Mormon Doctrine, McConkie, and Modern Mormonism

Bruce R. McConkie stands in an interesting place in the history of the Church. For some, he holds a place in the upper echelons of a pantheon of Latter-day Saint thinkers and writers who have shaped, advocated, and defended the doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  For others, he is seen as an example of anti-intellectualism who mingled the doctrines of the Church with fundamentalist Protestant beliefs and outlooks.  Regardless of where one stands, mention of Elder McConkie is likely to lead to a strong reaction when it comes to discussing Church history and beliefs.  In a recent, lengthy interview with Kurt Manwaring, Dennis B. Horne (one of McConkie’s biographers) shared some of his perspectives on the influential apostle.  What follows here is a co-post to the interview, focusing in on a small part of what is discussed.

One thing that has been an area of ongoing discussion in Latter-day Saint thought is McConkie’s book Mormon Doctrine.  Originally published in 1958, this encyclopedic work on doctrine is known for its authoritative tone and topical discussions of Latter-day Saint beliefs.  Controversial for its inclusion of McConkie’s beliefs about people with black African ancestry, evolution, the Great and Abominable Church, etc., it has been an ongoing target of criticism.  Horne responded to some of those criticisms, such as the ones leveled by Greg Prince and Wm. Wright in their biography of President David O. McKay.  For example, one part of the discussion focused on the idea that Bruce R. McConkie went behind President McKay’s back to publish a second edition of Mormon Doctrine.  Horne called this a falsehood and quoted McConkie’s son as writing that:

On July 5, 1966, President McKay invited Elder McConkie into his office and gave approval for the book to be reprinted if appropriate changes were made and approved. Elder Spencer W. Kimball was assigned to be Elder McConkie’s mentor in making those changes. Joseph also queried: “Haven’t you heard people say that Bruce McConkie had the book reprinted contrary to the direction of the First Presidency?”

To which he answered: “Yes, but if they would think about it, that assertion does not make much sense. The publisher was Bookcraft, not Bruce McConkie, and Bookcraft was always very careful to follow the direction of the Brethren. It could also be noted that Mormon Doctrine was reissued in 1966, and its author was called to the Quorum of the Twelve in 1972. It takes a pretty good imagination to suppose that a man who flagrantly ignored the direction of the president of the Church and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles would be called to fill a vacancy in that body.

Whatever faults one might want to attribute to Bruce McConkie, no one who knew him could question his integrity or his discipline, particularly where matters of priesthood direction were concerned. Never in my life have I known a man who was more disciplined or obedient to priesthood direction. Bruce McConkie would have died a thousand deaths before he would have disregarded the prophet’s counsel or that of the Quorum of the Twelve. . . . He followed counsel and minded his business. I have never met, nor do I expect to meet, a man more disciplined to the order of the priesthood.

To suppose that he would reject the counsel of the president of the Church or the Quorum of the Twelve is to completely misrepresent the man and the truth.

Horne also quoted from his own biography of McConkie:

In 1958 Elder McConkie’s seminal encyclopedic work, Mormon Doctrine, was published. Because it explained gospel doctrines clearly and forcefully, it quickly became a very popular book with latter-day saints. However, the breadth of subjects covered (some outside the range of LDS doctrine), the authoritative tone in which they were explained, and the controversial nature of some of the content, caused the First Presidency to take a close look at it.

Both Elders Marion G. Romney and Mark E. Petersen were assigned by the First Presidency to submit written reports on their findings after reviewing the book. These reports eventually led to a meeting between the First Presidency (then consisting of David O. McKay, J. Reuben Clark, and Henry D. Moyle), Elder Mark E. Petersen, and Elder McConkie, to discuss his best-selling book.

When they called Bruce in, they asked him to take a seat, but he said he would prefer to stand. Elder Mark E. Petersen of the Quorum of the Twelve, present and accounted for during this meeting, did most of the talking.

President Henry D. Moyle (the second counselor) indicated that on this occasion the First Presidency gave Bruce a “horsewhipping.” They were really hard on him and “raked him over the coals” for a period of time.

He further indicated that it was the worst criticism that that First Presidency had ever given a General Authority; that he went home feeling badly that they had been so hard on Bruce—it was basically Mark E. Petersen doing the talking and the First Presidency going along with and backing him up in his criticisms of Bruce’s book; that Elder Petersen was the real force behind the (temporary) discontinuance of Mormon Doctrine; he was the reason the First Presidency gave it so much attention and why Bruce got in so much trouble over it.

President Moyle indicated that Bruce simply listened to what they had to say, didn’t offer any arguments or protestations, said he had no questions at the end of the meeting when he was asked if he did, and he left.

He then went on to share in the interview that:

Elder Marion G. Romney really didn’t think that much was wrong with Mormon Doctrine, and President Joseph Fielding Smith didn’t think anything was wrong with it.

I have thought long and hard about why Elder Petersen didn’t like Mormon Doctrine and said he found more than a thousand errors in it. As I have read the doctrinal writings of each man, it has become apparent to me that they really thought very much alike, with very similar doctrinal views. They both denounced error and intellectualism when they saw it, and the error of worldly philosophies. Many of their talks are similar in doctrinal content.

Joseph Fielding McConkie believed that Elder Petersen’s distrust of the JST (or the Inspired Version) of the Bible may have caused him to designate every use of that work in Mormon Doctrine as an “error.” This is not known for sure, but if that was the case, then such references would not be considered errors today.

It’s an interesting point, and worth considering when approaching the book.

I once had an institute teacher who discussed Church history talk about Elder McConkie, emphasizing that even if there are problematic things that he said and wrote, we need to be careful to not throw the baby out with the bath water (i.e., there are great things and important that he shared, even if you don’t agree with everything from him).  Horne shared some similar thoughts in the interview:

Joseph McConkie wondered, in writing, how anyone could justify ignoring or discounting all that Elder McConkie ever said or wrote throughout his ministry, by stating that he (may have) got something wrong in Mormon Doctrine. To say that everything taught must be distrusted because someone is found to be wrong about a few things, would surely make everything all of us say untrustworthy, for whom among us is perfect in all we say, write, or teach?

It’s a good point – as a writer, I certainly know that I am quite far from being free of errors, so it makes sense to me to give leeway to others with the same problem of not being perfect.

As mentioned, the full interview is quite lengthy, so I’ve only scratched the surface by touching on a couple points relating to one topic in the space that I have.  I recommend hopping on over to FromtheDesk to read the full discussion here.  It covers a broad range of topics, from Bruce R. McConkie’s father to his role in the 1970s edition of the scriptures to the final days of his life and Elder McConkie’s magnificent final public sermon.  It’s interesting and worth taking the time to read and consider.

38 comments for “Mormon Doctrine, McConkie, and Modern Mormonism

  1. Except…Elder McConkie, and others in his position, aren’t like the rest of us. Once he became part of the 12 his words were supposed to be inspired words from God. His words, teachings, writings, etc..matter more because of that. Elder McConkie made himself the authority for all questions within Mormonism. No mere member was to question that….they didn’t have the “authority” that he did.

  2. IMO, Elder McConkie was not only a man of his time–he was a man *for* his time, so to speak. When he famously labelled evolution a heresy what was foremost in his mind (IMO) was the doctrine pertaining to our beginnings. Back in those days the average Jane and Joe latter-day saint were presented with more of an “either or” proposition then we are today–when dealing with the question of evolution. And so if you had to choose between one or the other do *not* choose the one that gets our beginnings wrong–that strips us of our premortal identity, so to speak.

    That said, if it were only a matter of getting the doctrine wrong — and goodness knows that we’ve done that on a few occasions — then it may not have caused enough concern to lower the hammer (as it were) on evolution. The real problem is that the stark choice was causing too many members to lose their faith. And that was Elder McConkie’s primary concern–and why he was trying to “nip in the bud.”

    That (and that) said, in a certain sense Elder McConkie wasn’t wrong to label evolution a heresy even if he was wrong on the science. An heresy can be defined as anything, really, that causes division in the kingdom–and not just a new idea that’s at odds with the prevailing doctrine.

  3. Mormonism took a serious wrong turn with the death of Apostles Widtsoe and Merrill in 1952. The problem was complicated by the poor heath of DOM. Pres. Joseph Fielding Smith and his son-in-law moved the Church closer to conservative Christianity. JFS wrote his silly “Man: His Origin and Destiny.” BRM tried to make Church doctrine with his “Mormon Doctrine.” Unfortunately, he was wrong in critical areas. And his talk at BYU (Seven Deadly Heresies, or something like that) tried again to formulate doctrine. Defining doctrine was not his job. It is my understanding that BRM was responsible for a statement that used to appear in the BoM stating that it was a history of the American Indians. A statement that eventually had to be removed.

    Apostles Widtsoe and Merrill were able to help keep the anti-science, anti-history, biblical literalism, etc. in check. With their death, the leadership devolved. Swimming pool (baseball) baptisms, over-construction leading to near bankruptcy, Alvin R. Dyers’ poorly thought out vision of missionary work. And the crazy politics of ETB. It was a rough period for the Church. One it is still trying to recover from.

    I lived through this period. Unfortunately, “Mormon Doctrine” and books like “Challenge” by Dyer were circulated among us missionaries. “Man:” had been published and was also discussed. JFS and BRM were at the center of this unfortunate era. Apostle McConkie is not my hero. His ego was a serious problem.

    Chad, I understand that you and Stephen are baiting progressives. But for me, idealizing McConkie is problematic.

  4. I have often thought that Elder McConkie could be an effective case study for dealing with prophetic fallibility. In general, I’d say that Elder McConkie was perhaps more often “right” than he was “wrong”, but how do we deal with those times he was wrong? The deadly heresy talk has at least a couple of issues (evolution and progression between kingdoms are the two that come to my mind) that are “debatably” true. Much of the vitriol that I see in the evolution debate rests on the deadly heresy talk and his father-in-law Joseph Fielding Smith’s “certain” language around the “falseness” of evolution.

    Many of the faith crisis issues that I see in the Church revolve around the question of when/how/ prophets and apostles can make significant doctrinal errors (not mistakes like wearing mismatched socks). When we don’t know how to deal with this, one’s shelf crumbles.

  5. I’m actually somewhat taken aback by your last statement, rogerdhansen. I am a progressive Mormon at heart and McConkie isn’t a hero for me either. That’s been a repeated theme in a number of my posts over the past couple years. As part of doing the copost, though, I was trying to present and stay true to the source material from the full interview as one viewpoint to consider, and Dennis Horne definitely idealizes McConkie.

  6. rogerdhansen,

    I appreciate the fact that we as members of the church can have varying opinions regarding doctrine and whatnot. But even so, I must say — also as one who lived through that period — that your comment strikes me rather cynical, dear brother. Viewing the church from a different vantage point one could argue that it made great strides through the 70’s and 80’s. It was during those years that the priesthood was made available to the blacks. It was during that time that the church truly became an international organization–and that its number of converts went through the roof. One could argue that President Benson singlehandedly turned the church about with regard to its focus on the Book of Mormon.

    As I look back, my views have changed a bit over time. I see Elder McConkie and President Smith (and others) as those who helped the church survive the negative effects of the dramatic cultural shift of the 60’s and 70’s. And that others would come along–in their turn–and take the church to new heights because of the positive effects of that shift.

  7. The posts and comments are interesting. Even 37 years after his death, Bruce McConkie still arouses strong feelings. I confess that I am not a fan. Even though I disagree with much of what he wrote, I think that the dogmatic certainty that he used to express his views, caused the most damage. In my opinion, the more one is convinced that he (or she) is right, the more likely one is wrong. Bruce McConkie and Joseph Fielding Smith used a priori reasoning: they started with the assertion that their conclusion on a subject under discussion was correct, and then erected straw men of reasoning to support their conclusions. I much prefer the approach of Talmadge and Widstoe, who were scientists, and whose minds had been trained in empirical thinking; they collected data and then formulated their conclusions, based on the evidence.

    While I think rogerdhansen’s evaluation is harsh and overly critical, I reluctantly concur with his assessment that the dogmatic approach of BRM and JFS to gospel questions caused lasting harm to the development of Mormon thinking and testimonies. If my conclusion bothers some participants in this comment thread, I can only suggest that they re-read the two men’s statements on the issue of race; my toes curl in embarrassment when I do this. And rogerdhansen is right: “Man: His Origin and Destiny” is a genuinely bad book. The book is simply wrong.

    Religious truths are much more easily revealed by God, when the seeker is humble and open to the idea that he has been wrong. BRM and JFS were sometimes wrong, but never in doubt. That is the crux of the problem with what they wrote. My ideal here is Spencer Kimball, who had a genuine humility, and was open to God telling him that the Church needed to end its policy of racial exclusion.

    One last thing. Publication of Mormon Doctrine stopped in 2010, supposedly because of lack of demand. I find that explanation disengenous, since used paperback copies in poor condition still sell for $40. It is my opinion that the Church now finds the hectoring tone of the book to be an embarrassment, and is quietly aiming toward a gradual decline in its influence.

  8. Jack the period I’m talking about is the 60’s and early 70’s. It was a disaster for the Church. ETB calling the Civil Rights Movement a Communist inspired conspiracy. ETB wanting to run as George Wallace’s VEEP. Ernest Wilkinson was president of BYU. A man who had no business being a major university president. J Reuben Clark was a serious racist (including anti-Semite). Henry Moyle and others drove the Church into near bankruptcy with their building programs. And the missionary program was sent on seriously wrong path.

    ETB’s emphasis on the BoM seemed to distract the Church from Christ and His mission. And perhaps worst of all, JFS and BRM were trying to drive the Church into the conservative Christian camp.

    During the Civil Rights Movement, I was a missionary in Europe. Membership activity rates were about 10 percent. Many branches had missionary presidents. The Church was a mess. And we had to defend the Church’s Black ban. My time would have been better spent participating in Civil Right’s marches.

    Taiwan you may be right that I am too harsh on JFS and BRM, but I really dislike the direction they (and others) took the Church. Today’s Church is not the church of my youth.

  9. LDS doctrine is continually evolving, trying to center and align with truth. To say that the church possesses all “the truth” is ignorance of reality at best. BRM, in my opinion, had a set of beliefs that generally shaped and modeled core LDS beliefs many of which remain to this day. His influence on official doctrine persists to this day. There are three circles that overlap. One is absolute truth. This circle has an exact and unwavering boundary that cannot change. The next circle overlaps part of the truth circle and that is composed of official church doctrine- that which has been revealed and encompasses that which is believed yo be truth. However, it overlaps not only truth but also things which aren’t true. Finally, there is the third circle that overlaps both absolute truth, and official doctrine. But this circle is one’s, or a groups, personal beliefs. This can encompass both things that are true but not recognized as official doctrine, official doctrine that is true and also both official doctrine that is not true and personal beliefs that are not true and not part of official doctrine.

    The area of overlap that most bothers me is the area of where official doctrine intersects personal beliefs and this area lies outside of the circle of absolute truth. Almost inevitably, I have found that whenever a topic is heavily debated or misunderstood it is because it falls into this intersection where not only is the official teaching wrong but so too are the myriad of personal beliefs on the subject. Heaven and he’ll and kingdoms of glory falls exactly into this area in my opinion. So too do simple things like definitions of key words. BRM had a large influence on definitions of words and terms that to this day cause mass confusion. Until we rebuild the entire system from the ground up using correct defining words and terms we will continue to walk in darkness in large part.

  10. Given a choice between dogmatism and charity, I hope I will choose charity. It seems to me that the more dogmatic one becomes, the less charitable he or she is.

  11. Despite what Dennis Horne writes, Wright and Prince never claimed that Elder McConkie “went behind President McKay’s back to publish a second edition of Mormon Doctrine” if Dennis would actually read what Wright and Prince actually wrote he would read on page 52 of “David O. Mckay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism” the following, “McConkie audaciously approached McKay six years later and pushed for publication of the book, albeit with the same title and general tone. At that point, McKay, age ninety-two and in failing health, did not take up the matter with his counselors or the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Rather, he said that “should the book be re-published at this time, ” McConkie would be responsible for it”. Basically if McConkie wanted to re publish it he would be responsible for it and not the Church. After Dennis’ false claim one would think Elder McConkie republished it without Pres. McKay’s knowledge or approval. Despite Dennis writing, “historically oriented works” [inside back cover of ‘I Know He Lives’] he is no historian and would do well to actually read what people write.

  12. McConkie had the most important doctrine correct: The Atonement. He was very blunt that you did not have to be perfect to be saved. Listen to how the leaders talk know “perfect obedience”. Sister Nelson’s Never Even Once club, etc. I don’t know how many times I have been driven to despair by current leaders and their toxic perfectionism. I’ll take McConkie any day.

  13. We cannot be saved “in” our sins. A sinful state, even in a slight degree is imperfection. The “saved” are “spotless” meaning they have been washed and cleansedfrom all their sins. Thus they become perfect in order to be saved.

  14. rogerdhansen,

    Though we probably agree on the most important aspects of the gospel I think we’re pretty-much at an impasse on this specific topic. But I do want to address what you say here:

    “ETB’s emphasis on the BoM seemed to distract the Church from Christ and His mission.”

    I think the emphasis that he placed on the BoM while president of the church is the very thing that would lead the church to become more Christ centered. IMO, there’s no way to be a serious student of the Book of Mormon without becoming more focused on the Savior and his mission.

  15. “It could also be noted that Mormon Doctrine was reissued in 1966, and its author was called to the Quorum of the Twelve in 1972.”

    Faulty reasoning, as in the man whom BRM called “dad” was president of the Church from 1970 to 72.

  16. Lily, I think you make an important point about Elder McConkie’s views on the saving power of the atonement. I had a friend who heard him speak at the Marriot Center back in the 80’s. And in his McConkie-like parlance he (Elder McConkie) stated in so many words that if a bomb were dropped on the Marriot Center and all who were in attendance were killed that the vast majority of them would be saved in the Celestial Kingdom of God. My friend said he “floated” out of the building after hearing such a hopeful statement.

    I know that what I’ve shared is second-hand. But I have no reason to doubt my friend’s recollection.

  17. BRM’s “mormon doctrine” was considered almost one of the standard works in the 60’s and 70’s. Few people I knew questioned it. I had one on my mission. At the time is was almost like scripture. Later the book was shunned by the Church or so it seemed. This kind of thing has lead to many now leaving the Church entirely.

  18. Liberal progressive who cringes at church conservatism, here to defend BRM.

    I understand that some of the concepts in MD were relics of the time. With the benefit of hindsight, many feel self-righteous in throwing tomatoes at him. But, why shoot the messenger? His constructs were commonly believed even by SWK and others, despite a fellow apostle quibbling about his use of the JST (eye roll). Seriously, what can one do with that type of criticism?

    Mormon doctrine was the first attempt at an encyclopedic explanation of beliefs- and in that regard a magnum opus. So was his near life-long work to cross-reference the scriptures and add chapter headings.

    A generation before the Encyclopedia of Mormonism (EoM) emerged there was MD which was not created by a massive editorial board of PhDs, but by one pioneering man. Don’t forget that the EoM benefitted from the learned experience of BRM and MD. We don’t get to stand on the shoulders of giants and then spit on them from above! Nor should we trash EoM when in another 10 years we find doctrine presented incorrectly (having shifted over the years) or outdated content in it.

    I have long been irked at those who throw stones at BRM, ignoring their own glass houses. Yet Mormonism needs some sort of whipping boy, someone we love to hate. It used to be Emma and Lucy Mack, but has since shifted to BRM. It’s completely unchristian. And, having LDS ancestors from the mid-century, I’m fully aware that the biases and prejudices of that era were communal in nature and need to be repented of as a church – not schlepped on the shoulders of a mid-level scapegoat.

    I’m closing, it’s important to remember that when confronted by members about the mistakes in MD, he reminded readers that they had a duty to study it out and pray about it, to use their own discernment and intellect to go beyond his initial work. So, shouldn’t we be responsible for the way in which we lazily consumed the book as automatons instead of seekers? I have a feeling that if he had lived in our hyperlinked and dynamic online world, he would have wanted to turn the publication into an open-source wiki, enriching his foundational work with ever evolving minds.

    I’ll wrap up by reiterating Lily’s comment about his important grace-based approach to the atonement, and his life-long love of scripture and doctrine. With his photographic memory, he could teach his challenging institute classes without ever bringing his scriptures to class. He had the standard works memorized. We knew him personally, and can attest that his heart, life of service, and sincere intentions deserve so much more than the condescending deconstruction we levy on him today. Lastly, I’d point out that his final conference talk stands as one of the most profound and eloquent testimonies given in conference- beloved for nearly half a century now. Surely we can find more academic and constructive ways to enhance his contributions than the First Presidency did or that many do now in the anonymity of the shark pit (the bloggernacle).

  19. Let the warts in Elder McConkie’s record stand without whitewashing. Would he have it any differently? Hopefully we can learn from them–the whole point of learning history (Mormon 9:31).

  20. Wonderful comment, Mortimer. I have to say that even as a conservative I was glad to get away from the systematic approach to the gospel that was more prevalent in the church back in 70’s. But even so, I find myself returning to some of Bruce R. McConkie’s talks–and I have to say they I’ve forgotten (or perhaps never really knew) just how powerful they are. Some of his parlance might seem a bit heavy-handed nowadays. But there’s no question that he was both adamant and sincere in his witness of the truth–and that he cared deeply for the welfare of every latter-day saint.

    Here’s one of my favorite talks by Elder McConkie–especially the last third or so:

  21. Mortimer, nobody doubts his sincerity or his incredible memory. The criticism is directed at his arrogance. His attempt to take his own personal beliefs and project them as doctrine. Sometime he got them right. But sometimes he got them wrong. He, as a mid-level GA, shouldn’t have been trying to unilaterally make policy and doctrine. I find it ironic that one of his biggest critics was Mark E. Peterson, hardly a progressive.

  22. Jack, thank you for sharing that powerful and expansive talk. Compared to many of the milk-toast ones today, this is a total mic-drop.

  23. I remember on my mission (early 00’s) that older members (always men) might occasionally show off to us their first (maybe second) edition copy of Mormon Doctrine, and talk about it like they had some kind of contraband. “They ran him out of town when he printed this”. It’s like it was the source of secret information they couldn’t get anywhere else.
    It now makes me wonder, that if you’re doing something that you knowingly is disapproved of by church leadership, are you really better off for it?

  24. From the second edition of Mormon Doctrine (1966):

    “This work is not an official publication of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

    “The views expressed herein are the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the position of the Church or of Deseret Book Company.”

    Bruce R. McConkie takes full responsibility for his work. However, even though it’s not official church doctrine a lot of members (back in the day) went gaga for it. And I think the primary reason for their excitement over it was as Mortimer point out above–it was the first attempt at an encyclopedia of latter-day saint beliefs. And even though it may not have been perfect–especially by today’s standards–it sure was handy.

    Imagine, for the sake of argument, that we didn’t have access to the internet. We’d be at a great loss for immediate access to information regarding just about everything under the sun–let alone our own doctrine. And if we don’t have a large personal library–we might just find ourselves reaching for a book like MD to get some quick answers or scriptural refences or whatnot.

  25. Technically speaking “Mormon Doctrine” by Elder McConkie wasn’t the first “encyclopedic attempt” at LDS beliefs. An earlier book called, “A COMPENDIUM OF THE DOCTRINES OF THE GOSPEL” was written by Elder Franklin D. Richards of the Twelve in the 1850’s. It wasn’t nearly as expansive or widely distributed as Mormon Doctrine for obvious reasons but it was something of an attempt to compile LDS beliefs.

  26. Rogerhansen,

    Why slap the label arrogance in BRM? If he were here, he’d tell us that he wasn’t the one creating doctrine, he was capturing, clarifying, and repackaging Scripture after having spent a lifetime methodologically indexing God’s word (standard works and words of modern day prophets.) If his tone was bold, it was because he believed it was God’s word, not his own. Sloppy? Hardly. As a scholar and attorney, he cited the commensurate EVIDENCE for each entry. Yes, he interpreted the scriptures with the lens of his day. I’m not quick to shoot the messenger.

    Seriously, all this BRM hating and dismissal does a tremendous disservice to both historical analysis and a slandered servant. The way BRM has become a punching bag just kills me- a wealth of knowledge and wisdom, to say nothing of his trailblazing* intellectual work, is just shrugged away.*

    *James, thank you for the info about the smaller 1850 effort. Do we know if the book was popular or rare and whether (in the days before the internet) BRM had access to it?

    **I am not related to BRM, and don’t appreciate all the work of K&M, but am indebted to his testimony and service.

  27. @Mortimer-I think the book was fairly popular and Elder McConkie quoted from it when he wrote his Doctrinal New Testament Commentary at least

  28. I find myself agreeing with both Mortimer and Rogerhanson. There were many things that I felt was wrong with Mormon doctrine mostly because it seemed to be the last word on a topic. I believe we do the same thing today. We seem to have very clear opinions on things that God has not found it in his wisdom to impart to us, but that doesn’t stop us from speculating. I think when all is revealed, we will be surprised, and we will of necessity need to repent and to except more light and knowledge from God. I think this process will be easier if we do not make up your minds on matters that God has not revealed to us. When it comes to Bruce R McConkie I loved most of his talks I had great respect for him as a servant of the Lord and felt that he had a good heart and showed great faith in God – even though I didn’t agree with some of his “speculations” – but his “speculations” didn’t happen in a vacuum. Just to make it clear – I had no problem sustaining him

  29. “Lens of his day” is hardly a sustainable argument. His ideas about evolution weren’t even sustainable in the 1920’s. Think William Jennings Bryan. A man BRM’s father-in-law quoted liberally in his silly book. If he had consulted anybody in the biology or physical anthropology areas at BYU, he would have have had a more enlightened discussion. Evolution is one of the foundations of modern biology.

    His ideas about race were right out of 19th century. Even DOM, a conservative, had serious doubts about the priesthood ban. Unfortunately, you can justify anything using the scriptures. BRM’s making the racial ban doctrine was a serious mistake. One we are still living with. He was unable to comprehend a nuance view on major issues.

    I need to bow out of this discussion. I don’t like the direction BRM and his associates tried (and mostly succeeded) in taking the Church: anti-history, anti-science, biblical literalism, etc. For me personally, I believe that a religion should incorporate all truth.

  30. Even though I earlier said that rogerdhansen was a bit harsh in his assessments, that does not mean that I do not substantially agree with him. Rogerdhansen is unfortunately correct that BRM and JFS damaged the Church by fighting against the truth on the subjects of race and evolution. That dangerous liberal Dallin Oaks, while speaking at BYU, once stated that it was pointless to deny evolution, since BYU was literally built on top of millions of fossils. Shall we delve into JFS’ excruciating comments, bad even for his time, when he said in a news interview that “Darkies” (awful word) were happy with their lot (1969?).

    There is a mistaken belief among Church members that if we say that Church leader X was wrong in his beliefs on Subject Y, then we are somehow rejecting everything the Church teaches.

    This is fatuous. To quote a favorite hymn, the knowledge and power of God are expanding; the veil over the earth is beginning to burst. Testimonies based on Church leaders’ outmoded views on race and evolution are skating on thin ice. Sometimes we need to simply stand up and have the courage to say that past beliefs were wrong. Humility is a Christian virtue.

    Juanita Brooks, whose harsh assessment of the Mountain Meadows Massacre and Brigham’s role as an accessory after the fact, raised a big stink, and faced a lot of grief from Church leaders over what she wrote. As it turns out, that subersive radical DHO publicly stated that her writings on the MMM were correct. Juanita Brooks said in response to the criticisms she faced, “Nothing but the truth is good enough for the church I love.”

    Enough said.

  31. I just noticed this posting and comments.
    I suggest that people might read the full expanded version found at this link, which now includes a new important source regarding President McKay and the republication of Mormon Doctrine (this item was discovered and added to both my blog and Manwaring’s after the original postings). To my mind it settles the issue completely. Others will seek to dismiss it. This was also added after Peggy Stack’s item about MD in the SLTribune from last week, so she missed it as well.

  32. I have also had the newly discovered source about Elder McConkie getting permission from Pres. McKay inserted into the “Mormon Doctrine” wikipedia article, which references back to the Manwaring ten questions interview (where the source was inserted a week late). This will settle the question from most reasonable people.

  33. This thread has obviously run its course, but I’d like to add this:

    When Paul Reeve and I published _Mormonism: A Historical Encyclopedia_ with ABC-Clio in 2010, we had to follow a strict format imposed by the publisher: X articles on people, Y articles on events, Z articles on issues. The number allotted to people was low (at least in relation to the vast number of fascinating personalities in our present and past), and many of that number went to the various modern-day prophets. That we used one of our remaining slots for Bruce R. McConkie should demonstrate how important we deemed his influence in 20th century history.

    We chose Elder McConkie because it let us address Mormon Doctrine, at least briefly, which we thought was essential because anyone turning to our encyclopedia for information about the Mormons would almost certainly also encounter Elder McConkie’s work; without endorsing the criticisms, we did list, in general terms, why the book was considered controversial by some. We also acknowledged its popularity, and the evident hunger of church members for a compact, systematic compilation of doctrinal principles.

    But there was a secondary reason for choosing him to, in effect, represent all the apostles of the Restoration: It allowed us to quote briefly from both “All Are Alike unto God” and his last talk, “The Purifying Power of Gethsemane.” In a book necessarily focusing on history, his entry let us slip in powerful words of testimony about continuing revelation and especially about the divinity of Jesus Christ. Can’t think of another apostle in my lifetime — no matter how much all may believe in and testify of Christ — with a more succinct, powerful, unwavering, and quotable witness.

  34. I was a member for one year when I went on my mission in the late 80s. I found Mormon Doctrine an awesome reference book regarding things I did not completely know. I never saw Bruce R speak while he was alive but they played the recording of his last testimony while I was in the MTC and it was very moving. I also played cassettes of his talks while on a mission and found strength in them. I am not sure how you can write an encyclopedia type book without it sounding authoritative. There are many times in Church history where leaders have shared their personal views and because of their positions people have received it like it was doctrine. From what I have read many people left the Church when a bank Joseph Smith help start ended up failing. I personally do not believe the Covid-19 vaccine is safe and effective but I believe our Prophet is called of God and that his statement regarding the vaccine was his opinion. There seems to be a lack of mutual respect among the human family at this point regarding differences in opinion. Free speech is becoming less free.

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