Brett and Kate McKay: Loving the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the Second Half of Life
Various philosophers have often mused that there are two halves of our lives. What separates them is the period of time when we transition from a belief system to a humble inner knowing. This week’s guests, Brett and Kate McKay, are no strangers to the evolution of faith and say they have experienced significant moments of decision within their own faith. But they have also found that it is very possible to transition from the first half of life to the second with your faith intact. They believe faith shouldn’t be boring; instead, it’s very possible to stay passionate about the gospel after leaving young adulthood.
I think that there should be a certain romance and enchantment that happens with the gospel.
See the website for the McKay's project here: “The Art of Manliness”
Brett’s podcast: The Art of Manliness
Articles by Brett and Kate McKay on their website:
“An Introduction to the Spiritual Disciplines”
“By proving contraries, truth is made manifest.”– Joseph Smith Jr.
“To me, the best definition of a commitment is falling in love with something and then building a structure or behavior around it for those moments when love falters.” – David Brooks
“Of course, I quite agree that the Christian religion is, in the long run, a thing of unspeakable discomfort. But it does not begin in comfort; it begins in the dismay and it is no use at all trying to go on to that comfort without first going through that dismay. In religion, as in war and everything else, comfort is one thing you cannot get looking for it. If you look for the truth, you may find comfort in the end: if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth-only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin with and the in the end, despair.” – C.S. Lewis
3:46- Law School Blogger
7:14- Transitioning From the First Half of Life to the Second 11:42- Embracing Paradox
17:24- Communal and Individual Faith 22:45- The Freedom of the Covenant Path
26:01- “Maximum Marriage”
28:40- “For Those Moments When Love Falters”
33:55- A Gospel that Fills Your Soul With Enchantment 37:40- Studying It Out
39:48- Reinfusing Your Actions with Love 41:30- What Does It Mean To Be All In the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
Morgan Jones 0:01
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On the interview you're about to hear, I had an interesting thing happen. I usually try to do a lot of research before interviews so that nothing comes as a surprise, but three fourths of the way through this interview I learned that Kate McKay joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when she was 18 years old. Had I known this beforehand, I probably would have dug into that experience a little deeper early on.
I considered asking Katie and Brett to re-record this interview because I found her experience to be so fascinating. But ultimately, I decided to leave it as is. I hope you enjoy learning from these new friends as much as I did.
Carl Jung first spoke of the two halves of life, something that has been widely discussed since. He wrote, "One cannot live the afternoon of life, according to the program of life's morning; for what was great in the morning will be of little importance in the evening. And what in the morning was true, will in evening become a lie."
Does this mean that if as a little kid you knew the Church was true, it can't be true in the second half of your life? How can we transition to the second half of our lives with our faith intact and thriving? And could that faith possibly be even more beautiful in the second half than it was in the first?
On today's episode, we talk with two people who have devoted more than 10 years to running a website and a podcast called "The Art of Manliness," which they hope will aid men in their efforts to transition from the first half of life to the second.
Brett and Kate McKay are both from Oklahoma. Kate earned her master's in religion from Oklahoma City University while Brett graduated from University of Tulsa, College of Law. They founded "The Art of Manliness" in 2008, and it has grown into the largest independent men's interest magazine on the web. They are the parents of two children.
This is All In an LDS Living podcast where we ask the question, what does it really mean to be all in the gospel of Jesus Christ? I'm Morgan Jones, and I am so happy to have Katie and Brett McKay on the line with me today, Brett and Katie, welcome.
Brett McKay 3:21
Hey, thanks for having us.
Kate McKay 3:23
Yeah, great to be here.
Morgan Jones 3:25
Well, I have been so looking forward to this. And I have to tell you that I did kind of a deep dive into what you all have worked on for the past–how many years have you all been doing "Art of Manliness"?
Brett McKay 3:39
Since 2008? So we're coming up on what?–13 years.
Morgan Jones 3:43
Amazing. That's a long time. So I wondered if we could kind of go back to that time, to 2008, and when you Brett originally had the idea for "Art of Manliness." You two were already married at that time, right?
Brett McKay 3:59
So yeah, I was–we were already married. I was attending the University of Tulsa, College of Law. My plans were to become an attorney. But at the time, I had been blogging–like everyone and their mom were doing back in the early 2000s–and I had this personal finance Blog, called, "The Frugal Law Student," that was something I just did for fun when I wasn't studying for torts or contracts.
But then, like 2000–like winter 2007, I was at a Borders Bookstore taking a break from studying and I was doing what I usually do when I go to a Borders, which was, "I'm going to go to the magazine section and browse magazines" and I was in the men's section.
And I was just looking at it and I just realized, you know what? Every single month it's the same thing with these men's magazines. You're going to see articles on how to get six pack abs, lifestyles that you know no average guy could afford, let alone a broke newly married law student, lots of stuff about sex and things like that. And I just realized, you know that this doesn't, this doesn't appeal to me. This doesn't resonate with me.
And right then and there, I was, like, you know what? I blog, like, I could create the men's magazine that I'd want to read. And so right then in there, I had the idea, I was like, okay, what kind of stuff would I write about if I had my own men's magazine? I started coming with content ideas. And I was like, "Well, what am I going to call this thing?"
And the idea–so I read this book when I was in college called The Manly Arts and it was about Bare Knuckle boxing in the 19th century.
Morgan Jones 5:33
Brett McKay 5:33
I was like "The Manly Arts! . . . Nah, that doesn't sound good. Ah! The Art of Manliness." And also you know, I like this sort of vintage thing. It's pretty cool. So I decided to make a bare knuckle boxer sort of my icon. And so that's what it was, I started it January 2008, is when I've published the first article, which was "How to shave with a safety razor," and been doing it since then.
Morgan Jones 5:57
So Katie, what was your reaction when Brett had this idea? And did you have any idea at the time that this would become such a significant part of your lives together?
Kate McKay 6:09
I did not really understand it at the time, I'm pretty slow on the technological pickup in general. And, you know, he was like, "It's just for fun." But then he was like, you know, maybe it could be something bigger. And I was like, "Brett, you know, you should really concentrate on your law studies. And, you know, it's a blog, I don't really know what a blog is, exactly, but I think law school should be your priority." And I'm really happy to have been entirely wrong.
Morgan Jones 6:39
One idea that you've talked about Brett with multiple people on your podcast is the idea of there being two halves of life. And I think that this concept is so fascinating. David Brooks calls it “the Second Mountain” where the purpose of life kind of shifts from a life of self-centeredness to other centered, a life of interdependence rather than independence. And then Carl Jung called it the first and second halves of life.
As we emailed in preparation for this interview, Brett, you mentioned that you think this applies to faith, and it's something that Latter-day Saints struggle with moving from that first half of life to the second, with our faith still intact. Why do you think that is?
Brett McKay 7:23
So yeah, this is an idea also talked about by a Franciscan monk.
Morgan Jones 7:29
Richard Rohr, right?
Brett McKay 7:31
Father Richard Rohr. And he talks about the first half of life is all about building structure in your life. It's about building a container for your life. And this is good, like you need that structure, you need that container, it's all about establish yourself as–you're establishing your career, establishing a family getting a house, getting prestige, it's all about checking boxes, that you do these things, and we need that in life.
The second half of life is all about, what am I going to put in the container that I've built for myself? It's about: what does my life mean now? So first half is about building the life, second half of the life is answering the question, who am I? What does this all mean?
So applying it to faith, I think, you know, as Latter-day Saints, growing up, we're really good at this first half of life stuff. We have these checklists for people, we have this structure for individuals, for kids. You know, you get baptized, and then if you're a boy, you have to go through the priesthood, you advance through these things, then you go on a mission, and then you go to the temple, and then you get married. And we do a really good job of setting people–getting people ready.
But then afterwards, there's not a lot of instruction on, well . . . what now? Like, "I got married in the temple. What do I do now?" And it's something I think you have to–I've noticed I've had to kind of figure out on my own, what would you say Katie?
Kate McKay 8:58
Yeah, something I liked that Richard Rohr says is that the second half of life is about finding the task within the task. And he says, "What we are really doing when we are doing what we are doing," which sounds . . . but I think the idea is that you're going deeper into your faith, not just yeah, checking the boxes off.
And I think that . . . I think that a lot of like, faith crises–is that how you say the plural?–happen because you do grow up with more of a like a simple black and white, no flaws kind of story about faith. And I think that is a good thing that is like helpful in establishing the structure of your faith.
But I think a lot of young adults reach a point where they realize the story of faith and of Church History is . . . it's a lot more complex than they realize when they were growing up, and they feel like they want a different kind of faith journey, a different change in their perspective, but they're not exactly sure what that should look like.
And so I think that one option is to go into this second half of life faith mode where you're looking for deeper meaning and you're coming at things from a new angle and a fresh angle, but that can be pretty hard, and so I think that people often choose a second option, which is, they just take the narrative that they grew up with that it's like, you know, this is all perfect and true, and then they just flip it upside down. So it's all true and then they go to–none of it is true, it was all a lie. And that is like definitely a change in your thinking. And that will definitely send you on a different kind of faith journey.
But really, it's just another first half of life kind of narrative. You know, it's still one dimensional. It's still childlike, it's still, you know, what Richard Rohr calls dualistic thinking, sort of black and white thinking. So I don't think that it–it won't ultimately be like, satisfying to your soul. So, you know, I think that it's difficult to make that transition, and I do think people end up kind of wanting to flip things upside down. And I think that you have to go with that first option of looking at things from a deeper perspective instead.
Morgan Jones 11:32
Kate McKay 11:33
You know, that has a lot to do with, I think, embracing the idea of paradox, which we could talk about more too.
Morgan Jones 11:39
Yeah, I'd love to talk more about that. Because I think–I think there are a lot of people that would like to go with that first option, where it's like, "Yeah, I would like to dig more into my faith," but it's almost like we don't even know where to start with that. What does that look like in practice?
So you mentioned Richard Rohr talks about this idea of moving beyond dualistic thinking–meaning like black and white–to embrace paradox. Meaning it's okay to ask questions, and you can still be totally all in the gospel while exploring those questions. So can you talk to me a little bit about why you think that that is possible, and like what that would look like in practice that digging into your faith a little bit deeper?
Kate McKay 12:29
Yeah, definitely. I think that–I think lots of times in the Church we think that we need to resolve our doubt, and that doubt and belief are antithetical, but I do think that is more like a first life, first half of life kind of narrative.
And I think that you can have faith and doubt at the same time. And what–I don't mean by that that you have a doubt and you put it on the shelf and you don't think about it ever again. And I also don't mean that you take your doubt and your belief, and you kind of like smush them together so that you have a sort of compromised position.
So you know, sometimes people say, "Well, I don't really know that the Book of Mormon events really happened. But I think that maybe it's an inspired piece of literature," or "I don't know that Jesus Christ was the Savior of the world, but He was a really wise teacher," you're kind of smushing doubt and belief together. And I think that, if that can help you, like, stay in the faith longer, then that's okay. But I have found that that sort of limbo position doesn't end up being sustainable in the long run.
So I am talking about holding a belief as a belief and a doubt as a doubt, and being totally okay with having both of those things in your life. So, for example, I don't have a testimony that polygamy was divinely inspired. Like, maybe it was, and maybe it wasn't, but I don't have a testimony of that. And when I think about it, I feel kind of disturbed. And it's a hard thing, I think for me, and I think for other people, too, but I do, like 100% think that Joseph Smith found golden plates in the ground, and Christ visited the Americas. And I do 100% think that Jesus Christ was the Savior of the world.
So I might have a doubt about polygamy, but then I also know that these things are completely true. And so I can hold both of those things at the same time. So I think that you know, kind of growing up and maturing in your faith is being able to see that truth has a lot to do with paradox. It can seem like those are two contradictions–doubt and belief–but you can have both of those in your life without freaking out about it.
Morgan Jones 14:56
Right. And I think it's so interesting that you just use those words, "Without freaking out about it," because one thing that I've been thinking about a lot lately is how I think Satan uses the feeling of panic to get people to walk away from the things that they do know, because it seems like, just for people that I know that have left the Church, it seems like they get in this state of like, "I have to figure this out right now."
Kate McKay 15:23
Morgan Jones 15:23
"And if I don't figure this out, right now, I have to like walk away." And so it's almost this feeling of urgency, where I don't think faith can be urgent. Like I think faith is the process that's built over time.
Kate McKay 15:36
I think that when you have the doubt and belief, you feel an inherent tension. And I think that tension, we're like, uncomfortable with it. And so we want it to go away. And maybe we panic about it. And the way that I've come to think about it is that instead of like panicking, you should sort of frame it in–I think about it as . . . it's like, the particles in a Super Collider, you know, they're colliding with each other. And so there's a lot of tension, but it also creates this great animating energy that can actually be this great energy of your faith, can actually make your faith strong and interesting, yeah.
Brett McKay 16:16
I think, Joseph Smith, didn't he have a quote? Something about paradox, like truth is found between paradox or something like that? I believe so. I don't know the exact one. Maybe we can–
Morgan Jones 16:24
Yeah, I can try to dig it up.
Brett McKay 16:25
Yeah. I think something too, you have to . . . this tension, you have to learn to be okay with it. And okay, with both the–I mean, this doesn't just apply to Church, it just applies to life in general. Life is both tragic and joyous at the same time. And look at the fall, the fall of Adam and Eve. It was tragic, kicked out from the presence of God, mortality, death comes here. But it's also–we call it an upward fall. It's a happy fall, because of that, we get to experience mortality, and we get to experience a Savior, we get to have a Savior because of that. We have the plan of salvation.
So the trick, I think, not only with the gospel, but just in life in general is being okay with things being both good and bad at the same time.
Morgan Jones 17:13
Yeah. Was that quote that you were talking about, Brett, the one where Joseph says, "By proving contraries truth is made manifest?"
Brett McKay 17:21
Yes! There you go.
Morgan Jones 17:22
So good. Okay. So I love this idea and I want to dig into it a little bit more. One thing that you've talked about in terms of this first half of life–which, I think it's so cool, that Brett, you kind of took this transitional time for yourself, you were like in that transitioning from first half of life to second half of life, by definition, when you kind of started this website.
And so in that first half of life, we talk a lot about the influence of family and peers and culture. And I think one thing that can be tough with faith is because we've relied on the examples of others and we've tried, you know, in the Church we're encouraged choose good friends, like be around people that have the same standards that you have.
And one thing I've noticed with people that I've recently watched in my own life, is that when someone they love leaves the Church, it rocks the boat for them personally, would you say that is part of the transition from first half of life to the second? Being able to like independently sustain our faith and recognizing that others may choose a different path, but being confident in the path that we're on?
Brett McKay 18:37
Yeah, I would agree with that. I think it's . . . you should be upset and bummed out and sad when someone decides to leave, because, you know, for us in our Church, salvation is very communal. Like when you become baptized, you know, the covenants are a lot of us just bearing one another's burdens, you join the community, and then when you make further covenants in the temple, it's all very communal, it's about–I'm going to build up the Church.
And so when someone leaves, it's like a part of the fabric has been ripped out. And we should be bummed about that. But as you said, I think it's important to be okay with that. Don't let it–be bummed about it, mourn it, right. But also, you know, continue to be that person's friend and be able to hold those two things and your ideas. like, “Ah, yes, I still believe in this. This person that I love and respect and admire, might not, I can still be their friend and still have them part of my life. And I can still be a faithful member of the Church.” And I think that's part of that second half of life stuff.
Morgan Jones 19:45
Another thing that you mentioned, Brett, in our correspondence beforehand is that one's faith should not be boring, and we should stay passionate about the gospel even after leaving young adulthood. So I wondered for you both, what have you found to be effective in doing that in your own life? How do we keep it from becoming boring?
Brett McKay 20:08
So I think one thing is to continue asking those deep questions that you would ask your friends late at night about the gospel. I remember growing up, you know, in our youth group, we'd have these parties every weekend, someone's house, we would go to someone's house, play games, listen to ska music, and drink, Seven Up punch, whatever, that stuff is called.
But then we'd go out at night and I remember like looking up at the stars. And we'd have these discussions about the lyrics of "If You Could Hie to Kolob," and what does it mean for, you know, things to never end? And whatever. And I think as you get older, you tend to stop asking those questions because you get so caught up in the day to day.
So I think make time for that those questions. Don't forget, like, let your younger self be a mentor to you. And keep asking those questions. I'd say another one for both of us is we've had your scripture study groups with friends of ours with "Come, Follow Me," and that's been really useful. Katie, would you agree?
Kate McKay 21:09
Yeah, I think that is very, very useful. I think sometimes people feel frustrated with the worship experience at Church, that it's not super deep. And you know, the reality is that our Sunday services have to kind of be key to the lowest common denominator. And that's not a bad thing, it's part of being in a community is that we all have to be at the same level. But that means that sometimes like Sunday school–Sunday school can always be a lot better, I think then it is, but it may not ever be as deep as you want it to be, so I think that it can be really fulfilling and edifying to start your own scripture study group with your friends.
And so I think in those more intimate settings, you could really ask the deeper questions and get some fresh angles on things and just kind of get–yeah, a deeper relationship with the gospel.
Morgan Jones 22:10
For sure. I think one thing that I feel like we all could do a little bit of a better job with is kind of taking responsibility for our own faith journey and recognizing that, yeah, like Church is great and serves different purposes that two hour block on Sunday, and I think certainly during COVID, we all came to appreciate that a little bit more. But I also think that there are things that we can be doing in our own personal lives to strengthen our faith and dig deeper.
Another thing in the first half of life–I think it was David Brooks, talked about how we seek freedom of constraint. But that changes to freedom of capacity in the second half of life. And that one element of that is choosing to make and keep commitments. And I think this is one thing that, you know, in hosting this podcast and talking to a lot of different people, one of the biggest things that I feel like I've come to appreciate more about the gospel is covenants and the idea that the Church allows us opportunities to make and keep commitments.
So I wondered for you all, how would you say that you see that the church encourages us to do that. And why is making those commitments so important?
Brett McKay 23:33
No, so I think this is the big message of President Nelson. And I love it, this idea of the covenant path. That we need to get on the covenant path and stay on the covenant path, which is all about making commitments. And yeah, like I said, we also typically think of commitments as they bind you and prohibit you to do things. But in the process of restraining yourself, it allows you to be more generative.
It allows you to focus on, "What can I do?" and it sort of focuses your energy and your just everything you do towards something that's bigger than yourself. I mean, the whole idea of like, when we make covenants, we are endowed with power, like we are given power from on high to go and do amazing things in building up the kingdom of God. So yeah, I mean, I think the message that we're hearing a lot lately from the pulpit from general conference is: covenants are awesome and you should make them and then keep them.
Morgan Jones 24:34
I love it.
Kate McKay 24:35
I agree. I think that limits release our creativity and our potential. You know, with like art, if you're like writing Haiku, or you're writing a poem in iambic pentameter, those actual limits can force you to be your most creative self. You know, like electricity needs a conduit to flow through and a river runs more rapidly through a narrow channel then like a broad, stagnant pond. And I think that these limits channel who we are and our potential and actually help us to become our best selves.
Morgan Jones 25:14
For sure. I think that that is so good. I was actually just thinking earlier this week about the idea that–I think the world would have us believe that by opening ourselves up to another person that that is like a very dangerous position to be in. But covenants would tell us like President Nelson talked about in conference, you know, "Get married," and then he's like, "You may ask, what difference will it make in your life? It will make all the difference."
And I think that there's power in committing ourselves and we invite strength and the power of the Atonement into our lives. So that kind of leads me perfectly into my next question for you which is–one of these big commitments is marriage. And I loved in your interview, Brett, with David Brooks, he talked about this idea of maximum marriage, like, basically, you don't want to do marriage halfway, you want to like get all of the benefits out of it that it can possibly give you. What have the two of you found to be most effective in strengthening and maximizing your marriage?
Brett McKay 26:26
Well, I think the first step is just marrying the right person. And I think I've done that, Katie's amazing. You know, we're with each other, like, literally 24/7 but I never get tired of her. She's great. And I love her a lot. And something I think–I think it was David Brooks that talked about this, he says marriage is basically a 50 or 60 year long conversation. So you need to find somebody that you're willing to talk to, for that long, and will have those conversations that will cause you to grow. So I think that's key number one is just finding someone who has those same ideals and values as you. Katie, what would you–?
Kate McKay 27:09
No, I totally agree.
Brett McKay 27:11
Yeah. And then beyond that–so I think you can apply this first half of life, second half of life rubric to even a marriage. There's sort of a first half of life component to marriage, sort of the workaday stuff, just managing the to do's managing a household, etc.
And so something that helped Katie and I with that, every week, we do a weekly marriage meeting where we just check in, we show appreciation for each other, what we did during the week. We discuss to dues that are going on, practices kids have to be at, stuff that needs to be fixed around the house, we plan for good times, and then we talk about big issues.
And that's been I think, a big game ch–we've done that for years, but it really does make a difference. And then that second half of life stuff, the meaningful stuff, I think it's just important to–again–have those conversations about, you know, what is–like, never forget what your marriage is about, right? It's about helping each other and your kids make covenants and return back to our Father in heaven. So I think that's a another component to it as well.
Kate McKay 28:20
Yeah. I think that David Brooks says that you should really be able to admire your spouse, and I think continuing to be a person that is worthy of admiration is important.
Brett McKay 28:33
Morgan Jones 28:34
Absolutely. Okay. So I've been waiting for this quote the whole interview. My favorite quote from David Brooks, and I think he said this in the interview with you, Brett. He also said it in his book, The Second Mountain.
He said, "To me, the best definition of a commitment is falling in love with something and then building a structure or behavior around it for those moments when love falters." And I think that this applies in marriage and in family, I think it also applies to our faith. So how do you think that we build a structure or a behavior around our faith for the moments when love falters?
Because I feel like that's where that sense of panic kind of sets in is when people feel that love start to falter. And so it's like, what do we do in those moments? Or what do we do to prepare for those moments before they ever get there so that when that love does seem to falter, we don't panic?
Kate McKay 29:37
So I think I would kind of come at this from a different direction and say that I think that the Church provides that structure and those habits for us really well with the sacrament meeting and service and temple worship.
I think that the thing that sometimes we need to work on and maybe is lacking is that we haven't fallen in love with the gospel. So it–I think a lot of times people have taken on the commitment without the falling in love. There's this really great quote from a professor of preaching named Fred Craddock. And he said, "Many who say, 'Here we go again,' have not, in fact, ever gone before."
And I think that Church and the commitment of Church can feel like a grind. And it can feel like a burden if you haven't had the falling in love experience. And then if you do have the falling in love experience, what feels like effort, and work, and even like panic can feel like a joy.
I oftentimes think about when you are first dating someone and you're in the head over heels falling in love phase, you feel like there's nothing that you wouldn't do for that person. So you know, and to kind of like highlight the contrast, like if an acquaintance that you don't know that well called you up at midnight and said, "I need a ride from the airport," you would be like, "Ah, geez," you know, really begrudgingly, "Okay, fine."
But if your boyfriend called you up and said, "I need a ride," you'd be flying out the door, and you can't wait to get in the car and see him. And that really is the difference in the motivation when you have the falling in love experience versus not having that. And I also think that it resolves the paradox that we find in the scriptures where Christ says that, "My yoke is easy and my burden is light."
I think lots of times we look at that and we think, how could that be true? The Church and the gospel requires so much effort. But if you have fallen in love with the gospel, it doesn't–I mean, it still feels like work, but it doesn't really, it feels like it's very natural. It's a natural thing. So I think that a lot of like our problems with feeling conflict with the Church or wanting to fall out of it is that yeah, we've not had that kind of romance. I know that sounds weird. But I think that there should be a certain romance and enchantment that happens with the gospel.
Brett McKay 32:20
And I would–yeah, so I agree with that. And I think anyone who has been on a mission has experienced how your work in the Gospel changes whenever you infuse it with love. When I first–when I was on my mission, first got there, I was in like first half of life mode. It's like, "I'm going to grind this out, I'm a type A, I’ve got to obey the rules exactly. I've got to, you know, make sure to give this many discussions," I was going to make sure that I was–that Brett was doing this.
But it didn't go anywhere. It just, it just felt like a grind. And then halfway through my mission, I just had this epiphany, really, that, look, your work isn't going to–yes, it's an important part. But like, that's not the thing that converts people. That's not the thing–like Christ and His Atonement is what converts people.
And as soon as I realized that, like Katie said, like, the yoke becomes easy, the burden becomes light. I was still doing the things I was doing before, but it didn't feel like a grind anymore. In fact, it just felt really good to go out and do this stuff. And so yeah, I'm always trying to recapture that feeling of lightness, of grace, that I experienced on my mission, when it comes to not only my own gospel living, but also just life itself, like work itself.
Morgan Jones 33:49
I love these thoughts so much. And I want to ask one more question before we get to our final question. I think a mission is a great place for kind of that transition to happen, right? Where it becomes something that we love. And I think it becomes that for many people while serving a mission, but I wonder what you would say in terms of outside of a mission? And that's obviously a crazy experience, you know, but outside of that, how do we fall in love with the gospel? How do we what does that experience look like?
Kate McKay 34:33
I have thought about this a lot. I feel like I–in some ways had an easy, in that I'm a convert and I was baptized when I was 18, and I think that for me it was kind of love at first sight. And so I've thought about, "Okay if I was grown up in the Church, how would have the falling in love process have worked or looked?" And I think that maybe it's more like, you know, sometimes people are friends with someone for a long time. And then something just happens and they end up like falling in love with each other, you know.
And I think that that seems to happen when they start recognizing things in the other person, they start noticing things that are really endearing. And for me, I mean, even though I'm a convert, I would say that I re-fall in love with the gospel all the time. And I think that, that happens through that process of noticing and contemplating and letting . . . I just think that the gospel is amazingly magical.
So as I said, I got baptized when I was 18 and then I went off to BYU. And one of the many things that shocked me about Church culture, it was a little bit of an adjustment for me was that there, I was kind of shocked that there were people who were complacent about the gospel, you know, like, just kind of, "Eh,” or “Whatever.”
And to me, when I joined the Church, I thought, if you're in this gospel, where you can find golden plates in the ground, and Christ visited the Americas, and a member of the Godhead dwells inside of you, and there's a living prophet, and temples on the earth, again, it's like, it would be impossible to look at that and then be kind of like, "Meh,"
Morgan Jones 36:27
Kate McKay 36:28
You know, "Whatever."
Morgan Jones 36:30
Kate McKay 36:30
And I think that if you really take the time to ponder it, it will fill your soul with enchantment. Like, even when I–when I first held the Book of Mormon, even without opening it, I could just feel the power of it simply sitting in my hand. And even today, sometimes I'll hold the Book of Mormon, and I can still feel that. Because when you really like take a step back and think about the context, and think about what you're holding–this second testament of Jesus Christ that we get to have in our life, it's amazing. It's like, totally amazing.
And I think that we, I think that falling in love happens when we take a step back and we think, "Oh, I get to visit a temple of God where the veil is thin and Christ can visit there. And I'm endowed with power, and I'm a priestess, and I can become a goddess." And when you really contemplate that it's hard not to kind of swoon over the gospel.
Morgan Jones 37:35
That's so well said, I don't know if I'm going to leave this in the interview or not, but selfishly, I really want to know how you came in contact with the Church.
Kate McKay 37:46
So I had a friend in middle school, and she was a Latter-day Saint and she moved to Utah. And we had like, written each other letters and in high school, I got cut from the basketball team and was like super devastated the way that only a 14 year old can be.
And so I wrote her about how despondent I was and she wrote me back, and she said she was prompted to share her testimony with me. And she invited me out to girls camp and so–in Utah–and I went to Utah, and I came back wanting to be Mormon. I was raised Catholic and my parents were super upset when I came back. And so I was, like, 16 at the time. And then they made me wait until I was 18 to be baptized. So I really during that time, I studied it out, I read all the anti Mormon stuff to make sure I was making the right decision and then I was baptized when I was 18.
Morgan Jones 38:45
Amazing. So would you say–because I feel like, so one thing when you were talking about your love for the gospel, it made me think I've always felt kind of jealous of people that are converts to the Church and have felt like, you know, what would it be like to hear the gospel for the first time when you're like, a little bit older, and you can understand it a little bit better. But I love what you said about like, falling in love with it over and over again. Because I do feel like I felt that in my life. But do you feel like that, like having grown up Catholic and then joining the Church that that influenced your desire to like study religion?
Kate McKay 39:25
Yeah, definitely. I mean, it really kind of ignited an interest in–because I, you know, during the little period where I had to wait to get baptized, I had, you know, evangelical friends who invited me to Church with them, and they wanted me to join their Church, and so I really studied it out. And it just kind of made me really interested in faith in general.
Morgan Jones 39:46
So interesting. Well, I have loved talking with the two of you and so appreciate you sharing your thoughts and your insights. Brett, is there anything that you would add to that conversation about, you know, falling in love with the gospel?
Brett McKay 40:03
Yeah, I think even if you've been on a mission when you get out of it, that's still a challenge. You have to keep re-falling in love with it. We were actually this summer we went on a camping trip, a backpacking trip in Colorado. We bumped into a Catholic priest slash monk.
And we started talking with him. And he talks about one of the things that monks struggle with is this thing called "Acedia," which is basically slothfulness, you just sort of like, you don't want to, you know you're supposed to read the scriptures, you know you're supposed to pray you just don't want to.
And I said, "Oh, man, yeah, I can–I experienced that too."
Morgan Jones 40:37
"I can relate."
Brett McKay 40:38
Right? But I imagine it's worse for a monk because that's all you're supposed to be doing. And I said, "Well, what do monks do about it?" And he says, "Yeah, you have to re-infuse your actions with love again." And I'm like, "Well, how do you do that?"
He says, "Well, it's a grace." So you have to remember that, you know, he loved us first. Right? God loved us first. And recognize His love in your life, and in what you what you're doing. And by recognizing it–Katie talked about that, mentioned that–like recognizing those moments where you feel God's love will propel you to infuse what you do with love. So I think it's just being attentive to what's going on around you and seeing the love of Christ, the love of God manifest itself. I think that does a lot.
Morgan Jones 41:23
Thank you so much. Well, again, thank you for spending your time with me and for sharing your testimonies. My last question for you is, what does it mean to you to be all in the gospel of Jesus Christ?
Brett McKay 41:37
So there's a philosopher that I like, named Soren Kierkegaard. He's a Danish theologian, also the father of existential philosophy. And he had this idea that we have kind of three–this is a very dumbed down version of this–but we have like three selves inside of us, right?
There's our concrete self, the self that we are right now. I'm Brett, I live in Tulsa, I'm talking to Morgan, I'm a podcaster, blah, blah, blah. Then there's our ideal self, it's the self that we want to be. So I want to be the most–the best podcaster ever, I want to–sort of our personal ambitions and goals in life.
And then he says, there's a third self, and he calls it your true self. And this is the self that God wants you to be. And if you look at scripture, what you see over and over again is a pattern of people being called to be the person that God wants them to be.
Whether that's Moses, whether that's Jonah, whether, you know, Christ's disciples, Joseph Smith. So I think what it means to be all in the gospel of Jesus Christ is figuring out and recognizing the person that God wants you to be. And then being that.
I think a great example, is–of someone going or not going all in–is the rich young man, right. He's talking to the Savior, he's like, "This all sounds great. What do I got to do to get this eternal life?" And the Savior says, "Well, sell all your stuff to the poor, come follow me." And that was the self that Christ wanted that young man to be. And he couldn't do it.
And I always . . . whenever I'm going on in my life, I'm always trying to figure out, am I striving to be the person that God wants me to be? So I think that's what it means to be all in the Gospel.
Morgan Jones 43:34
Thank you so much. I think that's–I think in a world where people are constantly talking about, you know, "Be your authentic self," I think that idea of, there are a few different kinds of self is very helpful. Katie, anything else? Or what would you say?
Kate McKay 43:53
I feel like I would answer this question differently at different times. But something I've been thinking about lately is that, and it comes back to the idea of embracing paradox, is that I think a lot of times we look to the Gospel for peace and for comfort, and I think that the gospel can bring those things.
And we–but we want God to sort of align with what we think He should be, what we think is fair and what we think makes sense. I think a lot of times we say, like, "I couldn't believe in a God that did X," or "Thinks x" or whatever.
But I think that we oftentimes end up making God in our own image, which kind of creates an idol. Like we're made in His image, but we're not supposed to make Him in our image. And I have just come to appreciate like the otherness of God. I get enough of me as it is like, I'm tired of me and I don't want a God that is just like me, I want a God that is different.
And I think what comes along with that is that sometimes the gospel discomforts us. I think that the gospel is supposed to disorient us to reorient us. And we want to skip the disorientation part. But I think that that ends up being on the wrong track of things.
There's this great quote from C.S. Lewis, and he said, "The Christian religion does not begin in comfort. It begins in dismay. In religion, as in war and everything else, comfort is the one thing you cannot get by looking for it. If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end. If you look for comfort, you will not get either comfort or truth, only–soft soap and wishful thinking to begin with, and in the end, despair."
So I think that being all in on the gospel is being okay with the fact that the gospel brings both comfort and peace and also discomfort and actually kind of embracing the fact that it does disorient you, that sometimes it's weird. And sometimes it doesn't make sense. And sometimes it's really mysterious and I think–and being like, I really need that in my life too.
Morgan Jones 46:24
That is so good. Thank you both so much these are fantastic answers and such helpful food for thought. I'll be chewing on this for a while. So, thank you both.
Kate McKay 46:36
Brett McKay 46:37
Morgan Jones 46:39
We are so grateful to Brett and Kate Mackay for joining us on today's episode. Be sure to check out "The Art of Manliness" for some great content, regardless of whether you are a male or a female.
Thanks to Derek Campbell of Mix at Six studios for his help with this episode. We know the days are ticking between now and Christmas, so remember, if you love this podcast and you're looking for a last minute neighbor gift, or a gift for a favorite things party, the All In book is a great option if I do say so myself. Thanks so much for listening. We'll be with you again next week.