodically sweep over the world and change the destiny of the human race.
In the beginning a being known as Satan came before the Father saying:
Behold, here am I. Send me . . . I will do it; [saving the human family who were to people this earth] wherefore, give me thine honor.
[Another-] But, behold, my Beloved Son, which was my Beloved and Chosen from the beginning, said unto me, Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.
Two Great Forces
There you have placed before you the two great forces.
Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down;
And he became Satan, yea, even the Devil, the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would hearken unto my voice. (Pearl of Great Price, Moses 4:3, 4.)
“Choose ye this day whom ye will serve.”
Let us look at the man who disrupted the great consultation of the leaders of the world. In his heart are the teachings of Karl Marx. You students who have heard know about the kind of life he lived, how his wife suffered, how his children starved. Here is what one man said about him:
Marx loved his own person much more than he loved his friends and apostles, and no friendship could hold water against the slightest wound to . . . his vanity. Marx will never forgive a slight to his person. You must worship him, make an idol of him, if he is to love you in return; you must at least fear him if he is to tolerate you. He likes to surround himself with pygmies, with lackeys, and flatterers. All the same, there are some remarkable men among his intimates. In general, however, one may say that in the circuit of Marx’s intimates there is very little brotherly frankness, but a great deal of machination and diplomacy. There is a sort of tacit struggle, and a compromise between the self-loves of the various persons concerned, and where vanity is at work there is no longer place for brotherly feeling. Everyone is on his guard, is afraid of being sacrificed, of being annihilated.
Marx is a chief distributor of honors, but is also the invariably perfidious and malicious, the never frank and open incitor to the persecution of those whom he suspects, or who had the misfortune of failing to show all the veneration he expects. As soon as he has ordered a persecution there is no limit to the baseness of infamy of the methods.
So wrote Mikhail Bakunin the first Russian to become interested in revolutionary activities, and a party pillar who fell under the purge.
Doctrine of Lenin
That same doctrine was advocated by Lenin who succeeded, who was a leader in the revolution in Russia. Note the same spirit:
We must hate. Hatred is the basis of communism. Children must be taught to hate their parents if they are not communists.
Listen to the amazing declaration of the former Russian commissar of education.
We must hate Christians and Christianity. Even the best of them must be considered our worst enemies. Christian love is an obstacle to the development of the revolution. Down with love of one’s neighbor! What we want is hate. Only then will we conquer the universe. (From “The Naked Communist” by W. Cleon Skousen, p. 288.)
That same spirit was manifest by a man by the name of Hitler, I quote from him:
In my great educative work, I am beginning with the young. Weakness has to be knocked out of them. . . . A violently active, dominating, intrepid, brutal youth-that is what I am after. There must be no weakness or tenderness in it. I want to see once more in its eyes the gleam of pride and independence of the beast of prey.
That is from “The Voice of Destruction,” pp. 251-252, by Herman Rauschning, confidant of Hitler and a member of the secret conclaves from 1932 to 1935.
Different View Point
Remember we were talking about two conflicting forces. You know the story of Hitler. Now, Khrushchev who, during his American tour last fall, according to The Salt Lake Tribune, said, “If anyone believes that our smiles involve abandonment of the teaching of Marx, Engels, and Lenin, he deceives himself poorly. Those who wait for that must wait until a shrimp learns to whistle.” That was 1959!
He spoke about a common goal. You who looked up read the other day finally hear that Communist goal means something different from what you and I have in mind when we speak about the millennium or a universal peace.
Unity in the Communist mind is voluntary submission to Communist discipline. This writer says: “To which force? Voluntary submission to Communist discipline.
When you speak of peace, the Communists mean the cessation of all opposition to Communism, the acceptance of a Communist world. Then, and only then, can there be peace. This alone is what peace means in Communist language. Once this is understood the utter falsity and hypocrisy of Communist references to peace becomes at once obvious.
I have mentioned these things simply to emphasize one dominant force which has as its ultimate achievement and victory-the destruction of capitalism, the destruction of the free agency of man which God has given him, and that destruction may be brought about-as advocated by Marx himself-in a brutal way.
What is the other force? It is just the opposite. Jesus said to the man who came and asked him which is the greatest law, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God and him only shalt thou serve, and the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”
When Marx was asked one time what was his object, he answered, “To dethrone God.”
Jesus, the other force, said: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matt. 22:37–40.)
Perhaps there was never a time in the world when these two forces faced each other as they did last Monday, as they are facing right today.
Now let us look at this second force. On a momentous occasion two thousand years ago, eleven men assembled near a mountain in Galilee-eleven humble, obscure men who had been chosen and ordained apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ. According to appointment, these men’ met the resurrected Christ who made what to them must have been a startling declaration. They had been with their master not yet three years and had been expressly enjoined by him to go not in the way of the Gentiles, to enter no city of the Samaritans, but to go rather to the lost sheep of the House of Israel. But at this meeting, as His final parting instructions, he opened their eyes to the final universality of the gospel by giving them this divine commission: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always even unto the end of the world.” (Matt. 28:19, 20.)
In the restricted experience of the eleven disciples, the idea of preaching Christ and his saving doctrine to any but members of their own race germinated very slowly. Indeed the Savior of men found it necessary to give another direct revelation to Peter, the chief apostle, before even Peter fully realized that the Gentiles “should hear the word of the gospel and believe.” When he heard that revelation and saw that they were entitled to it,
Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:
But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him. (Acts 10:34–35.)
However, as the light of truth dawned in the hearts of those eleven men, these earnest followers set about to give the gospel to the world, “Twelve simple men,” writes an English historian and novelist.
Twelve simple men, with only the wind to bear them over the seas, with only a few pence in their pockets and a shining faith in their hearts. They fell far short of their ideal. Their words were twisted and mocked; and false temples were built over their bones, in praise of a Christ they would have rejected. And yet, by the light of their inspiration many of the world’s loveliest things were created, and many of the world’s finest minds inspired. (From “The Fool Hath Said” by Beverly Nichols)
Can you not see many nations yet to hear the truth, students, Jew as well as Gentile India and China both awaking, Russia enveloped with communism-a new religious freedom must come. God will overrule it, for that people must hear the truth, and truth in simplicity. Truly there is much for the Church to do in the coming century!
A scientist who has been studying the process of the world, believing man came through long eras of evolution, reaches the same conclusion which Christ has given to us by revelation, and I thought I would quote him this morning:
Let every man remember that the destiny of mankind is inconquerable, and that it depends greatly upon his will to collaborate in the transcendent past. Let him remember that the law is and always has been to struggle; and that the fight has lost nothing of its violence by being transposed from the material on to the spiritual plane. Let him remember that his own dignity, his nobility as a human being must emerge from his efforts to liberate himself from his bondage and to obey his deepest aspirations.
Khrushchev would have us go back to the animal plane, eliminate God; dignify a human being as the only God to worship, by giving you a picture of such men as they hold up as leaders. But this scientist says, that even from his reason man has “to liberate himself from his bondage and to obey his deepest aspirations [the bondage of appetite and passions], and let him above all never forget that the divine spark is in him alone, and that he is free to disregard it, to kill it, or to come closer to God by showing his eagerness to work with him and for him.” (From “Human Destiny,” by Lecomte du Nouy.)
Mankind Must Choose
Students, two forces are at work. There might be a conflagration such as the world has never known Mankind will have to choose the one course or the other.
It is difficult, if not quite impossible, for one to say of anything with absolute certainty that “this is the best,” or “this is the worst.” If one were so to express himself, another with greater intelligence and more experience may say with much more accuracy, that something else is best, or some other thing the worst. It is, therefore, the better part of wisdom not to dogmatize or to speak with too much assurance of things about which there may be a divergence of opinion, and upon which one person’s judgment would be as weighty as another’s. It is somewhat presumptuous, therefore, ‘to point out specifically the noblest .calling in life, for as soon as it is named, someone may prove conclusively that we have used the superlative degree inadvisedly.
However, whatever its name, it is evident that man’s noblest work must be impregnated with the greatest of all forces, and that force is love. Furthermore, this power must be directed not for selfish purposes, not to achieve personal ends-to cause the downfall of that young girl, who might have joined the class of people described by Victor Hugo when he describes the state reached by Fantine. Do you remember? My heart bled the other day when I heard about that young girl. I want to give you a picture. Victor Hugo says:
The holy law of Jesus Christ governs our civilization, but it does not yet permeate it. It is said that slavery has disappeared from European civilization. That is a mistake. It still exists, but it preys now only upon woman, that is to say, upon grace-upon feebleness, upon beauty, upon maternity. This is not one of the least of man’s shames. (From “Los Miserables” by Victor Hugo.)
Furthermore, this power of love must be directed not for selfish purposes, I repeat, nor to achieve personal ends. Though self-preservation is the first law of nature, a calling that has in view only the preservation cf self cannot be called noble-a term that excludes all sordidness, and includes greatness of mind and generosity of soul.
The element, then, that makes true motherhood divine must also permeate that call or vocation which may be distinguished by the term, noblest. The most worthy calling in life, therefore, is that in which man can serve best his fellow man. It is not preaching; it is not teaching; it is not medicine; it is not engineering, nor any other vocation common among men. Each of these, though offering opportunities for service, may be followed by men actuated by the most selfish, the most sordid motives. The noblest aim in life is to strive to live to make other lives better and happier.
Browning sounds the keynote in Paracelsus when he says,
There is an answer to the passionate longings of the heart for fulness, and I knew it. And the answer is this: Live in all things outside yourself by love, and you will have joy. That is the life of God, it ought to be our life. In Him it is accomplished and perfect; but in all created things, it is a lesson learned slowly against difficulty.
Such a divine message was given to the Prophet Joseph Smith in the words, “Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.” (D&C 18:10.) Such is the philosophy expressed by the Redeemer in the seemingly paradoxical statement, “He that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” (Matt. 10:30.) The meaning of this becomes clear in the light of another passage which says, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matt. 25:40.)
To no other group of men in all the world is given a better opportunity to engage in the noblest calling in life than that which is afforded the elders in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and to the members of that Church, to establish salvation and peace to the extent that their individual efforts, their lives are dedicated, to make the world a better and fitter place for man, their talents and means are consecrated.
Just to be associated with men striving toward such an aim is a joy; and to assist them in their quest, an inspiration. Unselfishly, they are trying to serve their fellowmen in love. Thus far, at least, they are true followers of the Master; for “at the very heart of the Christian faith, the most sublime of its teachings and to him who penetrates its deepest sense, the most human, is this: To save lost humanity, the Invisible God came to dwell among us, in the form of man, and willed to make himself known by the single word-love.”
Young men and women, life is before you.
Two forces are operating, two voices are calling-one coming out from the swamps of selfishness and force, where success means death; and the other from the hilltops of justice and progress, where even failure brings glory. Two lights are seen on your horizon-one, the last fading marshlight of power, and the other the slowly rising sun of human brotherhood. Two ways lie open for you-one leading to an even lower and lower plane, where are heard the cries of despair and the curses of the poor, where manhood shrivels and possession rots down the possessor; and the other leading to the highlands of the morning, where are heard the glad shouts of humanity, and where honest effort is rewarded with immortality. (John P. Altgeld.)
“Choose you this day whom ye will serve!”
You saw the two forces facing each other last Monday. They are facing it today. God alone can control the outcome.
To the thousands, the ten thousand students assembled here, I pray with an earnest heart, God keep you away from the low, seeking, scheming plans of him 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 you to sustain and to fight for and die for, if necessary, the light of Christ. It says: “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart . . . and with all thy mind, and . . . strength . . . and . . . thy neighbour as thyself.” (Mark 12:30–31.)
I pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.