← Back to David O. McKay Diary Excerpts Index

David O. McKay Diaries – “Free Agency”

Below you will find diary entries on the topic of “Free Agency.” You can view other subjects here.

Search the diary entries below for specific dates, names, and keywords using the keyboard shortcut Command + F on a Mac or Control + F on Windows.

Sun., 2 Dec., 1951:

“[Deseret News Article]  Declaring the divine right of man to freedom of choice, President David O. McKay of the Church of jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Sunday said there was never a time in the history of mankind when the evil one seems so determined as now to strike at this fundamental virtue of free agency.

The Church leader told a congregation of nearly 1000 persons in Hooper that he stressed this fundamental principle of the Gospel because he thought it was one of the most vital problems facing the world today, and particularly vital to the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

. . . .

President McKay called attention to conditions of the world where a whole nation has conquered an adjoining nation and taken from its own electorate the freedom of choice, and has dominated its border nations to such an extent that thousands are risking their lives to escape from that dominating spirit of Satan.

‘God has given us our free agency,’ President McKay said, ‘and any nation or any group in any nation, our nation included, that will take from an individual that right, freedom of thought, freedom of action, is acting contrary to the will of God.  There is that in the spirit of man which will rebel against it, against tyranny.’

. . . .”

Fri., 1 Aug., 1952:

“[First Presidency meeting]  We also considered a letter from H. A. Lynn, President of the Sunkist Growers inviting Bro. Benson to accept the chairmanship of the American Institute of Cooperation. The Presidency discussed the question of cooperation.  A question was raised as to whether or not it is a socialistic tendency, Pres. Clark mentioning an experience he had in the raising of turkeys, the Poultry industry refusing to sell him feed and trying to prevent his selling his turkeys.  The brethren were agreed that they could not favor anything that interfered with individual liberty.  It was decided that Pres. McKay would talk with Brother Benson, suggesting that he must conserve two points, namely, that he is not pursuing a course that does not have the sympathy and support of his brethren, and secondly, that he does not devote so much of his time to other interests that the Twelve would be deprived of his help.”

Tues., 5 Aug., 1952:

“2 p.m.  Returned to the office where I met by appointment at his request Elder Ezra T. Benson.  I told him that the First Presidency had approved of his accepting the Chairmanship of the American Institute of Cooperation, but they wished me to state to him that they would oppose anything that would interfere with individual liberty.  Brother Benson said: ‘So should I.’  In accepting this Chairmanship, however, Brother Benson understands that his first duty is to the Council of Twelve.

The matter of Brother Benson’s accepting membership on the advisory Board of Consultants of the Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources was left for further consideration, Brother Benson having given additional information regarding that.”

25 April, 1954:


Madison, Wis. (UP) – President David O. McKay of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said Sunday that Communist rulers will fall if they continue to rob people of their free choice between good and evil.

President McKay said he believes persons under Communist domination will revolt because their leaders have tried to take away their most valuable possession – free will.

Speaking at the dedication of a new Madison branch chapel, President McKay said, ‘No power on earth can take this freedom away.’  He said the Communists are trying to, but will not succeed.

‘When a group claims that you and I are not free as individuals, you may rest assured that their philosophy is on a sandy foundation,’ he said.

Dedicate Chapel

The church leader described free will – the freedom to choose between right and wrong – was one of the four means by which individuals may find peace with God.

The other ways, he said, are through a clear conscience, the power of self-mastery, and reverence for sacred things along with respect for fellow men.

President McKay dedicated the chapel before a crowd of some 500 persons, many of whom helped build it.  The church leader offered the chapel ‘for the honor of God, and for the education and spiritual development’ of its members.

President Isaac A. Smoot of the northern states mission described how the church has developed from the time of its first prophet and leader, Joseph Smith.  He called the pioneer Mormon movement to Salt Lake City, a ‘great exodus.’

‘They built the west, they built an empire,’ Smoot said.

President and Mrs. McKay, who will take part in the ‘Mother of the Year’ selection at New York next month, left for Chicago and New York following the dedication.

Deseret News – Monday, April 26, 1954″

Mon., 9 May, 1955:

The gentleman on my left (whose name I do not remember) immediately asked just what my ideas are regarding a sentence I used in offering grace pertaining to the freedom of the individual — this sentence evidently intrigued him.  Three-fourths of my conversation was with him on the doctrine of the necessity of individual effort in securing happiness in this life.  I told him of our doctrine of free agency,etc.

7 May to 12, 1955:

“May 7 to 12, 1955


On A Visit To The White House on May 7 to 12, 1955

And At The First Presidency Meeting

Friday, May 13, 1955

President McKay reported a very successful trip to Washington, D.C.  Said he did not get very far, however, with the Tahitian situation.  Spent an evening with President Eisenhower in the White House, which was a most delightful occasion.  There were doctors, lawyers, and newspaper men there; also Brother Benson, Secretary of Agriculture.  President McKay received very courteous attention.  The President, after greeting the guests, said, ‘Gentlemen, enjoy yourselves and get acquainted.’  The waiters were around with trays of drinks, but there was no excessive drinking.  It was a very refined, dignified group of men.  President McKay spoke of his experience as follows:

. . . .

‘We had been shown our places as we went in.  I was walking around to the end of the table to go down to my place and I saw the President say something to Brother Benson, and then he came immediately and said, ‘President McKay, we would appreciate it if you would give a blessing tonight, if you have no objection.’  I said, ‘Thank you.  I will be glad to.’  He came right out afterwards and said, ‘Thank you!’ right loud.

‘After that it was just a pleasant social chat, a regular social dinner, excellent dinner.  The man on my right started a conversation.  He said ‘You mentioned in your grace the freedom of the individual.  Is that fundamental?’  I said, ‘Next to life itself.’  He was a Presbyterian by training.  He said, ‘They crowded me so much I have finally left churches,’ but he said, ‘I believe in that freedom of the individual and developing oneself.’  I said, ‘That is fundamental in the Mormon Church.’  So he monopolized all my time.  He said, ‘Perhaps I should excuse you so that you can speak to the gentleman on your left.’  But it was an outstanding experience.

Wed., 20 Mar., 1957:

“12 noon to 12:50 p.m.  Conference with Clarence Wonnacott who came in to report that he has received an offer of a position at a Hospital near Chicago at a greatly increased salary to what the Church is paying him as Superintendent of the LDS Hospital.

I really think he came in for me to tell him not to take this position, but I did not.  I told him that this is a decision that Sister Wonnacott and he must decide for themselves.

I also said if he did accept the position, he should be active in the Church back there, and cited my own granddaughter and her husband as an example (Midean McKay and Howard Anderson), who moved from Texas to Chicago, and who immediately upon arrival in Chicago got in touch with Church members, became active, and as a result in a very short time made many friends and were happy.  This is also an example of the advantages of being a member of this Church.

Thurs., 11 Apr., 1957:

“2:15 p.m.  Met by appointment at request Mrs. Thorpe B. Isaacson.  She came to seek my advice regarding whether or not she should take a trip to Europe with a lady friend.  I told her that this is a decision for her and her husband to decide; however, that if Bishop Isaacson approves, I could see no reason why she should not go.”

Tuesday, November 12, 1957

Meeting of President McKay and Senator John Kennedy of Massachusetts, as reported by Joseph Lundstrom of the Deseret News, who was present at the conference.

President McKay then asked him his views on the breakup of Russia.  ‘Would the system break up first, or would it have to come to a clash of arms?  Khrushchev has now the same position as Stalin.  Can he hold it?

Senator Kennedy answered that it would not much matter whether it was Khrushchev or someone else.  The Russian policy of pushing outward through the use of the Communist Party would continue.  As for Communism breaking up, it did not seem likely, since there was no alternate system to replace the Communists.  While Khrushchev might go, the policy of increasing their power will continue.  Communism represents a counterattraction to the poverties suffered by the peoples of Africa, Asia and the Far East.

President McKay said he could not see how the system could continue to last.  ‘They are fundamentally wrong.  Free agency is inherent in every individual.  Rule by force has been fought against by men throughout history.’

Senator Kennedy:  ‘Yes they have the power to continue.  Their prospects for the immediate future are bright.’

President McKay:  ‘I have hoped for 20 years that they would break up, and I do not see how they can last.  It is just wicked to dominate men that way.’

Mon., 2 June, 1958:

“Monday, June 2, 1958

Telephone conversation of President David O. McKay with Brother J. Elliott Cameron, President of South Sanpete Stake, Utah:

Pres. Cameron:  Good Morning, President McKay.

Pres. McKay:  How are you, President Cameron?

Pres. Cameron:  President McKay, I would like to contact you about my position here at the Snow College.  During a visit with President Daryl Chase of the Utah State University, Logan, he told me that a position is open at the Utah State University and that he would like me to take this position.  I would be working with the young people at the university.  I don’t like to do anything before speaking to you about it.

Pres. McKay:  Which position do you hold now?

Pres. Cameron:  Director of Snow College.

Pres. McKay:  The position at the Utah State University would be a better one?  You could better yourself?

Pres. Cameron:  Yes, indeed.  It is a higher and better position.  I would especially work with the young people.

Pres. McKay:  I feel impressed that you should take it.  It is a good offer.  Do you have your own home in Ephraim?

Pres. Cameron:  No, I don’t.

Pres. McKay:  I cannot hold you back.  It is my opinion that you should accept the position.  I will take it up with the Brethren tomorrow morning.  You can take this as a final approval.

Pres. Cameron:  Thank you, President McKay, and good bye.

Pres. McKay:  Good bye, President Cameron.”

Thurs., 17 May 1962:

“Note by c.m.

President McKay made the following statement to me this morning – he said that men must learn that in presiding over the Church ‘we are dealing with human hearts, that individual rights are sacred, and the human soul is tender.  We cannot run the Church as we would a business.’

Fri., 27 July 1962:

“Note by Clare Middlemiss, Secretary

I said to President McKay today, ‘President McKay, why is it that people who are too aggressive and try to get ahead of other people seem to get places and gain advantage over other persons who are more reticent to do those things?’  President McKay looked up and in all seriousness said, ‘No, they do not gain.’  I said, ‘Well, it seems that way.’  President McKay very emphatically answered, ‘Truth crushed to earth will rise again!’

Mon., 4 Feb. 1963:

Note by Secretary

Brother Wright reported that while driving the car he asked President McKay what he thought about Charles De Gaulle, French Leader, and of his attitude toward us regarding France joining with us on plans for missiles, etc.  President McKay said that it looks to him like De Gaulle is trying to show himself as being a ‘little Hitler’.  He then quoted from memory the following from the Doctrine and Covenants 121:39-45, which he said is one of the most wonderful statements ever given to man:

‘We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.

Hence, may are called, but few are chosen.

No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;

By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile —

Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;

That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death.’

President McKay then said:  ‘That section alone is proof that the Prophet Joseph Smith was one of the great — there is no question about it!’

Tues., 21 Dec. 1965:

“8:30 a.m.

First Presidency’s meeting held in the office in the Hotel Utah.  Presidents Tanner and Smith were the only ones present.  President Brown and President Isaacson were excused on account of illness.  A number of items were discussed, some of which were:

Priesthood – Course of Study on Free Agency, Etc., to be Prepared by Correlation Committee 

There was read to the First Presidency a letter from the Executive Committee of the Correlation Committee reporting that under assignment they had given further consideration to the proposed Melchizedek Priesthood course of study for 1967, that in the Correlation Committee proposal there is a section which ‘focuses upon the law and its meaning for the individual as a Church member and some other topics could well be included; that, however, as to the over-all content of the alternate proposal regarding free agency, much of the information in the alternate study course that had been suggested pertains specifically to the United States and would not be appropriate for world-wide membership.  They, therefore, propose that the Correlation Committee outline be approved for Melchizedek Priesthood quorum study for 1967 with the addition of such ‘free agency’ materials as seem to be appropriate for this purpose.  They also ask for authorization to proceed with this course of study under the direction of the Correlation Committee with David Yarn, Alma P. Burton, Bruce R. McConkie, Roy Doxey, and Reed Bradford as writers.

We approved these proposals.