Sunday, February 13, 2011

Maligning McConkie

For the last 35 years of President David O. McKay's life, Clare Middlemiss was his personal secretary. After her death it came to light that over the years she had made unauthorized copies of 130,000 pages of a wide variety of things ranging from McKay's diary and personal letters to transcripts of First Presidency meetings. She stored the copies in her garage and bequeathed them to a nephew who, with the help of a friend, used them to write David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism (Gregory A. Prince and William Robert Wright, University of Utah Press, 2005). Today, I updated my sidebar with a link to "Maligning McConkie," an article that explains how the Prince and Wright book wrongfully discredits and defames Elder Bruce R. McConkie. Earlier drafts of my article were posted in 2007 (here) and in 2010 (here) on this blog.


Blogger Joseph Smidt said...

R. Gary,

It doesn't surprise me that you would go to great lengths to try to defend Elder McConkie. And somebody should because I believe he gave his life for the church and no matter what you say about how he got his facts.

This is similar to what Elder McConkie said in a letter about Brigham Young regarding the Adam God Theory: That President Young may have got some things wrong but that is okay because he is still one heck of a President of the Church who magnified his calling.

So, glad to see you defend him but if there is any truth to "Mormon Doctrine" the living church will be inspired to follow those paths. And as for McConkie's own "Adam God Theory" type doctrinal mistakes... I rest easy know that like Brother Brigham, he magnified his office and so that fact that he was wrong will nit be that big of a deal.

But every dead prophet needs a friend and champion of their cause I guess.

2/13/2011 06:36:00 PM  
Blogger Steven Montgomery said...

Great article (the one at: http://ndbf.net/002k/index.htm ) Gary.

This should be the definitive answer to those who have discredited Elder Bruce R. McConkie over the supposed errors in his book, Mormon Doctrine, or who hope to discredit him in the future.

2/13/2011 07:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope to serve and love the Lord as much as BRM did. He truly was one of his anointed.

2/13/2011 11:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gary, I liked your post Maligning McConkie. I liked it a lot. I wrote a reply by email at some length including additional information, but I was unable to mail it because Gmail does not recognize it as a good address. It you would like to read my message, get a good email address to me and I'll try to mail it again.

John W. Redelfs,
Caldwell, Idaho

2/14/2011 01:15:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Brother John: you can contact me at

        r.gary.shapiro at usa.net

I'm looking forward to hearing from you.

Anonymous: You can use the same email address if you really want to talk about the deleted portion of your comment.

Steven Montgomery: it is always good to hear from you.

Joseph Smidt: I don't understand your apparent fascination with the Adam-God theory which, according to Bruce R. McConkie, is perpetuated by "cultists and other enemies of the restored truth" (Mormon Doctrine, 18.) Spencer W. Kimball, while serving as Prophet and President, said: "We denounce that theory and hope that everyone will be cautioned against this and other kinds of false doctrine." (Ensign, Nov. 1976, 77.)

2/14/2011 07:46:00 AM  
Blogger Joseph Smidt said...

R. Gary,

I'm not fascinated by the Adam God theory. I'm saying even though Brigham may have gotten things wrong that's still okay because he gave his life to the work.

Similarly, I'm not worried about the issues Elder McConkie got wrong so much as he also gave his life to the work.

Just because future prophets may feel inspired to dismantel the fallacies of Brother McConkie, the same as post-Brigham prophets dismissed his inaccurate statements, doesn't mean Elder McConkie wasn't a great man.

Or said another way: I'd rather be like Elder McConkie and and Brother Brigham while inadvertently senig forth false doctrine than to never give my life for the work at all.

Elder McConkie and Brigham Young are two peas in a pod this way. :)

2/14/2011 07:54:00 AM  
Blogger DavidH said...

Brother McConkie was not a perfect man, nor were his writings perfect or reflective, in all respects, of the united views of the First Presidency and 12. However, he was an extremely good man and an extremely intelligent (and inspired) one. I personally think it was a bit audacious and impetuous for him to speak authoritatively in a book called Mormon Doctrine as if he spoke for the Church as a whole, when he was not even a member of the 12. I can understand how some of the FP and 12 might have felt blindsided, not having seen the text or even having known that the book was under consideration. I think experiences such as this gave impetus to correlation rules that, as a matter of courtesy or procedure, the Brethren do not publish books without advising each other.

All that being said, Mormon Doctrine is a remarkable book, particularly for its time. Brother McConkie was gifted at sifting through vast amounts of material and systematizing it in an understandable and logical way. Where statements of prior leaders had been inconsistent with each other, Brother McConkie--using the intelligence with which God blessed him as well as seeking inspiration (and being influenced heavily by the writings of his father in law, Joseph Fielding Smith and his grandfather in law, Joseph F. Smith)--selected views and statements he believed were the most correct.

And, as many have pointed, countless members (including me) have felt that one cannot be far off the mark in quoting McConkie--one might disagree with him, but one cannot be called a heretic for so viewing.

I think Elder McConkie's work assisted in the correlation process in providing a framework--even a starting point, for many. It has led to more systematized later writings--offical (True to the Faith) and quasi-official (Encyclopedia of Mormonism).

2/14/2011 09:44:00 AM  
Blogger Paul said...

R.Gary, Thanks for the referenced article on Elder McConkie. Of course the controversy over MD is as old s the book itself. And yet it was a staple in our convert home as I was growing up, and in my wife's life-long-member home, as well.

I also found the Prince biography to be illumninating in many ways, particularly in the way in which President McKay was seen to be a wise and compassionate leader of the church.

As I read, however, I felt uncomfortable at the authors' treatment of some actors in that time, including Elder McConkie. I appreciate your perspective in the matter.

A clear reminder that all history is written from a point of view.

2/14/2011 01:34:00 PM  
Blogger Stephen said...

Elder McConkie tended to advocate positions rather than explore them. But he served when others would not.

2/15/2011 06:05:00 AM  
Anonymous Aaron said...

Br. McConkie is one of the few general authorities ever to stand up and admit he was wrong about something. That puts him up a notch in my estimation.

2/15/2011 06:09:00 AM  
Anonymous Jared said...


Thanks for your work on this history.

It never made sense to me that Elder McConkie, as some have claimed, was the bad guy by bullying the aged Pres. Mckay and getting Mormon Doctrine published.

2/15/2011 07:37:00 PM  
Blogger Riley said...

Does anyone have thoughts or what to make of the Church taking out all of the previously cited Mormon Doctrine references?

I've also heard that Deseret Book will no longer carry Mormon Doctrine. is there any truth to this?

2/18/2011 09:00:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

According to Church spokeswoman, Kim Farah, some reference materials in Gospel Principles 2009 “were updated to reference materials that are more accessible to members of the LDS Church worldwide,... For example, the series, Teachings of Presidents of the Church, is referenced because it is available in 28 languages, while Mormon Doctrine is only available in a few.” (As quoted in The Salt Lake Tribune, 12/31/2009.)

But notice this: There were never any actual quotations from Mormon Doctrine in Gospel Principles. None. There were only four parenthetical references guiding the reader to further information in Mormon Doctrine. In three of these cases the text preceding the parenthetical reference did not change and in one case the preceding text was replaced with a quote from Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith.

The only (not Mormon Doctrine) quotation from Bruce R. McConkie previously found in Gospel Principles was replaced in the 2009 edition (p.249) with a quotation from Russell M. Nelson and if you follow the reference to Elder Nelson’s talk, he is not only saying the same thing, he is quoting Bruce R. McConkie!

2/18/2011 09:33:00 PM  
Blogger Stake Pres. said...

As a stake president I love the words and counsel of Elder McConkie.

2/24/2011 07:31:00 PM  

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