Lesson 28: David O. McKay: Honor for Home and Family

, "Lesson 28: David O. McKay: Honor for Home and Family," The Presidents of the Church: Teacher’s Manual1996


By studying the life of President David O. McKay, class members will come to honor the home as a sacred place of preparation.


  1. 1.

    Prepare to show the picture of President David O. McKay in the color section.

  2. 2.

    See that each class member has a copy of the Book of Mormon.

  3. 3.

    Obtain a piece of paper and pencil for each class member.

  4. 4.

    Prepare a poster of President McKay’s statement: “One of our most precious possessions is our families” (David O. McKay, in Conference Report, Apr. 1964, p. 5).

Suggested Lesson Development


Definition and discussion

  • What does “to honor” mean? (To show high respect for someone’s worth or rank, to give credit or distinction, to reverence.)

  • Is honor an action word? (Yes! When we honor someone or something, we are often motivated, inspired, or influenced by that person or thing.)

  • Think of someone or something you honor. How has it affected your life?

David O. McKay Honored His Ancestry


David Oman McKay was the ninth prophet and President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Much of his success he attributed to the love and honor he felt toward his parents and grandparents and the loving environment of their homes. President McKay’s ancestors were noble and stalwart, a heritage of which he was proud and one which he revered with deep and affectionate honor.

Gospel roots in the McKay family go back to the mid-1800s—just a few years after the gospel was restored to the earth. In 1850, amid the hills of Scotland, William and Ellen Oman McKay, grandparents of President David O. McKay, accepted the gospel.

In 1856 they left Scotland and sailed for America. President McKay’s pride and honor in his grandparents deepened when, as a young boy, he listened to the stories of his grandparents who had made their way across the plains to Utah. Among these stories was this favorite:

After arriving in America, “the family [of William and Ellen] moved to Iowa, and again settled down for another year’s work, saving money and preparing for the long trek across the plains to Utah. By the end of a year the family owned two two-year old steers, two cows, one old ox, a wagon, and a scanty supply of provisions, and all were happy that the 1,000 mile journey could begin. On the eve of departure, June 13, 1859, a council of instructions was held. Captain Brown reported that there was a widow with a small child in the camp who had no means of transportation and who was too ill to walk. ‘Is there anybody here who can make room for this widow and her child?’ Every wagon was heavily loaded, and no answer came from the assembled men. William had always taken the best possible care of his wife, and he planned to have her ride in the wagon across the plains, intending to walk the whole distance himself. He reported the incident to Ellen Oman [his wife], saying: ‘Mother, there is a widow who would like to cross the plains; she is helpless, unable to walk. Somebody will have to make room for her in the wagons. I said nothing tonight.’

“She answered immediately, ‘You go right back and tell her that she may have my place!’ At her insistence, he did so, and Ellen walked with her husband the whole distance of 1,000 miles across the plains!” (comp. Llewelyn McKay, Home Memories of President David O. McKay [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1956], pp. 19–20).

From these noble parents came noble sons and daughters: the youngest son, David McKay, was the father of President McKay.

David McKay and Jennette Evans were married in 1867 and moved to Ogden Valley to start their lives together. The house they built in Huntsville, Utah, still stands today, much as it was when David O. McKay was born there 8 September 1873. He was the first son and third child in a family of ten.


President David O. McKay recognized the blessing of home and family at an early age.

“When David was only seven years of age, his two older sisters died, and a short time later his father was called on a two-year church mission to his native Scotland. Mrs. McKay was expecting [another baby] in ten days. The ranch had to be run; a young family had to be fed. But the church came first. It was a test of faith. As the elder McKay climbed on his horse to leave, he lifted his little son up into his arms, kissed him goodby, and said, ‘David, take care of Mama and the family.’ That day David O. McKay’s childhood ended and he became a man, with an exceptional sense of responsibility.

“The worst part of it was the fears David had at night, of Indians or desperadoes coming and molesting them. ‘One night, I could not sleep, and I fancied I heard noises around the house. I became terribly wrought in my feelings, and I decided to pray as my parents had taught me. I thought I could pray only by getting out of bed and kneeling, and that was an awful test. But I did finally bring myself to get out of bed and kneel and pray to God to protect Mother and the family. And a voice, speaking as clearly to me as mine is to you, said, “Don’t be afraid; nothing will hurt you.” Where it came from, what it was, I am not saying. You may judge. To me it was a direct answer’” (John J. Stewart, Remembering the McKays [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1970], pp. 13–14).


President McKay said, “‘If I were asked to name the world’s greatest need, I should say unhesitatingly wise mothers; and the second, exemplary fathers’” (Llewelyn McKay, Home Memories, p. 4).


To demonstrate the importance of following good examples, give a piece of paper and pencil to each class member. Explain that you will give them nineteen brief instructions to follow. (The instructions carried out one at a time make the following picture:)



Do not show this picture to class members until after they have completed the drawing.

Encourage the class members to refrain from talking or discussing the class activity while it is going on. Read the following instructions to the class:

Beginning with your pencil in the middle of the paper, draw one continuous line—

  1. 1.

    Down 2 inches

  2. 2.

    Over right 3 inches

  3. 3.

    Up 2 inches

  4. 4.

    Diagonal up left 2 inches

  5. 5.

    Diagonal down left 2 inches

  6. 6.

    Straight right 3 inches

  7. 7.

    Down 2 inches

  8. 8.

    Left 2 inches

  9. 9.

    Up 1 1/2 inches

  10. 10.

    Over right 1 inch

  11. 11.

    Down 1 1/2 inches

  12. 12.

    Over left 4 inches

  13. 13.

    Up 2 inches

  14. 14.

    Make a squiggly, complete circle (about 2 inches in diameter)

  15. 15.

    Down 2 inches

  16. 16.

    Over left 2 inches

  17. 17.

    Up 4 inches

  18. 18.

    Make a smooth, complete circle

  19. 19.

    Draw pointed peaks around your circle

  20. 20.

    You are finished!

Let the class members express their feelings about the activity. Some may want to show their drawing. You may hear comments such as: “This is a mess!” “I couldn’t understand what you wanted us to do!” “I did OK until …”

Chalkboard and discussion

Now, repeat the activity. This time, lead the class by drawing the figure on the chalkboard as the instructions are read.

  • How important is it that we have a good example to follow? (Very important; in the activity it made the drawing much easier to do because you could see how it was done.)

  • How important is it that we be good examples? (The examples set by those around us become a great influence in our lives just as our example has the power to influence others.)

  • Who are the ones you influence most by your example? (Allow varied answers, stressing that friends and younger brothers and sisters are greatly influenced at times.)

President David O. McKay was surrounded by good examples and influences in his life. His heritage, family, and home were exemplary. The roots of the gospel were deep in the McKay family and became strengthened through generations of service and obedience. President McKay knew the power and influence of family and home because he became a vital part of it. He said:


“One of our most precious possessions is our families” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1964, p. 5).

He taught, “‘No other success can compensate for failure in the home. … The poorest shack … in which love prevails over a united family is of greater value to God and future humanity than [any other riches]. In such a home God can work miracles and will work miracles. … Pure hearts in a pure home are always in whispering distance of Heaven’” (quoted from J. E. McCulloch, Home: The Savior of Civilization [Washington, D.C.: The Southern Co-operative League, 1924], p. 42; in Conference Report, Apr. 1964, p. 5).

Thought questions

  • Think of the home and family of which you are now a part. What are the strengths in your family unit?

  • What things would you change? (You may suggest that class members write down their thoughts on the back of the paper used for the activity earlier.)

  • What preparations and goals are you making now that will help you have an exemplary home of your own? (To help the class answer this question, you may want to review some of the qualities President McKay’s family exemplified, such as love, work, obedience, and sacrifice.)

Scripture discussion

The scriptures contain examples of honorable, exemplary families. One such account is found in the fifth chapter of Helaman. Helaman gave his two sons the names of Nephi and Lehi and gently instructed them to pattern their lives after their forebears.

Read together Helaman 5:6–7.

President David O. McKay was a product of an exemplary, honorable family and home. He taught that the family and home were the central force of the gospel. He loved family life and lived it in such a way that his example has become a beacon to many.

“‘Our house is only an old country home,’ he said, ‘but no palace was ever filled with truer love and devotion by parents, brothers and sisters. To me it is the dearest, sweetest spot on earth’” (Stewart, Remembering the McKays, p. 13).

Testimony and Challenge

Bear testimony and challenge the class to remember that their lives make a difference. They are part of a home and family and can be an example and influence there.