In the northern plains of Montana, in the small town of Chinook, there stands an old chapel where a small branch of Latter-day Saints gather weekly to worship. It was in this humble chapel, in a small wooden pew near the back that Elder Kyle S. McKay recalls he had one of his first testimony affirming experiences at the young age of 8.
“My grandfather was a dairy farmer,” said Elder McKay, who was sustained as a General Authority Seventy during general conference on March 31. “And each of the grandchildren got to take turns living with them during the school year. So, during my third-grade school year, I lived with my grandparents for a time. It was just my grandpa, my grandma and me.”
During his time there, he recalls one particular Sunday when his uncle Will, his grandparents’ youngest child who had recently returned from his mission, attended church with Elder McKay and his grandparents.
“We were sitting in a pew with that little band of Saints, and we were singing ‘Onward Christian Soldiers,’ ” Elder McKay said.
“It was just one of those moments. … Those Saints raised the roof with their fervor, and my little 8-year-old heart began to swell. I just knew that ‘this is good.’ ”
Elder McKay said that in that moment, “with my uncle’s pure tenor voice in my left ear and the rest of the congregation in my right, it simply felt good and right, and I knew [the Church] was true.”
While Elder McKay explained that there are many such instances from his childhood that have reaffirmed to him the truth of the gospel of Christ, this one stood out to him with particular importance.
“Years later, I took my own family up there. It was long after my grandparents had moved away, and we happened to be there when they were remodeling that little chapel,” Elder McKay said. “They were selling the old pews, so we purchased one.”
Although he can’t be sure it is the same exact pew he sat in those many years ago, Elder McKay said he likes to think it is the same pew he was sitting in at the time he had such a foundational testimony building experience.
“It’s in our home, and it’s a place where I still sit and ponder,” Elder McKay said.
Experiences like this, scattered throughout his formative years, together with the examples of his parents and the steady influence of his wife, Jennifer, are what Elder McKay said have served him the most in strengthening his testimony and keeping him on the path of a disciple of Christ.
Elder McKay was born in 1960 in Chicago, Illinois, to Barrie Gunn McKay and Elaine Stirland McKay, whom he describes as being the best of teachers.
Recalling many trips spent on horseback in the mountains near Huntsville, Utah, with his father growing up, Elder McKay said his father was constantly teaching him lessons in what he called “two or three sentence sermonettes.”
Describing his father, Elder McKay said, “He talked quickly enough that we couldn't get bored or divert our attention, because by the time we did that, he was done.” Elder McKay said his father would usually conclude each short lesson with “now that’s an eternal principle,” or “you see, the Creator’s system works.”
Referring to the role of parents as explained in Deuteronomy 6:7, Elder McKay explained that in his experience, the best parents are constantly teaching their children.
“Of course, we must practice what we preach,” Elder McKay said, “but our children also need to hear us preach what we practice.”
Apart from his family and the Church, Elder McKay says his greatest passion is being on his horse in the mountains.
“It’s not my religion,” he said. “But there’s no question it has strengthened my religion. I alternate between the Lord’s mountains and the Mountain of the Lord’s House. He meets me in both places.”
Elder McKay likens the mountains above Huntsville, Utah, to the waters and forest of Mormon and their importance for the people of Alma — they are where, in his youth, he came to a knowledge of his Redeemer.
Following his graduation from Bountiful High School, Elder McKay attended Brigham Young University. He took a break from his studies in 1979 to serve a full-time mission in Kobe, Japan, and then returned to BYU to complete his degree in English.
Shortly after returning from his mission, Elder McKay met Jennifer Stone, who had recently returned from a mission in Bristol, England, and who was also studying English. The two were married in the Oakland California Temple on June 12, 1984.
Elder McKay later graduated with his Juris Doctor degree from BYU’s J. Reuben Clark School of Law in 1987 and immediately accepted a job with a large regional law firm in Portland, Oregon. He later returned to Utah to pursue an opportunity with another law firm before accepting a position with the Kroger Co. He worked as a vice president for both Smith’s and Fry’s, two Kroger divisions in Utah and Arizona, from 2000 to 2017.
Elder and Sister McKay raised their family of nine children in Kaysville, Utah, a place that has become dear to them.
“To me, Scotland is the homeland, Huntsville is the Promised Land, and Kaysville is Zion,” Elder McKay explained.
As a family, the McKays continue to regularly utilize the family property in Huntsville, where each of their children have raised and trained their own horses with their father.
“Our children, their spouses and our grandchildren are the most wonder-filled part of our lives,” Jennifer McKay said. “Growing together in families is a rigorous, refining experience. It requires everything that each of us has to offer in caring for and learning with one another.”
“They have also been our principal source of joy,” Elder McKay said. “God promises joy and rejoicing in our posterity. He keeps His promises.”
Although Elder McKay has served in many callings, he said he has always found time to balance the three things that matter most to him: his family, the gospel and time in the mountains with his horse. And even with his new calling, his priorities remain the same.