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David O. McKay

David O. McKay

President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
David O. McKay
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
A.K.A. David Oman McKay
Was Teacher Religious leader
From United States of America
Type Academia Religion
Gender male
Birth 8 September 1873, Huntsville, USA
Death 18 January 1970, Salt Lake City, USA (aged 96 years)
Star sign Virgo
Siblings: Thomas E. McKay
Spouse: Emma Ray McKay
University of Utah
The details (from wikipedia)


David Oman McKay (September 8, 1873 – January 18, 1970) was an American religious leader and educator who served as the ninth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) from 1951 until his death in 1970. Ordained an apostle and member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1906, McKay was a general authority for nearly 64 years, longer than anyone else in LDS Church history, except Eldred G. Smith (though Smith was not active as a general authority for many years).

Early life

The third child of David McKay and Jennette Eveline Evans McKay, McKay was born on his father’s farm in Huntsville, Utah Territory, about 10 miles (16 km) east of Ogden. McKay's mother was a Welsh immigrant from Merthyr Tydfil, and his father was a Scottish immigrant from Caithness. In 1880, after the death of McKay’s two older sisters, Margaret and Ellena, his father was called on an LDS mission to his native Scotland, where he proselytized for two years. In his father's absence, McKay had additional family responsibilities and helped his mother.

McKay's grandmother bequeathed $5,000 to McKay's mother upon her death and directed that "every cent ... be used for the education of the children." This money allowed McKay, his brother, Thomas McKay, and his younger sisters Jeanette and Annie to attend the University of Utah. McKay graduated 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. Early in his mission, he was impressed by a motto he saw inscribed on a building in Stirling, "What E'er Thou Art, Act Well Thy Part". This message became a source of inspiration throughout his life.

Career in education

Upon his return in fall 1899, McKay taught at the high school level at LDS Weber Stake Academy (predecessor of Weber State University). He married Emma Ray Riggs in the Salt Lake Temple on January 2, 1901. They eventually had seven children, one dying as a young child.

Emma Ray McKay (wife)

For his first three years at Weber, McKay taught mainly religion and literature classes. On April 17, 1902, McKay was appointed principal of Weber, succeeding the founding principal, Louis F. Moench, who had resigned after nine years in the position. One of his first actions as principal was to organize a school paper.

McKay also oversaw the inauguration of sports programs at Weber, with men's and women's basketball teams organized during McKay's tenure. In 1905, they won their baseball game against the University of Utah.

In 1905, church apostles John W. Taylor and Matthias F. Cowley resigned from the Quorum of the Twelve due to disagreement over the manifesto forbidding polygamy, and apostle Marriner W. Merrill died in early 1906. With three vacancies, George F. Richards, Orson F. Whitney, and McKay were called as apostles in the LDS Church's April 1906 general conference. McKay was 32 at the time.

Prior to this appointment to full-time service, McKay had planned on a career in education and educational administration. Even after his appointment, McKay stayed active in education, continuing as principal of the Weber Stake Academy until 1908, replaced by Wilford M. McKendrick. McKay stayed at Weber Stake Academy to see the completion of some new building projects that he had begun. He also 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 met weekly for breakfast to discuss the betterment of Utah. Fitzpatrick organized the Newspaper Agency Corporation, a joint operating agreement between the Salt Lake Tribune (Kearns Corporation) and the church-owned Deseret News, and consulted extensively with McKay to form this mutually beneficial business in 1952.

Member of the Quorum of the Twelve

McKay while second counselor in the First Presidency (ca.1939)

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 many of the actual duties of the Sunday School were performed by McKay. After Smith's death, McKay became the Sunday School superintendent.

In 1920, the First Presidency assigned McKay to make a worldwide tour of the missions of the LDS Church with Hugh J. Cannon, who recorded the journey of some 61,646 miles. They opened a new mission to China, traveled to Hawaii (where McKay had a vision, promising to build a school near the temple), and visited Samoa, Tonga, New Zealand, and Palestine. In Palestine they met Wilford Booth and visited Armenian Latter-day Saints. McKay returned to Utah on Christmas Eve, 1921.

From 1923 until 1925, McKay served as president of the church's European Mission, headquartered in London, with the responsibility of all LDS Church functions in the British Isles and supervision of mission presidents. In this position, McKay first used the slogan "every member a missionary" for outreach promotion. The philosophy has since become a standard practice in every unit of the church.

In 1934, McKay became Second Counselor in the First Presidency by Heber J. Grant, and Second Counselor to George Albert Smith.

Influence on education

Within the leadership of the LDS Church, McKay focused on education. As General Superintendent of the church's Sunday School organization from 1918 to 1934, McKay built LDS seminaries near public high schools throughout Utah, allowing 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. 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 would accept them, but the proposal failed on voter referendum.

McKay guided the remaining LDS school in Utah, Brigham Young University (BYU) into a full four-year university. McKay was the fourth Commissioner of Church Education in 1920 and 1921.

Grant chose McKay to serve as Second Counselor in the First Presidency in 1934. He served in the presidency under church presidents Grant and Smith until 1951. In 1950 he became President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, being the second most senior apostle after the church's president. He was set apart as president of the church on April 9, 1951 upon Smith's death.

In honor of his service, the BYU School of Education was named the McKay School of Education. Weber State University's school of education also carries his name.

President of the LDS Church

McKay became president of the LDS Church at 77, and served in that capacity for 19 years until his death. During this time, the number of members and stakes in the LDS Church nearly tripled, from 1.1 million to 2.8 million, and 184 to 500 respectively.

McKay was an outspoken critic of communism, opposing its perceived atheist underpinnings and denial of freedom of choice. Similarly, communist nations generally forbid proselytizing by the LDS Church and most other religions.

In 1951, McKay began plans for what eventually became BYU-Hawaii. In 1954, McKay made another trip around the world, visiting Brazil, South Africa, Fiji, Tonga, and other countries.

Under McKay's administration, the LDS 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, allowing dark-skinned members to receive the priesthood unless it was proved that they were of African descent. This policy improved proselytizing in racially mixed areas, such as South America and South Africa. Blacks of verifiable African descent (including most in the United States) were not permitted to hold the priesthood until eight years after McKay's death.

Beginning in 1961, the LDS Church spearheaded the Priesthood Correlation Program. By the 1970s, women-led organizations like the Relief Society at all levels, under priesthood oversight. Such organization became known as auxiliary organizations, which continue to the present.

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

McKay regularly traveled until his 90s. His deteriorating health in the mid-1960s ultimately led to the appointment of three additional counselors in the First Presidency, as existing members were increasingly infirm and often unable to preside at meetings. By 1968, the First Presidency was composed of six members, larger than it had been at the death of Brigham Young in 1877. McKay's counselors in the First Presidency were Stephen L Richards (First Counselor, 1951–59); J. Reuben Clark, Jr. (Second Counselor (1951–59, First Counselor 1959–61); Henry D. Moyle (Second Counselor 1959–61, First Counselor 1961–63); Hugh B. Brown (Third Counselor 1961, Second Counselor 1961–63, First Counselor 1963–70); N. Eldon Tanner (Second Counselor, 1963–70); Thorpe B. Isaacson (Counselor, 1965–70); Joseph Fielding Smith (Counselor, 1965–70); Alvin R. Dyer (Counselor, 1968–70).


McKay died on January 18, 1970, at age 96 and was buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery.


8. John Mackay
4. William McKay
9. Barbara Munroe
2. David McKay
10. David Oman
5. Helen or Ellen Oman
11. Isabel Sutherland
1. David Oman McKay
12. Edward Darlun Evans
6. Thomas Evans
13. Jeanette Jones Powell
3. Jennette Eveline Evans
14. Thomas Powell
7. Margaret Powell
15. Ann Lewis

Family ties

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 from 1941 to 1958.

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

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

One of McKay's granddaughters is Joyce McKay Bennett, wife of former United States Senator Bob Bennett. Another grandchild, Alan Ashton, was the co-founder and co-owner of WordPerfect.

A building at Utah Valley University in Orem, the David O. McKay Events Center, was formerly named for McKay between 1996 and 2010 after an anonymous donation was given in his honor.


McKay was concerned with missionary work, and coined the phrase "[e]very member a missionary" in order to encourage church members to become more engaged in that work, and not just leave it to the full-time missionaries.

McKay's statement that "[n]o other success can compensate for failure in the home" is taught to LDS Church members as an important principle.

McKay's teachings as an apostle were the 2005 course of study in the LDS Church's Sunday Relief Society and Melchizedek priesthood classes.


  • McKay, David O. (1953). Gospel Ideals: Selections from the Discourses of David O. McKay. selected by G. Homer Durham. Improvement Era.
  • McKay, David O. (1955). Cherished Experiences from the Writings of President David O. McKay. compiled by Clare Middlemiss. Deseret Book.
  • McKay, David O. (1957). Pathways to Happiness. compiled by Llewelyn R. McKay. Bookcraft.
  • McKay, David O. (1959). Home Memories of President David O. McKay. compiled by Llewelyn R. McKay. Deseret Book.
  • McKay, David O. (1960). Secrets of a Happy Life. compiled by Llewelyn R. McKay. Prentice Hall.
  • McKay, David O. (1962). Treasures of Life. compiled by Clare M. Middlemiss. Deseret Book.
  • McKay, David O. (1964). Ancient Apostles. 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. (1967). Man May Know for Himself: Teachings of President David O. McKay. compiled by Clare Middlemiss. Deseret Book.
  • McKay, David O. (1971). Stepping Stones to an Abundant Life. compiled by Llewelyn R. McKay. Deseret Book.
  • McKay, David O. (1973). "My Young Friends...": President McKay Speaks to Youth. 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.
The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article on 12 Apr 2020. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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