RfM poster asks:
"When did McConkie's 'Mormon Doctrine' fall from grace?"
("When did McConkie's 'Mormon Doctrine' fall from grace? (n/t)," posted by "Queen of Denial," on "Recovery from Mormonism" bulletin board, 18 May 2011, 12:13 p.m.)
The death spiral of McConkie's bizarre book began shortly after it was first published, despite his unmistakable and misleading implication to me that it represented official Mormon Church doctrine.
**A Personal Meeting with Bruce R. McConkie—In Which He Blatantly Lied to Me
When I was a student at Brigham Young University in the 1970s, 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 hierachy.
During my research, I personally met and spoke with Apostle Bruce R. McConkie.
An account of that meeting follows below, taken from personal notes I made of our discussion, which 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.
*Ezra Taft Benson Arranges the Meeting
On the day of my conversation with McConkie, I had visited earlier, 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.
During that discussion, 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 Church office.
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.
*Close Encounters of the Bruce Kind
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 certainly 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 matters.
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 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 Conference talks.
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, whereupon 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 served to help 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 wanted.
In keeping with my previous request, my father sat and listened silently.
*McConkie Manipulates and Misleads on His "Mormon 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 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.
I asked McConkie why, in fact, his reference to the Roman Catholic Church as the "Church of the Devil" had been removed from the 2nd 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.
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 travels through Mormonism's maze of muck, I didn't know any better but to accept what McConkie told me as being factual.
The trouble was, McConkie’s smiling assertion turned out to be a bald-face lie.
It has been exposed as such 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 published.
--McConkie’s "Mormon Doctrine" Was Never Accepted By the LDS Church President As Official Mormon Dogma
Faithful Mormons often cite McConkie’s "Mormon Doctrine" as an authoritative volume on official LDS doctrine.
However, 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.
--A Confidential, Top-Level Analysis of McConkie's "Mormon Doctrine" Concluded That It Was Full of Misinformation, Insults and Unauthoritative Claims
An analysis of McConkie’s book was subsequently conducted by Apostles Marion G. Romney and Mark E. Petersen, wherein they noted the book’s numerous doctrinal errors, objectionable language, discourteous tone and questionable claims.
Recommendation was 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 "Mormon Doctrine" 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 to behave.
Below are documents which 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 Church.
(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):http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Bruce_R._McConkie
Also cited 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").
--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. [emphasis added]
"A. Reference to churches and other groups who do not accept ‘Mormon Doctrine’.
"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 added]
"5. Evolution and Evolutionists. (Exhibit II-5, pages 37, 77, 136, 180, 228, 238, 659)
"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 36, 234-35)
"3. Meaning of the various accounts of Creation. (exhibit III_3, pages 157-8, 167-8)
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 week.
"M. G. R."
--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 another edition.
"We decided, also, to have no more books published by General Authorities without their first having the consent of the First Presidency. (see January 7, 1960)"
"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 wise."
"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. . . .
"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. [emphasis added]
--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 evolution.
"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 8, 1964.
"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.
President David O. McKay"
Conclusion: Bruce R. McConkie, A Special Witness for Deceitfulness
McConkie never told me about any of this, the liar.
Then again, maybe he just forgot.
Edited 4 time(s). Last edit at 05/19/2011 01:15AM by steve benson.