David O. McKay: Apostle to the World, Prophet of God

By Francis M. Gibbons

Synopsis: Written in 1986, this is a biography of the ninth president of the Church, the great and much-loved David O. McKay, and covers his entire life.

Strong Points: This book is an excellent guide through President McKay's life: It lays the groundwork with his heritage, chronicles his activities as a youth and young man, and follows him up to the end of his life. The book is a pleasant read because it gives many anecdotes about other General Authorities' interactions with President McKay and their relationships with him. Even the interesting and controversial were treated satisfactorily: issues with blacks & the priesthood in President McKay's time, President McKay's encouragement of Ezra Taft Benson to speak out on communism and socialism, the John Birch Society controversy, and President McKay's delicate balancing to try to assure the Church's growing international membership that it was politically neutral with reference to parties. Also, there is an entire chapter detailing the many counselors in the First Presidency that President McKay had during his tenure. A very interesting read.

Weak Points: A portrait of David O. McKay's character should have been defined for the reader much earlier in the book, which would have provided some context as to the caliber of the man. Instead, such insights were given piecemeal throughout the book. Due to this, until later in the book one is left wondering specifically what qualities David O. McKay must have possessed to make himself appealing as a choice for an apostle (when he was called into the Quorum back in 1906). Also, through this book seemed to hurry through the final years of President McKay's life, when he was somewhat debilitated with age. 

Interesting: 4.7/5

Must Read: 3.9/5

Overall: 4.6/5

Selected Quote: "President McKay, a teacher by profession, was a strong, charismatic leader who possessed an unusual ability to communicate ideas and attitudes, as much by his demeanor as by his words. He was a generalist and not a technician. he was iron-willed, positive, and self-confident. There did not appear to be even a trace of procrastination or inertia in his character. he acted with vigor and promptness in all that he did, yet he never conveyed the impression of being hurried or harried. he was calm and deliberate in his speech and movements. And he was the undeniable leader when he became the president of the Church. No one trifled with David O. McKay. No one crossed or contradicted him with impunity. Yet overlaying these qualities of vigor, strength, and toughness, and to an extent muting if not obscuring them, was a kindly, courtly, and loving characteristic that seemed innate." (p. 280).

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