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David O. McKay

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David O. McKay[1] was the ninth President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He served in this position from 1951 until his death 20 years later.

David O. McKay, Mormon Propet
David O. McKay, Mormon Propet 1951-1971

David Oman McKay was born on September 8, 1873. He was the third child of David and Jennette Evans McKay. When he was seven, multiple trials came to the McKay family. His two older sisters, Margaret and Ellena died within a few days of each other. Then a year later, David’s father was called on a mission to Scotland. His father was concerned about leaving his wife and young son to take care of the farm alone, especially since his wife was expecting. David’s mother encouraged his father to accept the call: “Of course you must accept,” she told David’s father. “You need not worry about me. David and I will manage things nicely!” The family was blessed while David’s father was gone, and the farm prospered.

At the age of fifteen, David O. McKay was called to be the Sunday School secretary, then in 1893, he was called to be a teacher in the Sunday School. It was here that David O. McKay first discovered the great love he had for teaching, a love that continued through his life.

When David O. McKay was about 20 his Grandmother gave a gift of $2,500 to each of her children. David’s mother was adamant that “every cent of this [money] goes into the education of our children.” So David and three of his siblings left to attend the University of Utah. While there David O. was the president of his class, valedictorian, and played on the university’s first football team. While at the University of Utah, David O. McKay also met his future wife, Emma Ray Riggs.

In 1897, David O. McKay was called on a mission to Great Britain, then in 1898, he was called to preside over the missionaries of Scotland. While there he happened upon an old building bearing the words "Whate'er Thou Art, Act Well Thy Part." The words stayed with him throughout his life. He returned from his mission in 1899, and in 1901 he and Emma Ray Riggs were the first couple to be married in the 20th century in the Salt Lake City Temple.

David O. McKay served as a talented and dedicated educator for most of his life. He was the principal of Weber State Academy, where he emphasized the importance of women gaining an education when it was not an important issue to many. He served in the Church’s Sunday School program, where he organized lessons. His teaching style became well known.

On April 9, 1906, David O. McKay was ordained as an apostle; he was only 32. He was asked to direct the Sunday School program and wrote one of the first Sunday School lesson manuals. He continued writing lessons and working with the Sunday School program, even while he was President of the Church.

Starting in 1934, David O. McKay served as a counselor in the First Presidency to both Heber J. Grant and George Albert Smith. Then with the passing of George Albert Smith, David O. McKay was called as the Prophet and President of the Church on April 9, 1951. Under his direction, the first teaching plan for full-time missionaries was introduced, the first language training institute for missionaries was opened, and the idea of “every member a missionary” was stressed. With these efforts, the number of stakes in the Church doubled.

Quotes from President David O. McKay

  • "Day by day, hour by hour, man builds the character that will determine his place and standing among his associates throughout the ages.... More important than riches, more enduring than fame, more precious than happiness is the possession of a noble character. Truly it has been said that the grand aim of man’s creation is the development of a grand character, and grand character is by its very nature the product of a probationary discipline."
"Man’s Soul Is As Endless As Time," Instructor, January 1960
  • “Generally there is in man a divinity which strives to push him onward and upward. We believe that this power within him is the spirit that comes from God. Man lived before he came to this earth, and he is here now to strive to perfect the spirit within. At sometime in his life, every man is conscious of a desire to come in touch with the Infinite. His spirit reaches out for God. This sense of feeling is universal, and all men ought to be, in deepest truth, engaged in the same great work—the search for and the development of spiritual peace and freedom.”
Conference Report, Oct. 1963
  • “It is glorious when you can lie down at night with a clear conscience that you have done your best not to offend anyone and have injured no one. You have tried to cleanse your heart of all unrighteousness, and if you put forth precious effort you can sense as you pray to God to keep you that night that He accepts your effort. You have a sense that you are God's child, a person whose soul God wants to save. You have the strength to resist evil. You also have the realization that you have made the world better for having been in it. These and countless other virtues and conditions are all wrapped up in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Man May Know for Himself, comp. Clare Middlemiss, 1967
  • “The appearing of the Father and the Son to Joseph Smith is the foundation of this Church. Therein lies the secret of its strength and vitality. This is true, and I bear witness to it. That one revelation answers all the queries of science regarding God and His divine personality. Don’t you see what that means? What God is, is answered. His relation to His children is clear. His interest in humanity through authority delegated to man is apparent. The future of the work is assured. These and other glorious truths are clarified by that glorious First Vision.”
“Joseph Smith—Prophet, Seer, and Revelator,” Improvement Era, Jan. 1942, p. 54.

See also Quotes from the Prophets

External Links


Presidents of the Mormon Church
Joseph Smith | Brigham Young | John Taylor | Wilford Woodruff | Lorenzo Snow | Joseph F. Smith | Heber J. Grant | George Albert Smith | David O. McKay | Joseph Fielding Smith | Harold B. Lee | Spencer W. Kimball | Ezra Taft Benson | Howard W. Hunter | Gordon B. Hinckley | Thomas S. Monson
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