During his forty-five years as a Latter-day Saint apostle and nineteen years as the prophet, David O. McKay gave thousands of speeches, including hundreds of temple and chapel dedications, civic addresses, funeral sermons, and General Conference and other Church-related talks. Many of these speeches contain some of the same prose and poetry, but no two speeches are the same. All of these discourses were written by McKay himself, and virtually all of them were typed, organized, and kept in large, legal-sized leather binders by Clare Middlemiss, his long-time personal secretary. His choice of prose reveals his favorite authors and literature, a glimpse into his personal library. It also conveys his ideals and his fervent belief in their truth.
Never before, and not since, has The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had a prophet so well versed in secular as well as scriptural prose. McKay’s intellectual and spiritual worlds meshed as he recited with ease the poetry of Edgar A. Guest, John Oxenham, and Joaquin Miller, as well as the patriotic pronouncements of George Washington, Patrick Henry, and Benjamin Franklin. In one speech he seemed to have studied Scottish lore, and in another he effortlessly extolled current US statistics on crime or divorce. He was at times romantic and wistful, and at other times firm and warning.
In A Vision Splendid: The Discourses of David O. McKay, Anne-Marie Wright Lampropoulos culls from the vast records of McKay’s discourses that Middlemiss kept and groups certain categories of speeches together: dedications, civic addresses, Church discourses, and funeral sermons. Each chapter broadly analyzes a category and then includes samples of illustrative full speeches. This analysis and compilation illustrates how McKay looked to poignant prose for a sense of his own personal identity and inspiration, as well as the larger identity and inspiration of Church members.
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