President David O. McKay received the following letter from Harold L. Gregory, who served as president of the East German Mission in the early 1950s:
“Dear President McKay:
“You will be interested to hear of an experience I had this week. Two men about forty years of age, poorly dressed, came to see me during the week. They told me they had lost their faith, and yet they could not turn to any of the other sects or religious organizations they knew. Mr. Braun (as one was called) had prevailed upon his friend, Mr. Fascher, to come and see me. He told Mr. Fascher that he knew of our church and that we would help them. Fascher objected strenuously for two days, but finally came along.
“Mr. Braun began by saying that he was standing on a street corner one day when he noticed hundreds of people going by. He asked one where he was going, and he said, ‘To see the Prophet.’ Mr. Braun went along. It was the dedication of the meetinghouse in Berlin-Charlottenburg, and the Prophet was Brother McKay.
“He said (and I will quote him roughly): ‘I had never sensed such a spirit of love and good will as I did among those people that day. And then the Prophet, a tall man in his eighties, with a full head of hair—all white—stood up and addressed the body. I have never seen such a young face on a man that age. When he spoke, something went through me. Afterwards as he was getting into his car, I noticed he was shaking hands with the members, and even though I was not one of them I pressed forward and shook his hand too. Something warm and lovely went clear through my body, and I marveled again at his young, clear features. Through worldly cares and extreme economic difficulties the memory was somewhat beclouded, but I knew that I had to come back to find out more.’
“Mr. Fascher told me that Braun could say nothing but words of amazement and wonderment at the man he had seen. The two sat in my office and listened intently to the message of the restoration which I gave them, as if hanging on every word. They were penniless and miserable, but they were humble and dissatisfied with the churches of men. I lent them a Book of Mormon, and they promised to be to church Sunday. I believe these two men (both Russian war prisoners) are ready for the gospel.
“May the Lord bless you, Brother McKay. You and all our brethren at the head of our church are shining examples of all that is righteous and good.”2
Many people saw in David O. McKay what these two men saw—an example of a true disciple of Christ. The story is told of a newspaper photographer who saw President McKay for the first time:
“Arrangements had been made for pictures to be taken, but the regular photographer was unable to go, so in desperation the United Press picked their crime photographer—a man accustomed to the toughest type of work in New York. He went to the airport, stayed there two hours, and returned later from [the] dark room with a tremendous sheaf of pictures. He was supposed to take only two. His boss immediately chided him, ‘What in the world are you wasting time and all those photographic supplies for?’
“The photographer replied very curtly, saying he would gladly pay for the extra materials, and they could even dock him for the extra time he took. … Several hours later the vice-president called him to his office, wanting to learn what happened. The crime photographer said, ‘When I was a little boy, my mother used to read to me out of the Old Testament, and all my life I have wondered what a prophet of God must really look like. Well, today I found one.’”3
Teachings of David O. McKay
We influence others by what we say, what we do, and who we are.
Every person who lives in this world wields an influence, whether for good or for evil. It is not what he says alone, it is not alone what he does. It is what he is. Every man, every person radiates what he or she is. Every person is a recipient of radiation. The Savior was conscious of that. Whenever he came into the presence of an individual, he sensed that radiation—whether it was the woman of Samaria with her past life; whether it was the woman who was to be stoned or the men who were to stone her; whether it was the statesman, Nicodemus, or one of the lepers. He was conscious of the radiation from the individual. And to a degree so are you, and so am I. It is what we are and what we radiate that affects the people around us.
… As individuals, we must think nobler thoughts. We must not encourage vile thoughts or low aspirations. We shall radiate them if we do. If we think noble thoughts, if we encourage and cherish noble aspirations, there will be that radiation when we meet people, especially when we associate with them.4
The effect of our words and acts is tremendous in this world. Every moment of life you are changing to a degree the lives of the whole world. … So, it’s not the surroundings, it isn’t the positions; the thing that will influence [others] in this world, are personalities. No matter what you are people will feel and recognize this. You radiate, you can’t hide it. You may pretend something else, but that will not affect people.5
It is important … that we seek, both in life and in books, the companionship of the best and noblest men and women. [Thomas] Carlyle, a great English writer, says that “Great men taken up in any way are profitable company. We cannot look, however imperfectly, upon a great man, without gaining something by him. He is the living ‘light-fountain,’ which it is good and pleasant to be near.”
If you will study the lives of these great “light-fountains” of the world, you will learn of at least one thing that has made their names endure. It is this: Each one has given something of his life to make the world better. They did not spend all their time seeking only pleasure and ease, and a “good time” for themselves alone, but found their greatest joy in making others happy and more comfortable. All such good deeds live forever, even though the world may never hear of them.6
No good deed, no kind word can be spoken without its effect being felt for good upon all. Sometimes the good may be infinitesimal, but as a rock that is thrown in a pool starts a wave from the center which continues to enlarge until every part of the shore is touched, so your deeds, silent, many of them, unknown, unspoken, unheralded, continue to radiate and touch many hearts.7
God bless you, my dear fellow workers, you General Authorities, stake presidencies, bishoprics, every officer and teacher throughout the land, every member. May the Spirit of the Lord abide in your hearts, and in your homes, that people partaking of your radiation of honesty, integrity, uprightness, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ will be led to glorify our Father in heaven.8
Latter-day Saint homes can be examples of harmony and love.
Our homes radiate what we are, and that radiation comes from what we say and how we act in the home. … You have to contribute to an ideal home by your character, controlling your passion, your temper, guarding your speech, because those things will make your home what it is and what it will radiate to the neighborhood. …
A father visited his son’s new home. The son was proud to show him the new bedroom, the new installations in the kitchen. After they were through with their visit, the father said, “Yes, it is beautiful, but I see no signs of God in your home.” And the son said, “I went back, and as I looked through the rooms, I noticed I had nothing suggestive of the presence of the Redeemer or the Savior.”
What I am saying is, we [have a] greater responsibility than ever before, as men of the priesthood, as women of the Church, to make our homes such as will radiate to our neighbors harmony, love, community duties, loyalty. Let our neighbors see it and hear it. Never must there be expressed in a Latter-day Saint home an oath, a condemnatory term, an expression of anger or jealousy or hatred. Control it! Do not express it! …
The Savior set us the example, always calm, always controlled, radiating something which people could feel as they passed. … God help us to radiate strength, control, love, charity, which is another name for love, consideration, best wishes for all human beings.9
God bless you, my dear fellow workers. Bless you in your homes. Make your faith shown by your works in your home. Husbands, be true to your wives, not only in act, but in thought; wives, be true to your husbands. Children, be true to your parents; do not [assume] that they are old-fashioned in their beliefs and that you know more than they do. Girls, follow that sweet mother and her teachings. Boys, be true to your fathers, who want happiness and success for you, which come only through living the principles of the gospel. Strangers, seeing such homes, will say, “Well, if that is the result of Mormonism, I think it is good.” You will show by your faith and acts in everyday life what you really are.10
Let the sincere investigators who believe more from what they see than from what they hear, find, upon investigation, that “Mormons” prove by example in the home, by devotion, and in their service to God, that they believe and know that God is their Father.11
If we live according to our beliefs, our good example will anchor the Church and be a light to the world.
God help us to go forth … imbued with the Spirit of the Lord, that every man and woman who has an opportunity to work in the Church—and that means all—may be determined to live a life of virtue and purity that will command the strength of the world, and the admiration of it. In short, let us provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, so far as in us lies, let us live peaceably with all men—not overcoming evil by evil, or being overcome by evil, but overcoming evil with good. Then will the Church stand as a light to the world. That is her destiny.12
Let your light so shine among men that they seeing your good works may be led to glorify our Father which is in heaven [see Matthew 5:16; 3 Nephi 12:16]. In probably no more effective way can the truth be witnessed before men than for every Latter-day Saint to maintain and foster the confidence of our outside friends in a faithful member of the Church of Christ.
Now, in order to do that we must be honest in all things. If we are contractors, and agree to put in such and such material in a building, let us put that material in. If we agree to the stipulations of a contract, to put in one hundred and fifty feet of [heating materials] in the building, let us put in one hundred and fifty feet. Those are details, aren’t they, but those are the details by which the men whom you deal with will judge your actions. If we are taking to market potatoes of a particular grade, and we so describe that grade, let us know that an investigation will prove our statements true. I was grieved when I heard a wholesale dealer say that he has opened sacks of produce, brought in from the farm, and found foreign material, such as rocks and dirt, placed in to make up weight. I did not ask him for the religion of those men; I asked for no name; but such things are dishonorable, no true member of the Church of Christ can stoop to such trickery. Let your light shine before men. In this world today there needs to be an ensign, a people standing out in bold relief as an example to the world in honesty and fair-dealing.13
If we can only maintain the standards of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the future of the Church is secure. Truly, men and women will see a light that is not hidden under a bushel, but one that is set upon a hill, and they will be attracted by it, and will be led to seek the truth more by our acts and deeds and by what we radiate in virtue and integrity, rather than by what we say.14
Let us set an example of harmony and peace to the world. Let us prove that whether we’re in Africa, South America, New Zealand, or Australia, we’re all one in Christ. We have only one object in view: to declare to the world that the gospel of Jesus Christ is restored in its fulness, and that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the only plan given to man by which the peace of towns, the peace of nations may eventually come.15
May there come into everyone’s heart, and into all our homes, the true spirit of Christ, our Redeemer, whose reality, whose inspiring guidance I know to be real.
The gospel is our anchor. We know what it stands for. If we live it, feel it, and bear record to the world by the way we live, we will contribute to its growth and upbuilding. Speak well of it, of the priesthood, of the Authorities; let the standards of the gospel radiate in our lives.16
Suggestions for Study and Discussion
Why is it important to remember that “the effect of our words and acts is tremendous in this world”? (See pages 227–28.) How have you seen that small acts of righteousness can have a far-reaching influence?
In what ways do our thoughts and actions influence what we radiate to others?
What can we do in our marriages and with our families to show that we are disciples of Christ? (See pages 228–30.)
Who are some people whose examples have influenced you? Why have these people been so influential in your life?
In what ways can our example make a difference in our homes, workplaces, and communities? (See pages 230–31.) What can you do today to radiate the light of Christ in your life?
Why is example an important part of missionary work? What experiences have you had in which Latter-day Saints’ good examples have inspired others to investigate the Church?
In Conference Report, Apr. 1953, 138.
Quoted in Cherished Experiences from the Writings of President David O. McKay, comp. Clare Middlemiss, rev. ed. (1976), 109–10.
Arch L. Madsen, quoted in “Memories of a Prophet,” Improvement Era, Feb. 1970, 72.
In Conference Report, Apr. 1963, 129.
“Talk by President David O. McKay Given to the North British Mission 1 March 1961,” Family and Church History Department Archives, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 3.
Ancient Apostles (1918), 2–3.
In Conference Report, Apr. 1953, 137.
In Conference Report, Apr. 1953, 138.
In Conference Report, Apr. 1963, 129–30; paragraphing altered.
In Conference Report, Oct. 1967, 152.
In Conference Report, Oct. 1922, 78.
In Conference Report, Apr. 1912, 57.
In Conference Report, Oct. 1910, 48–49; paragraphing altered.
In Conference Report, Apr. 1968, 94.
Cherished Experiences, 189.
In Conference Report, Oct. 1967, 149.