"Act Well Thy Part"
An experience that occurred during young David O. McKay’s mission to Scotland left an impression that impacted his entire life. At a time when he was homesick and discouraged, he and his companion went to see Stirling Castle. On their way back to their apartment they passed a building with an inscription carved in stone. The quotation, thought to be from Shakespeare, read, “What-E’er Thou Art, Act Well Thy Part.” President McKay recorded his feelings in his journal:
I said to myself, or the Spirit within me whispered, “You are a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. More than that, you are a representative of the Lord Jesus Christ. You accepted the responsibility as a representative of the Church.” Then I thought [about] what we had done that morning. We had been sightseeing. We had gained historical instruction and information, it is true, and I was thrilled with it. . . . However, that was not missionary work. . . .
. . . I accepted the message given to me on that stone, and from that moment we tried to do our part as missionaries in Scotland.
The stone’s message had a profound impact on then Elder McKay. Each individual is important no matter how small or how large his part. When one neglects his duties, the equation changes and the outcome is different. This experience not only changed David O. McKay’s perspective as a missionary but also reminded him throughout his life to act in each responsibility the best that he was able.
John Allan, the 19th- century Scottish architect of that building, was known for his unusual designs. Many times he included carved inscriptions on his buildings. This particular design is known as the magic square. There is an arrangement of numbers in a square grid; each number appears once, and the sum in any direction is the same. This particular square had different symbols and shapes representing numbers, such as a hand symbolizing five or a triangle representing three. The symbols were incised within the nine squares, and each row added up to 18. The square would lose its “magic” if any of the numbers were changed. Each one was vital to the whole and irreplaceable.
According to the Church History Museum, the building that contained the stone was torn down and the stone was lost. Years later missionaries recognized the inscribed stone, which had been incorporated into a stone fence in the area. Knowing of its meaning and importance to President McKay, the Scottish Mission presidency acquired it and placed it on the mission home grounds, where it remained until 1970. After President McKay’s death, the stone was sent to Salt Lake City and included among his artifacts. It has been displayed in various locations but has been in the Church History Museum since 1984. A replica of the stone is on display on the grounds of the Scotland/Ireland Mission Home.