Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Woman’s Power to Remove the Cause of War

Woman’s Power to Remove the Cause of War

By: Ardis E. Parshall - July 14, 2008

Emma Ray Riggs McKay was in England with her husband, Elder David O. McKay, when an invitation came from the International Council of Women to represent the Relief Society at a joint meeting of the World Alliance for Promoting Friendship through the Churches, The World’s Young Woman’s Christian Association, and the World’s Christian Temperance Union, on the subject of preventing war.

Sister McKay submitted this report of the conference to the Relief Society.

This was intended as a call to women all over the world to realize their power to remove the causes of war and to realize as well their personal responsibility in this matter.

The marchioness of Aberdeen and Temair, who presided over this conference and who has attended many women’s conventions, declared that she “knows no convention that has reached the high standard that this convention had reached.”

The list of speakers included forty-eight eminent men and women from foreign lands. Among them were … [list omitted]

The hall was decorated with the flags of all nations, each one attached to a background of blue – the dark blue representing the international idea. Above the flag was the word, “Pax,” and above that was the “Dove of Peace.” These flags stood all around the walls of the room and against the pillars as well. They were very impressive.

Much stress was laid upon the necessity of a better understanding among nations and upon suggestive ways and means whereby this may be accomplished. Some of the most important ways and means are these:

1st. “The interchange of students is one of the greatest means of preventing war,” and in order that there may be interchange of many students, there should be a reduction of railway fare, passports made less expensive, living expenses reduced, and certificates and diplomas standardized.

2nd. There should be an interchange of post-graduates and international club houses where post-graduates may live, as, e.g., the Crosby House in London. The financial question is here again the difficulty.

3rd. There should be interchange of teachers and professors of universities. This requires no money except traveling expenses because the teachers volunteer for one year. There are at present one hundred Canadian teachers in London.

4th. “We must acquire an international mind” that we may understand the language, customs, and religions of other peoples. “Ignorance of others brings arrogance and dislike, and dislike causes war.” We must study individualities for the good of the whole.

5th. “Junior Red Cross with its international correspondence and Junior magazines is one of the greatest assets of peace we have.”

6th. “Peace can be established only on the basis of social justice.”

7th. “The minds of people must be adjusted. There are misunderstandings due to economic causes, attainments of raw materials, investments, etc. Since people live in about the same way everywhere, there should be a standardization of living.”

8th. “Drink is an international danger. Drink does not make for peace. We are going to stop war not by talking peace but by living peace. More money can be made by making grapes into raisins than by turning them into wine. Taverns in Great Britain are frequented by four thousand men a week. In twenty-five years the drink bills of the world would pay all the debts of the world.”

9th. there should be an international plan whereby women might be helped all over the world especially in regard to the problem of their employment during the responsibility of mother hood. “All women want courage, happiness and safety.”

10th. An international public health policy is necessary.

11th. “The failure of any nation to adopt humane conditions of labor is an obstacle in the way of other nations which desire to improve conditions in their own countries.”

12th. “International agreement is needed against opium and drugs. In 1808, India and China decided to stop raising opium. India has kept its word. China did for a while but has now reverted to the raising of opium.” There is need of a higher sense of honor among governments.

13th. “Treaties or agreements or obligations should be made known to the people where they are made and should be revised periodically.”

14th. “The cost of armaments is the direct cause of war. Sixty per cent of our money is paid out for war services. The very existence of armament brings war.” It is said that every war office on the globe is, however reluctantly, preparing for the next world war, and that, while the war regime lasts, any international complication may precipitate it. It was further stated that the next world war will be appalling, immeasurably more destructive and more horrible than the last, paralyzing our civilization for perhaps centuries to come.

15th. “Prevention must be based on spiritual conception. Christianity is not a failure. Christianity has never been tried. Christianity as it has been used is like a man fighting in battle with one hand behind his back.” We must walk in the light of the Lord, live up to the standards of the Christian church and be a community actuated by the idea of mutual service.”

“Women may prevent war if they look into the causes of it, and in decency, kindness and honor put forth an effort to remove them. To know these causes, more light must be thrown upon legislation. Governments are inhuman and do many iniquities in the dark. Light should penetrate the dark places. If women were told more, they would understand more and accomplish more.”

“Women must travel to get an intimate knowledge of the rivalries and jealousies of people. Young women should use their university training for commerce, trade and finance to help settle economic disputes.”

“Mothers must think peace, talk peace, and teach peace to their children by not buying guns, cannons, soldiers and other war playthings, but playthings that will encourage thoughts of peace. There is virtue in thinking good things, there is degradation in thinking evil things.”

“Women must stand up for an international court of justice and join hands to erect the stronghold of peace.”

I have given this brief summary merely to give an idea of the trend of the subjects treated at the thirteen sessions of the convention. Later, I hope to send you a verbatim copy of the addresses given. I attended every session but one, conference at Birmingham preventing me from being present at the public meeting. I enjoyed every meeting. The addresses were excellent, uplifting and highly instructive.

With one thing I am more deeply impressed than ever; and that is the potency and power of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to deal successfully with the great problems presented for solution by these leaders of world organizations. A number of them we have already solved or are solving them. Take for example the interchange of study and interchange of peoples. What better opportunity for studying languages, customs and ideas of peoples can be found than that afforded by our missionary system! Our young men go to all parts of the world. They harbor no prejudices, they hate no people, they have no selfish ends to serve. They go in love and thereby engender love.

So we might apply our social system free from class distinction; and our economic system, so full of opportunities and avenues for mutual service. Really, the only real solution of the problems in the minds of many of the speakers lies in the acceptance of nations and individuals of the Christ principles.

As one of the speakers said, “We must think peace, speak peace, and teach peace, to our children. We must fire the children with the belief in the greatness of their destiny, in being the generation that will cause wars to cease, by making effective the principles of the Sermon on the Mount, between nations as between individuals.”

[Emma Ray [Riggs] McKay, “Conference on Prevention of Causes of War,” The Relief Society Magazine, April 1924, 409-413]



  1. As an editor, journalist and woman this is story of interest to me.

    I would appreciate being contacted by someone in order to interview Ms. McKay regarding her comments her and to help her increase her voice. I have just posted a “blog” on the Culinary Corps and voluntourism at Donne Travels ( and would like to do more on Peace Travel, voluntourism and how we, as women, can reach out to the Internet World to speak a positive, and peaceful, message.

    Anyone with interests or desires to do this should feel free to contact me on how you would like to use the power of the Internet to promote peace.

    I have always felt that the internet, the communication it allows, could enact great change in our world.

    Please contact me. Thank you.

    Jacquie Kubin
    Donne Tempo Magazine

    Comment by Jacquie Kubin — July 14, 2008 @ 8:09 am

  2. I’m sorry, Ms. Kubin, to have misled you. This conference was in 1924. Mrs. McKay died almost 40 years ago.

    Posting these articles as if the writers were guest bloggers is a gimmick I use on Keepapitchinin.

    … but that confusion aside, I’m tickled that someone responded to the timeliness of the article.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — July 14, 2008 @ 8:28 am

  3. Ardis

    The fact that Ms. McKay was promoting this in 1924 is huge and a great lead off to a real initiative to promote piece through the Internet and Travel. I think my pitch and request is valid and would love to work with you, possibly we could take this to a private chat, to use the voice of Donne Tempo and Donne Travels to promote a message of peace through women.

    Please email directly at and I will share my phone with you and we can brainstorm a few ideas. When I started Donne Tempo one of my hopes was to create 12 Months to Peace a program that would include a grad appropriate curriculum to help parents, leaders, teachers, mentors to teach a non-violent conflict resolution and peace forward class.

    I hope to hear from you.

    Best, Jacquie

    Comment by Jacquie Kubin — July 14, 2008 @ 8:35 am

  4. Oh, for the days when Relief Society women were actively engaged in interfaith work and represented in national women’s organizations. I wrote some about Belle Spafford’s similar involvement in the National Council of Women starting in the 1940s. The YWMIA used to be a real mover and shaker in this arena. I long for a return to that kind of public (not necessarily political) involvement. Deep sigh.

    Comment by tona — July 14, 2008 @ 10:25 am

  5. Ardis, is the article in its entirety? And is the RS Magazine online in full text anywhere?

    Comment by tona — July 14, 2008 @ 10:29 am

  6. Tona, it’s the full article with two exceptions: the list of the names of attendants, and an introductory cover letter from Sis. McKay transmitting her report to Susa Young gates and thanking her for forwarding the invitation.

    To my knowledge the RS Magazine has been scanned and posted anywhere yet. BYU has a digital index of the Magazine, but beware that that index is horribly incomplete, picking up only the major articles and ignoring all those great reports from individual wards and other “minor” features.

    I picked this particular article because of the combination of a familiar author and the relevance of her topic to some favorite bloggernacle themes, but I could have picked from a great many other articles illustrating RS involvement in national and international women’s groups — you’re so right in calling it “active engagement.” I think that the greatest factor in curtailing this activity for the past generation is the move to Sunday block meetings. Just as Primary was gutted while retaining the name, the nature of Relief Society had to change because of its Sunday placement.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — July 14, 2008 @ 12:18 pm

  7. I used to love reading through my mother’s stacks of old Relief Society Magazines. I probably mostly read the fiction because my only specific memory is a short story having something to do with Amelia Earheart.

    Just a day or two ago, my husband asked if the Relief Society will have as much interesting history going forward into the next centuries as it did in its first century. Interesting question with no simple answer.

    Comment by Researcher — July 14, 2008 @ 6:49 pm

  8. Note to someone: digitize the RS Magazine. Please!

    Researcher, the history will be as interesting but sadly the published sources will be fewer.

    Comment by tona — July 15, 2008 @ 9:33 am

  9. Researcher, I think the history will be as interesting, but the vital projects will have moved away from the intermountain west, even away from the US, to places like Africa and parts of Asia. I get shivers when I glimpse some of what the RS is doing in those places, but we get ONLY glimpses, never a full enough story to suit me.

    And amen, tona. The lack of availability of the RS Magazine is the single most glaring omission in the digitization that has been done so far. I suppose that’s because the RS Mag was published only in the 20th century — it doesn’t have the early cachet of the Women’s Exponent, or the current relevance of the Ensign. The 20th century hasn’t yet become the “thing” for Mormon studies.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — July 15, 2008 @ 9:37 am

  10. I love the McKays!! There is just an inherent modernism about their lives, and I mean that in the most complementary way. I guess I am saying that both David and Emma were ahead of their times.

    Thanks for bringing this report to our attention. I support our U.S. soldiers tremendously (and have blogged on this theme repeatedly), but I absolutely hate war.

    Mormons are NOT pacifists, but neither are we warmongers.

    Comment by S.Faux — July 16, 2008 @ 8:24 pm

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