McKay is best known as the ninth president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As the Mormon leader for 19 years (1951-1970) he led the church during a time of great international expansion, it’s worldwide membership increasing from 1.1 to 2.8 million during this period. McKay is also credited with improving relations between Mormons and non-Mormons and with important innovations in education. During McKay’s presidency the Mormons began what has become the world’s largest collection of genealogical materials, which are available without charge to the general public for family and historical research. While the Mormons are generally considered to be politically conservative, McKay was active in promoting civil rights during the 1960s.
Born in Huntsville, Utah, McKay grew up on the family farm. His parents were Mormons, and his father left to do missionary work in his native Scotland, leaving David, age eight, as man of the house until his father’s return. At the University of Utah McKay was class president and valedictorian. Upon graduating David, like his father, was sent to Scotland for missionary work. Upon his return he worked as a teacher and principal. He toured the Mormon’s international missions from 1920-1921 and became president of the European Mission from 1922-1924. Prior to assuming the presidency of the Mormon Church, McKay was active in restructuring the church’s Sunday school and educational system. He remained president of the church until his death in 1970 at age 96.