Did McConkie Lead The Church Astray?

I wonder how many people realize that some of the entries in our Bible Dictionary, the one bound with our LDS Scriptures, are lifted verbatim from Mormon Doctrine by Bruce R. McConkie? I wonder how many of them know the Chapter Headings in our standard works were written by him and to what extent they constitute a brief commentary on each chapter? In 1968 I was personally told by Hartman Rector, Jr. who was then one of the seven Presidents of Seventy, that whenever Church headquarters received inquiries on doctrinal matters, they were referred to the office of Bruce R. McConkie, and I’m not even sure he was a member of the Twelve at the time.

Apparently with the full approval of the First Presidency and the Twelve, Bruce R. McConkie probably did more to advance our understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ during the 20th century than any other prophet in Church history with the possible exception of James E. Talmage. True, some of Mormon Doctrine is personal opinion and not “official Church doctrine,” but if Bruce R. McConkie’s personal opinions about doctrine were not true, then it might be accurate to say that he led the Church astray because many of the prophets and apostles seem to have believed his personal opinions including some who have since become President of the Church. Yet I have met a number of active, temple attending online saints who believe he did exactly that, and that as a result the Church is now “astray.” I do not agree. Such saints need to receive some personal revelation and get a testimony from the Holy Ghost.

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46 Responses to Did McConkie Lead The Church Astray?

  1. I do not know if he taught it. I have never run across this teaching in his writings or sermons, but that does not mean he did not teach them. I am not a great gospel scholar. I am just a student of the gospel and admirer of Elder McConkie. I am pretty certain that Joseph F. Smith, the 6th president of the Church and son of Hyrum Smith, the brother of the Prophet, taught this. His son, Joseph Fielding Smith, the 10th president of the Church probably believed it, but I am unaware that he ever taught it. Elder Bruce R. McConkie was his son-in-law, so there is a good chance that he believed it as well. However, if he ever taught it in his sermons and writings, I am unaware of it. Perhaps this is one of those many things these men believed but never committed to writing.

  2. John Walsh says:

    So, please, back to my real question… did Bruce R. McConkie say it? Is it the teaching of the Mormon Church? I get plenty of guesses and opinions, I’d like the truth of what you teach, please.

  3. John Walsh says:

    The whole prophesy was God born of a virgin. It was to be the miracle of all miracles. He was to be Immanuel, God among us. That’s why it’s important. To make Christ less makes Him not the Messiah.

  4. I believe Jesus Christ was a man, and I believe there never was a man created or organized except by the sexual union of a male and female human being. I certainly have never seen any evidence that such a thing is possible or has ever happened.

    Keeping that in mind, I believe that the Father sired the baby Jesus in the same way that all babies are sired. Many prophets of God have said so, and it is just common sense. I am unable to explain the word “virgin” as it is used in scripture, but a number of possibilities come to mind.

    First, some have suggested, and this makes sense to me, that something has been lost in translation. The term “virgin” does not always mean “has never had sex.” Sometimes it means “a young woman.” Also, uninspired translators do not always get the sequence of closely connected events in their proper order. Perhaps, Mary was a virgin and then lost her virginity. I certainly do not see how a woman could bear a child and still be a virgin. Do you?

    Even the Book of Mormon may have errors according to the ancient prophets who wrote it. And as long as human language is used, there can be errors in understanding that get passed along.

    I’m not sure why the question should be so important to some people. The intimate life of others is pretty private in most cases, or should be. And we ought to be particularly careful when we are talking about the sex life of God. Maybe we just don’t know the whole story. Maybe it is none of our business. As far as I’m concerned, Jesus Christ is God regardless of how he was conceived. And I do not know of a better way to conceive children than the way all of us were conceived.

  5. John Walsh says:

    Hey Guys, I’m an outsider with family inside. I’ve got a co-worker telling me that Bruce R McConkie said God came to earth in a body and had sex with Mary. Also, that since he was glorious, Mary was still a virgin. This doesn’t sit well in my stomach. I would like someone who doesn’t hate the Mormon Church to shine some light on this. Can you please help me?

  6. Bruce R. McConkie was a “prophet, seer and revelator” as we sustained him every six months in General Conference. He never taught “the Protestant theory of the Atonement.” Rather he taught that which Joseph Smith taught just as his father-in-law, Joseph Fielding Smith, did. The Protestants don’t know anything that is correct about the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Most of them do not have a correct understanding of the role played by repentance. They foolishly imagine that works are so inconsequential that they are unnecessary to be saved. Among them repentance, obedience, baptism, and many other “works” are nonessential.

  7. LukeAir08 says:

    I’m sure Bruce McConkie was a good man and had many qualities. Like all humans he also had many flaws. One of them was arrogance. He wrote to Eugene England saying that the Prophet Brigham Young, a man personally tutored and taught by Joseph Smith, had taught false doctrine from the pulpit of the Tabernacle, and although it wouldn’t affect Brighams salvation, if any one else believed Brigham they would end up in hell! 1st. We are told that the Lord will never allow the Prophet to lead the Saints astray. 2nd. We are told to follow the Prophet, no other man. 3rd. If in the unlikely event the Prophet did teach false doctrine surely he would be responsible for the error and not the faithful Saints for their faithfulness! Throughout his life he refused to accept the Book of Mormon doctrine on the Atonement prefering to teach the Protestant theory of the Atonement. It wasn’t until he was riddled with cancer that he humbled himself and accepted the true doctrine of the Atonement of which he elegantly tesified in his last conference talk.

  8. CRC says:

    Years ago I volunteered to do some work at sunstone in return for unrestricted access to all of the controversial information they had accumulated over the years. This was over 20 years ago when they had much more of an adversarial relationship with the church than they do now. My contact was HRjr son who worked there and has since passed away.

    One of the most fascinating documents that I absconded with was a copy of Pres McKays personal diary at the time that Mormon Doctrine was published.

    I don’t have time to dig it out right now and I don’t have time to relay (by memory) much of what was in it but believe me, there is much reason why many people have questioned the work. One apostle referred to it as “McConkie Doctrine”

    President McKay was very upset and offended that McConkie had the audacity, as a lowly seventy, to publish such a work claiming to be the authority on LDS Church doctrine without clearing it with the head honcho! (referring to McKay… not God… perhaps McConkie did consult God on the issue, I don’t know for sure)

    Pres McKay appointed Mark E Peterson to review the work (he was considered to be somewhat of a doctrinal scholar back then even though he was not as prolific and outspoken on doctrine as BRM)

    Peterson was extremely critical of the Book claiming he had found hundreds of doctrinal errors in it. His recommendation to McKay was to pull it out of circulation because there were too many mistakes to try to clean it up.

    What is really interesting is the politics that took place within the two top quorums on how to deal with a very serious issue that could impact the church for years to come and yet protect the reputation of this upcoming star at the same time….

    At the end of the day, BRM’s father-in-law JFS (from where most of the doctrines originated from) was able to run interference for BRM and do damage control. From this very controversial beginning, it really is interesting that it has become the fifth standard work in may peoples minds.

    Anyway, that fact that MEP disagreed with much of it does not necessarily mean there were that many mistakes, after all, maybe MEP was the heretical one that had an incorrect view of the doctrines… my only point is that people are not without a reason to wonder…

  9. Doc says:

    Or adulterers, whoops the numbers just jumped way up, or those warped by hate, doh there go some more, or those filled with pride, starting to get real crowded. Well, you get the idea.

  10. rob osborn says:

    I think that those who will be able to abide the day of his coming are at minimum- the least wicked. How many on the earth right now are living a Telestial level of law? I would doubt it would be very many at all. Those who can’t abide the day of the Lord are basically those who will be sent to hell for the millenium. These are they that suffer the vengeance of eternal fire (the literal fire that burns the earth). As far as I understand, those who will be able to abide his coming are basically good people who aren’t classified as what we call wicked people like rapists, thievs and murderers.

    Maybe we are saying the same thing just in different ways.

  11. rob osborn says:

    I agree with you on the principle of no eternal Terrestrial and Telestial glories or worlds. I too believe they are just temporay steps to greater law. It has been mentioned that in the Celestial glory there are three degrees, the two lowest are Terrestrial and Telestial glory but I do not know for sure. What I do know is that To our earth right now, the righteous enjoy the presence of the Holy Ghost which is according to the Telestial law they live and the Telestial world on which they live. To receive of these blessings one must be washed clean of his sins in baptism. In the millenium the righteous will enjoy the presence of Christ in their midst and so on tell the earth is Celestialized and God will dwell in their midst.

    What is also confusing to me is where all three glories will dwell. I personally believe that all will dwell on this earth. I would find it hard to believe that a righteous Telestial being will be kicked off of his mother land to dwell somewhere else. The book of Revelations also speaks of the holy city where the righteous who have their names written in the book of life will dwell while outside the gates of the city, the sons of perdition try to get in but can’t. This tells me that there will ultimately be only one physical sphere where the righteous will dwell.

    What I see as interesting in the temple is that the only pathway to the Celestial kingdom goes right through the Telestial and Terrestrial kingdoms. There is no skipping of the two lower orders. The Celestial of which is composed of the two lower at least in law. Under this logic, the very laws that make up the Two lower kingdoms are not Terrestrial and Telestial laws, they in fact are Celestial laws, just not the fulness of them. In the scriptures we are told we will progress until the perfect day. This tells us something about eternal progression. Take Proverbs 4:18-

    18 But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.

    (Old Testament | Proverbs 4:18)

    This scripture tells of the pathway of the just going through Telestial to Terrestrial to Celestial ending up perfect. Once one is on the path, it only leads to ultimate perfection. Compare this verse to this one-

    24 That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.

    (Doctrine and Covenants | Section 50:24)

    This also tells of the different glories where once on the pathway, one will continue to recieve more and more light until he shines bright as day in the Celestial Kingdom. The entrance of coarse to this pathway is baptism. Then you are clothed in righteousness preparing you to recieve further light and knowledge which will progress you from little light to more as you progress forward and are given glory upon glory until you reach the Celestial Kingdom. And even the Celestial Kingdom is just a platform that leads to more glory on up.

  12. rob osborn says:

    One comment there on Christs second coming. The people who are living at least a Telestial law will be spared. the reason i state this is that the wicked who will be burned and sent to Hell for a time at his coming were living outside of even a Telestial law and therefore receive no blessing according to their lack of obedience. After they repent and agree to live at least the Telestial law, they will be let out of spirit prison. The key to it is that All three kingdoms require baptism and there will be many spared who have not yet received this ordinance and therefore they are not living up to any law of glory yet.

  13. rob osborn says:

    Great work there Mark, I agree. The problems found in “true to the faith” are quite discouraging really. I stopped using it as a reference book in my deacons quroum because of the many contradictions regarding the plan of salvation. The book does have some good work put forth in it but the sections on salvation, eternal life, & exaltation miss the mark and therefore the book misses the mark because those terms are used repeatedly throughout to describe other definitions of words and terms. The problem with establishing a firm definition of a word or term in the church is that there is no correlation of works published by the church. This results in multiple definitions for a term that is only described one way in the scriptures.

    Take for instance the terms eternal life and exaltation. In the “Guide to the scripture” published by the church, they have two different meanings. But in “True to the faith” they are grouped together as meaning the same thing. In fact, there is no separate spot for exaltation, it just refers you to eternal life. It then says that exaltation is eternal life and is only enjoyed by the highet degree of glory in the CK and that as required one must be married in the Temple. This is in contrast to God saying that little children have eternal life as also “all believers”.

    Another one is salvation. Both books describe different meanings of the word.

    The book after reading it leads one to believe that only through temple marriage will true salvation occur as is spoken of in the scriptures. The emphasis of eternal marriage is of coarse targeted towards our youth and I commend the brethren for that, but in so doing, they have hijacked the plan of salvation unknowingly to mean something different as is found in the scriptures. One gets the idea from reading all of the commentary from the church on these subjects that salvation and eternal life comes to but very few individuals while the rest of the world is plain damned.

    • Robert L. Millett is a scholar not a prophet, but his opinion is as good as that of anyone else. He teaches that in “almost” every case in scripture the terms exaltation and eternal life are interchangeable. But “almost” is not the same as “all.” Perhaps the scriptures themselves use these terms with multiple definitions for each. Could that be? Since definitions require a dictionary, and dictionaries rarely agree, one needs to ask who is qualified to choose among dictionaries? The limitations of human language make accurate communication problematical. Perhaps this is one reason why a translator or merely a pupil needs to study doctrine as moved upon by the Holy Ghost. One cannot understand the scriptures correctly in any other way. For that matter, one cannot understand the scriptures correctly unless first he truly believes they are the Word of God. Belief is essential to understanding.

  14. Teancum, I’ll go with the doctrine in True to the Faith until further notice. It is exactly what Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McConkie taught, and I’m sure all three in the First Presidency and all of the Twelve accept it as “official Church doctrine.” How could fifteen true prophets of God be wrong? As interesting as I found Mark Butler’s remarks, he did not provide anything but his own personal interpretation of the scriptures as his authority. And as you know, many people misunderstand the scriptures. I don’t believe the Twelve and the First Presidency do, especially not when they are agreed as they apparently are.

  15. Teancum says:

    With regards to the usage of Eternal Life, the Church’s own True To The Faith equates it with Exaltation. Look up Exaltation and you get “See Eternal Life”.

    An excert (True to the Faith, Eternal Life, 52):

    The Lord declared, “This is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). Immortality is to live forever as a resurrected being. Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, everyone will receive this gift. Eternal life, or exaltation, is to inherit a place in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom, where we will live in God’s presence and continue as families (see D&C 131:1–4). Like immortality, this gift is made possible through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. However, it requires our “obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel” (Articles of Faith 1:3).

  16. Area Authority says:

    Dear Brother Redelfs.

    Please be assured that any/all material on the Journal of Discourses via any authorized Church ip address(es) will have been properly correlated.

  17. Area Authority says:

    Dear Brother Redelfs,

    I am encouraged that you modified the undertitle of your Blog. The Church wanted each household to have a copy of Brigham Young’s Journal of Discourses, a truly noble desire for the era. Can you now imagine a blog with an undertitle..In The Tradition of Brigham Young?

  18. rob osborn says:

    I am very familiar with the term “Eternal life” I have drawn up several diagrams and flow charts I could e-mail to you that might be very helpful in understanding what the term actually means. Some of the problems with interpreting eternal life as exaltation are-

    1. Little children have “eternal Life” but this cannot mean “exaltation” as it requires choice to be married eternally at a later stage. (Mosiah 15:25)

    2. All those who Christ saves receives eternal life while all the rest are cast out with the devil. Now this cannot possibly mean exaltation in the highest degree. (Matthew 25:46, John 3:15-16, John 10:28, Romans 6:23, 1 Nephi 14:7, 2 Nephi 2:27, 2 Nephi 9:39, D&C 29:27-28, 43-45)

    3. If “Eternal life” is just a name for “God’s life” then what is meant in the scriptures when it mentions “Eternal death”, does this mean “God’s death”. God doesn’t die. (2 Nephi 2:28-29, 2 Nephi 10:23)

    4. Eternal life is more synonomous with salvation than exaltation. (Mosiah 5:15, Alma 11:40)

  19. You ideas are very interesting, Mark. I would like to learn where you got them, or perhaps they are all revealed to you by personal revelation. For myself, once it is understood that “eternal life” does not mean “life that lasts forever” but rather “life such as God lives,” it is easier to understand that “eternal life” and “exaltation” are two synonyms for the same thing, an inheritance of “all that the Father hath” in the highest of three degrees in the Celestial Kingdom. I believe that is what Elder McConkie was referring to. Your usage of the term “eternal life” seems to mean “life that lasts forever” in your above explanation.

    I would like to learn more about why Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McConkie felt so certain that there could be no progression between kingdoms before I discard that teaching as false. They definitely taught the same thing on the subject. McConkie’s position is clear in “The Seven Deadly Heresies.” And Joseph Fielding Smith denounced the idea that the three kingdoms of glory are like the wheels on a railroad locomotive with each following the other until it is where they other had been and so forth. He said that progression was like being on completely different locomotive engines running in different directions on different tracks. Therefore, a person could progress forever in a telestial or terrestrial kingdom and never obtain the celestial kingdom.

    As for discussing this question or others of a similar nature here, that doesn’t need to be done here. But it could be if that were convenient. It doesn’t matter to me one way or the other. I can always find other things to blog about. And I would be more than happy to visit any blog or website that you put up.

    Thank you for your ideas. References would be nice too, if you have them. I always like to know where interesting ideas come from. I know that some of them we just “receive” either by revelation or our own creative imaginations. But all of the others are generally ideas we pick up somewhere else. That I pick up many of my ideas from reading the doctrinal works of Talmage and Bruce R. McConkie is rather apparent to anyone who has read their works. I just believed all of it when I read it. It may not be 100 percent true, but it rings more true to me than anything else I have ever heard or read. And it serves me very well as a working hypothesis. At least it has so far.

  20. Tim J. says:

    I would also find this to be useful as I tire of the comments from people on both sides of this aisle–those who proclaim BRM to be utmost authority on every Gospel matter, and those who will discard absolutely everything he once said. I would enjoy a civil discussion on these things and think a lot of good could be done. Thanks for being willing to do this.

  21. rob osborn says:

    I would be very interested in discussing BRM views on the plan of salvation from “mormon doctrine”. Very enlightening indeed!

  22. Guy Murray says:

    John & Mark, This sounds like a very interesting endeavor. I’m hoping, John, that you will make each of these different areas/issues distinct and separate posts. I look forward to your exchange of ideas, and anticipate that I will learn a great deal in the process.

  23. Mark, your comment is truly enlightening. These are the first substantive charges I have heard against Bruce R. McConkie in the 13 years I have been defending him online. Perhaps I have just been hanging out with the wrong saints on the Internet, but usually all I hear are the objections, not any of the reasons for those objections.

    Now, I have a task ahead of me. I need to figure out if your reasons are genuine or just a possible misinterpretation on your part of either Bruce R. McConkie or Joseph Smith or both. As for the distinction you make between Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McConkie, it apparently is much larger in your mind than in mine. Perhaps I am just not as familiar with their respective teachings as you are. I need to be able to see more clearly what you see as the differences between the teachings of Bruce R. McConkie and his father-in-law. I have always found them to be remarkably similar. In fact, I have long thought that Bruce R. McConkie learned most of his doctrine from Joseph Fielding Smith, and that they were pretty much agreed on things. Both of them were deeply knowledgable about the writings and sermons of their great uncle, Joseph Smith, and undoubtedly had access to family material that is not available to the rest of us.

    I wonder how you and I might better discuss this? Are the comment threads on my blog the best place for it? I wish you could teach me what you know, and direct me to your sources. You obviously have an understanding of this that is beyond my own, and I want to learn more. What do you suggest?

  24. In every dispensation of the gospel there are prophets whose words eventually become part of the scriptural canon. They are not always the words of the President of the Church. The truth has an authority all its own because it is verified and confirmed by the Holy Ghost to those who love truth and are constantly searching for more of it.

    In this dispensation, some of the words of Joseph Smith have become part of the scriptural canon. And there have been others. But the dispensation is not yet over, nor is the canon closed. Paul was never a member of the Twelve, nor was he ever the President of the Church in ancient times. Yet his writings make up a lion’s share of our New Testament because they are true and the Holy Ghost testifies of them to those who read his writings. In my opinion, history will eventually show that Bruce R. McConkie is the Paul of this dispensation. Some of his writings will eventually be part of the scriptural canon because they are true, and the Holy Ghost testifies of them. My testimony of Bruce R. McConkie is based upon the testimony of the Holy Ghost. It is not “binding” upon anyone but me except in the sense that truth is like the Law of Gravity. It is binding upon everyone whether they acknowledge it or not.

    Some have asked why there are saints in every Church classroom who quote McConkie as if his words had more authority than the President of the Church. It is because some have received a witness of the Holy Ghost that his words are true. God himself wants us who have received this testimony to learn the truth from Bruce R. McConkie, and we know it. We cannot deny it.

    It is my belief that Presidents of the Church have learned doctrine from the writings of Bruce R. McConkie. I do not accept anything as true in the writings of Bruce R. McConkie that has been challenged or refuted by a President of the Church. But most of what Bruce R. McConkie wrote that has not been so challenged, I accept as personal scripture because whatever any man writes or speaks as moved upon by the Holy Ghost is scripture. Others have not obtained that witness. No problem. We all learn line upon line, precept upon precept. But I have learned what I have learned. And when the Holy Ghost speaks, I listen. This is especially so when He is confirming the words of a prophet such as Bruce R. McConkie or Joseph Fielding Smith. I know that some of the writings of Bruce R. McConkie are “personal opinion” and may be in error. But the same could be said of Paul, Alma, or the Prophet Joseph. Still I will listen to Brother Bruce with the attentiveness that I pay to these other prophets. And if the Holy Ghost confirms to my heart the truth of something he writes, I will believe it just as I believe them.

    Those who disbelieve the teachings of Bruce R. McConkie and encourage the saints to dismiss them as “personal opinion” have the burden of proof, as far as I am concerned. They must show that his “personal opinion” is wrong by showing that the living prophets disagree with it. Otherwise, I will assume that such “personal opinions” are correct. They are the same as the “personal opinions” of God, and presumably the same as the “personal opinions” of the First Presidency and the Twelve.

    The efforts by many online to discredit the teachings of Bruce R. McConkie and Joseph Fielding Smith and dismiss most of what they taught as “personal opinion” is from evil. I am sure of that. The reason that Bruce R. McConkie and his father-in-law, the grandfather of Joseph Fielding McConkie, are so disliked and spoken against in some circles is that so much of what they taught was unpopular truth. Truth always arouses great opposition. That is why Jesus Christ and nearly all of the original Twelve were crucified, why Joseph and Hyrum were murdered by a mob, and why some prophets receive such terrible treatment from those who should love them and the things they teach. We have prophets alive today that receive similar opposition, usually from the same unbelieving saints.

  25. Bradley Ross says:

    Here is the link to my comment at Times and Seasons mentioned above. I apparently forgot to paste it into the HTML.

  26. Bradley Ross says:

    In a thread at Times and Seasons, I quoted extensively from Joseph Fielding McConkie’s recounting of the controversy over Mormon Doctrine. Greg Prince, the author of a McKay biography then made a follow-up comment that indicates there is some discrepency in the first hand accounts pertaining to the publishing of the second edition.

    As to the debate about what constitutes “doctrine”, I think J. Stapley had it right when he explained how doctrine can change. This is essentially because “doctrines” are merely the things that the Church currently teaches. As such, they are obviously changing over time. Doctrine is not necessarily equivalent to truth since all truth has not been revealed.

    • There are different definitions for the word “doctrine.” One of the first dictionary definitions is “teachings.” Obviously, among Latter-day Saints there are many who use a more narrowly defined meaning for the word.

      Some say that “doctrine” is what the Church currently teaches. Others, such as myself say that “doctrine” is anything the Church has ever taught unless it has been repudiated. I do not find it admirable for a man to defend the Church by denying the truth it has taught in the past but which it no longer teaches. Truth does not change, and doctrine should not change either without an explanation. I do not recall very many explanations.

      And as for “official Church doctrine,” I do not believe there is any such thing. We have an open canon and continuing revelation. Furthermore, the apostles and prophets generally do not use the term “official Church doctrine.” For the prophets to proclaim a doctrine “official” would be to encourage a creed of sorts, and this church vigorously avoids anything that smacks of a creed.

  27. Guy Murray says:

    You wrote in a comment on my blog, The Iron Rod:

    John, a very interesting post with very enlightening comments. Elder McConkie was never one of my favorite general authorities in my youth while growing up; however, as I have mellowed with time, I appreciate much of the good he has done for the Church and the Restoration.

    That said, I believe the almost infallible status imputed to him by some in the Church by quoting Mormon Doctrine as authority on almost any subject is disconcerting. Until the recent McKay book was published I was unaware of the extent of the controversy his book generated.

    I am currently reading the McKay biography. And so far I have found it interesting and informative. However, I have not yet come to the discussion of Mormon Doctrine. I have been alarmed by how this biography is being used on the Internet to discredit Mormon Doctrine and besmirch the reputation of Bruce R. McConkie as a scriptural authority and prophet of the Lord Jesus Christ. His doctrinal teachings in Mormon Doctrine and other writings are being dismissed by people who are throwing out the baby with the bath water. That is, they are dismissing the truth that McConkie taught along with the “personal opinions.” And I think the McKay biography by Prince is contributing to this unfortunate development because it does not tell the story of how the Second Edition of Mormon Doctrine came to be authorized after McConkie was first asked not to republish it. Leaving that part of the story out makes it look like Elder McConkie was in rebellion against the Brethren and especially the President of the Church. And of course that is not true. For a biography to create a false impression like that is not a good thing. It detracts from the value of the Prince biography in my opinion. –JWR

  28. rob osborn says:

    Personally I think BRM was a great man and apostle, but, he did have some of the basic definitions wrong that pertain to salvation. Some of these definitions have been the cause for a great deal of debate from both members and nonmembers. From his line of thinking along with some of those before him that helped him in his knowledge, we have now a gospel doctrine that has been uniquely shaped to be what many call mormonism. This doctrine has it’s good points and it’s bad points.

    The bad points are what many call the groundwork for mormonism not being a christian religion because of the many contradictions between BRM’s work and the New Testament. Many times on the internet BRM’s work is used to discredit the LDS religion because of his radical approach to the gospel. Some of these contradicory terms and words are-
    Eternal Life

    Because these amongst others are the very framework of the gospel, they must be interpreted from holy scripture correctly. If they are not as in BRM’s case, it is the cause for much persecution from nonmembers as a way to discredit the church as a whole. Now I am not saying that BRM has led the church away, I am just saying that too many have regarded his work as the very definition whereby we learn our doctrine from. In today’s society, too many members are looking for answers from commentaters and not from studying the scriptures themselves. Not that commentary is bad, it is just that a lot of people use the commentary as the source of truth rather than the scriptures. Many of our teaching and student manuals published by the church’s authoruty have also fallen into this subtle trap. And so what we have is a doctrine that is- uniquely “mormon” and not necessarily correct in the general christian sense.

    General Christianity teaches that there is only heaven and hell,- two places, either up or down. Saved or damned so to speak. To be saved, repentance and baptism, and to be damned- a neglect of the repentance and baptism. But in BRM’s gospel which is what most manuals within the church teach, we can either recieve “eternal life” which is “God’s life” in the highest degree of heaven or be “damned”. Also according to this doctrine is the very different ways in which he uses the word “salvation”. It can either be a general salvation or an individual salvation. So putting it all together in his interpretation which in turn is also the general church’s interpretation, we can still be saved without baptism but that we will be damned but not damned to hell. This type of salvation doesn’t necessarily require works of ordinances like baptism and priesthood, it just requires that one pay for his own sins in hell and then accept Christ as his savior. After this comes resurrection where that saved damned person goes to a glorious place of happiness to dwell in his misery for all eternity for the thoughts of what could of been in the Celestial Kingdom which of coarse he now cannot get because the atonement really didn’t wipe away all traces of his sins and his bad works are still heald over his head as some sort of twisted “glorious damnation”.

    This is just the start to where we as a church have gone wrong in believing in commentary Like BRM’s over the revealed word of God as found in the scriptures. The big key of coarse is that even the scriptures have to be interpreted and learned line upon line precept upon precept or one can come to the wrong conclusion of the gospel. Even works like the bible dictionary seem to be the endnote to many classroom debates as people believe that the bible dictionary must be the most correct.

  29. Tim J. says:

    Wow. Nice job, Mark.

    I agree with Geoff J. here. McConkie’s biggest problem was that he commented on everything. Which is actually somewha admirable considering how difficult it is nowadays to get the brethren to teach some doctrine. The big problem is that McConkie’s teachings, for some reason, have been held in higher regard than those that served as President. For instance, each Gospel Doctrine class has that guy who sits on the front row, and whose answers always begin with, “Well, Elder Bruce R. McConkie said…”

    It was also noted on another blog that it is interesting that David O. McKay served the longest of any prophet and yet published so little. Whereas EVERY word that McConkie said has been recorded and sold on every Church bookstore.

    I have no problem with McConkie nor his teachings. I take them for what they are, his views on the Gospel. I respect his opinions and have used many of them to shape my own, but to say his word on the Gospel is the final word is ludicrous.

  30. Gary says:

    I am constantly amazed at glib criticism of apostles and prophets. On the other hand, the scriptures themselves teach false doctrine, now don’t they! The creation accounts, for example, are hopelessly inaccurate.

    As for myself, I’ll continue to keep quiet regarding reservations I may have about those who hold the holy priesthood, especially those who hold apostolic keys. _That_ is what President Kimball was talking about on Oct. 6, 1972.

  31. Gary says:

    Mark Butler (Aug 9th at 12:20 pm) has presented a half truth. Fourteen months ago, I posted a more complete version of this story.

  32. Gary says:

    Bruce R. McConkie was sustained to the First Council of the Seventy Oct. 6, 1946.

    I was present in the Salt Lake Tabernacle when he was sustained as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve on Oct. 6, 1972.

  33. Gary says:

    President Ezra Taft Benson, while serving as President of the Council of the Twelve, spoke of Elder McConkie’s gospel scholarship: “Often when a doctrinal question came before the First Presidency and the Twelve, Elder McConkie was asked to quote the scripture or to comment on the matter. He could quote scripture verbatim and at great length. [He] provided the entire Church with an example of gospel scholarship. He could teach the gospel with ease because he first understood the gospel.” (Ensign, June 1985, 16; emphasis added.)

    In the general conference following Elder McConkie’s passing, President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “He was a dedicated scholar of the gospel and a fearless advocate of its message. Our lives were enriched and our understanding broadened by the logic of his presentation and the sincerity of his declaration. He spoke as an Apostle, a special witness of the Christ.” (Ensign, Nov. 1985, 5.)

  34. Clark says:

    Lead astray != lead to errors

  35. HP says:

    John is based in Alaska, Mark

  36. HP says:

    Oops! Thanks for the correction, Mark.

  37. J. Stapley says:

    I tend to think that McConkie, Brigham Young, Talmage, Joseph Smith, Spencer Kimball, Wilford Woodruff, Heber J. Grant, Paul H. Dunn and various other leaders have done a wonderful job at guiding the church. They have disagreed on many points and some oppinions have been declared inacurate, but none have lead the Church astray.

  38. Geoff J says:

    Elder McConkie had opinions just like the rest of us. He just happened to be much “generous” in sharing his doctrinal and theological opinions than most any other apostle since the 19th century. And since his opinions were so widely published they gained more traction among the general church membership than the opinions of someone like, say, Marvin J. Ashton, who had just as much authority as BRM but was not nearly so prolific in doctrinal opinion-sharing.

    My opinion is that Elder McConkie was right often and wrong occasionally. He didn’t lead the church astray, but he probably has led some members down inaccurate doctrinal paths on a few points. I don’t hold that against him — apostles have the right to be wrong on occasion too. On occasions where Elder McConkie disagreed with other apostles, one of their opinions had to be wrong. (Like on the question of the possiblility of progression between kingdoms for example — I think McConkie got that one wrong in saying there is none and several other apostles got it right in opining that it is possible.)

  39. HP says:

    Also, what do you do with the evidence that President McKay and future President Kimball had some serioius misgivings regarding some of the things (thousands of them, according to one source) he wrote in Mormon Doctrine. That hardly sounds like he enjoyed universal approval throughout his time in office.

    ps. I really like Elder McConkie and I think he was a great doctrinal thinker, just so that we are clear.

  40. HP says:

    While I am fairly certain that Bruce R. McConkie failed to lead the entire church astray, I am curious as to your source regarding his influence over the 1990 changes in the temple ritual. He was, after all, dead for several years at that point.

    Also, in 1968, he had been an apostle for many years.

  41. Capt Jack says:

    The 1990 modification of the endowment? That’s quite an accomplishment, as he died in April 1985, and the confidential survey given to some endowed members wasn’t administered until several years after that.

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