McConkie on McConkie

I wonder how many saints are aware that Bruce R. McConkie wrote all of the chapter headings in our LDS Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the Pearl of Great Price? This morning I was reading an interview with Joseph Fielding McConkie at Meridian Magazine and ran across this:

As most people are aware Elder McConkie also wrote the chapter headings for the Bible, Book of Mormon, and the Pearl of Great Price. What is often missed here is that these headings constitute a commentary, howbeit brief, on each chapter in these books.

I am deeply grateful to Heavenly Father for blessing us with the teachings of Bruce R. McConkie. In my opinion, he had a deeper and better understanding of the scriptures and modern revelation than almost any other person who has ever written on the doctrines of the Restoration. I find that in my own study of the scriptures, I usually understand them in the same way that Elder McConkie did. While he often mingled his “personal opinion” with scripture in teaching Mormon doctrine, and he never had authority to make official Church doctrine, to the best of my knowledge he never claimed such authority. He was a man like Paul who spoke the truth boldly, and what he spoke was indeed the truth in most instances. Paul was never the President of the Church either. But most of what he taught was scripture because he taught as moved upon by the Holy Ghost. And the scriptures themselves proclaim that whatever a man speaks by the power of the Holy Ghost is scripture. God bless Bruce R. McConkie and his wonderful family.

14 Responses to McConkie on McConkie

  1. Thank you for the auspicious writeup. It in fact was a amusement account
    it. Look advanced to far added agreeable from you! However, how could we communicate?

  2. Believe in Christ and Deny Him Not for he is the Holy One of Israel says:

    What does the spirit tell you?

    Also you said the prophet reveals correct doctrine. True. But Bruce R McConkie recited already established doctrine as does all the apostles. He did not reveal doctrine, rather he put the doctrine that was already present and put it in the breadbasket. Real easy for us to gain knowledge with little effort. The Prophet reveals new truth when necessary. Any man(or woman) can teach doctrine if they have the spirit. In fact it is the only thing that should be taught. And only if the person has the spirit. “…if ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach.” D&C 42:14. Also read verse 15

  3. RatherNotSay says:

    Oops, typo above in my post. I enumerated apostles/prophets who have taught that God progresses in knowledge. The first one I list is “Bruce R. McConkie”, but this should read “Brigham Young.”

  4. RatherNotSay says:

    The Lord called and chose Bruce R. McConkie as his apostle. But to say Bruce’s teachings were superior to most others, when Bro. McConkie consistently defied the teachings of the Presidents of the Church–especially Brigham Young–and branded their teaches as heresies, is very disturbing.

    Bruce was never called to declare doctrine for the Church. Brigham Young was. Bruce said Brigham taught damnable heresies. He has no right to say this.

    McConkie, in his letter to Eugene England, says: “What I am saying is that Brigham Young, contradicted Brigham Young. . . . Brigham Young erred in some of his statements . . . , but Brigham Young also taught the truth in these fields on other occasions. And I repeat, that in his instance, he was a great prophet and has gone on to eternal reward. What he did is not a pattern for any of us. If we choose to believe and teach the false portions of his doctrines, we are making an election that will damn us.”

    However, Wilford Woodruff, in response to Orson Pratt taking the same attitude as McConkie, says thus: “Elder Orson Pratt pursued a course of stubbornness & unbelief in what President Young said that will destroy him if he does not repent & turn from his evil ways. For when any man crosses the track of a leader in Israel & tries to lead the prophet—he is no longer led by him but is in danger of falling.”

    On another occasion, Wilford said: “Every man in this room who has a particle of the spirit of God, knows that Pres. Young is a Prophet of God, and that God sustains him, and he has the Holy Spirit, and his doctrines are true, and that he is qualifying to lead the people.”

    One thing Bruce insisted was that its a deadly heresy to teach that God is learning (progressing in knowledge.) So according to Bruce R. McConkie, we have heretics within the ranks of our church, namely Bruce R. McConkie, Wilford Woodruff, James E. Talmage, J. Reuben Clark, George Q. Cannon, etc. (All of these men I mentioned, I can quote you saying God is progressing in knowledge.)

    I respect the doctrinal teachings of men who honor the Prophet of God. I honor the doctrinal teachings of the President of the Church, because he is the ONLY MAN God appoints to reveal correct doctrine.

    I think it would be wise to follow the counsel of J. Reuben Clark: “When any man, except the President of the Church, undertakes to proclaim one unsettled doctrine, as among two or more doctrines in dispute, as the settled doctrine of the Church, we may know that he is not “moved upon by the Holy Ghost,” unless he is acting under the direction and by the authority of the President.”

  5. Speck says:

    Gordon, you clearly did not read the prior comments. Elder McConkie was authorized to republish “Mormon Doctrine” after conferring, or being mentored, by Elder (at the time) Kimball, who also became President of the Church. Seems there’s a lot of “fictious” commentary going on, but the fiction is not propagated where you seem to think.

  6. You only have part of the story, Gordon. Read the rest of it in the biography of Bruce R. McConkie written by his son, Joseph Fielding McConkie. Apparently he only “disobeyed” President David O. McKay after the republication was authorized if certain preconditions were met. Some very dishonest people are telling the truth but not the whole truth and are misleading many thereby.

  7. Gordon says:

    If Bruce R was such a righteous man why did he disobey President David O and publish his fictious “Mormon Doctrine’ a book that caused a great pain to David O and in which Mark E found over 1000 doctrinal errors?

    So much for an inspired man-inspired to disobey a Prophet of God.

  8. Jettboy says:

    The dislike of “Mormon Doctrine” is a trend among particular kinds of LDS who like their own near heretical ideas more than orthodoxy. I have yet to be shown exactly what he teaches that is “false doctrine” or not Mormon doctrine. He is not perfect, and some of what he teaches can be argued differently without problems. But, his teachings are as authoritative as any Apostle past or present. I mean, he wouldn’t be called as an Apostle or have given the task of writing and editing the scriptures if he wasn’t seen as having the authority and acceptable insights.

    By the way, come visit Straight and Narrow Blog as its purpose is similar to this particular blog. I am trying to get more “orthodox” LDS together for discussions.

  9. Zerin Hood says:

    Another excellent post!

    I think McConkie’s authorship of the chapter headings is not nearly as well known as it should be nor is the importance of that specific contribution adequately recognized by most members — imho.

  10. jcobabe says:

    Perhaps it is not too presumptuous to judge in the church by which “gospel scholars” we choose to respect — and to denigrate.

    Personally, I feel obligated to hear and study the teachings of people like Elder McConkie, whose understanding of church doctrine was obviously superior. Those who speak evil of McConkie and his fellows are welcome to follow the likes of Michael Quinn or Brent Metcalfe, wherever they might be headed. We shall see which path proves to be the right one.

    There just has to be some kind of blind foolishness involved in the instances where church members still insist that there is something wrong with McConkie’s _Mormon Doctrine_. Today no church reference collection would be complete without it.

  11. Mary Adams says:

    Great post, John. I really appreciate your blog and the thoughts and ideas you express. I also wanted to wish you and your family a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

    Oh, and, Gary, I enjoyed your comment, too.

    Mary A.

  12. I wonder how many saints realize that some of the Mormon-specific entries in our Bible Dictionary which is bound with our standard works are lifted verbatim from MORMON DOCTRINE by Bruce R. McConkie. For an example, check the entry on the “abomination of desolation” in both MORMON DOCTRINE and the Bible Dictionary, and compare them.

    Many Latter-day Saints do not realize how much our current understanding of the gospel has been shaped by Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McConkie. Many do not realize how influential these men were in shaping the doctrinal understanding of their fellow prophets and apostles including men who later went on to become Presidents of the Church.

    Paul was never the President of the Church either. Yet many of his teachings are now in our standard works. How is that? The scriptures themselves teach that whatever a man speaks as moved upon by the Holy
    Ghost is scripture.

  13. Gary says:


    Last Lemming,

    Copies of Mormon Doctrine are being printed today by Deseret Book. They carry this Publisher’s Note:

    ——————- quote ———————–
    Mormon Doctrine has for decades been a classic work on certain beliefs and practices unique to the Latter-day Saints. A reflection of the times and culture in which it was written, this monumental work has added to the understanding of countless members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is a valuable tool but should not be considered an official statement of doctrine.
    —————— end quote ———————

    Yes, the Publisher’s Note contains a discplaimer. So what? Most Church books do or should contain the same disclaimer. The important thing is this, the book is still in print. It is still adding to the understanding of countless members of the Church. It is still a valuable tool.

    President James E. Faust once said: “There are different shades of truth telling. When we tell little white lies, we become progressively color-blind. It is better to remain silent than to mislead. The degree to which each of us tells the whole truth and nothing but the truth depends on our conscience.” (Ensign, Nov. 1996, 43; see also New Era, June 1997, 8; emphasis added.)

    To repeat only part of the Mormon Doctrine story is to perpetuate the falsehood that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not consider the book to be a reliable source of Mormon doctrine. A more complete and accurate view of the book’s publishing history is found in “The Mormon Doctrine Saga 1958 and 1966” (see chapter 11 in Joseph Fielding McConkie, The Bruce R. McConkie Story: Reflections of a Son, Deseret Book, 2003). Click here to read the entire chapter.

    ——————- quote ———————–
          The book Mormon Doctrine, written by Bruce R. McConkie, is one of the time-honored classics of Mormon literature. Few books can match it in endurance or number of copies sold. Perhaps few books, except the scriptures, can match it in the frequency with which it has been quoted in talks and lessons by those seeking to teach gospel principles. And perhaps no book save the scriptures themselves has been surrounded by more myth and lore. In recounting the Mormon Doctrine saga, I have confined myself to matters upon which I am competent to speak….

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

          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….

          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….

          There were about fifty items that Elder Kimball wanted Elder McConkie to revisit….

          These [were not] doctrinal matters in which he differed with Elder McConkie….

          They dealt with tone and with the wisdom of including particular things….

          Elder Kimball was a wise mentor who taught him the difference between being right and being appropriate. The fact that something is true does not necessarily mean one ought to say it….

          Elder Kimball’s list of things that needed changing [was] much less extensive than the changes that were made in the second edition…. A wiser Bruce McConkie did a lot of rewriting on his own….

          Changes [regarding evolution] involve only a couple of sentences. The discussion on evolution is the longest single entry in the book, and it includes a lengthy quotation by President John Taylor against Darwin and his theory of evolution. In the first edition, this quotation was introduced with the statement that President Taylor’s views reflected “the official doctrine of the Church.” In the second edition, that statement was dropped. Elder McConkie wrote, “How scrubby and groveling [changed in the second edition to “weak and puerile”] the intellectuality which, knowing that the Lord’s plan takes all forms of life from a pre-existent spirit state, through mortality, and on to an ultimate resurrected state of immortality, yet finds comfort in the theoretical postulates that mortal life began in the scum of the sea, as it were, and has through eons of time evolved to its present varieties and state! Do those with spiritual insight really think that the infinite Creator of worlds without number would operate in this way?” The conclusion to this section in both editions is “There is no harmony between the truths of revealed religion and the theories of organic evolution.”
    —————— end quote ———————

    After more than 50 years, Mormon Doctrine is a source that is still quoted regularly in Church publications—four times, for example, in the 2006 Gospel Doctrine Teachers Manual. The Church’s Gospel Principles manual, written “for investigators and others who want basic gospel instruction,” freely cites Mormon Doctrine (see here and here). And Church magazines often contain quotations from Mormon Doctrine (see here). Do you really think those who publish Church magazines and lesson manuals that quote Mormon Doctrine are ignorant of the book’s background?

    p.s. Click here and listen to Elder McConkie himself respond to those who disagree with him.

  14. Last Lemming says:

    he never had authority to make official Church doctrine, to the best of my knowledge he never claimed such authority.

    But those who purchase a book with the title “Mormon Doctrine” can be forgiven for assuming that the author had the authority to promulgate…ahem…Mormon doctrine. Learning that other apostles found over 1,000 errors in the book might come as a shock to them. (See “David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism.” page 50.)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s