Meet New Church Historian and Clerk Kyle S. McKay

Kyle S. McKay, a General Authority Seventy, has felt drawn to a certain scripture since becoming Church Historian and Recorder on August 1.

In Doctrine and Covenants 47John Whitmer was called to serve as Church Historian and Recorder in March 1831. Doctrine and Covenants 69 includes instructions for John Whitmer in his appeal.

“He was commissioned to collect stories, writings, and things that would be helpful to the Church and to the rising generations growing up in Zion, and I felt drawn to that,” Elder McKay said of Doctrine and Covenants 69:8. “Since I learned of this mission, I have felt drawn to the rising generations, to protect them and to build their faith.”

As associate executive director of the Church History Department for the past three years, he has served with Elder LeGrand R. Curtis Jr., a church historian and clerk since 2019.

“In addition to the mechanics of the department, I learned more about the history, and it was fascinating,” said Elder McKay, who is an attorney and served as vice president of Smith’s and Fry’s with Kroger Co. His general April 2019 conference talk was referenced in a “Pickles” comic strip.

“I think we all wonder to one degree or another and are interested in things from the past. I think it relates to what we call the Spirit of Elijah – and not just the people, but the places and things in the stories. And that’s one of the things that church history is charged with doing is keeping track of people and their faith and their works,” he said.

The Church History Department includes Church Historic Sites; the Church Historian’s Press, which produced the “Saints” series and the Joseph Smith Papers project; and the Church History Library and Church History Museum in downtown Salt Lake City. He recently received the next volume in the “Saints” series for review.

“They call me the Church historian, but in truth, the real historians are the people I work with. I chair a department that is full of absolutely brilliant people,” he said.

The department also collects and preserves a variety of documents and histories, from those relating to the administration of the Church to those of the Church and its members around the world. There are also oral histories, artifacts and diaries as well as the collection of books and publications and efforts to digitize and preserve archives.

“We wouldn’t have the Church history that we have if it weren’t for people who kept pretty clean and detailed journals” as Wilford Woodruffsaid Brother McKay.

For Elder McKay, “the most significant and interesting artifacts” available to the Church relate to the scriptures—the Book of Mormon manuscript, the printer’s manuscript, and the Book of Commandments.

“I believe that Church history has the capacity to strengthen faith and should be used to that end. And I’m glad to do it,” Elder McKay said.

Elder McKay also recognizes that there are some things in the history of the Church that people struggle with.

“God works with imperfect people, and sometimes our members are surprised to learn that their leaders aren’t perfect and have made mistakes. … You will never come to know and understand the truths of God by studying the errors of man. Our goal, our passion should be to know and understand the truths of God,” he said.

One of the department’s goals is to help bring people to Christ, develop and grow faith in Christ, and “sometimes rehabilitate or recover faith in Christ.”

“And so you do it by studying Christ, his doctrines and his truths,” Elder McKay said. In his experience, “most people who struggle with Church history questions do not come up against a specific truth, principle, or doctrine. They collide with a person, a personality or an event. …

“My invitation is this: study the truths of God. If you study error, you will only know error. And our goal inside or outside the Church should be to seek the truth. And not just facts, but the truth, and especially the saving truth,” he said.

Elder McKay Distantly Related to President David O. McKay—Elder McKay’s grandfather and President McKay were first cousins, making Elder McKay’s relationship twice a distant first cousin. Elder McKay has a black and white photo with President McKay pausing for the photographer and young Kyle, apparently distracted by something outside the frame of the photo, on the other side of the photo.


Kyle S. McKay, General Authority Seventy, shows a photo of a McKay family reunion of him as a young boy, left, and President David O. McKay, right, during an interview at the Library of of Church history in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Tuesday, August 9, 2022. Elder McKay began serving as Church Historian and Recorder on August 1, 2022. Elder McKay and President McKay are first cousins away twice.

Cristy Powell, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Brother McKay is related to Marlin K. Jensenwho served as Church Historian from 2005 to 2019. Elder McKay’s family roots are in Huntsville, Utah, and his family spent their summers there — and he still has an affinity for horseback riding.

At the end of the summer, as he entered the ninth grade, young Kyle did not want to return to Bountiful. The way his parents arranged for him to stay in the Valley was to live with then-Bishop Jensen and his wife, Kathy, and their young family. The Jensens had a dairy farm and he was beginning his law practice.

“There was no reason for them to welcome me. In fact, there was every reason not to,” Elder McKay said. The Jensens made it a matter of fasting and prayer. “And so, I grew up under the tutelage of Marlin Jensen. And he’s been, just a nice, kind mentor my whole life.

Jerry B. Hatch