Revered leader remembered

Life of Pres. David O. McKay extolled during rededication of renovated building

PROVO, UTAH — Before rededicating a building named in honor of President David O. McKay on the BYU campus April 25, President Thomas S. Monson lauded the former Church president as a missionary, an exemplar and a prophet of God.

"The name David O. McKay certainly is befitting this lovely building," said President Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency.

During the last three years, the entire interior of the building, which houses the BYU College of Education, has been refitted and remodeled. The structure — which was also remodeled and rededicated in 1979 — now has an improved computer lab and classroom layout and design.

Elder Stephen L Richards, a former member of The Quorum of the Twelve, originally dedicated the building Dec. 14, 1954, and President McKay attended the services.

In addition to remarks from President Monson, the recent rededication program, held during BYU commencement exercises, included remarks from BYU President Merrill J. Bateman and a short video detailing the life of President McKay.

During his remarks, President Monson noted that almost 40 years ago, President McKay called him to serve as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve. "Before that time, I had assisted him in preparing for press his writings and discourses," President Monson recalled. "From my association with him on such a personal basis, I have chosen to mention today just three brief descriptions of President David O. McKay as I witnessed them."

  • President McKay was — first, last and always — a missionary. President Monson recalled that before his return to Salt Lake City in 1962 from Toronto, Canada, where he had presided over the Canadian Mission, a French-speaking member said, "I will never have the privilege to meet President McKay. I will never have the opportunity to tell him how much I love and sustain him. But you will. My prayer is that when you do, you will do so for me." President Monson assured this member that he would.

    Weeks later, President Monson saw President McKay outside the Church Administration Building.

    "As I conveyed to President McKay the feelings of this lovely Canadian member, tears came to his eyes and he exclaimed, 'Thank you. Please send that dear sister my best regards.' "

    But after President Monson had walked about 20 feet along his way, he heard a voice, "loud and clear," calling his name. He returned to President McKay.

    "President McKay looked lovingly into my heart and soul and, with his finger about one inch from my face, declared: 'Brother Monson, remember: Once a missionary, always a missionary.' I responded, 'Yes sir.' He smiled and said, 'That's all. Have a good day.' "

  • President McKay was an exemplar. President Monson said President McKay was the epitome of what he taught. "He was kind, his manner was gracious. He was a teacher of truth after the pattern of the Master teacher — even the Savior Jesus Christ."

    President Monson said he observed this trait when, long before he was a General Authority, he entered President McKay's office to review some printing proofs and asked about a painting which looked like a rendition of President McKay's childhood home in Huntsville, Utah.

    "He sat back in his chair, gave a familiar David O. McKay chuckle and said, 'Let me tell you about that picture, Brother Monson. A sweet woman came to see me one autumn day and presented to me that beautiful painting, framed and ready to be placed on the wall. She said, 'President McKay, I have spent the entire summer painting this picture of your ancestral home.' "

    President McKay told President Monson he accepted the painting and thanked the woman, even though she had painted the wrong house, the house next door to his ancestral home.

    "But then he made this comment, and here is a vital lesson for us," said President Monson. "He said, 'Brother Monson, in reality, she painted the right house, because when, as a young boy, I would lie on the bed which was on the front porch of my ancestral home, the view I had through that screened porch was the very house she painted. She did paint the right house for me.'"

  • President McKay was a prophet of God. President Monson recalled that many years ago, as a member of the Exchange Club of Salt Lake City, he had the privilege to meet with the national president of the organization in President McKay's office.

    "We three visited together for perhaps most of an hour, with President McKay speaking of national issues in America and where, in a few instances, America was slipping from its moorings. My visitor listened intently and appreciated the remarks of President McKay.

    "We left President McKay's office, and my guest stopped in the foyer of the building. He said to me in a solemn voice, 'You know, David O. McKay looks like a prophet. He speaks as a prophet would speak. He thinks as a prophet would think.' His quizzical expression begged a response. I said, 'My friend, the reason David O. McKay looks like a prophet, speaks as a prophet and thinks like a prophet is simply answered. He is a prophet of the living God.' "

Following his remarks, President Monson offered the dedicatory prayer, including the statement: "In this beautiful structure we have the legacy of the past, the opportunities of the present and the brightness of the future."

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