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“Be Kind” – David O. McKay’s Most Incorrectly Cited Quote

We have an ongoing project here titled “The Forgotten Talk Series.” In our Latter-day Saint culture, we give A LOT of talks! All too often, the profound insights found in these talks are lost to the annals of time. However, on rare occasions, and with a little effort, we find these talks and provide you with their timeless wisdom.

We select these talks according to the popular quotes we share in our daily newsletter. With a few tools at our disposal, we can usually identify these talks and see if there is a copy of the talk we can link to. If the talk is not easily found or not online, we’ll make it web-friendly and post it.

Yet, there are some talks that are much harder than others to find. For example, go and search for the following popular quote by David O. McKay:

“I’m going to tell you the most important secret of human life. The most critical need of the human soul is to be kind.”

This quote gave us a run for our money. It is cited all over the Internet, but usually, the credit was given to the many quote websites that had scraped their quotes from other quote websites.

We finally found the accurate citation tucked away in an obscure dating book. The quote itself is actually a retelling of a life story by the famous Latter-day Saint billionaire Jon Huntsman.

Here is President McKay’s quote in its correct context:

“When President McKay came to Northern California, to the Palo Alto area when I was a teenager, he said, ‘I’m going to tell you the most important secret of human life.‘ I was sitting on the front row and I watched President McKay as he said, ‘The most critical need of the human soul is to be kind.‘”

Empasis added to highlight quote most commonly used

As is usually the case, the quote loses its inspirational “punch” when given in its entirety. For our newsletter, we used the popular quote people are familiar with. Here is how we cited it to give both authors credit:

Source: “To Family, Business, and Humankind,” (David O. McKay, as quoted by Jon Huntsman, Exchange, Magazine of the Marriott School of Management, Jan. 1999, 10.)

The talk President McKay gave in Palo Alto, California, so long ago left a strong impression on the then teenage Jon Huntsman. Unfortunately, though, his talk truly is a forgotten talk. It is only in the brief story, in a much longer business speech that Brother Huntsman gave, are we are able to uncover one of the lost pearls of wisdom by President McKay.

Typically, when we locate the source of a quote, it is in the public domain, and we publish the complete talk. This allows search engines to easily index the quote’s proper origin and bring a sense of euphoria to citation enthusiasts like us when we finally get to the root of the quote. However, the talk from Brother Huntsman is copyrighted, and we need to receive permission from the copyright holders before we do so.

Yet, we believe we are allowed, through the Fair Use clause in U.S. copyright laws, to present snippets of the original work. Therefore, we pulled his speech from the Fourth Annual Management Conference, where it had been published, and linked to it. When we receive permission to publish Brother Huntsman’s speech, we will update this post, which we think would be the kind thing to do.

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