How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Elder McConkie

June 30, 2004 | 72 comments
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I grew up in a home where I was taught from my earliest childhood to be skeptical of Elder Bruce R. McConkie. I was taught that he was overly dogmatic and that his urge to systemization was inconsistent with the spirit of continuing revelation and the core of the restored gospel. Good honor-thy-father-and-thy-mother-that-thy-days-may-be-long-upon-land child that I was, I imbibed this ethos and by the time I arrived at college I had a deep, anti-McConkie strain. While in the MTC I served with a missionary who was one of Elder McConkie’s grandsons. He (the missionary not the apostle) informed me that it was alright for there to be people like me in the church because there were people like him (the missionary) whom the spirit had endowed with perfect knowledge. This clinched it for me. No hope for McConkie or his kin. Of late, however, I have made my peace. I have learned to stop worrying and love Elder McConkie.

The nadir of my McConkie-hating came while I was taking a New Testament class at BYU. The instructor gave us one real assignment in the entire course. We were to read a book on the New Testament, give it a grade, and justify our decision. “Here’s my chance!” I gleefully thought. “I can stick it to both Elder McConkie and the Religion Department!” I chose one of McConkie’s Mortal Messiah books. I intensely disliked the book. It was assertive and dogmatic. It clearly took potshots at other authors without even having the courtesy to cite them. It seemed resolutely unaware of any professional biblical scholarship. It was given to faux Churchillian arias that I found hopelessly pretentious. I gave it a “D.” My religion professor gave me an “A” and I graduated.

There were two things that led me to soften my attitude toward Elder McConkie. First, I learned about Harold Bloom’s concept of misreading. According to Bloom, all literary texts are produced in reaction against other literary texts. All authors are haunted by the anxiety of influence. All writing is a “misreading” of an earlier text. For Bloom this is all inevitable. What is not inevitable is the quality of one’s misreading. If one is a “weak” misreader then one’s text is little more than a failed recapitulation of some earlier master. If one is a “strong” misreader, then one’s text ? while misunderstanding the earlier text on which it relies ? is powerful, new, and creative. According to Bloom, the history of great literature is the history of strong misreadings. He also applies this framework to Mormonism, paying to Joseph Smith and Brigham Young the highest imaginable compliments: Joseph powerfully misread the Bible and Brigham powerfully misread Joseph. With this set of categories, I could see Elder McConkie in a more favorable light. His theology was a powerful “misreading” of Mormonism. It was creative, seductive, and influential. I could admire his courage as a writer and the verve of what he was doing.

The second thing that helped me to learn to love Elder McConkie was a better understanding of Joseph Smith’s revelations. Joseph labored over the text of his revelations. Some of them were revised several times. More suggestively, some of them were not even formal revelations in the sense of Joseph going to the Lord and asking a question. For example, section 121 was embedded in a long open letter to the Saints. Several sections from the Nauvoo period are simply excerpts from sermons. In other words, much of our Restoration scripture is what we might think of as inspired text rather than words dictated directly from the Almighty.

I realized that what I took as faux-Churchillian rhetoric in Elder McConkie was actually something much more daring. Elder McConkie ultimately wasn’t trying to produce rhetoric, scholarship, or even theology. He was trying to write scripture. Once I realized this, I have to confess that I admired the ambition and chutzpah of the man, even if I think his success was limited. Rather than seeing him as a dogmatic, pompous, and plodding scriptorian, I saw him (at least in flashes of charitable interpretation) as a daring theological poet, powerfully misreading his predecessors. More than that, I saw an Apostle taking Apostleship very seriously. I saw a man struggling to move from the ranks of the ordained into the ranks of the lesser prophets.

In his final sermon, I think that Elder McConkie finally achieved what he was striving for his entire life. Furthermore, he was quite clear about his intentions. He began by saying:

    I feel, and the Spirit seems to accord, that the most important doctrine I can declare, and the most powerful testimony I can bear, is of the atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. . . . In speaking of these wondrous things I shall use my own words, though you may think they are the words of scripture, words spoken by other Apostles and prophets.

    True it is they were first proclaimed by others, but they are now mine, for the Holy Spirit of God has borne witness to me that they are true, and it is now as though the Lord had revealed them to me in the first instance. I have thereby heard his voice and know his word.

He goes on to give a tremendously powerful testimony of and sermon on the Savior. Interestingly, the sermon contains only one scriptural citation and that is only to the words actually spoken by Jesus on the cross. In short, the text is not an exegesis of scripture. It is not the magnum opus of a great student of the Bible. Rather, it is a text that has the audacity to claim that it is scripture. And on this occasion, I fervently believe that Elder McConkie did it. Elder McConkie was dying at the time, and he closed by saying:

    I am one of his witnesses, and in a coming day I shall feel the nail marks in his hands and in his feet and shall wet his feet with my tears.

    But I shall not know any better then than I know now that he is God?s Almighty Son, that he is our Savior and Redeemer, and that salvation comes in and through his atoning blood and in no other way.

I believe him. The Spirit has borne testimony to me of the truth of his words, which is I suspect exactly what he hoped for.

UPDATE, 25 February 2005: Re-reading this post, I realize that I forgot to mention another thing that softened my attitude toward Elder McConkie. I learned something about the history of Mormon theology. By and large, Mormons tend to get uncomfortable talking about having a theology, let alone that theology having a history. Rather, I think that Mormons tend to think in terms of Revelation and Church Doctrine on one side and Mere Speculation on the other. Whatever the ultimate truth of this taxonomy, however, it is the case that there are certain strands of Mormon thought that grapple with some moderately well-defined questions over a period of generations. Furthermore, there are Mormon theological “schools” if you well, various theological positions that travel in opposing packs. Elder McConkie was very much in the Joseph Fielding Smith, Joseph F. Smith, Orson Pratt line of Mormon thought. I tend toward the Brigham Young, B.H. Roberts line of thinking myself, but being able to see Elder McConkie’s theologizing as part of a proud tradition of Mormon thought rather than simply as personal dogmatism did much to soften my heart toward him.

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72 Responses to How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Elder McConkie

  1. lyle on June 30, 2004 at 6:54 pm

    thanks nate. perhaps there is hope for my poor jefferson loving soul also? or in yours for jefferson as a strong misreader? ;)

  2. danithew on June 30, 2004 at 7:03 pm

    “I am one of his witnesses, and in a coming day I shall feel the nail marks in his hands and in his feet and shall wet his feet with my tears.”

    Those are some of the most moving and poignant words of testimony that I’ve ever heard. The feelings of reverence, solemnity and emotion those bring are pretty intense. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Nate.

  3. brayden on June 30, 2004 at 7:12 pm

    Nate – This is interesting. Given that misreading is an ubiquitous characteristic of all serious(?) writing, does Bloom mean to say that misreading is always strong if the writing is innovative? If so, does he give a set of criteria to establish the worth of strong misreadings. Some texts are obviously strong misreadings of others’ works, but they are still conceptually and analytically weak. This may be the problem you, and others, have with McConkie. Not only does he strongly misread the other contemporary prophets and the Old and New Testaments, but he also does a poor job in creating his own revelatory material. Or am I strongly misreading you Nate?

    Second, I couldn’t help but notice how _strongly_ this way of thinking about modern prophets’ writings deviates from Primary and Sunday School teachings on the nature of revelation. In the Primary reading of scripture, prophets cannot err when talking about the nature of God, defining doctrine, etc., but according to this more nuanced view of revelation, the work of prophets is laborious and fraught with misreading and possible error. This is not what my Primary teacher told me in my CTR class.

  4. Nate Oman on June 30, 2004 at 7:24 pm

    Brayden: A really literal version of the “Primary approach” that you suggested is likely to have some difficulties with the textual history of the D&C.

    Other’s can speak better than I to Bloom’s theories. My take on McConkie’s theology is that rather than read it as a set of badly constructed analytic arguments, I can read it as “spilt poetry.” Also, I now am a lot more interested in theology and a lot less interested in doctrine. Once I stop getting angry at McConkie for mistating “church doctrine” and think of him as simply throwing out one powerfully articulated position in the Mormon universe, then his work starts looking ambitious, creative, interesting, etc.

    Note: One can argue that Bruce R. McConkie’s theology is actually a weak misreading of Orson Pratt, Joseph F. Smith, and Joseph Fielding Smith.

  5. Kingsley on June 30, 2004 at 7:32 pm

    “This is not what my Primary teacher told me in my CTR class.”

    Well, there does seem to be a sort of process for religious training. Some revelations are more automatic & dramatic, as in the case of D&C 76 (see Philo Dibble), while others are more tentative & exploratory. I don’t see anything wrong with emphasizing the former with children, who aren’t that adept at creating & maintaining faithful critical distance. For that matter, I don’t see a problem with adults thinking of revelation in grand, immediate terms, as there are plenty of examples of it in our history (e.g. the Book of Mormon); & even the choppier bits have come to rest that way (as it were) through canonization. Just so long as their world isn’t permanently rocked when they learn about the choppier bits! But I suppose there’s no way one can unerringly guard against that.

  6. brayden on June 30, 2004 at 7:34 pm

    That’s what I’ve always thought. McConkie was heavily influenced by the writings of the latter J. Smiths.

    You can probably guess that I don’t have an affinity for the Primary approach to revelation, but it is still the most common approach among members of the Church. It’s hard to even begin having a conversation about alternative means of receiving revelation without inciting discomfort.

  7. Gordon Smith on June 30, 2004 at 7:45 pm

    Thanks for that, Nate. That last sermon is important to me, and I very much enjoyed this take on it. I think you are right on all counts.

  8. Clark Goble on June 30, 2004 at 8:20 pm

    While I agree that McConkie’s books, especially his NT commentaries, are not strict interpretations but kind of “readings in light of” texts. However I think he actually knew a [i]lot[/i] of the more esoteric doctrines of the church and used the NT to teach them. If you are familiar with Nauvoo doctrines like second annointings, callings and elections, and so forth, he actually is talking about them in veiled ways much akin to the style Nibley uses. (Minus all the obscure ancient references Nibley uses)

    Whenever I’ve avoided the dogmatic legalese of McConkie, which is what most superficially focus on, I’ve always come away with a deep appreciation of his insights. I went through a McConkie doubting period – mainly due to too many unthinkingly quoting him in Sunday School classes in the early 90′s. However when you get past that you really find a very insightful thinker who I’d place among the greats in LDS theology.

    It seems much more acceptable to constantly berate McConkie in ways that people don’t do with Talmage, Roberts, Widstoe or others, despite those other figures having at least as many failings as McConkie. I suspect the difference is that most members have read McConkie while far fewer have read Pratt, Roberts, or so forth. (Admittedly Talmage is very well read, although mainly his two books and not his other stuff, such as his views on evolution and man)

  9. Aaron Brown on June 30, 2004 at 8:44 pm

    Nate,

    I, too, have a story about how I made peace with Brother McConkie. It goes something like this:

    Aaron Brown grew up in a household that was not militantly pro-McConkie, but that did take his dogma as a barometer of Mormon orthodoxy, at least by default. (Or maybe because McConkie was an Apostle who never tired reminding his readers how indubitably correct his every opinion was). Aaron learned to despise McConkie while on his mission (and maybe a bit before) because of his pretentiousness, his audacious setting forth of questionable personal opinions as fact (from which deviation supposedly had eternal consequences!), his failure to acknowledge a diversity of opinion amongst those in authority, and his general anti-intellectual screeds. Over time, however, Aaron started to notice that McConkie’s dogma seemed less prominent in the minds of Latter-day Saints, and eventually, Aaron was able to largely forget about him. Aaron finally made peace with McConkie because he decided that McConkie wasn’t as big of a threat as he once thought – because he became convinced that McConkie’s long-term influence was likely to only wane further over time. The end.

    That said, I do agree with you that McConkie’s last sermon – particularly his final testimony — was quite moving and powerful. It is particularly powerful when the person quoting it over the pulpit or in Gospel Doctrine class refrains from trying to read it as some sort of proof-text for how modern Apostles “really have seen Christ” in the flesh since, after all, “Brother McConkie must have seen Christ personally, since he says he won’t know him any better when he meets him in the next life!!!” (Where do people come up with these fanciful misreadings?)

    Aaron B

  10. Gary Cooper on June 30, 2004 at 8:45 pm

    Nate,

    I joined the church in 1981, and very early on Bruce R. McConkie became one of my heroes. He was my favorite apostle, I anxiously read his works, and always looked forward to his conference talks. He spoke, looked, and acted so much like what I felt an apostle should be. I loved him, and looked forward to the day he would become Church President.

    But after a while, as I grew in the Gospel, little holes began to appear in my picture of the man. Not in his character (for I believe he lived the Celestial Law if ever any one did), but in my willingness to agree with him. It all started when I read that statement of his in Mormon Doctrine, to the effect that both World Wars I and II were “righteous wars”. Knowing what I did about history, I viewed both sides in World War I as wicked, and in World War II our side was different from the Nazis and the Japanese in degree, not kind (given the Soviet’s actions, the fire bombing of Dresden, etc.). Later on, I began finding myself more and more in disagreement with him.

    How do I feel about him now? I still love the man, and always have and will. But I think my emotions now are more those of genuine affection for a good and decent man, a man of courage, rather than the “hero worship” of before. He meant well, even if he got things wrong sometmes. I have chosen to learn now both from his mistakes, as well as his positive character aspects. He was sort of like a colossal “older sibling”—always believing he was right, super-conscious of his responsibilities towards us, his “little brothers and sisters”, and perhaps too overbearing at times towards us, but no doubt he loved us all.

    You are right to see the poetic side of him, Nate, something I think most of us missed, enemies and admirers. He was sort of the last of a period of church leaders, beginning with Joseph F. Smith, who were mortified at the cantankerous mannerisms, doctrinal speculation heedless of its effects on weaker members, and neglect of the Scriptures that they saw in earlier leaders, and were determined to bring clarity, discipline, and genuine Gospel scholarship to Church leadership. I believe they succeeded and fulfilled the Lord’s purposes at a needed time, even if they may at times gone overboard a little.

  11. Kingsley on June 30, 2004 at 8:57 pm

    Aaron B: Perhaps they’re right: perhaps Bro. McConkie did see Christ, so that they aren’t misreading him at all. Seems like your insistence that they are is rather dogmatic.

  12. Susan on June 30, 2004 at 10:34 pm

    I know, Nate, that my feelings about the McConkies were colored by experience with his son Joseph at the Seattle institute in the mid-70s. Two acts I never made my peace with: he fired the old janitor who I well realize spent far too much time talking to the students. And he threw away my organ shoes (the pair with good square heels that I kept in the organ bench).

  13. Susan on June 30, 2004 at 10:37 pm

    I know, Nate, that my feelings about the McConkies were colored by experience with his son Joseph at the Seattle institute in the mid-70s. Two acts I never made my peace with: he fired the old janitor who I well realize spent far too much time talking to the students. And he threw away my organ shoes (the pair with good square heels that I kept in the organ bench).

  14. Kingsley on June 30, 2004 at 10:41 pm

    Knowing Prof. McConkie, I bet they were apostate organ shoes with good square heels. We reap what we sow, Susan–see Psalm 49:5.

  15. Mark Butler on June 30, 2004 at 10:41 pm

    Elder McConkie made some mistakes. And the more I study him the more I realize that they were systematic and subtle. On the other hand, he shows incredible insight on several issues, documentation for which he was disciplined enough to largely keep to himself, but which evidence is surely known to his fellow apostles. He certainly did not become the leading doctrinal voice of his generation by accident.

    It is frustrating that he did not provide the same sort of theological documentation that Joseph Fielding Smith left behind, but that is an indication that his theology was sufficiently heterodox (in a Brigham Young sort of way) as to be unpublishable in this generation. Someday, I expect, however that he will be shown to have developed a systematic theology fully comparable with Pratt and Young, one more than suitable as the foundation for a robust faith, if less than perfect in some aspects.

  16. Susan on June 30, 2004 at 11:17 pm

    At that point in my life they were very well behaved, very orthodox organ shoes.

  17. Nate on June 30, 2004 at 11:28 pm

    Mom: Hah! I knew that there must be some more flesh and blood reason behind my child-hood anti-McConkie indoctrination!

    I am sorry to hear about the organ shoes however…

  18. Nate Oman on June 30, 2004 at 11:33 pm

    Here is another great McConkie sermon This one was reprinted in Sunstone a couple of months ago. ;->

  19. Aaron Brown on June 30, 2004 at 11:38 pm

    Kingsley –

    I didn’t take the dogmatic position that modern Apostles haven’t seen Christ (I am actually agnostic on the question). I simply maintain that to read McConkie’s testimony as making a claim in this regard is to misread it.

    Aaron B

  20. Kingsley on June 30, 2004 at 11:38 pm

    Maybe spiritual (as opposed to professorial) authority brought out his softer side.

  21. Kingsley on June 30, 2004 at 11:41 pm

    Prof. McConkie’s, that is. Aaron B: Fair enough.

  22. Geoff Matthews on July 1, 2004 at 1:49 am

    My view of Elder McConkie has forever been coloured by the fact that my mission president was Joseph McConkie. President McConkie (as I still referr to him as) sounded like him in tone and in content. I was berated, publicly, twice for stating things which he disagreed with. He was intimidating in the way he spoke to the missionaries.
    And I loved him for it, as did the vast majority of the missionaries who served under him. I’m not saying that the man didn’t have faults. He does. But he took 160 snot-nosed boys and girls and gave them the opportunity to grow in the gospel and become men and women. He was an excellent teacher, a speaker par excellence, and an amazing motivator. Without question, I am glad that he was my mission president.
    As far as disagreeing with him, or with Elder McConkie, I put this in referrence with a story he told us about a disagreement he had with his father. Elder McConkie believed that the seperation of spirits in the spirit world was geographic, whereas Joseph believed it was done by self-selection (much like it is in the world). He then made the comment “And now that he’s there, he know’s I’m right.”
    Could he be abrasive? Absolutely. I’ll spare other stories about that. But I firmly believe that it takes all sorts of people to make society work. Polite people are great, and I like to consider myself one of them, but times of rudeness are necessary, and in my case, can have beneficial results.

  23. Julien on July 1, 2004 at 3:06 am

    Anybody could suggest to me a reading list of some of Elder McConkie’s publishings, including influential talks etc.? Would appreciate it, since he was long before my day….

  24. Kingsley on July 1, 2004 at 3:20 am

    I think Deseret Book has done some “selections from BRM’s sermons & commentaries”-type books. If you want a general overview, start with one of those. Elder McConkie’s son, Joseph, just published a biography/memoir which I hear is not too shabby. & of course there’s always Mormon Doctrine

  25. Julien on July 1, 2004 at 5:20 am

    Thanks, Kingsley!

  26. danithew on July 1, 2004 at 10:49 am

    Aaron B.

    Danithew enjoyed your comment where you talked about yourself in the third-person (Danithew is not being sarcastic at all — Danithew promises). It was a fun read and also reminded Danithew of the tone of Fafblog. Danithew thinks a few other bloggernackers are also into Fafblog. Danithew got a kick out of it and thinks more people should write about themselves in the third person. Third person is much better than the royal “we” which danithew does not like. Why is the third person amusing? Danithew does not know. Perhaps it makes the tone somewhat Yoda-like?

    Geoff,
    Enjoyed your comment about the McConkie’s argument about geographic vs. self-selected separation in the spirit-world, particularly the quote: “And now that he’s there, he knows I’m right.” That was a riot.

  27. Kingsley on July 1, 2004 at 10:52 am

    Danithew: Karl Malone know.

  28. Nate Oman on July 1, 2004 at 11:12 am

    Geoff Matthews: Did you serve with Jim Bennett?

  29. lyle on July 1, 2004 at 11:29 am

    danithew, not-danithew thinks it has more to do with sounding like a cave-person. ugh. very non-biased also. ugh.

  30. Kingsley on July 1, 2004 at 12:32 pm

    That last montage in Dr. Strangelove of gigantic atomic mushroom clouds erupting all over the place really is a good symbolical representation of the aftermath of a young Elder McConkie striding down a street in Salt Lake City with the first proofs of Mormon Doctrine clutched proudly under his arm …

  31. Lorin K. Hansen on July 1, 2004 at 1:08 pm

    I would have to echo many of the thoughts on this thread. To me Elder McConkie was in his element when proclaiming in stark terms the Mormon position. But at times he seemed harsh, dogmatic, and not very open to the insights that could be obtained from the rest of the world. It seemed he knew thoroughly the “letter” of Mormonism, but not always the “tone” of Mormonism. One thing that has weighed against this harsh view of him, however, is an experience my brother had with him. My brother and his family went to Australia on a builing mission when Elder McConkie was mission president. My brother tells me Elder McConkie developed a very warm and loving relationship with his missionaries. They loved him and referred to him (with his approval) as “Bruce.”
    That is a side of Elder McConkie that I would like to know more about.
    Lorin Hansen.

  32. jeremobi on July 1, 2004 at 2:05 pm

    Lorin:

    I served in Melbourne 30 years after McConkie was mission president there. I heard story after story from long-standing members about how much he loved the people of Australia and how much he cared for his missionaries. I can’t say how much of what I heard was true, but those tales changed my impression of the man.

    A few stories stand out:

    1) McConkie apparently held more than one mission conference at the beach. On one occasion the Elders’ post-conference football game got out of hand. A stray pass ended up hitting Sis. McConkie (sitting on a blanket nearby). Bruce, so the story goes, picked up the ball and booted it far into the surf. The Elders all stopped, not knowing what to do. Pres. McConkie then told the missionaries, “Well, go and get it!” And they all did.

    2) Missionaries in the early 60s had a bit more freedom than when I served. McConkie had several end up in jail for various offenses and, so I was told, many were comparatively “wild.” Yet he never sent a missionary home—for any offense.

    3) Pres. McConkie visited one member couple on a regular basis. He would take his shoes off, lounge and nap on their couch, use the couple as a sounding board for new mission programs, and tell stories about all the trouble the young men in his charge caused for him. Then he’d laugh, tell the family how lucky he was to serve in Australia, how he was in awe of the youth of the church, how he often felt spiritually small compared with the young missionaries and that he loved them so much.

    4) While serving in the mission home a companion and I found a secret panel and uncovered some handwritten notes and two reel-to-reel audiotapes of McConkie speaking to his missionaries. That was a great day for me. He told jokes. He laughed with them. His voice was strong and his theme was compassion. We heard nothing on those tapes of the controversial teachings in some of his writing.

  33. Davis Bell on July 1, 2004 at 2:27 pm

    No doubt McConkie was a strong personality, and a good but flawed individual. I have always been touched and impressed with his willingness to contradict his very strong statements on black men never holding the priesthood when Pres. Kimball recieved that wonderful revelation. His humility in that instance, to me, was the measure of the man.

  34. Jared on July 1, 2004 at 2:46 pm

    One of the best classes I ever had at BYU was a Pearl of Great Price class taught by J.F. McConkie.

    Abrasive? Definitely; I recall at least two instances where he actually made students cry. On one occasion, Bro. McConkie went on a tirade against Correlation. He told us that he once submitted an essay for approval, which was then sent back with many passages marked as “questionable” or “contradictory to revealed doctrine.” Bro. McConkie sent the essay back to Correlation, except this time he let them know that the essay was actually an unpublished manuscript written by his father Bruce R. According to Bro. McConkie, Correlation then approved the manuscript in its entirety.

  35. Kingsley on July 1, 2004 at 3:15 pm

    Jeremobi: Do you still have those? Seems like they’d be priceless! My father has a story about Elder McConkie attending one of those daddy-daughter nights dressed in curlers & a moo-moo. 100% true.

  36. Ethesis (Stephen M) on July 1, 2004 at 3:17 pm

    quote:

    I know, Nate, that my feelings about the McConkies were colored by experience with his son Joseph at the Seattle institute in the mid-70s. Two acts I never made my peace with: he fired the old janitor who I well realize spent far too much time talking to the students. And he threw away my organ shoes (the pair with good square heels that I kept in the organ bench).

    /quote.

    Why did he throw away your organ shoes.

    BTW, does anyone know which McConkie was the parent of the McConkie who served in the Kenya mission?

  37. jeremobi on July 1, 2004 at 4:07 pm

    Kingsley:

    The stories are all in my mission journal, but the handwritten notes and tapes became part of the small mission library. That mission home is now closed.

    Finding the hidden panel and the treasure within was great fun…great words buried away for future generations.

  38. Kingsley on July 1, 2004 at 4:21 pm

    Jeremobi: That’s really too bad. Those talks are legendary–seven hours on one verse, etc. I wonder what the mission home finally did with them.

  39. danithew on July 1, 2004 at 5:06 pm

    Kingsley,

    7 hours on one verse? What verse? Do you remember? That sounds great. I’d love to have heard that one.

    It’s rare that we have any teacher who puts that kind of time and effort into an in-depth scripture study lesson. I sometimes wonder if we’ll ever get out of the “study the whole Old Testament in one year” mode.

  40. dp on July 1, 2004 at 5:27 pm

    I too served in the Melbourne Mission (94-96). Never heard about the McConkie tapes though. Were they found before or after then Jeremobi?

  41. brayden on July 1, 2004 at 5:29 pm

    I’m probably still holding a grudge against Bro. McConkie for giving me a B+ in his D&C class. The shame…..

  42. Kingsley on July 1, 2004 at 5:53 pm

    Danithew: No hyperbole on my part: it’s a famous story. 7 hours, 1 verse. I just ran across it the other day, I’ll see if I can find it for you. I think it crops up in a number of places.

  43. danithew on July 1, 2004 at 6:22 pm

    Kingsley,

    I’d love to get my little mitts on that verse discussion when you get the chance. I’m still very curious to know what verse he was discussing. Wow!

    I’ve heard of Jewish scholars who would spend a month on a particular verse or paragraph of scriptural text. I suppose overkill is a possibility but at the same time I can’t imagine that taking scripture that seriously is an entirely bad thing either. If a record is kept of that kind of study, then those seven hours of discussion or that month of study can benefit a lot of people, over a period of generations, with the insights that are garnered.

    I sometimes wonder what it would be like to take a semester-long Book of Mormon class on the First Book of Nephi, the Allegory of Zenos, the Book of Mormon Isaiah chapters or perhaps even on the war chapters in the last third of Alma. We could focus more on portions of scripture if we tried. The material is certainly profound enough and we’re getting to a point where scholarly commentary and articles on particular portions of Book of Mormon scripture are sufficient to support that kind of emphasis and focus.

  44. Kingsley on July 1, 2004 at 8:24 pm

    Danithew: Instead of hunting around I emailed Prof. McConkie about it; I’ll let you know as soon as he responds (if he responds: he probably gets a lot of this sort of thing).

  45. Susan on July 1, 2004 at 11:50 pm

    Back on Joseph McConkie again. His classes. I was a stay-at-home Mom at the time I encountered his teaching. Taking a class at the institute held at the stake house each week (back in Seattle) and way overpopulated. The room crowded with women attending each week. Within a month or so after Brother McConkie arrived at our institute and took over the class, it had to be cancelled for lack of attendance.

  46. Susan on July 1, 2004 at 11:52 pm

    Back on Joseph McConkie again. His classes. I was a stay-at-home Mom at the time I encountered his teaching. Taking a class at the institute held at the stake house each week (back in Seattle) and way overpopulated. The room crowded with women attending each week. Within a month or so after Brother McConkie arrived at our institute and took over the class, it had to be cancelled for lack of attendance.

  47. Ethesis (Stephen M) on July 2, 2004 at 1:30 am


    Back on Joseph McConkie again. His classes. I was a stay-at-home Mom at the time I encountered his teaching. Taking a class at the institute held at the stake house each week (back in Seattle) and way overpopulated. The room crowded with women attending each week. Within a month or so after Brother McConkie arrived at our institute and took over the class, it had to be cancelled for lack of attendance.
    Comment by: Susan at July 1, 2004 11:52 PM Permanent Link

    Wow Susan. Did anyone remark on the issues that caused?

  48. danithew on July 6, 2004 at 2:29 pm

    Kingsley,

    I’d love to hear more about that. Even just to know what verse it was would be of interest. I appreciate any follow up — assuming you get a response.

    Susan,

    Wow… that doesn’t seem to say much for his teaching. I wonder if his approach was particularly offensive to women? That seems to be what you are suggesting from your observations of the class.

    Too bad the class was cancelled. Sounds like the teacher should have been changed instead. Sometimes we need to honestly observe what is happening and even state “due to the unpopularity of this particular teacher, we are making some changes.”

  49. Kingsley on July 22, 2004 at 5:41 pm

    Danithew: Prof. McConkie finally responded, but didn’t give any details: he simply said that during his father’s time as mission president of the Australian mission he preached several 7 hour sermons on a number of single scriptures.

  50. Jed on February 25, 2005 at 3:01 pm

    Fine story telling, Nate. You had me moving through a range of emotions, a mark of good writing. Perhaps I was moved in part because your trajectory with BRM follows mine own.

    My own peace has come by following a slightly different path. First, I came to see the urge to systematize as a deeply Western, if not a human, impulse, and concluded that I couldn’t hold McConkie responsible for doing what Aristotle, Aquinas, Spinoza, Whitehead, and many other brilliant minds had been doing over the course of many hundreds of years. He was following in a large and great tradition. The Encyclopedia, after all, is a child of the Enlightenment. Even the Doctrine and Covenants was once put forward as a kind of system. McConkie didn’t invent the genre, and it wasn’t clear to me that it was all bad anyway. Dictionaries and encyclopedias seem to have served humanity quite well. This realization somehow absolved him of wrongdoing in my mind.

    Second, I came to see that his weaknesses were also, in some sense, his strengths. His daring, his boldness, his frankness, his doctrinaire pronouncements all set him apart from his contemporaries (JFS notwithstanding). I started to see him as an anachronism. In the light of the modern academy with its emphasis on freedom of expression and thought, McConkie looked two-dimensional and oppressive. But seen in light of the Hebraic prophetic tradition, McConkie looked like a Jeremiah or an Isaiah, the boldest of the minor prophets. In that light he took on rich, vivid colors. His denunciations fell within the tradition hinted at in God’s words to JS in the grove. “They were all wrong” was not McConkie’s idea; he was just the elaborator. If McConkie made me uncomfortable, than perhaps I ought to repent, I came to believe.

    I am not sure how I came to these realizations, both of which, like yours, contextualized McConkie in larger traditions. Growing up helps. The inconoclasm of college usually fades with time.

    Currently I toy with the idea of McConkie being the high Mormon embodiment of Western modernism: confidence, knowledge, grand narrative, system. He was useful to us in that place and time. But now our needs have changed. The days of McConkie are gone. He could say “There are…” and be believed. Today our leaders are more reluctant to use that language and congregations are less likely to accept it. The more conservative “I think” or “I believe” is the language of choice. Still, these ways of talking are not as far apart as they might first appear. I see them as two sides of the same coin–one the bold prophetic pronouncement, the other the reflective, personal, dancing, keep-your-eye-on-the-prophet notion of continuing revelation.

  51. Jack on February 25, 2005 at 3:20 pm

    Jed,

    What a wonderful comment. I’ve always felt that, except in those rare instances when he was DEAD wrong, McConkie was right even when he was wrong. If he was wrong than he was usually right in a counter-intuitive sense–which for those of us who like to think about things too much can be real irritating.

  52. Jed on February 25, 2005 at 3:22 pm

    In my description of the commonalities between McConkie and modernism, i forgot to mention the most saliant characteristic of all: rationalism. In this sense I would put him in the same line as O Pratt and B H. Roberts. I think the attempt to rationalize joins the liberal and conservative camps that in some ways represent a false division of the Mormon intellectual tradition.

  53. Nate Oman on February 25, 2005 at 3:50 pm

    I wonder if we will ever again have a general authority with the daring to write theology is the grand tradition. Bruce R. definitely had an urge to produce treatises, grand summations and synthesis. No one seems to be interested in doing that any more, and perhaps this is for the best. I can’t help but feel some sense of loss, however.

  54. Jed on February 25, 2005 at 4:26 pm

    Jack, What do you mean by “counterintuitive.”

    Nate, Claudia Bushman likes to say that Mormonism can turn on a dime. Thus it has the potential to produce the grand synthesis at any time–if that is the revelation of the moment. I think it unlikely that we will see one any time soon, however. These things work in time as you well know. Widtsoe’s A Rational Theology doesn’t get written in the 1980s when rationalism is on the wane. Likewise, we are not really in a systematizing moment. The convergance of economies and nation states may yield one in the future though, a kind of prolegomena to the Millennium.

    I am waiting for someone to rewrite Arrington and Bitton’s The Mormon Experience. The title would be A Diversity of Mormon Experiences.

    Sometimes I hear echos of BRM in Elder Packer. I have come around to him in a big way as well.

  55. Floyd the Wonder Dog on February 25, 2005 at 4:28 pm

    *He was trying to write scripture.*
    Seems appropriate. Many quote his writings as though they are scripture.

    I had a McConkie experience. I was taking Book of Mormon at BYU. One day we got in a lively discussion on a scripture. The next class period, the teacher came in and said, *I spoke with my brother about our discussion the other day and he says. . .*

    One poor soul raised his hand and said, almost sarcastically, *Who’s your brother?*

    The teacher looked astounded (as the rest of us probably did too) and replied that he was Bruce R. McConkie.

    The rocket scientist should have been able to figure out that she didn’t keep her maiden name because she was a feminist. She was Margaret McConkie Pope. I thought that it was a bit *great and spacious*-like for a woman of her generation to do that.

  56. Keith on February 25, 2005 at 4:44 pm

    “I wonder if we will ever again have a general authority with the daring to write theology is the grand tradition. Bruce R. definitely had an urge to produce treatises, grand summations and synthesis. No one seems to be interested in doing that any more, and perhaps this is for the best. I can’t help but feel some sense of loss, however.”

    Without writing grand treatises or summations, I think Elder Oaks rather consistently works at analysis and synthesis of gospel subjects–and I think he does a good job of it as well. In my view he writes more carefully and less dogmatically than Elder McConkie.

  57. Jack on February 25, 2005 at 4:53 pm

    Jed,

    “Counterintuitive” may not be the best word to convey the idea of being “right for the wrong reason”, but nevertheless, right in the way that we need to be corrected.

    This is a little story I shared on a different thread:

    “One wintery day, my brother parked his car near the corner of an intersection. His wife suggested that he move it for fear of a car making a turn and sliding into it because of the ice (he didn’t of course). As fate would have it, it was a car backing out of a driveway across the street that slid into my brother’s car. So while his wife’s “hunch” was correct in a general sense (that the car might be damaged), it was not realized specifically as she had imagined. Therefore, laying the particulars aside, the whole thing would have been avoided if he had just moved the car!”

  58. Larry on February 25, 2005 at 6:34 pm

    If we read Bro. Packer’s comments at Elder McConkies funeral, I believe we will find an admiration that extends into the eternities.
    Though, as missionaries we always trembled at the thought of Bruce R. visiting the mission, I did have a visit with one of his AP’s(Bruce had previously been president of the London mission I believe) when I served in Warrington. There was a disconnect between what we feared and who he really was. A more funny and down to earth individual would be hard to find.
    When he spoke as an apostle, he wanted to be heard as an apostle, (just the same as Spencer W. Kimball or Marion G. Romney did), but when he was speaking as a friend or fellow member he was as good as they got.
    I have difficulty understanding the areas where he was wrong on doctrine (aside from the Catholic issue) that so many seem to claim. He stuck so close to the fundamental principles, even when he ventured out. He gave me a greater appreciation for doctrine than any other individual I have known – except maybe Hugh Nibley.

  59. Greg on February 25, 2005 at 6:38 pm

    “Without writing grand treatises or summations, I think Elder Oaks rather consistently works at analysis and synthesis of gospel subjects–and I think he does a good job of it as well. In my view he writes more carefully and less dogmatically than Elder McConkie.”

    At the risk of offending the recently deceased, chalk one up for legal training.

  60. Eric Soderlund on February 25, 2005 at 6:57 pm

    Jed, #54–

    When I first read this post I was going to ask the question, “which of the current crop in the Quorum (or is it Council?) of the Twelve is most like BRM, (if any)?” My answer would be BKP, but I also think Elder Scott has McConkie-esque tendencies, if not in writing, at least in the guilt-inducing talks he gives at GC. I remember one talk Elder Scott gave where I felt terrible guilt and shame–for sins I hadn’t ever committed! I would say BKP has the same sort of doctrinaire, this-is-the-way-it-is-and-nobody-should-question-it mentality and Elder Scott has the same talent for making people feel uncomfortable about their own worthiness. But that’s just my $.02.

    I also should say that I absolutely loved Bruce R.’s works when I first joined the church in the late 1980s and I didn’t really understand why some church members didn’t hold him in the highest regard. I read “Mormon Doctrine” cover to cover. Enjoyed the “Messiah” series. But when I got to the Seven Deadly Heresies I discovered why some thought him a bit offputting. Later, I worked my way through Talmage, the Pratts, Brigham Young, and B.H. Roberts and I found that McConkie no longer pleased my palate. As for conference talks, though, I prefer a McConkie, Maxwell, Oaks, or Packer to a Monson anyday. Sustain them all, but appreciate the style and substance of some over others…

  61. Nate Oman on February 25, 2005 at 7:28 pm

    ” As for conference talks, though, I prefer a McConkie, Maxwell, Oaks, or Packer to a Monson anyday. Sustain them all, but appreciate the style and substance of some over others…”

    Likewise. I find that I really like dry, doctrinal talks or talks that tell me that I am going to hell and I need to shape up fast or else. I find that I am much less moved by faith promoting stories, etc., although I really like Elder Holland’s talks.

  62. claire on February 25, 2005 at 8:47 pm

    Bizarre, non-philosophical McConkie story:

    When I was at BYU, this is probably circa 1991, our FHE ‘brothers” had a whole wall in their apartment neatly wallpapered with surplus official church 8×10 portraits of BRM they had picked up from the MTC bookstore or somewhere like that. It is a memorable image!

  63. Mark on February 26, 2005 at 1:34 am

    My understanding from Cal Stevens (an LDS scholar I know and trust) is that at present Russell M. Nelson is the scholar of the quorum. I have carefully watched Elder Nelson’s talks and noticed that he is meticulous in doctrinal detail. His address from an earlier priesthood leadership satellite broadcast on Sacrament Meeting is scrutinizing, thorough, and powerful.

  64. Stephen M (Ethesis) on February 26, 2005 at 8:31 am

    Margaret McConkie Pope

    I knew some of the “Pope McConkie”s and they were part of a concious effort to build a dynasty like the Cannon dynasty.

    Interesting endeavor. Also met a lady who was a Church spokesman in the east and hid from her McConkie roots (whe was a speaker at a young adult conference I attended in Wisconsin one year) and who gave me a great deal of insight.

    But Brother McConkie served faithfully, to the best of his ability, when others would not.

    That should be remembered.

  65. Christian Cardall on February 26, 2005 at 1:59 pm

    I agree that Elder McConkie saw himself producing scripture; in this connection I seem to remember him discussing DC 68:4 in the introduction to at least one of his books. In my imagination I see him grimacing with dismay, or maybe rolling his eyes in mildly annoyed or bemused longsuffering, at being required to add the now-standard “This work is solely my responsibility” coda, which—after quoting DC 68:4—must have struck him as an effete, legalistic non sequitur.

    He certainly was bold in going “all the way.” I have the impression he wrote and spoke of the dead being raised, people seeing God, etc. as matter-of-factly as if it happened all the time. For example, as I recall, in The Promised Messiah he quoted Oliver’s charge to the original (modern) apostles that it was the apostles’ duty to see the face of God, or something along those lines; he also wrote there in very literal terms about the Second Comforter.

    I interpret his last talk as saying he had not yet had that experience. I think he agreed with his father-in-law Joseph Fielding Smith, that the Holy Ghost was the most sure witness anyway, and that this was the basis for expressing his certainty in the manner he did in that last talk. Indulging in some further armchair speculative psychologizing, I suspect he felt he had been blessed with compensatory spiritual gifts: his self-description as being “born with a testimony,” and his ability to comprehensively know and understand the scriptures.

    Unquestionably, there are times and places for bold assertion. These include choir practice, where one must sing out in order to really tell whether one has one’s part right; or in proposing a new paradigm in order to shake up one’s encrusted and stale academic discipline or business plan, with the understanding and expectation that one is not giving the final word, but starting a conversation that will include criticism, examination, and debate.

    A time for assertion with certainty is when one has firm evidence in hand, and while I’m sure Elder McConkie sincerely saw this as his situation (with a consequent duty to testify), I cannot yet fully reconcile myself to it. If what we interpret as the Holy Ghost is in the end his only warrant, then I share the trepidation about dogmatic certainty that Velleman was quoted about on the proxy baptism thread. For the dogmatism was not only about the reality of Christ, but things like evolution, in the take-no-prisoners “Seven Deadly Heresies” talk. Supposing he was wrong about, say, death before Adam and descent with modification does not logically require that he was also wrong about the resurrected Christ; but if his grounds for pronouncement on both matters are his experiences with the Holy Ghost, the methodology can only be seen as compromised.

    This is particularly true when empirical evidence is currently available, and it goes ignored, unsought, or unpresented. The empirical evidence is out there in the case of death before Adam and descent with modification; and as I mentioned previously, according to Elder McConkie it should be available today, at least in principle, in the case of the resurrected Christ as well. In the end, however, the fact that the latter is either not received or not explicitly testified to in every generation may well be a beef I have not so much with Elder McConkie, but with God himself. For that I take responsibility; and while some might label it blasphemous, my hope is that a God I’d want to worship would nod with loving interest and concern and say, “I can see your point.”

  66. Larry on February 26, 2005 at 6:37 pm

    Christian,

    “I interpret his last talk as saying he had not yet had that experience.”

    We might do well not to draw too many assumptions. He and Marion G. Romney spoke on having Callings and Elections Made Sure and at the conclusion of each you would be hard pressed not to believe that they had seen the Lord. His last testimony clearly indicated to me that the experience he was about to go through was little different from experiences he had had previously.

  67. Michael C. Reid on February 26, 2005 at 7:24 pm

    I would heartily recommend that y’all read the Biography of Elder McConkie. I read it last summer and found myself getting little sleep at night as I stayed up late to read. My former Stake President (Leaunn Otten, for those of you who might have taken a religion class from him at the Y) once commented on what it would be like to be raised by Oscar McConkie, and have Joseph Fielding Smith as your father-in-law! The discussion was about walking in Elder McConkie’s shoe and looking at life from his perspective. The book was a welcome insight into his life and background.

    It is interesting to see how the Lord guides His church, and how the principle of agency functions. Since it was Satan’s plan to take away our agency, it’s obvious that the Lord allows His leaders room to operate. (Thing back to 18 month missions for Elders in 1981 as a program that didn’t work).

    One compelling story for the McConkie bio is found on page 381. It is the story behind the doing away with Seventy Quorums on a local level in October of 1986.

    {The following was taken from the biography of President Packer: “Laboring in faith and diligence, Brother Packer continued the quest, to know the Lord’s will. He studied and pondered the passages in Doctrine and Covenants 107 that pertain specifically to the Seventy. As he read and reread, verse 10 suddenly stood out as if it had been newly placed there: ‘High priests after the order of the Melchizedek Priesthood have a right to officiate in their own standing, under the direction of the presidency, in administering spiritual things, and also in the office of an elder, priest, … teacher, deacon, and member’, (D&C 107:10).” What had previously not been seen was the obvious absence of the reference to “seventy.” It occurred to Elder Packer that it was not intended that the seventy labor on the stake and ward level. The office of seventy as intended by the revelation appeared to be one that functioned at the general level of Church government only. “I took [D&C 107:10] to Bruce McConkie first,” Elder Packer noted,” and read it to him in that context. It was the first time that he had ever seen it in that light. Because it very declaratively said that a high priest could not officiate in the office of a Seventy.” It was not long afterwards that seventies quorums on a stake level were discontinued. The Church continues to grow in understanding – line upon line, precept upon precept – just as its members do.}

    I have often joked that Elder McConkie was taken at such a young age as he was needed in heaven to clear up doctrinal questions!

  68. Larry on February 26, 2005 at 10:14 pm

    Michael,

    Because it very declaratively said that a high priest could not officiate in the office of a Seventy.” It was not long afterwards that seventies quorums on a stake level were discontinued.

    Yet it is only high priests that do serve as Seventies.

  69. Johnna Cornett on February 27, 2005 at 2:50 am

    From the original post: “The second thing that helped me to learn to love Elder McConkie was a better understanding of Joseph Smith’s revelations. Joseph labored over the text of his revelations. Some of them were revised several times. More suggestively, some of them were not even formal revelations in the sense of Joseph going to the Lord and asking a question. For example, section 121 was embedded in a long open letter to the Saints. Several sections from the Nauvoo period are simply excerpts from sermons. In other words, much of our Restoration scripture is what we might think of as inspired text rather than words dictated directly from the Almighty.”

    I’m trying to prepare GD8 on the restoration of the priesthood. Some of the arguments about whether the Melchizedek priesthood was restored before or after the organization of the church hinge on verses in Section 27 which I understand may have been added later. Recalling Royal Skousen’s discussion here of the valuable critical text edition of the Book of Mormon, I’m wishing for a future project of the critical text of the Doctrine and Covenants.

    I love your take on Bruce McConkie. I have struggled with him all my life. I love his daring, but hate that he leaves no footnote trail. But must it take away from making scripture–a lovely label for McConkie’s enterprise–to mark a trail for us to reconstruct his reasoning?

  70. Christian Cardall on February 27, 2005 at 9:05 am

    Johnna, there is a BYU dissertation entitled “The Historical Development of the Doctrine and Covenants” by Robert J. Woodford; it runs almost 1900 pages cataloging the textual development in excruciating detail, including even changes in capitalization and punctuation in all known manuscript and printed editions before 1974. (I’m not sure I know exactly what a “critical text” entails, but I think this dissertation must amount to one.) I obtained a copy from UMI Dissertation Services.

    Section 27 came in two parts.

    The first part is (what are now) verses 1 through the first part of verse 5 (ending with the phrase “with you on the earth”), and verse 14 and the first part of 15 (ending with the phrase “gird up your loins”; a terminating phrase “and be faithful until I come: even so. Amen” is deleted in the current form.) It is striking to lift these segments out of the current text to see the organic whole the original made! A date of August 1830 is given for this segment; it exists in this form in a manuscript that could be as early as December 1830, and is also printed in the Evening and Morning Star and the Book of Commandments.

    The second part is the remaining text that brings the section into its present form. A date of September 1830 is attributed to it, but it is not printed in the Evening and Morning Star or Book of Commandments, and there is no known early manuscript extant; its first known instantiation is in the 1835 printed D&C. I gather that this set of facts has led some to contend it may not have been composed until much later than September 1830.

  71. Christian on February 27, 2005 at 4:41 pm

    Larry (#66): Of course I cannot know for sure, and this is why my last paragraph (#65) referred to the possibility of evidence “unpresented” and events “not explicitly testified to.”

    Still, your comment prompted me to reread the last two chapters of The Promised Messiah—which cover the subject matter you brought up—and I didn’t come away with my mind changed. Clearly Elder McConkie believed in the reality of that blessing, and the importance of seeking after it with all one’s heart. But he makes his case based on scriptures and teachings of Joseph and Oliver, not personal experience (of him or anyone else of our generation). Hence the text does not warrant a conclusion that he had lived the experience; any such inference must come from hopeful speculation, or evidence to which I am not privy (perhaps you are).

    Some interesting excerpts:

    If and when we obtain the spiritual stature of this man Moriancumer, then we shall see what he saw and know what he knew (p. 581-582).

    Note the use of the inclusive “we”; an acknowledgement that he himself had a ways to go?

    There are, of course, those whose callings and election have been made sure who have never exercised the faith nor exhibited the righteousness which would enable them to commune with the Lord on the promised basis. There are even those [whose election is sure?] who neither believe nor know that it is possible to see the Lord in this day, and they therefore are without the personal incentive that would urge them onward in the pursuit of this consummation so devoutly desired by those with spiritual insight (p. 586).

    The first sentence is an explicit acknowledgement that having one’s calling and election made sure does not imply a face-to-face experience with the Savior, so care must be taken in what you infer from the talks you referred to. More interestingly, the placement of this second sentence here—immediately after reference to those whose election is sure—suggests, as I hinted with my bracketed comment, that he is not merely making a general observation about unbelief in the Church or the world at large. He may be making an argument to his Brethren (with a capital “B”).

    How much spiritual progress we have made in the Church…may be measured in terms of the number of the elders of Israel for whom the veil has been rent and who have seen the face of Him whose we are (p. 592)

    Breathtaking; admiration for the boldness cannot be restrained. Would that this measure of progress were discussed in the opening `state of the Church’ message in Conference, and tabulated along with other statistics in the Annual Report!

    It is true that the witness of the Holy Ghost is sure and absolute and that a man can know with a perfect knowledge, by the power of the Holy Ghost, that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God who was crucified for the sins of the world. This unshakeable certainty can rest in his soul even though he has not seen the face of his Lord. But it is also true that those who have this witness of the Spirit are expected, like their counterparts of old, to see and hear and touch and converse with the Heavenly Person, as did those of old (p. 592)

    This is key to my interpretation of his final testimony. Note that the Holy Ghost is sufficient for certainty; and while seeking the Lord’s face is to be earnestly sought, it doesn’t add to one’s previously-obtained certainty. Hence his final testimony that when he sees the Lord `in a coming day’ (note the future tense), he will not know any more surely as a result of that future experience.

    In the general charge to all of the Twelve, Elder Cowdery said: “It is necessary that you receive a testimony from heaven to yourselves; so that you can bear testimony to the truth of the Book of Mormon, and that you have seen the face of God. That is more than the testimony of an angel. When the proper time arrives, you shall be able to bear this testimony to the world. When you bear testimony that you have seen God, this testimony God will never suffer to fall, but will bear you out; although many will not give heed, yet others will. You will therefore see the necessity of getting this testimony from heaven…” (p. 593).

    Note that the charge is not only to seek the Lord’s face, but to testify of seeing God. Elder McConkie would have taken this seriously, and so testified if he had had the experience.

    Every elder is entitled and expected to seek and obtain all the spiritual blessings of the gospel, including the crowning blessing of seeing the Lord face to face (p. 595)

    Without question he would not condemn any rank-and-file elder for not achieving this in mortality. Similarly, he would not condemn his Brethren (including himself) who had not so obtained by the time the Lord takes them; it would be enough that they were earnestly striving.

    [The Lord] is in our midst from time to time, and we as a people do not see him nearly as often as we should. We are not speaking of him being in our midst in the spiritual sense that he is here by the power of his Spirit. We are speaking of his personal literal presence…In this connection let us note one of the visions shown forth to the Prophet Joseph Smith during that Pentecostal period which preceded and attended the dedication of the Kirtland Temple. “I saw the Twelve Apostles of the Lamb, who are now upon the earth,” he said, “who hold the keys of this last ministry, in foreign lands, standing together in a circle, much fatigued, with their clothes tattered and feet swollen, with their eyes downward, and Jesus standing in their midst, and they did not behold him. The Savior looked upon them and wept” (p. 611).

    Note the admonishment for not seeing him, and the invocation of Joseph’s vision of the Twelve unable to see the Savior. Again, an indication that his Brethren (himself not excepted) are among his intended audience?

    So, taken as a whole, I read all this as him believing in and striving for the blessing of seeing the Lord face-to-face, but not having received it yet.

  72. Larry on February 28, 2005 at 12:13 am

    Christian,

    Your point is well made. For the life of me I can’t find the article I want to refer to so I am consigned at this point to agree totally with you but hold open the opportunity to clarify further. Nice research and commentary on your part.

WELCOME

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