Teachings of Presidents

“Introduction,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: David O. McKay (2011), iv–ix

“Introduction,” Teachings: David O. McKay, iv–ix


The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles have established the Teachings of Presidents of the Church series to help Church members deepen their understanding of gospel doctrine and draw closer to Jesus Christ through the teachings of the prophets in this dispensation. This book features the teachings of President David O. McKay, who served as President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from April 1951 to January 1970.

David O. McKay

David O. McKay was ordained an Apostle in 1906 and sustained as President of the Church in 1951.

How to Use This Book

Each chapter in this book includes four sections: (1) an opening quotation that briefly introduces the focus of the chapter; (2) an “Introduction,” which illustrates the messages of the chapter with a story or counsel from President McKay; (3) “Teachings of David O. McKay,” which presents doctrines from his many messages and sermons; and (4) “Suggestions for Study and Discussion,” which contains questions to encourage personal review and inquiry, application of gospel principles, and discussion at home and at church. Reviewing the questions before studying President McKay’s words may give additional insight into his teachings. Also, as part of the resources for additional study and discussion, each chapter includes a brief list of related scriptures.

This book is to be used in the following settings:

For personal or family study. Through prayerful reading and thoughtful study, individuals can receive a personal witness of the truths taught by President McKay. This volume will add to each member’s gospel library and will serve as an important resource for family instruction and study in the home.

For discussion in Sunday meetings. This book is the text for Sunday meetings in high priests groups, elders quorums, and the Relief Society, usually on the second and third Sundays of each month. These Sunday meetings should be discussions that concentrate on gospel doctrines and principles. Teachers should focus on the content of the text and related scriptures and should apply these teachings to circumstances with which class members will be familiar. They may draw from the questions at the end of each chapter to encourage class discussion. As appropriate, members should bear testimony and share personal examples that relate to the lessons. When teachers humbly seek the Spirit in preparing and directing the lessons, all who participate will be strengthened in their knowledge of the truth.

Leaders and teachers are to encourage members to read the chapters in preparation for Sunday meetings and to bring the book to church. They should honor such preparation by teaching from President McKay’s words. When members have read a chapter in advance, they will be prepared to teach and edify each other.

It is not necessary or recommended that members purchase additional commentaries or reference texts to supplement the material in this book. For further study of the doctrine, members are encouraged to turn to the related scriptures that are included at the end of the “Suggestions for Study and Discussion” section.

Since this book is designed for personal study and gospel reference, many chapters contain more material than can be fully addressed in Sunday meetings. Therefore, study at home becomes essential to more thoroughly benefit from President McKay’s teachings.

Teaching Lessons from the Chapters in This Book

The chapters in this book contain more information than most teachers will be able to teach in one class period. Teachers should pray for help, seek the guidance of the Holy Ghost, and work diligently as they select the quotations, scripture references, and questions that will best meet the needs of class members.

Preparing a Lesson

The following suggestions illustrate one possible approach to help teachers prepare and present lessons from this book (these guidelines can also be used by parents in preparing family home evening lessons):

  1. Prayerfully study the chapter. Consider marking passages that are particularly inspiring to you.

  2. Determine what should happen in the lives of those you teach as a result of the teachings in the chapter. Seek the guidance of the Holy Ghost as you ponder the needs of those you teach.

  3. Decide what to teach. Read the chapter again, selecting the passages that will be most helpful for those you teach.

  4. Decide how to teach. Plan ways to teach the passages you have selected. Some suggestions follow.

    • Conduct discussions based on the questions in “Suggestions for Study and Discussion” at the end of each chapter.

    • Discuss selected scripture passages from the related scriptures listed at the end of each chapter.

    • Plan a way to get members’ attention at the beginning of the lesson. For example, you may share a story from the chapter’s introduction, write a thought-provoking question on the chalkboard, or use an object lesson.

    • Use hymns and Primary songs to help members prepare to feel the Spirit.

    • Bear testimony whenever the Spirit prompts you, not just at the end of the lesson.

    • Invite one or two members to come to class prepared to bear brief testimony of the principles in the chapter.

    • As appropriate, share experiences relating to the principles in the chapter. Invite others to do the same.

    For suggestions on how to use these and other teaching methods, refer to Teaching, No Greater Call (36123); the Teaching Guidebook (34595); and “Gospel Teaching and Leadership,” section 16 of the Church Handbook of Instructions, Book 2: Priesthood and Auxiliary Leaders (35903). Also, to help you succeed in your calling, you are encouraged to participate in the 12-week Teaching the Gospel course in your ward or branch, as well as the quarterly teacher improvement meetings.

  5. Organize your ideas. You may want to write an outline to guide you during the presentation of the lesson.

Conducting Meaningful Discussions

Whether in a family or classroom setting, the chapters in this book provide a wonderful opportunity for individuals to strengthen each other by participating in gospel discussions. The following guidelines may help you conduct meaningful discussions:

  • Ask questions that require thought and discussion rather than questions that can be answered yes or no. Questions that begin with what, how, why, who, or where are usually most effective for encouraging discussion.

  • Encourage others to share experiences that show how gospel principles apply in everyday life. Also encourage them to share their feelings about what they are learning. Listen sincerely and show appreciation for their contributions.

  • Be sensitive to the influence of the Holy Ghost. He will help you know what to ask, who to call on, or how to include others in the discussion. If you feel that comments are straying from the topic, politely redirect the discussion.

  • Be careful not to end a good discussion too soon in an attempt to cover all the material you have prepared. What matters most is that participants feel the Spirit, increase their understanding of the gospel, apply gospel principles in their lives, and strengthen their commitment to live the gospel.

Information on the Sources Quoted in This Book

The teachings of President McKay in this book have been collected from a variety of sources. The quotations have retained the punctuation, spelling, and capitalization of the original sources unless editorial or typographic changes have been necessary to improve readability. For this reason, readers may notice minor inconsistencies in the text.

President McKay often used terms such as men, man, or mankind to refer to all people, both male and female. He also commonly used the pronoun he to refer to both genders. This was common in the language of his era. Despite the differences between these language conventions and more current usage, readers will find that President McKay’s teachings are equally applicable and valuable to both women and men.

Also, President McKay was very well read, and he often quoted other authors as he taught. In most of the original sources, quotation marks indicate when President McKay is quoting someone else, but the name of the author is seldom given. Rather than disrupt the chapters of this book with numerous instances of “[author unknown],” the book has simply retained original quotation marks to indicate when President McKay is presenting someone else’s words.