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David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism Hardcover – March 9, 2005

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Editorial Reviews


"This phenomenal work is much more than the life story of David O. McKay, a much-beloved president/prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Based on a wide array of sources heretofore unavailable to scholars, it is a remarkable combination of biographical narrative and historical analysis that is destined to function as a scaffolding on which to hang the still virtually untold story of the Latter-day Saints in the middle of the twentieth century. Bravo to the authors and to the University of Utah Press for making it available to everyone interested in modern Mormonism."—Jan Shipps, professor emerita of history and religious studies at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis and author of Sojourner in the Promised Land: Forty Years among the Mormons

"This book is important because it casts an honest and loving light on the workings of the LDS Church and most importantly on one of the church’s most beloved leaders."—Chase Peterson, president emeritus, University of Utah

"This book will be invaluable to any student of LDS Church history wanting to know the factors behind the great changes that took place in the church over the past half-century."—J. Alan Blodget, former CFO, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

About the Author

Gregory A. Prince is the author of Power from On High: The Development of Mormon Priesthood. He is president and CEO of Virion Systems, Inc. and he is a board member of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought and The Journal of Mormon History.

Wm. Robert Wright is a retired attorney who practiced law in Salt Lake City and Washington, D.C. His varied public service includes serving as the chairman of the University of Utah's Institutional Council and as chairman of the Utah State School Board.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: University of Utah Press; 1st Edition edition (March 9, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0874808227
  • ISBN-13: 978-0874808223
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 1.6 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #251,818 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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126 of 134 people found the following review helpful By R. W. Rasband VINE VOICE on June 13, 2005
Format: Hardcover
"David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism" is the best history/biography of an LDS leader to be published in quite some time. It deserves to be ranked with the classic Lengthen Your Stride: The Presidency of Spencer W. Kimball. "McKay" is based on the David O. McKay papers at the Marriott Library of the University of Utah. These papers include the personal archive of Clare Middlemiss, Pres. McKay's long-time secretary, who was considered by many to be "the most powerful woman in the Mormon church" because of her influence with her boss. Wm. Robert Wright, a veteran fixture of Utah politics, is Middlemiss' nephew and participated in the writing of the book along with LDS history author Gergory A. Prince.

Pres. McKay turns out to be a very admirable man, with the faults and human foibles we all have. This volume gets as close to a life-like, three-dimensional portrait of a person as we can have between the covers of a book. But along with the biography we get a gripping account of the McKay years, when the LDS church moved from what some considered a small sect in the Rocky Mountains to a genuinely worldwide church. Mormonism grew explosively in size and power during those years (1951-1970.) Some of the topics that are covered in this book are Pres.
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45 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Kent Ponder on November 26, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Given the complexity of a life of greatness, any published bio could have been done differently -- so one could quibble with how this great man's life is presented. The authors have chosen a topical approach rather than a simple chronology. But this makes sense in light of the multi-tasked full agenda that McKay maintained for six decades of top-tier leadership.

The authors capture McKay's noble mentality as I remember it from two conversations I had with him; he was a magnificently inspiring leader, not simply a bureaucratic manager. The authors correctly and repeatly highlight the fact that McKay often led by overarching insight rather than politicized consensus; he inspired from the grassroots up, rather than finessing layers of management from the top down.

The authors also correctly highlight McKay's prime accomplishment among many: his transitioning the LDS Church from the original exclusivist millennial-gathering-place (in Utah) religion, to an international build-in-the-countries-where-you-live religion. The original teaching had been a command to gather to Utah in order to avoid the end-of-world calamitous destruction from God's "floods of anger upon Babylon." McKay, the authors explain, clearly saw he needed to cease, then reverse, that doctrinal teaching, because Utah couldn't absorb and employ all those arriving there from across the US and around the world; they would arrive, languish and stagnate, then fall away from the church and badmouth it to others. McKay perceived the key to be pouring money into chapel and temple building in many countries, encouraging new members to stay in their good jobs at home.
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50 of 58 people found the following review helpful By J. Brian Watkins VINE VOICE on November 13, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I feel it safe to opine that members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) take far too much of their Church for granted; too many of us are like children of wealthy parents who simply weren't around or were too young to appreciate the building of the palatial home they inhabit and the fortune they stand to inherit. This book exhaustively details the many difficult decisions with which President McKay was confronted and gives a fascinating view of the various personalities with whom President McKay worked.

Reading this book is like trying to drink from a hose at high-pressure, one is acutely aware of the sheer volume of information being glossed over--not with intent to deemphasize but because there seems to be a wealth of information now available. Over the years, this reviewer has encountered many terse and artfully-phrased references to the events covered in this volume; however, this work lays everything on the table--everything. If there is any flaw in the book it is that the authors take their (and the reader's) knowledge of the present condition of the Church for granted and that they, thereby, lose the opportunity to show how inspired President McKay's decisions were.

The authors sometimes seem to forget that President McKay was not a CEO or political leader but a Prophet. Nevertheless the record speaks for itself--the book's greatest strength is in its exposition of President McKay's lifelong and flawless application of D&C 122:41-42: "No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned."
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