Elder Holland Gives Scottish Museum “David O. McKay Stone”
Contributed By Sarah Jane Weaver, Church News editor
As a discouraged, homesick young missionary serving in Stirling, Scotland, in March 1897, Elder David O. McKay noticed an inscribed stone on the side of an apartment building under construction near his flat.
The message was bold and clear: “What e’er thou art, act well thy part.”
More than 121 years later, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles presented an exact replica of the inscribed stone to a Scottish museum on July 5.
“I am delighted for the invitation to be with you today for such a significant moment in my own history as well as in the history of beautiful Stirling,” he said.
During the presentation to the Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum, Elder Holland spoke of the early history of the Church in Scotland and his own Scottish roots. The event was attended by Stephen Kerr, Stirling Member of Parliament, and Councillor Christine Simpson, Stirling’s provost.
“I want you to know that I stand before you as a bona fide son of Stirling, the shire if not the city proper. I am very proud to have Scottish blood flowing through my veins.”
Elder Holland’s great-great-grandfather Robert Gardner Jr. was born in Kilsyth, Stirlingshire, Scotland, on October 12, 1819.
The Church also has a long, storied history in Scotland.
In 1839 Alexander Wright and Samuel Mulliner, natives of Scotland, traveled from the United States to their homeland and baptized the first Latter-day Saint converts in the country. “Those were our humble beginnings in Scotland, leading to a Church membership today of more than 25,000 members in five stakes and one mission,” said Elder Holland.
Almost six decades after the missionaries arrived in Scotland, a young Elder David O. McKay, also born of Scottish roots, was assigned to labor in the country in 1897.
“The work was hard, the weather sometimes disagreeable, the people were unreceptive for the most part, and one inevitably wonders whether the sacrifice of time and money is worth it,” said Elder Holland of David O. McKay’s experience. “In the midst of such doldrums, young Elder McKay noticed an inscribed stone on the side of an apartment building under construction [in Albany Crescent, Stirling] as they returned to their flat that evening. It read in a bold, clear message to him personally, ‘What e’er thou art, act well thy part.’”
In his journal he recorded, “I accepted the message given to me on that stone, and from that moment we tried to do our part as missionaries in Scotland.”
President McKay’s experience in Stirling is now part of Church history. “That moment, that difficult day, highlighted by that inscription had a profound impact on McKay for the rest of his life,” said Elder Holland. “He referred to it repeatedly, lacing it into remarks at various points along the more than 70 years of Church service he would give following that mission.”
From those earliest years on, the stone remained an important monument to missionaries serving in Stirling long after President McKay completed his mission in 1899, explained Elder Holland.
So when Albany Crescent was being demolished in 1965, two local missionaries of the Church asked the demolition company to save the renowned stone. The Scotland mission president bought the stone for 30 pounds and displayed it in the mission home in Edinburgh. It was later moved to the Church History Museum in Salt Lake City. A replica was made and is displayed in the garden of the mission home in Edinburgh.
Receiving the replica stone on behalf of the museum was director Dr. Elspeth King, who said, “We are pleased to be chosen to display the exact replica of this stone to preserve the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Scotland. We offer our gratitude to the Church for their contribution. We also express thanks to Stephen Kerr MP who worked closely with the museum on the project and was instrumental in making it happen.”
“Even with this history I am not sure you marvelous citizens of Stirling can understand how almost sacred this stone and the incident behind it is for us as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, simply because it meant so much to a beloved prophet of our Church who revered it so much,” said Elder Holland.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland presented a Scottish museum with the exact replica of an artifact that became linked with Scotland’s religious history. The event was held in Stirling, Scotland, home of the iconic Stirling Castle.
Just six and a half years after completing his mission to Scotland, David O. McKay was called as an Apostle, and he became President of the Church in 1951.
During a 1955 visit to Stirling, President McKay found his old apartment and proceeded to find the inscription on what he called the “crisis stone.”
“During his presidency the Church experienced substantial growth,” said Elder Holland. “Membership tripled, the number of missionaries called grew six-fold, and the first temple in Europe was dedicated in Switzerland. President McKay was the first Church President to travel outside of North America extensively, visiting missions and congregations across Europe, Latin America, Africa, and the Pacific. Over and over again, in almost every land and island of the sea, President McKay used the story of the Stirling stone, ‘the crisis stone,’ with its inscription, inspiring young people, adults, and thousands of missionaries with the message of integrity, duty, and resolute character that so moved him as a young man. ‘What e’er thou art, act well thy part.’”
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and Stirling Member of Parliament Stephen Kerr at the Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum in Stirling, Scotland, on July 5, 2018.
Audience members listen as Elder Jeffrey R. Holland presents a Scottish museum with the exact replica of an artifact that became linked with Scotland’s religious history.