Prophet sparked missionary spirit

"Every member a missionary."

This adage was first introduced in 1923 to Church members in Great Britain when Elder David O. McKay, then an apostle, was president of the European Mission. However, it didn't become a well-known admonition until after it was repeated in President McKay's closing address of the April 1959 general conference."I should like to say, brothers and sisters," President McKay declared in that historic address, "the Lord bless us with a desire to live better than we have ever done before. No individual can go away from this conference, even as a listener, without a heavier responsibility upon him.

"In 1923 in the British Mission there was a general instruction sent out to the members of the Church," he continued. "We said: `Throw the responsibility upon every member of the Church that in the coming year of 1923 every member will be a missionary. Every member a missionary! . . .

"And that is the message today. Every member – a million and a half – a missionary!"

Through the years, that statement became a Churchwide motto. But President McKay did more than just introduce an LDS adage. During President McKay's two-decade tenure as prophet, Church membership nearly tripled, the number of stakes grew more than 2 1/2 times, the number of missions doubled and the missionary force expanded by six times.


Articles on this page may be used in conjunction with the gospel doctrine course of study.

Information compiled by Kellene Ricks and Elayne Wells.

Sources: Profiles of the Presidents, by Emerson R. West; The Presidents of the Church, by Preston Nibley; Essentials in Church History, by Joseph Fielding Smith; and The Presidents of the Church, Biographical Essays.