Friday, February 16, 2024

Personal Doctrinal and Scriptural Responsibility

  Assembled by Dennis B. Horne from the writings and counsel of
Elder Bruce R. McConkie

            I include below some emphatic counsel that Elder McConkie gave to his son and others regarding how to approach and search the scriptures. I underline salient points that the Ben Spackmans and Grant Hardys and Joseph Spencers and others of like ilk in and out of the Church could surely benefit from. These are taken from Joseph Fielding McConkie’s biography of his father, Elder McConkie:


While reading the biography of a man of high standing in the Church, I was troubled about attitudes the author of the book attributed to him. In some instances, these differences were on matters I understood to be fundamental to our faith. I mentioned this concern to my father, who observed, "Everyone is responsible for what they believe and what they choose not to believe. No office can excuse them from that responsibility."


Dad was very much of the opinion that the measure of a person's spiritual maturity is found in his or her loyalty to the Prophet Joseph Smith. For him, the revelations of the Restoration were the key which unlocked the meaning of the Old and the New Testaments. They were the key by which one came to know Christ and his gospel. . . . [Notice he is not saying that knowing ancient Hebrew civilization is the key; the revelations received thru the prophet Joseph Smith are the key.]

For him, to study the Bible without the aid of modern revelation was the same as denying that we had living prophets, the priesthood, or the gift of the Holy Ghost. He was fully convinced that this principle unlocked more to our understanding of the Bible than anything else we could do.


On another occasion, Dad suggested to me that all scripture is given with sufficient ambiguity that those desiring to misconstrue or misuse it will be able to do so. This, he held, was very deliberate on the Lord's part, for the way we interpret scripture becomes a measure not only of our understanding but also of our spiritual integrity.


The following counsel could just as well be categorized under the subject heading of evolution and the creation of man as the gathering of Israel. One can readily see that Elder McConkie’s scriptural teachings had the backing of the presidents of the Church:


Elder McConkie gave two landmark addresses on the gathering of Israel. The first was given in Mexico City while he was still a Seventy. This talk was quoted by President Harold B. Lee in a subsequent general conference. The second was given in an area conference in Lima, Peru, under the direction of President Spencer W. Kimball. Afterwards, President Kimball stood and said: "We have just listened to Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Council of the Twelve. He has given to us many great truths. It was a masterpiece. I hope you took many notes and then I hope you have recorded them in your minds and in your hearts. And I hope that you will watch for this article when it is published."

These addresses shattered several Mormon myths about the gathering and, as was to be expected, Elder McConkie received a number of letters intended to correct him. His response to one such letter was dated October 5, 1977. It evidenced the firmness with which he taught gospel principles and his response to those who, with considerable energy, sought to oppose what he had taught.

"In your letter of September 18, 1977, you take vigorous exception to what I have preached and written on various occasions relative to the gathering of Israel and the building up of the Latter-day Zion. You quote a great many passages of scripture relative to the gathering in the United States and interpret them to mean that before the Lord comes, all of the faithful saints in all of the nations of the world will be assembled to Jackson County and its environs so that a people will be prepared for our Lord's glorious advent.

"As a matter of policy I do not engage in theological debates or discussion on doctrinal matters. In appropriate instances I do recite what the doctrine of the Church is and let it go at that. People are then free to believe or disbelieve as they choose. I have no intention now to debate any issue with you or to make any further explanations of the doctrine of gathering than have been made in the published sources to which you refer.

"Under the circumstances, however, I think it is only fair to you to state that the very reason my articles have been written and my sermons have been delivered is to correct the false impressions which many members of the Church have relative to the gathering and which impressions have been restated by you in your letter. I am sure you would be wise enough to know that I have a complete awareness of all of the passages you quoted together with a great many others that bear on the same subject. The issue is not what they mean but those to whom they apply. Both President Harold B. Lee and President Spencer W. Kimball have taken an entirely different view of them than you have expressed. My recent article in the Ensign to which you refer was published under the direction of the First Presidency and the Twelve, in order to correct the views that you have written in your letter.

"It is not only the policy of the Church that Saints remain in the lands in which they live to build up the Church there, but it is also the doctrine that when the Lord comes he will find in every nation and among every people the Saints of God who, speaking every language, will then be qualified to live and reign on earth with him a thousand years. Whenever a stake of Zion is created in any part of the earth, that portion of the earth's surface becomes Zion and the gathering of Israel then consists of coming to that area. The Brazilians gather in Brazil, the British in Great Britain, the Japanese in Japan and so on. This is the doctrine of the Church. It is taught in the scriptures. I will not recite the proofs here. They are in the sources to which you have already referred.

"My counsel to you is that until and unless you come to an understanding of this doctrine, it would be wise to refrain from further discussion of it. We do not believe that the Saints will come out of all nations and gather to Jackson County before the Second Coming. We do believe that Zion will be built up in all nations before the Lord comes, and that after he arrives there will be added glorious things connected with the gathering of Israel. Many of the prophecies talk about a gathering after the Second Coming. Eventually the whole earth will become Zion.

"You stated very plainly that you thought I had misinterpreted the scriptures. Please do not be offended now when I tell you that my views are those of the Brethren and that your problem now is one of applying the scriptures you have quoted to the particular phase of the gathering of Israel that is involved in each instance. This is far more complex and extensive doctrine than many have supposed.

"We hope that people everywhere gradually will have the light dawn on them and know that the views that I have expressed are those that should and will prevail in the minds of Latter-day Saints. Please do not be offended at what I have written to you here. Believe as much of it as you can and if there is something you do not believe, please keep an open mind, study further, and eventually the glorious perspective that is here involved will dawn upon you."


            If only members of the church would follow this course with evolution and LGBT issues and so many others where the views of our corrupt modern society are at variance with revelation. God knows so much more than we do, such that the only way to stay in the course of truth is to believe and follow His word.




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