David O. McKay: Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Worldwide Expansion of the Church

David O. McKay was the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during the 1950’s and 1960’s.    He presided over the worldwide expansion of the church. Until his administration, the church was perceived as a Utah church

President McKay dedicated temples in England, Switzerland, and New Zealand. He organized the first stakes in Europe, Asia, and South America. He opened church colleges in New Zealand and Hawaii. He inaugurated the church correlation program, the home teaching program, and the missionary training center at BYU.

President McKay personally changed the image of the church. He had an impressive physical presence. He was tall and charismatic. Unlike previous prophets, he was clean shaven. He was well dressed. He was well groomed with a full head of flowing white hair. He was handsome. As he traveled throughout the world, people said, “he looks like a prophet.”

His three most famous quotes are. 

  • Every member a missionary.”
  • Whe’re thou art, act well thy part.”
  • No success in life can compensate for failure in the home.”

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

President McKay exemplified that motto, “don’t sweat the small stuff,”  just like Jesus criticized people who could “swallow camels” but “choke on gnats.”

Chocolate and the Word of Wisdom

Apostle John Widtsoe’s wife was preaching that the Word of Wisdom prohibited  chocolate because it contained stimulants. President McKay said, “John, do you want to take all the joy out of life?”  

Rum Cake and the Word of Wisdom

At a reception, the hostess served rum cake. All the guests watched President McKay to see what he would do. He smacked his lips and started to eat. One of the guests complained, “But President McKay, don’t you know that is run cake?” President McKay smiled, and he reminded the guest that the Word of Wisdom prohibited “drinking” alcohol, not “eating” it.

Coca Cola

During intermission at a theatrical presentation, the host offered to get soft drinks.  He explained to President McKay that they had root beer, orange and Seven-up, but they only had Coca Cola cups.  The host asked if President McKay would mind using a Coca Cola cup. President McKay replied, “I don’t care what is says on the cup, as long as there is Coke in the cup.”

David O. McKay’s attitude was “Don’t get hung up on the letter of the law to the point where you squeeze all the spirit out of life.”

Laying Grass Sod on the Sabbath

At the weekly meeting of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, one of the apostles reported on his assignment to dedicate a new stake center. He said he arrived at the stake center two hours early, and he was upset because they were installing sod on the Sabbath.  After a little discussion, President McKay told the apostle, “Don’t go so early next time.”


Moral: don’t sweat the small stuff. And there is a lot of small stuff.

(Source: David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism, Gregory A. Prince and Wm. Robert Wright, 2005, p. 23, et seq)

(Other Articles. http://www.londonedition.net)

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