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David O McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism

Posted: 27 Apr 2018, 16:35
by Roadrunner
The book “David O McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism” may appeal to many of the people in this forum. I just finished it and I highly recommend it. Authors are Gregory Prince and William Wright who apparently had access to McKay’s diaries as well as records by Claire Middlemiss, who is Wright’s aunt.

Calling McKay a “middle way” man would be a stretch but after reading the book it seems he a progressive in many ways compared to most of his Q15 colleagues. He missed the boat on a few things but overall I was quite impressed with him. Here are a few excerpts:

• McKay initially didn’t want to serve a mission but his father told him “David teach only that which you feel to be true – things about which you are in doubt keep to yourself.”
• He had a distaste for bureaucracy and said “Men just learn that… we are dealing with human hearts… We cannot run the Church as we would a business.”
• Regarding the WoW, once he was offered rum cake and gladly ate it. He reminded the people at the party that the WoW forbade drinking alcohol, not eating it. He believed we shouldn’t get hung up on the letter of the law to the point we squeeze the joy out of life.
• While he never publicly stated his personal support for evolution, he was sympathetic to it. However, he disliked contradicting fellow church leaders and several were adamantly and loudly opposed to evolution, and they survived him (McConkie, J Fielding Smith), so evolution is viewed negatively by many members.
• There was friction between McKay and McConkie and the book portrays BRM in a somewhat negative light, making him sound manipulative. McKay disapproved of Mormon Doctrine but didn’t want to hurt BRM’s career so he sort of caved.
• McKay intervened when Juanita Brooks was being considered for excommunication and asked the brethren to leave her alone.
• He was generally supportive of academic scholarship and letter people discover the difficulties of Mormon church history. He was usually tolerant of conflicting opinions and wanted people to be challenged doctrinally and to be given “meat.” He was an educator by training and by profession and he recognized that intellectual inquiry carries risks but he encourage latter day saints to undertake the journey.

In my opinion he dropped the ball with civil rights and blacks and the priesthood, but he was no more conservative than the majority of people living in the United States at the time. In individual cases he almost always decided in favor of minorities getting the priesthood or sealed. For example under his leadership whites in South Africa and black skinned people in Fiji and Brazil were given expanded temple and priesthood rights. He advanced the idea the there was no doctrinal reason to keep blacks from having the priesthood and that it was merely a policy. He arguably paved the way for Spencer W Kimball but again he was unwilling to railroad his colleagues in the Q15, almost all of which wanted the status quo.

The second half of the book wasn’t as interesting as the first half, although I know many here will find that interesting also.

Other interesting themes that play out in the book are the power plays between the First Presidency and the Q12. Also some interesting discussion about changing succession tradition. He approved making Q70's retire at 70. Interesting description of his friendship with some US presidents. And I got the idea that ETB was a little loony.

Re: David O McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism

Posted: 27 Apr 2018, 21:47
by Heber13
I likes that book.

I think he was a strong enough man to be a leader and progressive not for the sake of bucking the trend or draw attention to himself but because it was right and he was ok with being different.

Perhaps the light suits he wore and long white hair did say "look at me" perhaps...but he was different with a principle, not a rebel.

That's what I took away anyway. Something I wanted to emulate. Maintain standards, but not get hung up on petty traditions like a coke.

Re: David O McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism

Posted: 27 Apr 2018, 23:00
by mom3
I too really enjoyed it. Since he is likely the last leader we will have access to diaries of, this is a treasure. I remember when he died. I was a very young kid, but we lived in Utah and the agony was palpable even for me.

My favorite hymn has always been O My Father. I have often wondered if I heard it during his funeral service, since it was broadcast everywhere in Utah and was his personal favorite. I like to think that's the connection anyway.

Thank heavens for the Greg Prince's of the world. They somehow stay engaged, at top levels, and shine a light for those of us in the dark alleys looking for hope.

Re: David O McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism

Posted: 28 Apr 2018, 06:11
by nibbler
Sounds like David O McKay would have never had a calling "higher" than assistant ward librarian in my area. ;)

Re: David O McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism

Posted: 28 Apr 2018, 13:47
by mom3
Sounds like David O McKay would have never had a calling "higher" than assistant ward librarian in my area.
I can't recall if it's in the book or in an interview Greg Prince gave but he implied that he thinks McKay was selected as a GA because of his 'uniqueness". If I recall, he didn't come from polygamist heritage - at that time everyone else on the top leadership did. Though his family was successful, they were from the opposite side of the city from everyone else. Basically he was the token liberal for his time.

With there never being a guarantee as to who gets the top chair at the end, this was a rare gamble that paid off at a pretty important time. Though he couldn't overturn things, he could set the wheels in motion for things.

Re: David O McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism

Posted: 28 Apr 2018, 13:52
by mom3
To me - David Omen McKay is the penultimate StayLDSer. I mean Fawn Brodie is his family member. He knows what she is doing and what she is about to share. He cautions her, but lets her go, as if knowing someone needed to make the first big move.

McKay was a physical and emotionally charged presence in all the best ways. Warm, charming, patient, understanding, and bold. He was more impactful on the worlds view of Mormonism than Gordon B. Hinckley - both did it amazingly.

We have the same opportunity. To be rogue with charm, love, grace, enthusiasm.

Stepping off my soapbox now.

Re: David O McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism

Posted: 28 Apr 2018, 14:22
by Roadrunner
mom3 wrote:
28 Apr 2018, 13:52
To me - David Omen McKay is the penultimate StayLDSer
I think if McKay were a bishop we could approach him with our concerns and doubts and he'd understand. He might even say "I get it."

I was born just after McKay's presidency but my parents say that for their generation he was the only prophet they really knew. I'm somewhat saddened to say that although I have great parents that their attitude was much more like Joseph Fielding Smith who my dad constantly quoted by saying "is that pertinent to your salvation?" I wish I would have known President McKay. And also Hugh B Brown.

Re: David O McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism

Posted: 28 Apr 2018, 18:50
by Curt Sunshine
My mother was one of Pres. McKay's personal secretaries while my dad served a mission. There hadn't been such a young secretary previously, but she was amazing in that field. She loved that job and him for his genuine warmth and inate kindness.

Re: David O McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism

Posted: 29 Apr 2018, 11:58
by LookingHard
I enjoyed reading the book. I think DOM was probably a really likable guy and a bit of a moderate in comparison to many of those around him. He really did make a big impact on the direction of the church and I generally would say in a positive way. I do wonder if he could even "cut it" in the church hierarchy today.

I do like how Greg Price doesn't editorialize (much) and just kind of reports what is known.

It is a real shame that all diaries are kept by the church of all top leaders and we only get occasional glimpses.

Re: David O McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism

Posted: 29 Apr 2018, 14:36
by DarkJedi
I'll have to add this book to my list to read in all the spare time I have. ;) I have always been a fan of DOM for the reasons mentioned here.