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David O. McKay Diaries – “Testimony”

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Thurs., 5 Jan. 1961:

“Thursday, January 5, 1961

TO: Clare Middlemiss

FROM: Ted Cannon

RE: Interview of President McKay by John Cook, Thursday, January 5, 1961

Mr. Cook, reporter and feature writer for the Sacramento Union, a daily newspaper, visited President McKay in my company on above date in the course of a four-day visit here during which he is collecting material for a series of articles his paper plans to publish soon about the Church.  He is a convert, having married an L.D.S. girl, and they have a daughter attending B.Y.U.  However, he does not consider himself a very good Church member, although he appears to observe Church standards in most respects.

He asked President McKay what he thought was the greatest threat to the Church today, and President McKay immediately replied:  ‘Communism!’ with its godless ideology, its complete subjugation of the individual to the state and its complete materialism.  He said the entire concept and philosophy of Communism is diametrically opposed to everything the Church stands for and believes in — the Deity, the dignity and eternal nature of man, etc.

Mr. Cook said he realized that, but that his question was directed more toward what might be considered the greatest danger to the Church from within itself — in other words, was there a growing tendency to place more importance on material well-being, financial success and status than on spirituality.  President McKay replied that he did not think so.  ‘In fact,’ he said, ‘I doubt that there has ever been a time when the membership of the Church have had greater spirituality — more willingness to give and to serve…Service to others which in the end is the whole spirit of the Gospel.’  He cited the self-sacrifice of people in all stations of life, and mentioned particularly the young people — their willingness and desire to go on missions, and the record of high contributions expected of them.  He cited one man who, in addition to paying his regular tithes and offerings, had turned over a million dollars to the Church, the revenue from which amounted to some seventy or eighty thousand dollars a year.  He pointed out too, that the Church’s business interests are maintained for only one purpose, to help finance the Church’s work of service among all mankind — missions, schools, etc.

Mr. Cook then said he was hesitant about asking his next question, and that he hoped President McKay would understand the spirit in which he was asking — not for a part of his story, but strictly from a personal inquiry standpoint, and that he hoped the President would not answer if he did not feel it was a proper question.  He then asked President McKay if he had ever seen the Savior.

President McKay answered that he had not, but that he had heard His voice — many times — and that he had felt His presence and His influence.  He then told about Peter (saying that he was his favorite among the apostles, even more so than Paul with all his education and learning — that Peter was a rough, simple man, but sincere) and he told how Peter had spoken of being partakers of the divine spirit — of the divine nature, and explained what he felt that to mean.

Then he told how some evidences were stronger even than that of sight, and recalled the occasion when the Savior appeared to His disciples and told Thomas, who had doubted, ‘Reach hither they finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand and thrust it into my side, and be not faithless, but believing.’  And he said he liked to believe that Thomas did not actually look up, but knelt at the Savior’s feet and gave his answer, ‘My Lord and my God.’  And then the President repeated the words of the Master,’ Because thou hast seen me, thou has believed; blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.’

President McKay then smiled, and said, ‘That is quite a testimony I have given you…I don’t know when I have given this before…’

Mr. Cook was visibly moved, and after leaving the office he said it had been the greatest experience of his life…that President McKay was like no other man he had ever seen or heard.  He was so greatly moved that tears were in his eyes as he left President McKay.

Ted L. Cannon

Jan. 7, 1961″