Saturday, July 2, 2016

David O. McKay on the need for both contentment and progress

President David O. McKay (1873-1970) was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1906.  He served as a counselor in the First Presidency to Heber J. Grant and George Albert Smith beginning in 1945, then then as the president of the Church from 1951 to his death in 1970 at age 96.
"The spirit of peace is made up of two elements:
"The first is contentment—content with what we are and what we have. Contentment springs from within ourselves. It springs from our thoughts. Outward circumstances will be contributive to it, but it is our attitude toward those exterior things which will determine our contentment, and yet contentment alone is not sufficient.
"Somebody has said: 'Show me a perfectly contented man and I will show you a useless one.' So there must be some other element with contentment, some other virtue. What is it? Progress. Contentment and progress contribute to peace. If we are no better tomorrow than we are today, we are not very useful; we are untrue to ourselves and to our loved ones and to society.
"So, today we want to experience two things: contentment and progress—progress intellectually, progress physically, but above all, progress spiritually; and the cognizance that we grow, contributes to peace. Growth is an element in all life. Stop progressing and you retrogress. You cannot remain stationary."
- David O. McKay, dedicatory service of the Las Vegas Fifth and Sixth Wards chapel, 11/14/54
Click here to read the full talk

President McKay had a speaking style quite different from leaders we hear today. I can imagine his voice saying these words: "So there must be some other element with contentment, some other virtue. What is it? Progress." Asking, and then answering, a question was a technique I recall as he presented and developed his thoughts.

In today's world, so many struggle for the first half of President McKay's recommendation: feeling contentment, with "with what we are and what we have." That's a hard virtue for many to learn. Our world encourages us towards having more, increasing possessions, improving our status, but President McKay teaches that our attitude towards our possessions and status are so crucial. And to be pleased with where we are and what we are in life—a true self-concept based on deep self-understanding and divine potential.

But the interesting part of President McKay's message is the challenge to balance contentment with progress; to find the way to be happy with what and where and who we are, but yet to be pushing ahead to improve in various ways, particularly in spirituality. He testifies that "contentment and progress contribute to peace." An interesting message!

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