Saturday, August 27, 2016

Mormon Book Bits #24: LeGrand Richards, A Marvelous Work and A Wonder

Editor's note: This is # 24 in a series of posts by Dennis Horne about collectible books. The introduction is here.

            Elder Thomas S. Monson wrote:

            “LeGrand Richards was also a choice individual with whom to work. It was my opportunity to print for him the book A Marvelous Work and A Wonder, as well as Israel, Do You Know? When his manuscripts would come to us, they were prepared just as he spoke—all in one sentence. It was necessary for his administrative aid, Lee Palmer, from the Presiding Bishopric’s Office, to do a lot of editorial work on Brother Richards’ manuscripts with regard to grammar and sentence structure. I was impressed with the knowledge that LeGrand Richards would accept no royalty for his books, feeling that he wanted to keep the price as low as possible for the benefit of the membership of the Church. He still had a mortgage on his home and could have used the royalty. In fact, as time was to prove, A Marvelous Work and A Wonder became a runaway bestseller and would have produced literally hundreds of thousands of dollars for Brother Richards. He never regretted his decision and kept that particular book under-priced on the market as long as he lived, thanks to his refusal to accept a royalty. (Thomas S. Monson, On the Lord’s Errand [Salt Lake City: privately printed, 1985], 176-77.)

            Regarding A Marvelous Work and a Wonder, in 1983 Elder Richards said:

That’s the greatest missionary book the Church has got except the Book of Mormon. They sell more of it than any book they have except the Book of Mormon. At the present time they have distributed about two million copies; they distribute from fifty to a hundred thousand copies a year; have done for the last five years here out of Salt Lake and there is a printing plant over in England where they publish for all of the British Isles, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, and then it’s published in eighteen different languages in other nations. I had written an outline for my missionaries down in the South called “The Message of Mormonism.” I had that mimeographed and gave them each a copy and when I came home I got so many requests for that I said to myself—Why don’t I develop those outlines the way I would present them if I were going into a home one night a week for six months and that’s what brought the Marvelous Work and a Wonder into existence. (; go to 43:30)

            While I am unable, because of the dates involved, to be sure of any connection of the below with Elder Richards’s book A Marvelous Work and A Wonder, it still constitutes a review of something Elder Richards wrote, as done by Elder Bruce R. McConkie, and is therefore of some interest. A Marvelous Work and a Wonder began as a lengthy missionary outline prepared by Elder Richards while he served as the Southern States Mission President in the later 1930s, and my copy has the date 1950 in it for publication. Chapter one, page 3, has a quotation from Elder Orson F. Whitney’s autobiography Through Memory’s Halls with the heading of “A Catholic Utterance,” which is very similar to the manuscript title referenced in the below letter. The problem is that the date of Elder McConkie’s review is nine years after Elder Richards’s book was published, so it is probably talking about another similarly-titled manuscript that Elder Richards was then working on and needed to have reviewed. I still quote the below because of its connection to Elder Richards’s writings and its interesting content. Elder McConkie’s reputation for doctrinal and scriptural prowess ensured that he was occasionally assigned to review manuscripts written by others of the Brethren. In this case, as would be expected, his wording is diplomatic and deferential, while still giving insightful suggestions for improvement, toward one senior to him in Church leadership:

First Council of the Seventy letterhead
July 15, 1959
Elder Legrand Richards

Dear Brother Richards,

            I have read your document entitled, “A Roman Catholic Utterance,” and think it is an excellent and meritorious approach to the problem. I know of nothing else in our literature that presents this matter for use by missionaries and think this would be most appropriate for them to have.

            May I note the following items:

1.      Would it strengthen your position and further your purpose if the quotations were taken from the Catholic rather than the King James Version of the Bible.

2.      On pages six and seven you make a number of references to the restitution of all things indicating that such must take place before the second coming of Christ. As I understand Peter’s statement, he does not say that Christ cannon come again until there has been a restitution of all things; but he does say that Christ cannot come again until “the times of restitution of all things.” That is to say, he cannot come until the times or age or era or period of restoration. In other words, the period on the earth’s history which it names, the times of restitution, must commence before the second coming. That period or ago or time commenced in the Spirit of 1820 with the First Vision. It is now going on and will continue until after the second coming. In section 101 beginning with verse 32 we read, that all things shall not be revealed until the Lord has come. If my analysis of this is correct, it in no way weakens your argument for by proving that an age of restoration must commence before the second coming, you have established precisely what you want to prove.

3.      On page nine you use Daniel 7:18 in connection with the setting up of the kingdom as predicted in Daniel 2:44. I have always assumed that this reference in Daniel 7:18 did not refer to the same kingdom mentioned in the second chapter, but that this seventh chapter reference meant the millennial kingdom—the one to be set up when the Ancient of Days sits, a kingdom that is yet future. This yet future kingdom is to be given to the saints of the most High already established in the kingdom to which Daniel made reference in interpreting Nebuchadnezzar’s dream.

4.      On page 12 you indicate that Joseph Smith communed with the Father and the Son “as one man speaketh with his friend.” This, of course, is what the record says that Moses did in talking to the God of Israel. I may be wrong, but I always assumed that this kind of communication meant that a man talked to God face to face with all his faculties. That is, it is the kind of communion that Joseph Smith had in the Kirtland Temple when the Lord appeared to accept the building. In the case of the First Vision Joseph, presumably, was in a trance; that is, he was unconscious. He came to himself after the vision was over. This view may, or may not be correct; it is just what I always have assumed this phrase meant.

5.      Strictly speaking and in conformity with our modern usage of terms, it would be better to say, on page 14, that the Aaronic Priesthood was conferred upon Joseph and Oliver rather than that they were ordained to it; it being as I suppose, our terminology to say that priesthood is conferred upon a person and that they are then ordained to office in it.

6.      I have heard it argued that Hebrews 5:1 has reference to high priests of the Aaronic Priesthood who offered sacrifices in Israel and that strictly speaking it does not establish the existence of high priests of the Melchizedek order in the way that we have them. I have also heard it argued that the mention of teachers in Ephesians 4:11 has reference, not to ordained teachers in the Aaronic Priesthood, but to people who teach in organizations. I merely mention these two items for consideration as two possible interpretations.

If any of these items I mention have merit, changes could be made without hurting, in any way, the very excellent work you have prepared.

With every good wish,

Faithfully your brother,

Bruce R. McConkie

On a side note, it may be of interest for some readers to learn the story of Legrand Richards’ call to become the Presiding Bishop of the Church:

            I returned from presiding over the Southern States Mission in July of 1937. I attended the April [General] Conference in the Tabernacle. I remained to greet the missionaries and their parents (the ones who had returned or had missionaries laboring) and I went to my little real estate office and there sat President Grant and my father. Father [George F. Richards] was then a member of the Twelve. As I walked in President Grant hung up the telephone and said, “Oh, here he is now.” And I said “This looks suspicious to see you two men sitting in my little office.” I knew President Grant well. He said “It is; we are going to change the Presiding Bishopric this afternoon and we want you to be the Presiding Bishop. Who do you want for your counselors?” And I said, “Who can I have?” He said “Any man in the Church you want. We don’t choose a man’s wife for him and we don’t choose his counselors.” I said “How long can I have to select them?” “Oh,” he said, “We want to sustain them this afternoon.” It was a quarter to one then. I said “President Grant I can’t think that fast; you’ve taken all my thinking powers away from me. I said, “Am I under any obligation to keep either of the men who are there [that had been the counselors to Sylvester Q. Cannon]?” He said, “None whatever.” I said, “Will you make it right with them if I don’t?” He said he would. Then I had this thought. I said, “When you were deciding who you wanted to be the [Presiding] Bishop you had a list of names who submitted by the Twelve. If you felt like entrusting that list to me, they would be men that the Twelve would regard as having the qualifications for that particular office and I believe I could select a couple of Counselors.” He said, “I think that is a good idea” and he wrote eight names on a slip of paper. Then he commented on them and father commented on them. Then I checked Marvin O. Ashton and Joseph L. Wirthlin and I said, “How does that look to you?” He said “Fine.” I said, “There is only one thing; this man Ashton is my wife’s half-brother, but I have never been as closely associated with him as I have been with most of these others on the list. But if we are to have [oversight of] the Aaronic Priesthood of the Church, he is the best boys man I know of in the Church.” “It won’t make a bit of difference” President Grant said. And I said “Now are you going to tell them?” “Oh, no, we wouldn’t have told them; we had to consult you for your counselors.” And I said, “President Grant, they may love the Lord and they may love His Church but they might feel let down to be asked to serve as my Counselors—they might think that I ought to be their Counselor.” And I said, “I would feel a lot better if you would give them an opportunity to turn it down before they are sustained before the whole Church.” “Well if you feel that way about it I’ll get in touch with them.” Bishop Ashton never did tell me what he said but Brother Wirthlin said President Grant called and said: “Is this Joseph L. Wirthlin?” “Yes sir.” “This is Heber J. Grant. We are going to change the Presiding Bishopric of the Church this afternoon and we have asked Legrand Richards to be the Bishop and we want to know if you are willing to serve as one of his Counselors.” “Oh President Grant, there is so much involved. I have my business and I am President of my Stake. Could I come in and talk it over with you?” “No, there isn’t time; I have to have a little nap before the meeting. It’ll be alright won’t it?” He [Wirthlin] said [to me] “What are you going to say to the President of the Church?—an invitation like that.” When we were set apart in the temple I was very thrilled because shortly before I left the South [Southern States Mission] I had a dream that I met President Grant on the street in Salt Lake and he said, “Legrand, come in my office; I have a special blessing for you.” I went and had that blessing. When I awakened I couldn’t remember a thing he said. All I could remember was how I felt and how thrilled I was. When he set me apart as the Presiding Bishop of the Church; to preside over all the temporal affairs and the Aaronic Priesthood then I figured that was the special blessing that he had for me and it wouldn’t have been right for me to have remembered it until it actually came to me. (; go to 27:50)

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