BRUCE R. McCONKIE'S TESTIMONY: DID HE REALLY HAVE ONE?
In a previous post, “Makurosu” speculated that Bruce R. McConkie died without
a personal testimony of the Mormon
gospel that he peddled and pontificated about for all his years as an
authoritarian defender of the Cult:
“Ironically, I don't think he had a testimony when he died.
"Look at his ‘last testimony’:
“Not once does he mention Joseph Smith or anything else specific to Mormonism
other than a brief, unnecessary reference to the Nephites. It's all Jesus
Jesus Jesus, and he's holding on so tightly to that belief that it makes me
wonder if his belief in Mormonism has been shaken up--perhaps after his
exchange with BYU Professor Eugene England?
"I could be wrong, but that's how it appears to me.”
THE BURNING IN BRUCE'S BOSOM: FIRED UP OVER HIS OWN AMAZING ABILITY
Bruce R. McConkie died with a burning testimony on his lips, but it wasn't
one of the Mormon Church--or even of Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.
From personally meeting with him where he laid down the law from his own
Mount Sinai, it is obvious to me that when push came to prophet, McConkie was
willing to push aside the prophet and proclaim himself the source of all
knowledge necessary for salvation.
Of that, he had an undying testimony--of Bruce, Bruce, Bruce.
Not only did he testify regarding own doctrinal perfection in matters where
he was at odds even with Mormon Church presidents, he even plagiarized from
non-Mormons when declaring his unassailable truths.
Based on my own interaction with him, McConkie ultimately came across as a
man who had a testimony of his own perceived personal power and not a
testimony of the Mormon doctrinal principle that the LDS Church was led by a
That meeting, as recounted here from personal notes I made of our discussion,
took place at McConkie's private residence, 260 Dorchester Drive, in Salt
Lake City, Utah, on Monday, 7 July 1980, from 5:45 to 7:30 p.m.
THE DEADLIEST OF HERESIES: NOT FOLLOWING McCONKIE ON MONKEYS
On the day of, and prior to, my conversation with McConkie, I had visited for
approximately three-and-a-half hours, with my grandfather, Ezra Taft Benson,
then-president of the Council of the Twelve, in his Salt Lake City apartment,
located in the Bonneville Towers, 777 East South Temple.
We talked, among other things, about the Mormon Church’s official position on
My interest in the subject became increasingly heightened back in the late
1970s, I was a student at Brigham Young University, where I decided to do a
research paper on the official LDS position on organic evolution. Much of my
effort to write an accurate account on the subject involved repeated, and
often frustrating, attempts to solicit answers from the Mormon Church
During that preliminary conversation with my grandfather in his apartment,
our conversation turned to my evolution research project.
We talked about McConkie's recent 14-stake fireside address, entitled
"The Seven Deadly Heresies," which he had delivered five weeks
earlier, on 1 June 1980, in Brigham Young University's Marriott Center.
In his sermon, McConkie listed as "Heresy Two" the "false and
devilish" notion advanced by "those who say that revealed religion
and organic evolution can be harmonized."
Such claims, McConkie told his student audience, did not represent "true
science" but, rather, "the false religions of the dark ages . . .
some of which have crept in among us."
Moreover, while McConkie noted that "true religion and true science bear
the same witness," he declared that the theory of organic evolution
could "in no way" be harmonized "with the truths of science as
they have now been discovered."
To believe otherwise, McConkie said, ran completely counter to "the
saving doctrine" of revealed religion. That doctrine, he said, included
"that Adam stood next to Christ in power and might and intelligence
before the foundations of the world were laid; that Adam was placed on this
earth as an immortal being; that there was no death in the world for him or
for any form of life until after the fall; that the fall of Adam brought
temporal and spiritual death into the world; that this temporal death passed
upon all forms of life, upon man and animal and fish and fowl and plant life;
that Christ came to ransom man and all forms of life from the effects of the
temporal death brought into the world through the fall and, in the case of
man, from the spiritual death also, and that this includes a resurrection for
man and for all forms of life. Try as you may, you cannot harmonize these
things with the evolutionary postulate that death existed and that the
various forms of life have evolved from preceding forms over astronomiclaly
long periods of time."
As proof that "the theories of men"--i.e., the theories of organic
evolution--were out of harmony with "the inspired word", McConkie
cited 2 Nephi 2:22-26, which he quoted in full:
"And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen,
but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were
created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they
were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end.
"And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained
in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no
good, for they knew no sin.
"But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth
"Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.
"And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the
children of men from the fall."
To believe, he said, that "the theoretical postulates of Darwinism and
the diverse speculations descending therefrom" can somehow be
accomdoated by revealed religion denied the very atonement of Christ, which
McConkie called "the great and eternal foundaiton upon which revealed
According to McConkie, belief in organic evolution rendered the doctrine of
the atonement ineffectual for the following reasons:
"If death has always prevailed in the world, there was no fall of Adam
which brought death to all forms of life. If Adam did not fall, there is no
need for an atonement. If there was no atonement, there is no salvation, no
resurrection, no eternal life, nothing in all of the glorious promises that
the Lord has given us. If there is no salvation, there is no God. The fall
affects man, all forms of life, and the earth itself. The atonement affects
man, all forms of life, and the earth itself."
MEETING McCONKIE: THE MAN, THE MOUTH, THE MESSIAH
I asked my grandfather if McConkie's address represented the official
position of the Mormon Church on the theory of organic evolution.
In so inquiring, I mentioned to him that my father, Mark A. Benson (Ezra
Taft's second son) was seriously considering writing President Spencer W.
Kimball to ask the same question.
In response, my grandfather lowered his head, smiled slightly and replied in
careful and measured tones that he did not want to say too much, for fear
that he "might slip."
He did, however, tell me that prior to its delivery at BYU, McConkie's
address had been reviewed by "the Brethren." He said that McConkie
himself had offered to make any changes in the prepared text, but that none
Nonetheless, my grandfather twice noted that "it was understood that the
talk represented the views of Elder McConkie."
At this point in our conversation, my grandfather suggested that it might be
good for me to speak directly with McConkie on this matter.
Still a true-believing Mormon at the time, I replied that I would consider it
to be a great honor to meet a man whom I considered to be one of the greatest
living scriptorians in the Church.
I added, however, that I did not want to be an imposition. My grandfather
assured me that McConkie would be happy to speak with me, assuming that an
appropriate time and place could be arranged.
I told my grandfather I would be available to meet with him anytime,
anywhere, and would only want to take a few minutes of his time to clarify in
my own mind some of the important questions that seemed (at least to me) to
be in need of definitive answers regarding the official position of the
Mormon Church on the theory of organic evolution.
At this point (approximately 3:45 p.m.), as I looked on, my grandfather went
over to the phone and made a personal call to McConkie, who was still in his
After chatting with McConkie for a few minutes, my grandfather hung up and
informed me that the meeting had been arranged for 5:30 that same afternoon,
at McConkie's home.
Once the initial excitement had subsided somewhat, I expressed concern to my
grandfather that, in the upcoming question-and-answer session with McConkie,
I did not want to appear to be lacking faith and testimony in McConkie's
divine calling and apostleship.
In particular, I was somewhat anxious that my inquiries, although sincere,
might be misinterpreted and prove offensive to McConkie, who was known for
his forthright, umcompromising views--which views appeared to some to reflect
a certain degree of sternness and even harshness, when "laying down the
line" in areas of Mormon Church doctrine.
My grandfather reassured me that McConkie was "a very gracious
man," with sons my own age (I was a 26-year-old BYU student at the
time). He encouraged me to be as frank with McConkie in my questioning as I
had been with him.
By coincidence, I had already planned to meet my father in downtown Salt Lake
City after my visit with my grandfather and be driven to my parents'
residence, where I was staying during summer vacation.
When I slid into the front seat of my father's car at 5:15 that afternoon and
informed him of the scheduled meeting with McConkie in 15 minutes, he was
pleasantly surprised. He offered to take me to McConkie's home, which I hoped
he would do, since I had no other means of getting there in the few minutes
remaining before the scheduled appointment.
As we drove to McConkie's home, I told my father that while I was not adverse
to having him sit in on my conversation with McConkie, I regarded the visit
as a unique one-on-one opportunity to ask McConkie whatever questions I felt
were necessary to provide a clearer understanding of Mormon doctrinal
My father said he understood and offered to drop me off at McConkie's home,
then return to pick me up after our visit was concluded. I did not feel that
was necessary and suggested that we "play it by ear."
If McConkie invited both of us into his home, as I expected he would, I felt
I would not be inhibited, as long as my father honored my request to be able
to interact freely with McConkie, without interruption--no matter how
well-intentioned that interruption might be.
McConkie greeted us warmly at the door, presenting (initially, at least) an
image quite different from the Bruce the Concrete-Hearted that I, and
millions of others, had come to expect from his stiff-as-a-board-for-the-Lord
He was dressed in an open-necked yellow sports shirt, slacks and house
slippers. (And all this time I thought he had been born in a dark blue suit).
He turned to me, grinned and asked if there was anything I did not want my
father to hear during our conversation.
I said no, at which point McConkie ushered us into his comfortable, sun-lit
living room. My father and I sat on a sofa, approximately ten feet across
from McConkie, who seated himself in a chair next to a lampstand on which
rested his scriptures and some other papers.
His demeanor was relaxed and helped put me at ease. The atmosphere throughout
our conversation was open and friendly. McConkie encouraged me, on more than
one occasion during our discussion, not to hesitate in asking whatever I
In keeping with my previous request, my father sat and listened without
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO BRUCE: THE MORMONS AREN'T YET READY FOR
TRUTH-TRASHING THE CATHOLICS
One wonders how much of a true testimony of the Mormon gospel McConkie truly
possessed, given how he then demonstrated to me to be less than above-board
in his presentation to me of actual Mormon doctrine.
My meeting with him was characterized by McConkie's continual attempts to
manipulate, mislead about and reconstruct Mormon doctrine, in order to bring
it into line with his own doctrine.
During our discussion, which focused primarily on the subject of the Mormon
Church’s official position on organic evolution, attention turned briefly to
the Roman Catholic Church.
McConkie had asserted to me that while the Mormon Church, institutionally and
as a matter of official doctrine, opposed organic evolution, the Church was
not going to say so because McConkie, told me, it did not want to pick fights
with its vulnerable members.
He explained, "It's a matter of temporizing, of not making a statement
to prevent the driving out of the weak Saints. It's a question of wisdom, not
He compared it to calling the Catholic Church "the Church of the
Devil." He said while such a statement was true, one had to be careful
about saying it, so as not to offend Catholics.
I asked McConkie why, in fact, his reference to the Roman Catholic Church as
the "Church of the Devil" had been removed from the second edition
of his book, “Mormon Doctrine.”
McConkie insisted to me that it was excised not because it was not
doctrinally sound but because it was too difficult for people to accept.
That was an untruthful testimony as to actual matters of fact.
But it was McConkie's testimony as to his own assessment of his doctrinal
My meeting, in other words, with McConkie was really a testimony meeting
conducted by McConkie in which he testified to his own truthfulness.
In essence, McConkie’s explanation for his original reference (as it appeared
in the 1958 first edition of “Mormon Doctrine”) to the Roman Catholic Church
as the "Church of the Devil" being expunged from in its subsequent
1966 re-publication was, he said, a matter of good manners and
sensitivity--and had nothing to do with the theological truth of his claim.
At that point in my early travels through Mormonism's maze of unfolding muck,
I didn't know any better but to accept what McConkie told me as being
THE REAL REASONS FOR PULLING THE PLUG ON McCONKIE'S "MORMON
The trouble was, McConkie’s smiling assertion turned out to be substantially
removed from the truth—and the truth that he, himself, knew.
His dishonesty on this point has been convincingly exposed by the emergence
of documents which were generated at the highest levels of the Mormon Church
during the swirl of controversy that erupted when “Mormon Doctrine” was first
Faithful Mormons often cite McConkie’s “Mormon Doctrine” as an authoritative
volume on official LDS doctrine.
The historical record on that matter, however, clearly shows that McConkie’s
"Mormon Doctrine" was never cccepted by the LDS Church as official
Indeed, its initial publication was not only unauthorized, but met by
then-President David O. McKay and other General Authorities with both
surprise and objection.
In the wake of its unapproved appearance, McKay directed that a review be
made of the book’s contents and a report submitted to him, along with
recommendations on how to deal with it problematic publication.
In that ensuing examination, a confidential, top-level analysis of McConkie's
book concluded that it was full of misinformation, insults and
That review of McConkie’s book was undertaken on orders of Church president
McKay by Apostles Marion G. Romney and Mark E. Petersen.
The report's conclusion: the book contained numerous examples of doctrinal
errors, objectionable language, discourteous tone and questionable claims.
Recommendation was subsequently made that McConkie’s “Mormon Doctrine” not be
republished, that it be repudiated and that in the future no book be published
by any of the Brethren without first obtaining First Presidency approval.
McKay agreed with the suggestion that McConkie's book not be republished and
directed that restrictions be placed on future independent book publishing by
the General Authorities.
The First Presidency also issued a private, face-to-face reprimand to
McConkie, whereupon McConkie promised (apparently with less than full purpose
of heart) to behave.
What follows below are documents that show what actually happened with regard
to McConkie’s book—details of which are completely at odds with what he
personally told me.
These exhibits include McKay’s officially-directed report on the book’s
contents (authored by Apostle Romney), as well as excerpts from McKay’s
contemporary office journal on the controversy surrounding the book and the
resolution of the problems its publication had created for McKay and the
(These documents were originally copied with permission of the LDS Church
Archivist. The original Romney letter and its attached copy of the Mormon
Doctrine manuscript are in the First Presidency’s Office. Reproductions of
those copies are in my possession and—as are so many other damning evidences
against the Mormon Church—now available on the Internet):
Also provided below are letters authorized by McKay which were sent out to
inquiring Church members after publication of McConkie's Mormon Doctrine,
declaring that it and other books published by individual General Authorities
did not represent the official position of the LDS Church.
(Copies of these letters are also in my possession, as well as available via
the so-called "Mormon underground").
The Report from Marion G. Romney to David O. McKay
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
The Council of the Twelve
47 E. South Temple
Salt Lake City, Utah
“January 28, 1959 . . .
“Dear President McKay:
“This is my report on MORMON DOCTRINE, by Bruce R. McConkie, which on January
5, you asked me to read.
“The book is a 776 page work which, in the words of the author, purports to
be, ‘the first major attempt to digest, explain, and analyze all of the
important doctrines of the kingdom . . . . . the first extensive compendium
of the whole gospel—the first attempt to publish an encyclopedic commentary
covering the whole field of revealed religion.’
“‘For the work itself,’ the author assumes the ‘sole and full
responsibility.’ (Exhibit I) (The exhibits cited in this report consist of
printed pages from the book. The statements in point are underscored in red.)
“Preparation of the volume has entailed much study and research. Its
favorable reception evidences a felt need for such a treatise.
“The author is an able and thorough student of the gospel. In many respects
he has produced a remarkable book. Properly used, it quickly introduces the
student to the authorities on most any gospel subject.
“As to the book itself, notwithstanding its many commendable and valuable
features and the author’s assumption of ‘sole and full responsibility’ for
it, its nature and scope and the authoritative tone of the style in which it
is written pose the question as to the propriety of the author’s attempting such
a project without assignment and supervision from him whose right and
responsibility it is to speak for the Church on ‘Mormon Doctrine.’ Had the
work been authoritatively supervised, some of the following matters might
have been omitted and the treatment of others modified.
“A. Reference to churches and other groups who do not accept ‘Mormon
“1. ‘Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,’ who sometimes
refer to themselves as ‘Josephites’. (Exhibit II-1, pages 50, 141, 362)
“2. ‘Christian Churches’ generally. (Exhibit II-2, pages 139, 455)
“3. ‘Catholic Church’. (Exhibit II-3, pages 13, 66, 69, 129, 130, 216, 241,
314-15, 342, 346, 350, 422, 499, 511, 697) [emphasis added]
“4. Communists and Catholics. (Exhibit II-4, pages 26-7, 131) [emphasis
“5. Evolution and Evolutionists. (Exhibit II-5, pages 37, 77, 136, 180, 228,
“B. Declaration as to ‘Mormon Doctrine’ on controversial issues.
“1. ‘Pre-Adamites’. (Exhibit III-1, pages 17, 262)
“2. Status of Animals and Plants in the Garden of Eden. (Exhibit III-2, pages
“3. Meaning of the various accounts of Creation. (exhibit III_3, pages 157-8,
“4. Dispensation of Abraham. (Exhibit III-4, page 203)
“5. Moses a translated being. (Exhibit III_5, pages 206, 445, 466, 727-8)
“6. Origin of Individuality. (Exhibit III-6, page 404)
“7. Defiling the priesthood. (Exhibit III-7, page 437)
“8. Manner in which Jesus was Begotten. (Exhibit III-8, page 494)
“9. Written sermons. (Exhibit III-9, pages 634-5, 716)
“10. Resurrection of stillborn children. (Exhibit III-10, page 694)
“C. Miscellaneous Interpretations (Exhibit IV)
“Frequency of Administrations, page 22
“Baptism in the ‘molten sea,’ page 98
“II Peter 1:19, page 102
“Paul married, page 112
“Status of those ‘with Christ in His Resurrection', page 128
“Consecration of oil, page 147
“Councils and schools among the Gods, page 151
“Limitations on Deity, page 154
“Sunday not a proper day for family reunions, page 254
“Geological changes at time of the deluge, page 268
“The Holy Ghost a spirit man, page 329
“Facing east in temples when giving the Hosanna Shout, page 337
“Details on family prayer and asking the blessing on food, page 526
“Women to be gods, page 551
“Interpretations of the Doctrine and Covenants 93:1, page 581
“Interpretation of "Every spirit of man was innocent in the
beginning," page 606
“Status of little children in the celestial kingdom, page 607
“Resumption of schools of the prophets, page 613
“Time of beginning of seasons, page 616
“Interpretation of III Nephi 12:20, page 618
“D. Repeated use of the word ‘apostate’ and related terms in a way which to
many seems discourteous and to others gives offense. (Exhibit V, pages 123,
125, 160, 169, 212, 223, 383, 538, 546, 548, 596)
“Faithfully and Respectfully submitted,
“Marion G. Romney
“As per my letter to you of January 9, I have promised to contact Marvin
Wallin, manager of Bookcraft Company, by the 9th of February about the 4,000
volume edition of MORMON DOCTRINE which he is holding.
“I shall therefore seek to contact you about the matter near the end of next
“M. G. R.”
The Office Journal of President David O. McKay
“THURSDAY, January 7, 1960
“10:15 to 12:45 p.m. Re: The book—‘Mormon Doctrine’
“The First Presidency met with Elders Mark E. Petersen and Marion G. Romney.
They submitted their report upon their examination of the book ‘Mormon
Doctrine’ by Elder Bruce McConkie.
“These brethren reported that the manuscript of the book ‘Mormon Doctrine’
has not been read by the reading committee; that President Joseph Fielding
Smith did not know anything about it until it was published. Elder Petersen
stated that the extent of the corrections which he had marked in his copy of
the book (1067) affected most of the 776 pages of the book. He also said that
he thought the brethren should be under the rule that no book should be
published without a specific approval of the First Presidency.
“I stated that the decision of the First Presidency and the Committee should
be announced to the Twelve.
“It was agreed that the necessary corrections are so numerous that to
republish a corrected edition of the book would be such an extensive
repudiation of the original as to destroy the credit of the author; that the
republication of the book should be forbidden and that the book should be
repudiated in such a way as to save the career of the author as one of the
General Authorities of the Church. It was also agreed that this decision should
be announced to the Council of the Twelve before I talk to the author.
“Elder Petersen will prepare an editorial for publication in the Improvement
Era, stating the principle of approval of books on Church doctrine."
“FRIDAY, January 8, 1960
“11:55 to 12:15 p.m.
“The First Presidency held a meeting. We decided that Bruce R. McConkie’s
book, ‘Mormon Doctrine’ recently published by Bookcraft Company, must not be
re-published, as it is full of errors and misstatements, and it is most
unfortunate that it has received such wide circulation. It is reported to us
that Brother McConkie has made corrections to his book, and is now preparing
another edition. We decided this morning that we do not want him to publish
“We decided, also, to have no more books published by General Authorities
without their first having the consent of the First Presidency. (see January
“WEDNESDAY, January 27, 1960
“3:00 P. M. Conference with Pres. Joseph Fielding Smith re: Bruce R.
McConkie’s book, ‘Mormon Doctrine’
“At the request of the First Presidency, I called President Joseph Fielding
Smith and told him that we are a unit in disapproving of Brother Bruce R.
McConkie’s book, ‘Mormon Doctrine,’ as an authoritative exposition of the
principles of the gospel.
“I then said: ‘Now, Brother Smith, he is a General Authority, and we do not
want to give him a public rebuke that would be embarrassing to him and lessen
his influence with the members of the Church, so we shall speak to the Twelve
at our meeting in the Temple tomorrow, and tell them that Brother McConkie’s
book is not approved as an authoritative book and that it should not be
republished, even if the errors (some 1,067) are corrected.’
“Brother Smith agreed with this suggestion to report to the Twelve, and said,
‘That is the best thing to do.
“I then said that Brother McConkie is advocating by letter some of the [one
line of words partially cut off on bottom of the photocopied page of journal]
. . . to letters he receives. Brother Smith said, ‘I will speak to him about
that.’ I then mentioned that he is also speaking on these subjects, and
Brother Smith said, ‘I will speak to him about that also.’
“I also said that the First Presidency had decided that General Authorities
of the Church should not publish books without submitting them to some member
of the General Authorities, and President Smith agreed to this as being
“THURSDAY, January 28, 1960
“8:30 to 9 a.m. Bruce R. McConkie’s Book
“Was engaged in the meeting of the First Presidency. I reported to my
counselors that I had talked with President Joseph Fielding Smith about the
decision that the book ‘Mormon Doctrine’ should not be republished and about
handling the matter to avoid undermining Brother McConkie’s influence. President
Smith agreed that the book should not be republished, and said he would talk
with Brother McConkie. It was decided that the First Presidency should inform
Brother McConkie before he learns of our decision from some other source, so
Brother McConkie was asked to come into our meeting this morning.
“When he arrived I informed him of the desire of the First Presidency with
reference to h is book not being republished, to which he agreed. The
recommendation was also made that he answer inquiries on the subject with
care. Brother McConkie said, ‘I am amenable to whatever you Brethren want. I
will do exactly what you want. I will be as discreet and as wise as I can.’
In answering letters he said that he would express no views contrary to views
which the First Presidency has expressed. He said that he would conform in
every respect. . . . [emphasis added]
“10 a.m. to 2:45 p.m.
“Was engaged in the meeting of the First Presidency and Council of the Twelve
in the Salt Lake Temple.
“At Council meeting I reported to the Brethren our decision regarding Elder
Bruce R. McConkie’s book ‘Mormon Doctrine,’ stating that it had caused
considerable comment throughout the Church, and that it has been a source of
concern to the Brethren ever since it was published. I said that this book
had not been presented to anyone for consideration or approval until after
its publication. I further said that the First Presidency have [sic] give it
very careful consideration, as undoubtedly have some of the Brethren of the
Twelve also, and that the First Presidency now recommend that the book be not
republished; that it be not republished even in a corrected form, even though
Brother McConkie mentions in the book that he takes all responsibility for
it; and that it not be recognized as an authoritative book.
“I said further that the question has arisen as to whether a public
correction should be made and a addendum given emphasizing the [bottom line
of photocopied page of journal cut off] . . . it is felt that that would not
be wise because Brother McConkie is one of the General Authorities, and it
might lessen his influence. The First Presidency recommend that the situation
be left as it is, and whenever a question about it arises, we can answer that
it is unauthoritative; that it was issued by Brother McConkie on his own
responsibility, and he must answer for it.
“I reported that the First Presidency had talked to Brother McConkie this
morning, and he said he will do whatever the Brethren want him to do. He will
not attempt to republish the book nor to say anything by letter, and if he
answers letters or inquiries that he will answer them in accordance with the
suggestions made by the Brethren, and not advocate those things concerning
which question had been raised as contained in the book.
“The Brethren unanimously approved of this.
“I then said that the First Presidency further recommend that when any member
of the General Authorities desires to write a book, that the Brethren of the
Twelve or the First Presidency be consulted regarding it. While the author
need not get the approval of these Brethren, they should know before it is
published that a member of the General Authorities wants to publish a book. I
said it may seem all right for the writer of the book to say, ‘I only am responsible
for it,’ but I said ‘you cannot separate your position from your
individuality, and we should like the authors to present their books to the
Twelve or a Committee appointed.’ I asked the Brethren of the Twelve to
convey this information to the other General Authorities. On motion, this
became the consensus of the Council.”
Later Letters from McKay to Mormon Church Members Regarding McConkie’s Mormon
Doctrine and Other Books Published by Individual General Authorities
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
47 E. South Temple Street
Salt Lake City, Utah
David O. McKay, President
“February 3, 1959
“Dr. A. Kent Christensen
Department of Anatomy
Cornell University Medical College
1300 York Avenue
New York 21, New York
“Dear Brother Christensen:
“I have your letter of January 23, 1959 in which you ask for a statement of
the Church’s position on the subject of evolution.
“The Church has issued not official statement on the subject of the theory of
“Neither ‘Man, His Origin and Destiny’ by Elder Joseph Fielding Smith, nor
‘Mormon Doctrine’ by Elder Bruce R. McConkie, is an official publication of
the Church. . . . [emphasis added]
“David O. McKay
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
47 East South Temple Street
“Salt Lake City, Utah
David O. McKay
September 24, 1964
“Dr. Lorenzo Lisonbee, Science Consultant
Phoenix Union High School System
District Adminstration Annex
2042 West Thomas Road
Phoenix, Arizona (85015)
“Dear Dr. Lisonbee :
“President McKay, who is recuperating at home under doctors’ orders from his
recent illness, has asked me to acknowledge for him your letter of September
“I have been directed to say that individual General Authorities of the
Church publish books on their own responsibility, the publishing of which is
not regarded as Church approval of the books. The Church approves only books
which have been authorized for publication by the General Authorities of the
Church, such as the Standard Works of the Church and authorized textbooks
adopted by official action of the Church for the Priesthood and the
organizations fo the Church. [emphasis added]
President David O. McKay”
Thus, in our one-on-one meeting in his home, McConkie failed to acknowledge
what really transpired as to the subsequent editing of his book, “Mormon
Doctrine,” not to mention the dressing down he received from President McKay
over its dubious contents.
Perhaps McConkie's testimony of his book’s alleged truthfulness was hampered
by a convenient memory loss.
SOFT-PEDALING THE PUNISHMENT: McCONKIE'S KID CLAIMS McKAY CHANGED HIS MIND
One wonders further just how far the cover-up goes when his McConkie's own
son, Joseph, publicly claimed that McKay supposedly (and, of course,
unbeknownst to most) gave his father the greenlight to republish “Mormon
Keep in mind that the afore-cited report delivered to McKay concluded that
McConkie’s book was unacceptably controversial, unauthorized and
While it was republished in reworked, second edition form in 1966, it is a
matter of record that McKay was so distressed when McConkie first published
the book in 1958 without permission from the Church that McKay ordered it not
Despite the written evidence from McKay himself, Joseph McConkie's has
asserted that the real truth is not known except by him.
That truth supposedly appeared in the form of Joseph McConkie's responses to
questions posed to him by the Mormon-friendly “Meridian Magazine" where,
in essence, he argued that McKay ended up changing his mind on the matter and
"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
“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. 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.
“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.
“Question: How do you know President McKay directed your father to reprint
“Response: My father told me that President McKay had so directed him. In
addition to that, I am in possession of handwritten papers by my father
affirming that direction.
“Question: Did the first edition of Mormon Doctrine cause embarrassment to
“Response: Yes. The Catholic bishop in Salt Lake City, Bishop Hunt,
communicated to President McKay his displeasure with the book and what it
said about the Catholic church.
“Question: So, at least originally, the First Presidency had concerns about
“Response: Yes. One of those concerns was the title itself. There was some
question about what business a Seventy had declaring the doctrine of the
[Mormon] Church. It is interesting to note, however, that no suggestion was
ever made that the title of the book be changed.
“Question: Would it be fair to say that the First Presidency gave your father
a good horsewhipping for some of the things he wrote in Mormon Doctrine?
“Response: I think their concern was not as much with what he had written as
that he had done it without seeking counsel and direction from those who
presided over him. This was back in a day before the Brethren did much
writing, and there was no established review system for what they did write.
“As to their giving him 'a good horse whipping,' I think we can be confident
that they were not shy in voicing their feelings. I have been told that when
he met with the First Presidency, my father was invited to be seated but
chose to remain standing. I also know that it was his practice (because he
told me I was to do the same) when you are getting scolded, you offer no
excuses--you just take it.
“After the experience President Moyle observed, 'I've never seen a man in the
Church in my experience that took our criticism--and it was more than
criticism--but he took it better than anyone I ever saw. When we were through
and Bruce left us, I had a great feeling of love and appreciation for a man
who could take it without any alibis, without any excuses, and said he
appreciated what we said to him.'"
McCONKIE'S TESTIMONY OF THE LIVING PROPHETS: "I KNOW THEY AREN'T
Just how strong, really, was McConkie's testimony in the concept of God's
true Church being led by God's singularly-chosen and supreme prophet leader?
The answer is: Not very.
Despite his son's claim that his father undyingly revered and respected the
leadership role of the Mormon Church prophet/president, what Bruce R.
McConkie told me strongly suggested that his personal testimony as to the
supposedly inspired nature of the Church president’s view was far less than
What was solid, however, was Bruce R. McConkie’s testimony of Bruce R.
McCONKIE: BETTER THAN ALL THE REST
To understand McConkie’s utter, complete and totally absorbed personal
confidence in what he regarded as his persoanl superiority when it came to
understanding and defining Mormon Church doctrine (not only for the benefit
of Church members but also for the enlightenment of the sitting Church
president himself) one only has to hear him attest to his own self-proclaimed
In the most basic of terms, Bruce R. McConkie regarded himself as Mormonism's
ultimate doctrinal ruler and reigner.
McCONKIE'S SOPHISTRY IN HIS SCIENCE CLASSES
In my private meeting with him, McConkie first cast himself as an
accomplished student of science.
When I asked him if he thought organic evolution was true, not surprisingly,
he replied that he did not.
He declared, in fact, that the theory of organic evolution was
"logically and scripturally absurd."
And how had McConkie reached these conclusions?
McConkie informed me that he had taken some science classes as a student at
the University of Utah "but never felt that they were the ultimate
McConkie then confessed that he would answer final exam questions the way he
thought his professors expected, in order to pass the courses, and not
because what he was putting down as test answers was true.
That hardly speaks of a resounding personal testimonyial committment to tell
the truth, regardless of what others may want or think.
Indeed, I found McConkie’s admission that he essentially wrote what his
secular educators expected of him when to be curious, indeed, since it was
he--McConkie--who had denounced in such a damnational tirade the secular
educational system for supposedly teaching “deadly heresies.”
McCONKIE'S MARVELOUS MASTERY OF MATTERS SCIENTIFIC
In the end, however, McConkie saw himself as knowing more than the scientists
did--even on matters of science.
When it came to scientific analysis of such topics as one-celled amoebas,
dinosaurs, Noah’s Flood and religious scriptures, McConkie considered his own
views to rule the day.
He attacked the scientific basis of organic evolution from holy writ, telling
me that "Adam was the first flesh of all flesh, more than just the first
"Plants," he said, "are created by seeds being planted. If the
Lord has made worlds without number, why would He use evolution from a
On the question of dinosaurs, McConkie claimed that they were probably killed
by Noah's Flood, based on the fact that "large concentrations of their
bones have been found in mud."
SCRIPTURE TRUMPS SCIENCE--AND McCONKIE TRUMPS THE CHURCH PRESIDENT
One-celled organisms, bones in the mud and all other physical realities
aside, however, McConkie ultimately did not rely on empirical evidence to
debunk organic evolution and its defenders but, rather, on Mormon
scriptures--at least the Mormon scriptures as he, and he alone, interpreted
That his views on scripture were the ultimately correct and singular ones,
McConkie had, without a shadow of a doubt, a deep and abiding testimony.
He told me, "I don't attempt to harmonize the theory of organic
evolution with revealed truth. I'm not going to talk about the truth or
falsity of organic evolution. I'll leave that up to biologists. I accept
revealed religion. If science and religion don't harmonize, then I reject and
In fact, his testimony in his own interpretational gifts was so strong that
he asserted to me the Mormon Church didn’t have to issue official doctrinal
statements on organic evolution, since it was already evident as to what the
truth was, as it was manifested (and, of course, explained by McConkie) in
LDS holy writ.
I mentioned to him, however, that several members of the Church, particularly
students and professors at BYU, were asking if his 1 June 1980 "Seven
Deadly Heresies" fireside address constituted the official position of
the Church. In response to my direct inquiry, "Does your talk represent
the official position of the Church on the theory of organic
evolution?," McConkie said that the Church did not have to submit
questions concerning doctrine to its membership in order to make them
"the stand of the Church" (the latter was a phrase which he emphasized
frequently during our conversation).
In specific reference to his "Seven Deadly Heresies" speech,
McConkie said, "This is my view on what I interpret to be the stand of
As he subsequently built a scriptural case to support his own doctrinal
pronouncements, McConkie often used the same phrase: "This is my
view," when explaining the doctrinal stand of the Church on the theory
of organic evolution.
But despite giving such lip service to what he said was just his view, it was
obvious that McConkie regarded his view as the only decent view.
Of that, he had a testimony.
And McConkie seemed particularly pleased that so many people wanted copies of
He mentioned that, in the wake of his "Deadly Heresies" sermon, his
office had been inundated with requests for copies, with 35 phone calls
received by his secretaries in a single two-hour period. In fact, he said,
there was greater interest in this particular address than in all other
speeches he had previously given.
He went on to say that while he had not intended for his remarks to appear
directed primarily at the theory of organic evolution, judging from the
response he perhaps should have devoted his entire speech to the subject.
McConkie was so caught up in his own testimonial conviction of his own
superior knowledge on the subject of organic evolution that in our discussion
he began dissing sitting Mormon Church presidents, telling me that they
either didn’t realize that they knew the truth or were actually wrong when
talking about what the truth was.
I asked McConkie, for instance, about the fact that, in my own personal
correspondence with then-Church President Kimball on the LDS stand regarding
organic evolution, Kimball admitted to me that he was not aware of the
official position of the Church as found in a First Presidency statement
entitled "The Origin of Man," issued in 1909.
McConkie responded by insisting that Kimball did, in fact, know about it. He
said Kimball "just forgot" that he knew.
As to the expressed views of other Mormon president/prophets, McConkie’s
personal testimony of his own superceding opinions led him to tell me that
even the officially-stated expressions of other LDS Church presidents weren’t
actually their views.
I asked, for instance, why President Joseph F. Smith, while prophet/editor of
the "Improvement Era," had told inquiring Church members that God
had not fully answered how the bodies of Adam and Eve were created.
McConkie informed me that, truth be told, this "was not [Joseph F.
Smith's] position." I asked him how he knew that. He said, "Joseph
Fielding Smith told me so."
McConkie went on to say, "A prophet is not always a prophet,"
admitting, "I can be just as wrong as the next guy."
But it was clear that McConkie did not think for a second that he was wrong
on organic evolution. Indeed, he said Church presidents—even when speaking as
Church presidents---were the ones who were wrong on organic evolution.
"Prophets can be wrong on organic evolution, of course,” he told me.
“And have been wrong."
I informed McConkie that David O. McKay, while president of the Church, had
told BYU students in a campus speech that organic evolution was a beautiful
theory. McConkie responded by saying that if McKay made such a statement, he
I also told McConkie that McKay and other Church presidents had authorized
the sending of letters to inquiring Church members, informing them that the
Church had not official position on the theory of organic evolution.
McConkie dismissed such correspondence as "underground letters" and
said it differed fundamentally from the First Presidency's 1909 statement on
the origin of man.
(About that statement, McConkie, in his "Deadly Seven Heresies"
sermon had warned: "Do not be deceived and led to believe that the
famous document of the First Presidency issued in the day of President Joseph
F. Smith and entitled, 'the Origin of Man,' means anything except exactly
what it says").
Over and over again, it was unquestionably apparent that McConkie’s own
testimony resided not in any alleged belief that Mormon Church presidents
were inspired and correct in their doctrinal teachings but, instead, that
he--Bruce R. McConkie--was right and inspired in his, and that Church
presidents who disagreed with him were just plain wrong.
McConkie, for example, also criticized President Brigham Young for teaching
the Adam-God doctrine, which McConkie told me was "false."
Furthermore, he even criticized his own father-in-law and eventual Mormon
Church president Joseph Fielding Smith, telling me that he was "out of
his field" in trying to use science against organic evolution in his
book, "Man: His Origin and Destiny." McConkie said, "He should
have stayed in the areas in which he was trained: scriptures and theology."
McConkie warned me that straying from the scriptures--even if one was a
prophet--was to ask for trouble because, he said, people end up "quoting
authority against authority."
THE McCONKIE CULT
In the end, he said, "seeking authoritative statements doesn't solve the
problem. People are always seeking authoritative statements. Authorities
Besides, he cautioned me, "Cults are created by the endorsement of
But it was McConkie who had a cult-like devotion to his own authoritative
McConkie was a church unto himself and he was its chief testator.
McCONKIE'S REVELATION ROADMAP: "FOLLOW ME THROUGH THE SCRIPTURES"
At the foundation of McConkie’s self-constructed “Church of I Know What’s
True” was his testimonial conviction that the truth about organic evolution
is found in the McConkie-intepreted words of scriptures, not in the words of
Mormonism’s top-of-the-chain president/prophets.
If the reliablity of these ruling Church leaders was suspect, then I wanted
to know from McConkie where one could turn in order to find the official,
authoritative Mormon stand on the theory of organic evolution.
McConkie replied slowly, "This is my view on what I believe to be the
stand of the Church: The doctrinal stand of the Church is found in revealed
With sweeping disapproval, he declared, "Organic evolution does not and
cannot account for a paradisical earth, the millennium, an exalted earth and
man, the resurrection of man and animals and the pre-existence."
McConkie argued that, ultimately, God's truth was found in the canonized
"Standard Works," not in the words of Mormon Church presidents.
He told me that the "Standard Works" are called such because they
are the standard against which all other claims are measured, including those
made by living prophets.
So, then, I asked McConkie what was the stand of the Church on organic
evolution, as found in the scriptures.
He replied by telling me that the Church would never accept the theory of
organic evoluiton as being true "as long as it fails to show that there
was no death before the Fall of Adam."
I pressed him by asking him to explain for me the actual official Church
position on organic evolution.
McConkie responded by letting me in on some inside information.
He said that the First Presidency had been considering whether to issue a
statement on the theory of organic evolution for "over a year."
Sometime during that period, he said, they had "sat down and listened to
the entire 1909 statement."
McConkie said they had also sat and listened to him. He claimed he was asked
to write a statement on organic evolution for possible use by the First
The directive came, McConkie said, after Kimball walked into McConkie's
office carrying a letter I had earlier sent to Kimball, along with
(My grandfather confirmed that his episode took place. In a September 1979
phone conversation with me, he said McConkie had been given a copy of one of
my letters to Kimball, together with attached statements made by presidents
Joseph F. Smith and David O. Mckay on the theory of organic evolution).
McConkie told me that Kimball and one of his counselors, Marion G. Romney,
had "personally agreed" to have McConkie draft the statement.
McConkie said the remaining counselor, N. Eldon Tanner, "did not
participate" in making the recommendation.
McConkie told me he responded by putting together what he called "a
special statement prepared for the First Presidency," a 42-page document
entitled "Man: His Origin, Fall and Redemption."
(My grandfather, in the same earlier phone conversation, also had told me
that McConkie's paper had been "considered favorably by the First
Presidency." He said that McConkie had, in fact, discussed his paper
with members of the First Presidency on 30 August 1979 and that they
"agreed with it").
I asked McConkie what his document included. He said it quoted President John
Taylor, whom he described as "definitely anti-evolution."
He also informed me that a scaled-down version of his paper was eventually
delivered in the form of his BYU "Seven Deadly Heresies" sermon.
(Following my meeting with McConkie, I wrote him a letter, thanking him for
the chance to meet and asking if he might send me a copy of that paper of
his, "Man: His Origin, Fall and Redemption," so that, as I told
him, I might "more fully understand the scriptural reasoning beind your
treatment of these subjects." He never responded).
A MAGICAL MOMENT: McCONKIE BECOMES MUM
In my conversation with McConkie in his home, I also asked him if there would
be a current First Presidency statement issued on the Church's official stand
on the theory of organic evolution.
He answered by insisting that just because the sitting First Presidency had
not issued an official statement on the subject did not mean it did not have
I asked McConkie why, if the Church actually had an official position on
organic evolution, did it not go ahead and make it known?
McConkie said it had not done so because the Church did not want to pick
fights with its vulnerable members.
He explained, as mentioned earlier, that "[i]t's a matter of
temporizing, of not making a statement to prevent the driving out of the weak
Saints. It's a question of wisdom, not of truth."
He compared it to calling the Catholic Church "the Church of the
Devil." He said while such a statement was true, one had to be careful
about saying it, so as not to offend Catholics.
By now, I was feeling increasingly frustrated.
I pressed McConkie on what he thought the position of the Church on organic
evolution might be. He replied, "Don't be deceived. The Church is not
neutral. It has taken a stand."
I asked him what that stand was.
He replied, "Henry Eyring's position is President Kimball's
He didn't explain what Eyring's position was.
In 1979, however, I had written Kimball, requesting that he tell me the
official position of the Church on the theory of organic evolution. In a 24
May 1979 reply, Kimball asked me, "I am wondering if you have read the
book of Henry Eyring, 'The Faith of the Scientiest [sic].' Undoubtedly, this
book will be found in the library at BYU. I would be glad to hear from you
concerning this matter."
I was familiar with the book, having been given a copy by my grandfather some
years earlier. I wrote Kimball back, taking him up on his offer to share my
thoughts about Eyring's book.
In my letter to him, I noted how Eyring said that science benefits religion
by helping it sort fact from fiction.
I asked Kimball just how scientifically reliable the scriptural stories were
that proclaimed the earth to be merely 6,000 years old and that declared
there was no physical death before Adam. I suggested the Genesis account did
not seem to square with strong physical evidence pointing to old rocks,
long-dead fossils and evolved humans.
I concluded my letter by telling Kimball that it appeared to me the Church
was avoiding taking an official position for or against the theory of organic
evolution. I asked him if he would not mind commenting on that observation.
Kimball never wrote me back.
THE ONE AND ONLY TRUE CHURCH OF BRUCE R. McCONKIE
I had about exhausted myself trying to get straight and consistent answers
One thing, however, was certain:
Coming out of that one-on-one encounter with him, I had a clear understanding
that McConkie certainly had a testimony: of himself, not of the Mormon
STEALING FOR THE LORD
Yet, for all of McConkie’s preening, testimonial strut about his own
doctrinal invincibility, he wasn’t always confident enough in his own views
to come up with them through his own "revelatory" insight.
In one case, he ended up plagiarizing an unknown Arab author to get his “own”
In eulogizing the by-then-dead McConkie at a BYU fireside, then-member of the
First Quorum of the Seventy John K. Carmack offered this glowing tribute to
him, comparing the Mormon Church to a steady-as-she-goes caravan moving
forward into the eternal realms of glory:
” . . . [A]s an expression of his confidence in the Church, and as a seer
whose words light the pathway we must travel as we endure to the end of that
path, Elder McConkie saw the road ahead and the kingdom as a moving caravan
triumphantly moving to its destiny.”
Carmack was borrowing his in-memorium caravan image from an earlier McConkie
sermon entitled “The Caravan Moves On.”
Truth be told, however, McConkie had lifted the caravan metaphor (without
attribution, of course) from an old Arab proverb.
McConkie’s sermon (which appeared in the November 1984 issue of the “Ensign”)
likened critics of the Mormon Church to dogs yapping at the heels of the
caravan of truth as it plodded ahead, undaunted and undeterred by apostate
hounds of hell barking in the rear.
Declared McConkie in solemn, cribbed tones:
”The Church is like a great caravan--organized, prepared, following an
appointed course, with its captains of tens and captains of hundreds all in
”What does it matter if a few barking dogs snap at the heels of the weary
travelers? Or that predators claim those few who fall by the way?
"The caravan moves on.
”Is there a ravine to cross, a miry mud hole to pull through, a steep grade
to climb? So be it. The oxen are strong and the teamsters wise.
"The caravan moves on.
”Are there storms that rage along the way, floods that wash away the bridges,
deserts to cross, and rivers to ford? Such is life in this fallen sphere.
"The caravan moves on.
”Ahead is the celestial city, the eternal Zion of our God, where all who
maintain their position in the caravan shall find food and drink and rest.
"Thank God that the caravan moves on!
”In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, amen.”
McConkie, of course, didn’t have to give credit to because, thus saith the
Lord, he was an Apostle of the Almighty God who didn't have to give credit to
Because he knew more than anyone.
In reality, the caravan line has been a popular go-to image used through time
to illustrate all kinds of points of view, McConkie’s anti-dog doctrine being
just one of them.
In fact, the popularity of this well-known Arab proverb was also illustrated
when Russian President Vladimir Putin was mentioned in a news article as
"recit[ing] a long list of Russia's economic accomplishments during his
presidency, dismissing foreign critics of Russia's worthiness for Group of
Eight membership with a proverb: ‘The dog keeps barking, but the caravan
But far from him to give credit to some lowly, brown-skinned Arab.
McConkie did what he always did: he took the glory unto himself, although
he's not named in history as the proverb's originator:
Old myths about supposedly inspired Mormon leaders die hard. (As they say,
never let the facts get in the way of a good prophet).
In a talk delivered at a Brigham Young University-Idaho Devotional, entitled
“Obedience to the Commandments of the Lord,” Kim B. Clark soberly invoked the
non-original words of non-inspired McConkie to make a nonsensical point.
" . . . I would like to marry Nephi’s metaphor of the iron rod and the
strait and narrow path to another image given us by another prophet, seer,
and revelator in our day. I think in so doing we may see new dimensions of
the journey and gain deeper understanding of what we must do to obtain
"The metaphor I have in mind was given to us by Elder Bruce R. McConkie
in a talk he gave in general conference in the fall of 1984. . . .
"Let’s listen to Elder McConkie:
"'The Church is like a great caravan--organized, prepared, following an
appointed course, with its captains of ten and captains of hundreds in place.
"‘What does it matter if a few barking dogs snap at the heels of the
weary travelers? Or that predators claim those few who fall by the way?
"The caravan moves on.
"'Is there a ravine to cross, a miry mud hole to pull through, a steep
grade to climb? So be it. The oxen are strong and the teamsters wise.
"'The caravan moves on.
"'Are there storms that rage along the way, floods that wash away the
bridges, deserts to cross, rivers to ford? Such is life in the fallen sphere.
The caravan moves on.
“'Ahead is the celestial city, the eternal Zion of our God, where all who
maintain their position in the caravan shall find food and drink and rest.
"'Thank God that the caravan moves on!'”
Sister Clark’s testimonial tribute notwithstanding, the fact of the faith is
that McConkie did not give her that inspiring metaphor.
An anonymous Arab--one long lost to history--did.
McCONKIE'S FINAL TESTAMENT: "I KNOW THAT I AM TRUE"
What Bruce R. McConkie gave, he gave to himself--and to anyone else who would
indulge his self-congratulatory backpats.
And what he gave was this:
That he--Bruce R. McConkie--was the Way, the Truth and the Life--and that no
Mormon Church president or lowly LDS member cometh to the Father except by
Long live Bruce.
In the end, that was McConkie’s testimony.