David O. McKay: Wikis


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David O. Mckaypic.gif
David O. McKay
Full name David Oman McKay
Born September 8, 1873(1873-09-08)
Place of birth Huntsville, Utah Territory
Died January 18, 1970 (aged 96)
Place of death Salt Lake City, Utah
LDS Church President
Ordained April 9, 1951 (aged 77)
Predecessor George Albert Smith
Successor Joseph Fielding Smith
LDS Church Apostle
Called by Joseph F. Smith
Ordained April 9, 1906 (aged 32)
Reason for ordination Resignation of Matthias F. Cowley and John W. Taylor from the Quorum of the Twelve; death of Marriner W. Merrill[1]
End of term January 18, 1970 (aged 96)
Reason for end of term Death
Reorganization at end of term Boyd K. Packer ordained
LDS Church General Authority
Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
Called by Joseph F. Smith
Start of term April 9, 1906 (aged 32)
End of term October 11, 1934 (aged 61)
End reason Called as Second Counselor in the First Presidency
Second Counselor in the First Presidency
Called by Heber J. Grant
Start of term October 11, 1934 (aged 61)
End of term April 4, 1951 (aged 77)
End reason Dissolution of First Presidency on the death of George Albert Smith
President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
Start of term August 8, 1950 (aged 76)
End of term April 9, 1951 (aged 77)
End reason Became President of the Church
President of the Church
Start of term April 9, 1951 (aged 77)
End of term January 18, 1970 (aged 96)
End reason Death

David Oman McKay (September 8, 1873 – January 18, 1970) was the ninth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), serving from 1951 until his death. Ordained an apostle and member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1906, McKay was a general authority for nearly sixty-four years, longer than anyone else in LDS Church history.


Early life

The third child of David McKay and Jennette Eveline Evans McKay, David Oman McKay was born on his father’s farm in Huntsville, Utah Territory, about 10 miles east of Ogden. His mother, Jennette, was a Welsh immigrant from Merthyr Tydfil in south Wales. McKay’s father was a Scottish immigrant and was called on a two-year church mission to Scotland in 1880 after David O. McKay’s two older sisters died. The young David McKay took on responsibilities to help his mother.

McKay graduated from the University of Utah in 1897 as valedictorian and class president. Immediately afterward he was called on a mission to Great Britain. Like his father, he presided over the Scottish district of the church.

Upon his return in fall 1899, McKay taught at the high school level LDS Weber stake academy and became principal in 1902. He married Emma Ray Riggs in the Salt Lake Temple on January 2, 1901. McKay planned on a career in education and educational administration until called to a full time church position in 1906. Even though he became a member of the Quorum of the 12 in 1906, McKay did not end his service as principal of the Weber Stake Academy until 1908 when he was replaced by Wilford M. McKendrick.[2]

In 1905, Apostles John W. Taylor and Matthias F. Cowley resigned from the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles due to disagreement over the manifesto forbidding polygamy. In early 1906, Apostle Marriner W. Merrill died. With three vacancies in the quorum, George F. Richards, Orson F. Whitney and David O. McKay were called in the April General Conference of 1906. David O. McKay was only 32 at the time.

Despite his church position, McKay stayed active in education. He continued serving as principal of the academy until 1908, and served on the Weber school's board of trustees until 1922 and on the University of Utah's board of regents from 1921 to 1922.

McKay enjoyed a long personal friendship with John F. Fitzpatrick, publisher of The Salt Lake Tribune (1924-1960). They would meet once a week for breakfast to discuss the betterment of the state of Utah. Fitzpatrick, the architect of the Newspaper Agency Corporation, a joint operating aggreement between The Salt Lake Tribune (Kearns Corporation) and the LDS owned Deseret News consulted extensively with McKay to form this mutually beneficial business in 1952..[3]

Member of the Quorum of the Twelve

In October 1906, McKay became an assistant to the superintendent of the Deseret Sunday School Union. At the time Joseph F. Smith was both president of the Church and Superintendent of the Sunday School, so much of the actual running of the organization was performed by McKay. After Smith died McKay became the Sunday School superintendent.

In 1920, the First Presidency assigned McKay to make a world-wide tour of the missions of the church with Hugh J. Cannon. They dedicated China for the preaching of the gospel, traveled to Hawaii where McKay first had the vision that led to the founding of BYU–Hawaii many years later, and traveled to Samoa, Tonga, New Zealand and Palestine. In Palestine they met up with Wilford Booth and visited the Armenian Latter-day Saints. They made it back to Utah on Christmas Eve, 1921.

From 1923 until 1925 McKay served as president of the church's European Mission, headquartered in Britain. In this capacity he had direct responsibility over all church functions in the British Isles and supervisory functions over mission presidents on the European continent. It was while in this position that McKay first used the slogan "every member a missionary".

In 1934, McKay was called as second counselor in the First Presidency by Heber J. Grant. He also served as second counselor to George Albert Smith.[4]

Influence on education

Within the leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, McKay maintained his focus on education. As General Superintendent of the church's Sunday School organization from 1918 to 1934, McKay built LDS seminary buildings by public high schools throughout the state of Utah. Adjacent seminary buildings allowed students to take LDS religious courses along with their secular high school education. McKay also transferred three LDS colleges to the state of Utah in the 1920s: Snow College, Weber State University and Dixie College. He guided the remaining LDS school in Utah, Brigham Young University into a full four-year university. McKay was the fourth Commissioner of Church Education in 1920 and 1921.

Interestingly, the State of Utah underfunded the institutions and in 1953 the governor, J. Bracken Lee, offered to give them back to the LDS Church. McKay, then president of the church said he'd accept them, but the proposal failed on voter referendum.

Besides church education, McKay stressed missionary work, and traveled Europe extensively. He promoted the motto “every member a missionary.”

Heber J. Grant chose McKay to serve as Second Counselor in the First Presidency in 1934. He served in the presidency under church presidents Heber J. Grant and George Albert Smith until 1951. In 1950 he became President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, that is, the senior apostle. He was ordained president of the church on April 9, 1951 upon Smith's death.

In honor of his years of dedicated service as an educator, the Brigham Young University School of Education was named the McKay School of Education.

As President of the Church

At 77 years, McKay would be president of the LDS Church for 19 years until his death. In this period, the number of members and stakes in the Church nearly tripled, from 1.1 million to 2.8 million, and 184 to 500 respectively. (As of year-end 2005, there are about 12.6 million members and 2,700 stakes.)

McKay was outspoken in his opposition to communism, which he saw as philosophically opposed to faith given its atheist underpinnings and its denial of freedom of choice. Furthermore, communist nations generally forbid proselytizing by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Under McKay's administration, the church's stance on Africans holding the priesthood was softened. Beginning in the mid-1950s, members of suspected African descent no longer needed to prove their lineage was not African. Instead the church allowed dark-skinned members to hold the priesthood unless it was provable they were African. This policy made proselytizing and priesthood ordination much easier in South America and other racially mixed areas like South Africa. Blacks of verifiable African descent (including most in the US) were not allowed to hold the priesthood until eight years after the 1970 death of McKay. That happened under the leadership of Spencer W. Kimball in 1978.

Under the auspices of the First Presidency, the Church of Jesus Christ spearheaded the Priesthood Correlation Program in 1961. By the 1970s priesthood quorums directed women-led organizations like the Relief Society at all levels. Such organization became known as auxiliaries. Priesthood correlation continues to be a feature of the LDS Church.

Famous film director Cecil B. DeMille consulted with McKay during the production of The Ten Commandments. They formed a friendship that would last until DeMille's death. McKay invited DeMille to BYU, where he delivered a commencement address in 1957.

David O. McKay kept a steady pace of travel until he entered his 90s. His deteriorating health led to the appointment of an additional counselor to the first presidency, as the existing leaders were increasingly infirm and often unable to preside at church meetings. He died on January 18, 1970, at age 96 and was buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery.

Grave markers of David O. McKay

Family ties

McKay has multiple family ties to other influential Latter-day Saints and Utahns. His younger brother, Thomas Evans McKay (1875–1958) was a prominent missionary and mission leader for the LDS Church in Switzerland and Germany. He also served as an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles between 1941 and 1958.

McKay's niece, Fawn McKay Brodie, was the author of the controversial book No Man Knows My History, a highly critical biography of Church founder Joseph Smith, Jr. which led to her eventual excommunication from the LDS Church.

McKay's oldest son was David Lawrence McKay, who was the eighth general superintendent of the LDS Church's Sunday School organization. When his father was ill, David Lawrence McKay often read his father's sermons during general conference.

One of his granddaughters is the wife of US Senator Robert Foster Bennett, and another grandchild, Alan Ashton, was the co-founder and half-owner of early software titan WordPerfect, which was eventually sold off to Novell and then to Corel.

A building at Utah Valley University (formerly Utah Valley State College) in Orem, the David O. McKay Events Center, was named for him after an anonymous multimillion dollar contribution was given in his honor.


  • Prediction of the fall of Russian communism: "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." (At Brigham Young University, reported in Church News, May 28, 1960.)
  • "Every member a missionary!" (Conference Report, Apr. 1959, p. 122.)
  • "No other success can compensate for failure in the home." (Quoted from J. E. McCullough, Home: The Savior of Civilization [1924], 42; Conference Report, Apr. 1935, p. 116.)


  • McKay, David O. (1964). Ancient Apostles. Deseret Book.  
  • McKay, David O. (1955). Cherished Experiences from the Writings of President David O. McKay. compiled by Clare Middlemiss. Deseret Book.  
  • McKay, David O. (1953). Gospel Ideals: Selections from the Discourses of David O. McKay. selected by G. Homer Durham. Improvement Era.  
  • McKay, David O. (1959). Home Memories of President David O. McKay. compiled by Llewelyn R. McKay. Deseret Book.  
  • McKay, David O. (1967). Man May Know for Himself: Teachings of President David O. McKay. compiled by Clare Middlemiss. Deseret Book.  
  • McKay, David O. (1973). "My Young Friends...": President McKay Speaks to Youth. Bookcraft.  
  • McKay, David O. (1957). Pathways to Happiness. compiled by Llewelyn R. McKay. Bookcraft.  
  • McKay, David O. (1960). Secrets of a Happy Life. compiled by Llewelyn R. McKay. Prentice Hall.  
  • McKay, David O. (1971). Stepping Stones to an Abundant Life. compiled by Llewelyn R. McKay. Deseret Book.  
  • McKay, David O. (1962). Treasures of Life. compiled by Clare M. Middlemiss. Deseret Book.  
  • McKay, David O. (1966). True to the Faith: From the Sermons and Discourses of David O. McKay. compiled by Llewelyn R. McKay. Bookcraft.  
  • McKay, David O. (1999). Stan Larson and Patricia Larson.. ed. What E'er Thou Art Act Well Thy Part: The Mission Diaries of David O. McKay. Blue Ribbon Books.  
  • McKay, David O. (2004). Teachings of Presidents of the Church: David O. McKay. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.   LDS Church publication number 36492.


  1. ^ George F. Richards and Orson F. Whitney were called at the same time as McKay to fill the three vacancies in the Quorum of the Twelve.
  2. ^ Andrew Jenson. Encyclopedic History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1941) p. 931
  3. ^ Malmquist, O.N.:The First 100 Years, pp.374-380.
  4. ^ Richard O. Cowan. The Church In The Twentieth Century. (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1985) p. 235–237, this constitutes the source for this section


External links

Religious titles
Preceded by
George Albert Smith
President of the LDS Church
April 9, 1951–January 18, 1970
Succeeded by
Joseph Fielding Smith
Preceded by
George F. Richards
President of the
Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

August 8, 1950–April 9, 1951
Succeeded by
Joseph Fielding Smith
Preceded by
Orson F. Whitney
Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
April 9, 1906–April 9, 1951
Succeeded by
Anthony W. Ivins
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From Wikiquote

Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah

David Oman McKay (8 September 187318 January 1970) 9th President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Latter-Day Prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, also known as the "Mormon Church".


  • An Unsatisfied Appetite for Knowledge Means Progress and Is the State of a Normal Mind
    • Title of Valedictorian address (1897)
  • Freedom of choice is more to be treasured than any possession earth can give.
    • LDS General Conference Report (April 1950) page 32
  • Next to life we express gratitude for the gift of free agency. When thou didst create man, thou placed within him part of thine omnipotence and bade him choose for himself. Liberty and conscience thus became a sacred part of human nature. Freedom not only to think, but to speak and act is a God-given privilege.
    • Improvement Era (October 1958) pp 718-719
  • Next to the bestowal of life itself, the right to direct that life is God’s greatest gift to man.... Freedom of choice is more to be treasured than any possession earth can give. It is inherent in the spirit of man. It is a divine gift to every normal being... Everyone has this most precious of all life’s endowments--the gift of free agency--man’s inherited and inalienable right.
    • Improvement Era (February 1962) p. 86
  • The rising sun can dispel the darkness of night, but it cannot banish the blackness of malice, hatred, bigotry, and selfishness from the hearts of humanity. Happiness and peace will come to earth only as the light of love and human compassion enter the souls of men.
    It was for this purpose that Christ, the Son of righteousness, 'with healing in his wings,' came in the Meridian of Time. Through him wickedness shall be overcome, hatred, enmity, strife, poverty, and war abolished. This will be accomplished only by a slow but never-failing process of changing men's mental and spiritual attitude. The ways and habits of the world depend upon the thoughts and soul-convictions of men and women. If, therefore, we would change the world, we must first change people's thoughts. Only to the extent that men desire peace and brotherhood can the world be made better. No peace even though temporarily obtained, will be permanent, whether to individuals or nations, unless it is built upon the solid foundation of eternal principles.
    • LDS General Conference (October 1964)

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