The Three Greatest Truths of Eternity

To summarize the teaching of Elder Bruce R. McConkie, the three greatest of all truths are: 1) God is an actual person with a body of flesh and bones, rather than a “spirit essence that fills immensity.” 2)That through the atonement and grace of Jesus Christ, all men may be saved from sin if they have enough faith in Him to truly repent. And 3) God continues to give revelation to men today by the power of the Holy Ghost.

Conversly, the three greatest lies or heresies taught in the world by those who are ignorant of the truth, are the denial of these three truths. Namely, that God is not an actual person of flesh and bone, that men do not have to repent to receive forgiveness of sin, and that God no longer speaks to mankind today through prophets by the power of the Holy Ghost.

Elder McConkie does not use exactly these words in describing these three great truths and heresies, but he says essentially the same thing here:

From Sermons and Writings of Bruce R. McConkie, pp. 47-4:Three Greatest Truths—and Heresies—of Eternity

We start with God, our Heavenly Father, who is here named God the first, the Creator. And we have to understand that he is a holy and perfected and exalted person (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1938], pp. 345-46); that he is a being in whose image man is created (Gen. 1:26-27); that he has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s (D&C 130:22); and that we are literally his spirit children (Num. 16:22; Heb. 12:9), the Lord Jesus being the firstborn (D&C 93:21; Rom. 8:29; Col. 1:15). I suggest that the greatest truth in all eternity, bar none, is that there is a God in heaven who is a personal being, in whose image man is made, and that we are his spirit children. We must build on that rock foundation before any progression ever begins in the spiritual realm. We first believe in God our Heavenly Father.

I suggest also that the greatest heresy that was ever devised by an evil power was the heresy that defines the nature and kind of being that God is as a spirit essence that fills immensity; as a being without body, parts or passions; as something that is incomprehensible, uncreated, and unknowable. The greatest truth is God; the greatest heresy is the doctrine that recites the opposite of the truth as to God’s person.

I suggest that the second greatest truth in all eternity is that Christ our Lord is the Redeemer; that he was foreordained in the councils of eternity to come down here and work out the infinite and eternal atoning sacrifice (Isa. 53; Rev. 13:8); that because of what he did we are ransomed from the effects of the temporal and spiritual death that came into the world by the fall of Adam (2 Ne-2:19-25; 1 Cor. 15:21-22). And all of us have the hope, the potential, the possibility, to gain eternal life in addition to immortality, meaning that we can become like God our Heavenly Father (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1938], pp. 346-48). That is the second greatest truth in all eternity.

The second greatest heresy in all eternity is the doctrine that denies the divine sonship, that sets up a system that says you can give lip service to the name of Christ, but you are saved by grace alone without efforts and without work on your part.

I suggest, conformable to what the Prophet said about God the third, who is the Witness or Testator, that the third greatest truth in all eternity is that the Holy Spirit of God, a personage of spirit, a member of the Godhead, has power to reveal eternal truth to the heart and soul and mind of man. And that revelation—known first as a testimony, and then known as the general receipt of truth in the spiritual field—that testimony is the great thing that man needs to lead him on a course back to our Father in Heaven.

Since that is the third greatest truth in all eternity, it follows that the third greatest and third most serious heresy in all eternity is the doctrine that denies that the Holy Spirit of God reveals truth to the human soul, and that denies that there are gifts of the Spirit, that there are miracles and powers and graces and good things that the Lord by his Spirit pours out upon mortal men.

I testify that these things are true. Elder McConkie was speaking as a prophet when he spoke these words. The Holy Ghost will testify of the truthfulness of these doctrines to any honest seeker who has a genuine desire to know the truth.

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15 Responses to The Three Greatest Truths of Eternity

  1. Anonymous wrote:
    6) When the Encyclopedia of Mormonism was created, under the auspices of a church-formed committee, and with several entries therein having been personally approved by the First Presidency, none of the entries in that text were taken from “Mormon Doctrine.” In fact, several articles are in conflict with the teachings found in “Mormon Doctrine.”

    Perhaps you could provide us with a couple of examples to illustrate that the Encyclopedia of Mormonism contradicts Mormon Doctrine by Bruce R. McConkie. With the possible exception of the article on “evoution,” I am unaware of a contradiction. And even that is not certain because the article in the encyclopedia is only three paragraphs which do not take a position for or against evolution, while Elder McConkie clearly teaches that there was no death before the fall of Adam and concludes his article by saying, “There is no harmony between the truths of revealed religion and the theories of organic evolution.” Clearly, because the encyclopedia article fails to take a position on evolution, and Elder McConkie does, there is room for argument about whether the two sources contradict.

    But perhaps Anonymous had some other article in mind when he suggested that the EOM and MORMON DOCTRINE contradict. As usually in the case when McConkie is discussed, no specific examples of his alleged false doctrine are given.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Here are some of the reasons why one should be careful in their use of “Mormon Doctrine” as representing the Church’s views:

    1) It was never published by the Church. Only by Bookcraft, which while being owned by the Church, publishes less offical works and even fictional books. Being published by Bookcraft is no indicator of the official status of any book.

    2) It was not written by the Prophet or First Presidency. It was not approved by the FP. It was not written or approved by the Quorum of the Twelve. The book represents only the views of a single member of the Quorum of the Seventy, as first published in 1958 and then again in 1966.

    3) In the preface of the 1958 edition, McConkie states, “For the work [book] itself, I assume sole and full responsibility.”

    4) The book has never been used by the Church as a lesson manual.

    5) When the Church created collections of books for distribution to ward and public libraries twice in the last 15 years, for the purpose of being good reference collections on the LDS faith, “Mormon Doctrine” was not included.

    6) When the Encyclopedia of Mormonism was created, under the auspices of a church-formed committee, and with several entries therein having been personally approved by the First Presidency, none of the entries in that text were taken from “Mormon Doctrine.” In fact, several articles are in conflict with the teachings found in “Mormon Doctrine.”

    I’m not saying there is nothing of worth in the book. It provides many good references to Joseph Smith’s teachings and scriptures. However I would not recommend the book to a new member, as Elder McConkie’s ultra-conservative interpretation of doctrine is frequently not the official position of the Church and there is no good reason to promote this book as representing the Church’s views. Certainly the Church does not promote the book as such. The Encyclopedia of Mormonism is a much more reliable reference on modern Mormonism – President Hinckley himself was very involved in proofing key articles in the EoM.

    I regard “Mormon Doctrine” as an interesting reference work from an earlier era of the Church.

  3. You bet, and I’m sure you will be able to find some. The book isn’t perfect, just very good. I have found a couple of places where McConkie’s teachings in Mormon Doctrine contradict his teachings in A New Witness for the Articles of Faith. When McConkie contradicts McConkie, how can he be right in both places? I don’t worship McConkie. I just have more confidence in his understanding of the scriptures and Church doctrine than any other “scriptorian” I know of. When it came to Church doctrine, the man was no slouch. He was usually right, but he wasn’t always right.

  4. J Max says:

    John,

    You make very good points about the doctrinal accuracy of Mormon Doctrine. If there are errors, we should be able to find them. If I take the time to critique Mormon Doctrine, comparing it to the standard works and statement of the prophets, will you respond on a future blog to that critique?

  5. Anonymous, what you say may be true, but as I have previously written, it doesn’t tell the whole story, and because of that, it does not present a true picture. It is a fact that the book was republished. It is also a fact that it continues in print to this day by a publisher owned by the Church, a publisher that does not knowingly publish false doctrine or anti-Mormon material. And it is sold in Church owned bookstores, bookstores that do not knowingly sell false doctrine or anti-Mormon materials. It is also a fact that it continues to be cited and quoted in correlated Church manuals that are in use today. It is also a fact, that some of our Bible dictionary, bound with our standard works, is taken verbatim from Mormon Doctrine. And it is a fact that Bruce R. McConkie was called to the Twelve only six years after he is alleged to have defied President McKay and the Twelve in republishing the book. It is also a fact that Bruce R. McConkie’s son, Joseph Fielding McConkie, says that President McKay later authorized the reprinting of the book on July 5, 1966.

    He writes:

    “Question: Is it true that President David O. McKay banned the book?

    Response: In January 1960, President McKay asked Elder McConkie not to have the book reprinted.

    Question: How is it, then, that the book was reissued?

    Response: 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.

    Question: Is this generally known?

    Response: I don’t think so. I don’t know how people would be expected to know this.

    Question: Haven’t you heard people say that Bruce McConkie had the book reprinted contrary to the direction of the First Presidency?

    Response: 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.”

    Why is this left out of the story by President McKay’s most recent biographer?

    Apparently some very important facts are being left out of the story. And the result of these misleading omissions is the false impression that the book contains doctrinal errors. It does not.

    To me, the best evidence that Mormon Doctrine does not contain any false doctrine is this fact: No one indentifies these alleged false doctrines and demonstrates how these doctrines are refuted by the scriptures and the modern prophets.

    It is clear that Mormon Doctrine is the victim of a dishonest smear campaign by those who do not want to accept the scriptural teachings in the book. Fortunately, those who smear this book are not in the top leadership of the Church. If they were, the book would go out of print, just as the First Edition did.

    Finally, Gregory A. Prince is the author of the David O. McKay biography that smears McConkie’s Mormon Doctrine. It is significant that he is an author published by Signature Books. Signature Books is notorious among the faithful as a publisher of material written by dissident members who are disgruntled with current Church leadership. For this reason alone, an honest truth seeker ought to approach this David O. McKay biography with caution. Books may be judged not only by what they include, but also by what they leave out. Facts can tell a false story when they don’t tell the whole truth, when other pertinent facts are strategically left out.

  6. Anonymous says:

    The source for McKay’s dissatisfaction with “Mormon Doctrine” is not hearsay. It comes right out of McKay’s journal, which was verified as authentic by McKay’s long-time personal secretary. This story was also confirmed by Elder Mark E. Peterson, during his lifetime. Peterson worked with McKay, specifically identifying hundreds of doctrinal errors in the book. As McKay was the Living Prophet at the time that “Mormon Doctrine” was published, one would think a faithful LDS member would side with him.

    After the book was published, McKay passed over McConkie several times when there were openings in the Quorum of the Twelve. This resulted in McConkie not being selected until 1972, by Harold B. Lee, and never building much seniority in that Quorum.

    Even the very name of the book, “Mormon Doctrine” was a publicity stunt by Bookcraft, the publisher. McConkie never even asked the Prophet for permission to use that title. McKay was furious when he learned what McConkie named the book.

    The list of over 1000 mistakes, as identified by the First Presidency was given to McConkie, who incorporated about 300-400 of those corrections in the 1966 2nd Edition. But he still refused to change over 600 things.

    His 1958 1st Edition has been quoted more by anti-Mormons than any other LDS book ever written. They love to attribute these teachings to the Church, even though they were wrong and are not official doctrine.

  7. Dear J Max, I have heard this story of the “errors” in Mormon Doctrine as long as I have been on the Internet. I do not need to read the biography you mention to know that only one side of the story is being told. For another side of the story read this brief excerpt from a different biography, The Bruce R. McConkie Story.

    As you will see, the “errors” referred to in the material you cite were not doctrinal errors at all. They were matters of tone, and the wisdom of publishing some teachings. Further, David O. McKay later reversed himself and authorized additional printings of the book once minor revisions were made. This of course is conveniently left out of the story as it is usually told.

    I have often found it curious that critics of McConkie who dislike Mormon Doctrine never point to specific examples of false doctrine and defend their examples by pointing to scriptures and modern prophetic teachings which contradict them. I assume this is because they can’t. McConkie’s understanding of Mormon doctrine was sound, and it was based upon the scriptures and the teachings of the modern prophets. McKay’s initial objection to the book had to do with its tone and the wisdom of including certain doctrines that are offensive to other faiths, particularly the Roman Catholic Church. His objection was not to false doctrine.

    Is all of Mormon Doctrine official Church doctrine? No, and McConkie never claimed that it was. The Church actually has very little “official” Church doctrine. We have an open canon based upon continuing revelation and except for the standard works themselves, very little Church teaching receives any “official doctrine” stamp. That doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

  8. Richard says:

    not being a McConkie fan, I admit you have shown he can be quite poignant.

    if, in fact, the Holy Ghost is still capable of revealing more truths today through the same gift that the Prophet Joseph had, would it not come through the identical “Word of the Lord” pattern?

    There are many spiritual gifts, but is it not certain that the gift to receive and write revelations and commandments in D&C type revelations has been lost from the church leadership? There is simply no evidence it has existed among them for about 116 years.

    what is the explanation of this, and has the gift been given to anyone outside of the church?

    there are many, actually, who write “word of the Lord” revelations today. obviously, they are all false. unless, of course, there is one that is NOT false, and the adversary inspires all the others to confuse and distract as much as possible.

  9. J Max says:

    John,

    On whether McConkie has ever been contradicted by the Prophet, I suggest you read the latest David O. McKay biography called David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism. You can find it on deseretbook.com. It contains a discussion of McConkie’s Mormon Doctrine. McConkie wrote and published it while a Seventy without approval of the First Presidency. After publication, President McKay had two members of the Quorum of the Twelve analyze it for doctrinal accuracy. They found, if I recall correctly, over 700 errors, or about one per page. McConkie was woodsheded over it and told never to publish it again. But instead of publicly rebuking McConkie, President McKay thought it was wiser to handle the matter internally so as not to harm the faith of the general membership of the church who loved the “black and white” style of the book as Jeffrey puts it.

    When President McKay died and McConkie’s father in law, Joseph F. Smith, became President, McConkie republished Mormon Doctrine with a few changes–like removing the reference to the Catholic church as being the great and abominable church spoken of in the Book of Mormon and saying that blacks were the children of Cain.

    My point is that not everything McConkie says is true doctrine. Not everything anyone has said, with the exception of Christ, is true doctrine. I think that the only way to find true doctrine is to do what you did–pray about it and seek confirmation from the Spirit.

    My challenge is that I do not have the same response to McConkie that you do. Especially the talk you quote. Maybe its lack of spiritual sensitivity, but alot of what McConkie says I have questions about.

  10. C Jones says:

    I totally agree with what j max says in comment 4. But what I was trying to say was that while it is the church’s position that doctrine as currently understood can be amended by further light and knowledge by a later prophet, I find it to be a leap to extend that to mean that as soon as a GA dies, everything he ever said is no longer as authoratative as it was when he was alive. My understanding is that whatever the GA said would be valid until a living prophet amends it.
    That said, Bruce R. McConkie was a great apostle and a great doctrinal teacher. Yet Mormon Doctrine is no substitute for the scriptures. But for me personally, his final testimony was one of the great testimony building moments in my life.

  11. It is very rare for a living prophet to teach something that contradicts a dead prophet. In nearly all cases the living prophets testify to the truthfulness of what the dead prophets have said. In that exceedingly rare situation where the two are in disagreement, the living prophet must be followed if we are to please God. For an example, President Kimball declared that Adam-God theory is false doctrine. If Brigham Young ever taught that doctrine as the apostates understand it, then he was teaching his personal opinion, not true doctrine.

    The Holy Ghost has testified to me that Bruce R. McConkie was a true prophet and a good source for correct doctrine. None of his teachings have ever been contradicted by the living prophet. The living prophets teach the same things. If a living prophet contradicts McConkie, then I will accept the more recent teaching. Otherwise, I will assume that McConkie’s doctrine was correct, and that the living prophet believes it too.

    It is true that McConkie was never the President of the Church. Neither was Paul. Yet Paul wrote most of our New Testament. Did Paul ever teach doctrine that was not taught by Jesus? Possibly. Did Jesus ever teach anything that was contradicted by Paul? No he didn’t. If there seemed to be a contradiction, whose teaching should I believe? My first assumption would be that my own understanding of the teaching was incomplete, that the contradiction was an “apparent” one rather than real.

    I think the reason so many Latter-day Saints quote McConkie, is because many members of the Church receive personal revelation, and the Holy Ghost has testified to them of McConkie just as he has to me.

    I will discount the teaching of Bruce R. McConkie when someone demonstrates to me that it is untrue. They can do that by pointing out to me how it contradicts either the scriptures or the living prophet. Usually those who disagree with McConkie just have a different opinion. Why should I prefer their opinion to McConkie’s?

    The truth is the truth whether it is “official” Church doctrine or not.

  12. J Max says:

    C Jones–

    There are numerous general conference talks on the authority dead prophets compared to the authority of living prophets. One of the better ones is by Merrill C. Oaks, “The Living Prophet: Our Source of Pure Doctrine,? Ensign, Nov. 1998, 82. If a dead prophet were as authoritative as a living one then there would be no need for continuing revelation. President Benson also gave a great talk on the importance of following the living prophet even if he reveals something inconsistent with what an earlier prophet said in the April or October 1981 general conference. (Both Talks are on LDS.ORG)

    There are numerous examples of changes in doctrine through revelation. Blacks and the priesthood and polygamy being the most dramatic. So yes, this priciple applies to Joseph Smith as well. He revealed polygamy and later prophets said that the Lord had revealed we should no longer practice it. If we followed Joseph Smith and Brigham Young we would still be practicing polygamy.

    Following dead prophets is the mistake that Warren Jeffs and the other polygamists make.

  13. C Jones says:

    j max- I don’t recall ever hearing the “orthodox” position of a dead General Authority no longer being as authoratative as a live one. Are you inferring that from the idea that doctrine as currently understood can be amended by further light and knowledge by a later prophet? And would the dead GA theory extend to Joseph Smith?

  14. I think they enjoy his willingness to actually lay down the line. His writings are very black and white, “this is how it is and that is how it isn’t” and this can certainly help people learn doctrine, or a certain version of it anyways. Plus his writings had far more information in them than that of any other authority. While most GA’s simply repeat the same old truisms and platitudes, BRM was willing to engage issues. Although I disagree with him on A LOT of issues, I do respect these tendencies in him a great deal. I don’t think we’ve seen any GA take their calling as a prophet, seer and revelator so seriously since Joseph F. Smith, with the possible exception of the former’s father in law who was also the latter’s son.

  15. J Max says:

    I find McConkie quotes interesting. Especially when he is quoted by someone who subscribes to an “orthodox” position on doctrine. McConkie is dead. Orthodox Church doctrine teaches us that once dead a General Authority is no longer as authoratative as a live one. If this is true of Brigham Young it is certainly as true for McConkie who was never “the” Prophet.

    McConkie is probably the most quoted general authority who was never the President of the Church. I think in every ward I have ever been in I have heard McConkie quotes more often than any living general authority, including the Prophet. One of my ward’s elders quorum instructors uses Mormon Doctrine more than the scriptures. A couple of times he showed up to class to teach without his scriptures, just a copy of Mormon Doctrine!

    This seems odd to me. Why do you think some people are so entraced by this long dead Apostle?

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