The 16th historian and recorder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a shared history himself with a past church historian.
General authority Seventy Kyle S. McKay, who assumed his new role this month, lived and worked as a teen on the Ogden Valley farm of Marlin K. Jensen, who served as historian and recorder until his retirement in 2012.
“It’s not like we talked about church history,” McKay recalled in a news release. “We milked cows and hauled hay and fixed fences when I was there as a 14-year-old boy. I turned 15 when I was living in his home.”
Still, he learned much beyond farming during his boyhood stay.
“I grew up under the tutelage of Marlin Jensen,” McKay said. “And he has been a kind mentor my entire life. I watched him from a distance as he fulfilled this responsibility.”
The new historian replaces general authority Seventy LeGrand R. Curtis Jr., who turned 70 on Aug. 1 and as such, the release noted, will receive emeritus status in October’s General Conference.
A lawyer by profession, McKay, who has family ties to the church’s ninth prophet-president, David O. McKay, has been serving as the assistant executive director of the Church History Department for three years. Now he will oversee that department, along with the faith’s historical sites, a publications department, and the Church History Library and Church History Museum in downtown Salt Lake City.
“Church history, as you may know, has been a [topic] where some people have found things that have caused them to lose or question their faith,” McKay explained in the release. “I believe that church history has the capacity to strengthen faith and it ought to be used for that purpose, and I’m excited to do it.”
In recent years, the Utah-based faith has confronted thorny historical issues through official essays tackling topics such as church founder Joseph Smith’s polygamy; his translation of its signature scripture, the Book of Mormon; his varying accounts of his “First Vision”; and the former priesthood/temple ban on Black members.
The church also has released three volumes of “Saints,” a four-book narrative history of the 192-year-old global faith.
For his part, McKay pointed to the massive Joseph Smith Papers project and the light it has shed on the first Mormon.
“There is virtually nothing,” McKay said, “that has been left unpublished with respect to things written by him or to him.”
The new church historian expects the preservation and research to continue.
“There have been some marvelous things that have happened here. And there are some marvelous things that are going on,” he said in the release. “I hope to help record and preserve it without getting in the way.”