Latter-day Saint President David O. McKay, Malcolm X, and Revelations on Race

I am not a historian although I received a bachelor’s degree in history prior to going to law school. My approach to historical topics is more similar to a lawyer’s than a historian’s. As a lawyer when I’m researching an area of the law I often do so by reading case law. Case law is the opinions of various appellate courts on particular legal topics. Appellate courts analyze a particular fact pattern to resolve a particular legal issue. One example of case law pertinent to the missive that follows is Brown v. Board of Education. This case presented to the United States Supreme Court a fact pattern where in Topeka, Kansas in 1951 a little African-American girl’s parents wanted to enroll her in the elementary school nearest her home, which was 100% White, but the local board of education refused and instead assigned her to a segregated school which was farther away. Brown v. Board of Education was decided in May of 1954 and overturned the legal doctrine of separate but equal in government services for African-American and White citizens. Brown v. Board of Education helped the United States overcome the residual results of slavery and subsequent legal segregation.

I became interested in the topic of the similarities between the changing views on racial segregation between the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in general and President David O. McKay in particular and Malcom X after recently doing some research on the Church’s lifting of the ban in 1978 on those of African descent receiving the priesthood. President McKay’s role in the transition for the Church seemed in many ways similar to Malcolm X’s transition from believing that African-Americans should segregate themselves from Whites.

I was not a member of the Church in 1978 but I remember the racial climate of the times. In 1978 I lived in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio called Bratenahl which was 99% White right next to a neighborhood of Cleveland called Glenville which was 99% African-American. That most of the public schools were also segregated is well known, but so too were the private and parochial schools. The three largest and most popular Catholic schools serving Cleveland’s Eastside, St. Ignatius and St. Joseph for boys and Villa Angela for girls, were overwhelmingly White, although St. Joseph probably a little less so. There were a lot of reasons why these schools were racially segregated not having to do with racism, but segregation and racial prejudices certainly played a significant role in the makeup of the schools’ student bodies.

As stated above, the racial segregation that marked the parochial schools in my childhood were certainly not the only instances of racial prejudices and segregation affecting religious institutions or religious leaders, whether by doctrine or practice, during those decades and the decades before and to a lesser extent afterwards. When Broad v. Board of Education was decided in 1954 the leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, President David O. McKay, and the more widely known Malcolm X, a prominent leader in the Nation of Islam, had in many way mirroring views on integration. President McKay was president of the Church from 1951 until his death in 1970. Malcom X became a prominent leader and spokesman for the Nation of Islam in the early 1950’s until he broke with the group’s leader, Elijah Mohammed, and was assassinated in 1965.

Malcom X’s starting point

Malcolm X was a prolific speaker throughout the ten plus years that he was the spokesman for the Nation of Islam and for many in the public and the media he became the face of the group. To give an idea about Malcom X’s beliefs below are a few excerpts from an interview he did in 1963 with Louis E. Lomax, the first African-American anchor of one of the Big 3 television networks.

The way Malcolm X answered Mr. Lomax’s questions is significant. The replies repeatedly referenced and at times deferred to the teachings of “The Honorable Elijah Muhammad.” This is not to imply that Malcom X did not believe or had doubts about his stated believes, as if he was just saying the things he was told to say. He does not give that impression at all, at least to me. But Malcolm X made clear that the ideas he espoused did not originate with him but with the founder of the Nation of Islam, The Honorable Elijah Muhammad, and Mr. Muhammad’s judgment were ultimately the judgments of God.

In describing his relationship to Mr. Muhammad, Malcolm X says, “I am his slave, his servant, his son. He is the leader, the only spokesman for the Black Muslims.” According to Malcolm X, Mr. Muhammad does not speak for himself but will give White people “not some kind of political analysis or psychologist’s analysis, or some kind of clergyman’s analysis, but God’s analysis.”

And what was God’s analysis according to Mr. Muhammad? The lightning rod of Nation of Islam’s ideology was that the White Man was a devil. Malcom X used this phrase or similar phrases many times throughout his public speeches and interviews. An example is this back and forth with Mr. Lomax.

LOMAX: I have heard you say that a thousand times, but it always jolts me. Why do you call the white man a devil?

MALCOLM X: Because that’s what he is. What do you want me to call him, a saint? Anybody who rapes, and plunders, and enslaves, and steals, and drops hell bombs on people… anybody who does these things is nothing but a devil.….. They have always been devils; they always will be devils, and they are about to be destroyed. The final proof that they are devils lies in the fact that they are about to destroy themselves. Only a devil–and a stupid devil at that–would destroy himself!

The historical context in which Elijah Muhammad and then Malcolm X came to the view that the White man is a devil is important. Elijah Mohammad was born in Sandersville, Georgia in the Deep South in 1897. His father was a Baptist Minister, and both his parents were sharecroppers. Malcolm X was born in Omaha, Nebraska in 1925. Like so many African American families in the South during this period his family migrated to the North to escape racial prejudice and discrimination, only to find many of the same attitudes and practices up North as down South.

In the early 1950’s, when the Nation of Islam and Malcom X first began to come to prominence the world was in the throes of the Cold War, a time when mutually assured nuclear destruction overshadowed every aspect of life. The United States was helping Europe rebuild after two devastating wars in less than 40 years that took the lives and caused untold pain and suffering to millions. While many condemned the racial and class hatreds inherent in Germany’s National Socialism and the Soviet Union’s International Communism, our European allies in World War II, Great Britain and France, had vast colonies in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa, and forced segregation was legal in much of the United States. Again, not only in the rural South but in the urban North.

In this context, Malcolm X’s statements that the White man is the devil becomes more understandable as does his incredulous reaction to being asked if he preaches hatred.

Now, sir, God is going to punish this wicked devil for his misdeeds toward black people……Everybody has a God and believes that his God will deliver him and protect him from his enemies! Why can’t the black man have a God? What’s so wrong when a black man says his God will protect him from his white foe? If Jehovah can slay Philistines for the Jews, why can’t Allah slay crackers for the so-called Negro?

As does his statement regarding law enforcement policing African American communities and enforcing legal segregation:

A hundred years ago they used to put on a white sheet and use a bloodhound against Negroes. Today they have taken off the white sheet and put on police uniforms and traded in the bloodhounds for police dogs, and they’re still doing the same thing.

The historical context and Malcom X’s aspirations for the African American community also helps in understanding his negative view of integration.

Now, you integration-minded Negroes are trying to force yourselves on your former slave master, trying to make him accept you in his drawing room; you want to hang out with his women rather than the women of your own kind…. Now how can any Negro, man or woman, who sleeps with a white person speak for me? No black person married to a white person can speak for me!


MALCOLM X: Why? Because only a man who is ashamed of what he is will marry out of his race. There has to be something wrong when a man or a woman leaves his own people and marries somebody of another kind.

Later Malcom X adds the following:

This is why integration will not work. It assumes that the two races, black and white, are equal and can be made to live as one. This is not true. The white man is by nature a devil and must be destroyed. The black man will inherit the earth; he will resume control, taking back the position he held centuries ago when the white devil was crawling around the caves of Europe on his all fours. Before the white devil came into our lives we had a civilization, we had a culture, we were living in silks and satins. Then he put us in chains and put us aboard the “Good Ship Jesus,” and we have lived in hell ever since.

In short, White Christians put African in chains and have kept them under their thumb ever since and now Whites are about to annihilate themselves with nuclear weapons. So why should the African American community want to integrate with Whites?

President McKay’s starting point

Within the Church the beginning of the ban against males of African descent receiving the priesthood is generally understood to have begun with the second President of the Church, Brigham Young. During the foundational years of the Church, when Joseph Smith, Jr. was the Church undisputed leader and the Church members were often impoverished and persecuted, at least one man of African descent was ordained to the priesthood. On May 15, 1844, President Smith had published in the Church’s paper Times and Seasons an article he wrote where he decried that in a country founded upon the principle that “all men are created equal” that “two or three millions of people are held as slaves for life, because the spirit in them is covered with a darker skin than ours.”

Only about a decade after President Smith’s assassination in 1844 his successor, Brigham Young, articulated the policy of denying men of African descent the priesthood. Ironically, Brigham Young himself feared the growing wealth of the Church members now isolated in the Salt Lake Valley. “All the power and dignity that wealth can bestow is a mere shadow, the substance is found in the bone and sinew of the toiling millions.”

To say that those within the Church, even amongst the highest authorities within the Church, uniformly agreed that men of African descent should be denied the priesthood would be inaccurate. Decades after the ban was articulated by Brigham Young in the 1850’s and decades before the Church lifted the ban in 1978 some authorities, even in the First Presidency, sought to lift the ban, but to no avail. With that said, some prominent Church authorities used their platforms to vigorously defend and justify the ban.

At the time of Broad v. Board of Education the hardline proponents of the priesthood ban within the Church can perhaps best be characterized by an address given by Elder Mark E. Petersen called Race Problems – As They Affect the Church, given during a convention of teachers of religion in Provo Utah a few months after the Supreme Court’s landmark decision. Prior to being called as an Apostle, Elder Petersen had been managing editor and then editor of the Church-owned newspaper, The Deseret News. How widely held Elder Peterson’s beliefs were is unknown, but as the former editor of the Church’s flagship newspaper and as an Apostle giving an address in Provo to the Church’s teachers of religion, at the very least his beliefs were widely disseminated.  

Elder Peterson clearly seems to believe that African Americans striving for “civil rights in connection with segregation” and the “broad subject of social equality” is in many ways just a ploy to intermix and intermarry with Whites. He quotes at length from an interview of Adam Clayton Powell, the first African American congressman from New York who served from 1945 to 1971. When Congressman Powell is asked why some White people oppose integration, he attributes it to “just inherited public opinion of days past when the Negro was not as mature and educated and advanced as he is today — and neither was the white man.”

When Congressman Powell is asked about intermarriage between Whites and African Americans, the subject Elder Petersen seems most obsessed with, the Congressman acknowledges that with increased integration intermarriage would become more common “but not as any conscious thing to go out and campaign for.” Fears of intermarriage is the “great bugaboo used to scare [White people about integration], when the truth is that when two people are in love – black, white, Jew, Gentile, Protestant, Catholic – no one can stop them.” The Congressman recognizes that more frequent intermarriage would be an obvious byproduct of greater integration, but it is not the goal of integration.

Elder Petersen, though, is having none of Congressman Powell’s logic.

[African-Americans are] not just seeking the opportunity of sitting down in a café where white people sit. He isn’t just trying to ride on the same streetcar or the same Pullman car with white people. From this and other interviews I have read, it appears that the Negro seeks absorption with the white race. He will not be satisfied until he achieves it by intermarriage. That is his objective and we must face it. We must not allow our feelings to carry us away, nor must we feel so sorry for Negroes that, we will open our arms and embrace them with everything we have.”

Elder Petersen’s reason to reject integration is because segregation of the races is essentially God’s will. According to Elder Petersen, Latter-day Saints “must accept the fact of pre-existence, and that in our pre-existence we had free agency.”

“Is there reason then why the type of birth we receive in this life is not a reflection of our worthiness or lack of it in the pre-existent life? We must accept the justice of God. He is fair to all. He is not a respector of persons….With that in mind, we can account in no other way for the birth of some of the children of God in darkest Africa, or in flood-ridden China, or among the starving hordes of India, while some of the rest of us are born in the United States? We cannot escape the conclusion that because of performance in our pre-existence some of us are born as Chinese, some as Japanese, some as Indians, some as Negroes, some as Americans, some as Latter-day Saints. There are rewards and punishments, fully in harmony with His established policy in dealing with sinners and saints, regarding all according to their deeds.”

Elder Petersen quotes from a pamphlet written by then President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Joseph Fielding Smith, called The Way to Perfection.

“Is it not a reasonable belief that the Lord would select the most choice spirits to come to the better grades of nations? Is it not reasonable to believe that less worthy spirits would come through less favored lineage? Does this not account in very large part for the various grades of color and degrees of intelligence we find in the earth? In His mercy He has a salvation with some degree of exaltation even for the heathen and for those who die without law. However, we must not be unmindful of the fact that these wor[l]dly conditions have also been brought about in large degree by rebellion and disregard of the laws of God in this life. Retrogression has come upon mankind because they have rejected the counsels and commandments of the Almighty. Advancement has come largely because man has been willing to walk, in part at least, in the light of divine inspiration.”

Joseph Fielding Smith was also the son of former Church President, Joseph F. Smith, and himself a future President of the Church. His son-in-law, future Apostle Bruce R. McConkey, was perhaps the most popular proponent within the Church of the priesthood ban through his controversial and widely successful book, Mormon Doctrine: A Compendium of the Gospel, published in 1958. For all Elder McConkey’s authoritative tone and resolute confidence in his own scriptural analysis, the priesthood ban never was more than a practice of the Church and certainly never was a doctrine of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Using the premortal existence as justification for treating our fellow sons and daughters of God poorly in this life is the key to the convoluted sophistry of Elder Petersen and those who followed and still follow this line of thinking. Whereas Elijah Mohammad and Malcom X based their animosity towards Whites on their experienced history of racial discrimination in America, Elder Petersen and his ilk justified racial discrimination on what the descendants of the peoples of Africa did or did not do in the premortal existence.

Despite what people of African descent did or did not do in the premortal existence, Elder Petersen points out what he says is the mercifulness of his God.

In spite of all he did in the pre-existent life, the Lord is willing, if the Negro accepts the gospel with real, sincere faith, and is really converted, to give him the blessings of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost. If that Negro is faithful all his days, he can and will enter the Celestial Kingdom. He will go there as a servant, but he will get a Celestial resurrection.

Elder Petersen also addresses in his talk the issue of intermarriage between people of African descent and Whites:

Now what is our policy in regard to intermarriage? As to the Negro, of course, there is only one possible answer. We must not intermarry with the Negro. Why? If I were to marry a Negro woman and have children by her, my children would all be cursed as to the priesthood. Do I want my children cursed as to the priesthood? If there is one drop of Negro blood in my children, as I have read to you, they receive the curse……Think what that would do to the work of the Church! Now we are generous with the Negro. We are willing that the Negro have the highest kind of education. I would be willing to let every Negro drive a Cadillac if they could afford it. I would be willing that they have all the advantages they can get out of life in the world, but let them enjoy these things among themselves. I think the Lord segregated the Negro and who is man to change that segregation?

Among men like Elder Petersen and Brigham Young long before, there was the belief that in time the priesthood ban would be lifted. What was needed was a further revelation from God. The issue was not if, but when? Elder Petersen implies is his talk that the ban would not be lifted until “in the eternities far off.”

Other Church leaders were more resolute in seeking to further the cause of those of African ancestry in the Church in general and to lift the ban in particular. A month prior to Brown v. Board of Education being announced the Apostle and future president of the Church, Spencer W. Kimball, gave an address at the Church wide General Conference and “denounced racial intolerance in the church” and labeled such intolerance “the monster of prejudice.” Although President Kimball’s talk mostly focused on the prejudices against Native Americans by members of the Church, his comments and scriptural references applied to the plight of peoples of Africa descent as well.

While there is an ever-increasing number of people who are kind and willing to accept the minority groups as they come into the Church, there are still many who speak in disparaging terms, who priestlike and Levite-like pass by on the other side of the street. … Is the implication…..justified that the white race or the American people is superior? John the Baptist, in forceful terms, rebuked a similar self-styled superior group: O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: And think not to say within yourselves. We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. (Matt. 3:7-9.) The Lord would have eliminated bigotry and class distinction. He talked to the Samaritan woman at the well, healed the centurion’s kin, and blessed the child of the Canaanitish woman.…..Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him. (Ibid., 10:34-35.)…..It is most evident that all of the many prejudiced ones fail to catch the spirit of the gospel and the teachings of the Christ as they hiss and spurn and scoff and criticize.

Towards the end of his talk President Kimball gave this word of hope for the future of the Church.

I remember that the Lord was long suffering with ancient Israel. For a long time he endured their pettiness, listened to their eternal complaining, revolted at their filthiness, groaned at their idolatries and their adulteries, and wept at their faithlessness; and yet finally forgave them and led the rising generation of them into the promised land.

What Promised Land could President Kimball hope to lead the rising generation of the Church into?

President Kimball was not alone within the Church’s leadership in looking toward a more inclusive future for the Church. President McKay’s Second Counselor in the First Presidency, J. Ruben Clark, had for over a decade sought to lift the ban. President Clark’s position was principled in that he expressed great sympathy for the peoples of Africa and of African descent, but also practical. President Clark was of the opinion that in South America in general and Brazil in particular “it is very difficult if not impossible to tell who has negro blood and who has not.”

The Apostles J. Ruben Clark and Adam S. Bennion, along with Apostle and future President of the Church, Spencer W. Kimball were notable for their efforts to move the Church forward in regard to issues of race. Others, like the Apostle Mark E. Peterson and future Apostle Bruce R. McConkie, along with Apostles and future Presidents, Joseph Fielding Smith, Harold B. Lee, and Ezra Taft Benson, were at the very least more reticent and at times adamantly opposed.

The ban on men of African descent being ordained as priesthood holders was not lifted by the Church as soon as leaders like J. Ruben Clark and Spencer W. Kimball would have liked, but it was lifted. In 1978, five years after Spencer W. Kimball had become President of the Church, the priesthood ban was lifted. 

Malcom X’s transition

Malcom X’s transition from Elijah Mohammad and the Nation of Islam’s hardline racial animosity was swift and pronounced. Early in 1964, soon after officially leaving the Nation of Islam, Malcom X made a pilgrimage to the holiest city of Islam, Mecca. He recounted his experience in a letter dated April 26, 1964, handwritten from Mecca after just completing his pilgrimage. 

“This pilgrimage is the most important event in the life of all Muslims, and there are over 226,000 who are here right now from outside of Arabia…..I very much doubt that 10 American citizens have ever visited Mecca, and I do believe that I might be the first American born Negro to make the actual Hajj itself. I’m not saying this to boast but only to point out what a wonderful accomplishment and blessing it is, and also to enable you to be in a better position intellectually to evaluate it in its proper light, and then your own intelligence can place it in its proper place.[T]his pilgrimage to the Holiest of Cities [h]as been a unique experience for me, but one which [h]as made me the recipient of numerous unexpected blessings beyond my wildest dreams.”

What was the blessing that Malcom X received that was beyond his wildest dreams?

“Who would believe that such blessing could be heaped upon an American Negro!!! (But) in the Muslim World, when one accepts Islam and ceases to be white or Negro, Islam recognizes all men as Men because the people here in Arabia believe that God is One, they believe that all people are also One, and that all our brothers and sisters is One Human Family…..In fact all I have seen and experienced on this pilgrimage [h]as forced me to “re-arrange” much of thoughts pattern and to toss aside some of my previous conclusions…..I have eaten [f]rom the same plate, drank from the same glass and slept on the same bed or rug…..with fellow Muslims whose skin was the whitest of white, whose eyes was the bluest of blue, and whose hair was the blondest of blond – I could look into their blue eyes and see that they regarded me as the same (Brothers), because their faith in One God (Allah) had actually removed “white” from their mind, which automatically changed their attitude and their behavior (towards) people of other colors. Their beliefs in the Oneness [h]as made them so different from American whites that their colors played no part in my mind in my dealing with them.”

Malcom X not only saw his own revelatory experience as beneficial to himself, but it gave him hope for the future of America, both African American and White.

But as America’s insane obsession with racism leads her up the suicidal path, nearer to the precipice that leads to the bottomless pits below, I do believe that Whites of the younger generation, in the colleges and universities, through their own young, less hampered intellects will see the “Handwriting on the Wall” and turn for spiritual salvation to the religion of Islam, and force the older generation to turn with them—This is the only way white America can worn off the inevitable disaster that racism always leads to, and Hitler’s Nazi Germany was best proof of this.

Malcolm X’s personal revelatory experience, that Whites were not the devil that he himself preached and that the Nation of Islam held, affected him deeply. What his ministry would have ultimately turned into after leaving the Nation of Islam is unknown. In the months after completing his pilgrimage to Mecca the animosity, vitriol, and jealously toward Malcom X by Elijah Mahammad and the Nation of Islam grew in intensity. On February 21, 1965, Malcom X was assassinated just prior to giving an address to an audience of 400 in Manhattan. Three Nation of Islam members were convicted of Malcom X’s murder.

President’s McKay’s transition

President McKay own transformational role on issues of race in the Church was more subtle and nuanced than Malcolm X’s, but it did lead in time to a dramatic change in the Church’s official position regarding racial issues in general and segregation in particular.

Early in 1954, the same year Brown v. Board of Education was decided, President McKay visited South Africa. The Church in South Africa was grappling with the so-called “one drop” rule. The one drop rule required every perspective priesthood holder in South Africa to give definitive proof that they had no African ancestry in order to qualify to be ordained to the priesthood. This was a significant impediment to the Church’s growth in South Africa because of extensive African and European intermixing. In response, President McKay abolished the one drop rule. This change essentially made the rule so that to deny someone the priesthood the person needed to be proven to have African ancestry instead of the person needed to prove they did not have African ancestry. A small but significant step toward abolishing the ban completely.

President McKay still upheld the ban in a report to the rest of the Church’s leaders. In this report, President McKay stated, “Unless there is evidence of negro blood, you need not compel a man to prove that he has none in his veins.” He did though add the following. “We are assured that the time will come when the Negro will receive every blessing to which he is entitled, including the Priesthood.”

Another one of the incremental steps that President McKay took, which is not as well documented and relies on recounted private conversations, is that he came to believe that denying males of African ancestry the priesthood was a practice, and not a doctrine. This is important in the Church because a practice is in a sense a choice made by men but a doctrine is decreed by God. If the priesthood ban was a practice it could more readily be changed than if it is an immutable doctrine from on high.

A third incremental step that President McKay took was to convene a committee headed by Church Apostle Adam S. Bennion to study the origin of the Church’s ban on males of African descent being ordained. Even at that time it was apparently well known that at least one and possibly more men of African descent had been ordained during the very early years of the Church, while Joseph Smith, Jr. was President and that the ban came about under the leadership of President Brigham Young, after Joseph Smith, Jr.’s death. If the man everyone agrees was the foremost prophet of the Church, the man who brought forth the Book of Mormon and the vast majority of the Church’s other main foundational work, the Doctrines and Covenants, accepted the ordination of men of African descent, why latter ban the practice? More importantly, why maintain the ban into President McKay’s day?

The so-called Bennion Committee ultimately “concluded that there was no sound scriptural basis for the ban.” The Bennion Committee also concluded that the Church membership, presumably both in and outside of leadership positions, was not ready to lift the ban. President McKay was also not ready to lift the ban in part because he typically sought to avoid contention and did not want the leadership of the Church to appear divided on the issue.

President McKay, even with his tentative and incremental steps forward, wrote in his diary regarding lifting the ban on males of African ancestry receiving the priesthood that “intermarriage would be the inevitable result, and I don’t believe in that.”

Malcom X and David O. McKay’s continuing journeys

Although both Malcolm X and President McKay moved their respective followers forward on issues of race, but neither could be said to have completed the journey in their lifetimes.

In his letter Malcom X states with enthusiasm how while on the Haji to Mecca he met Prince Muhammed Faisal who told Malcolm X that the soon to be King of Saudi Arabia, “his Excellency Crowned Prince Faisal,” had decreed that Malcom X would be his guest. This royal favor provided Malcom X with the opportunity to stay in hotels “with a private car, a driver, a religious guide, and many servants at my disposal.”

What Malcolm X did not know and/or does not mention is that Crown Prince Faisal had only abolished legal slavery in Saudi Arabia a scant few years before his visit, in 1962. Slavery was abolished in the home of Mecca almost a hundred years after Malcolm X’s African ancestors had been emancipated in the United States with the Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War. And just like in the United States, legally abolishing slavery in Saudi Arabia did not eliminate discrimination or the residual legacy of the practice and the conditions of forced servitude.

Both Malcom X and David O. McKay exhibit another quality that is to be praised and is the mark of those who lead and receive revelation. Both men sought truth, recognized their own shortcomings, and were willing to change.

Malcom X writes in his letter regarding the dramatic change in his views on race the following:

In fact all I have seen and experienced on this pilgrimage has forced me to “re-arrange” much of [my] thoughts pattern and to toss aside some of my previous conclusions. This “adjustment to reality” wasn’t to difficult for me to undergo, because despite my firm conviction in whatever I believe, I have always tried to keep an open mind, which is absolutely necessary to reflect the flexibility that must go hand in hand with anyone with intelligent quest for truth never comes to an end.

A similar sentiment was conveyed by President McKay in the Salt Lake Temple as recounted by the Church Apostle Boyd K. Packer.

[President McKay] talked of the temple ordinances and quoted at length from the ceremonies. He explained them to us…..After he had spoken for some time, he paused and stood gazing up to the ceiling in deep thought.

I remember that his big hands were in front of him with his fingers interlocked. He stood gazing as people sometimes do when pondering a deep question. Then he spoke: ‘Brethren, I think I am finally beginning to understand.’

Here he was, the prophet—an Apostle for over half a century and even then he was learning, he was growing. His expression ‘I think I am finally beginning to understand,’ was greatly comforting to me.”

Malcom X and President McKay both taught through their examples that even leaders with thousands upon followers, when blessed with humility, are capable of learning and discovering deeper levels of meaning. With courage and a true desire to know, people are capable of overcoming the human frailties and misconceptions we all have.