Question: Did David O. McKay like to be "recognized, lauded, and lionized"?

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Question: Did David O. McKay like to be "recognized, lauded, and lionized"?

It takes a certain talent to transform an account that praises McKay as a “modest, private person,” into an “admission” that McKay “liked” his celebrity

Some claim that David O. McKay "liked his ‘celebrity status’ and wanted ‘to be recognized, lauded, and lionized'."[1]

Snuffer quotes D. Michael Quinn: “a First Presidency secretary acknowledged that [David O.] McKay liked his ‘celebrity status,’ and wanted ‘to be recognized, lauded, and lionized’” (349). He cites Quinn’s Extensions of Power volume, which gives as its source a book by secretary Francis M. Gibbons.[2] A check of these references is discouraging, but not surprising for those familiar with Quinn’s methods.[3] The actual text of Gibbons’ volume for the pages cited reads:

[263] The encroachment on [McKay's] private life that celebrity status imposed...was something President McKay adjusted to with apparent difficulty. He was essentially a modest, private person, reared in a rural atmosphere, who at an early age was thrust into the limelight of the Mormon community. And as he gained in experience...as wide media exposure made his name and face known in most households, he became, in a sense, a public asset whose time and efforts were assumed to be available to all. This radical change in status was a bittersweet experience. To be recognized, lauded, and lionized is something that seemingly appeals to the ego and self-esteem of the most modest among us, even to David O. McKay. But the inevitable shrinkage in the circle of privacy that this necessarily entails provides a counter-balance that at times outweighs the positive aspects of public adulation. This is easily inferred from a diary entry of July 19, 1950....The diarist hinted that it had become so difficult to venture forth on the streets of Salt Lake City that he had about decided to abandon the practice. For such a free spirit as he, for one who was so accustomed to going and coming as he pleased, any decision to restrict his movements about the city was an imprisonment of sorts. But the only alternatives, neither of which was acceptable, were to go in disguise or to ignore or to cut short those who approached him. The latter would have been especially repugnant to one such as David O. McKay, who had cultivated to the highest degree the qualities of courtesy and attentive listening.

It was ironic, therefore, that as the apostle's fame and influence widened, the scope of his private life was proportionately restricted.... [347]

Everywhere he traveled in Australia, or elsewhere on international tours, President McKay received celebrity treatment. Enthusiastic, cheering, singing crowds usually greeted him at every stop, sometimes to the surprise or chagrin of local residents. A group of well-known Australian athletes, about a flight to Adelaide with President McKay's party, learned an embarrassing lesson in humility. Seeing a large, noisy crowd at the airport, and assuming they were the object of its adulation, the handsome young men stepped forward to acknowledge the greeting [348] only to find that the cheers and excitement were generated by the tall, white-haired man who came down the ramp after them.

It takes a certain talent to transform an account that praises McKay as a “modest, private person,” (whose privacy and personal convenience suffered because of how unwilling he was to appear rude or short with anyone) into an “admission” that McKay “liked” his celebrity. The original line about being “recognized, lauded, and lionized” is obviously intended to point out that such things are a danger to anyone because they appeal to the ego, and all would be tempted by them—but it is likewise clear that Gibbons does not think that McKay succumbed to that temptation. Snuffer is helping Quinn bear false witness against both McKay and Gibbons.


Notes

  1. Denver C. Snuffer, Jr., Passing the Heavenly Gift (Salt Lake City: Mill Creek Press, 2011), 348, citing D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power (Signature Books, 1997), 363 ( Index of claims ) Quinn cites Francis Gibbons, David O. McKay: Apostle to the World, Prophet of God (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 1986), 347, 263..
  2. The citation is from Quinn, Extensions of Power, 363. Quinn cites Francis Gibbons, David O. McKay: Apostle to the World, Prophet of God (Deseret Book 1986), 347, 263.
  3. See note 55 herein.