Mormon Doctrine (book)
- "Mormon Doctrine" redirects here. For articles on the doctrines of Mormonism, see Category:Latter Day Saint doctrines, beliefs, and practices.
Mormon Doctrine (originally subtitled A Compendium of the Gospel) is an encyclopedic work written in 1958 by Bruce R. McConkie, a general authority of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). It was intended primarily for a Latter-day Saint audience and is often used as a reference book by church members because of its comprehensive nature. It was not and has never been an official publication of the church, and it has been both heavily criticized by some church leaders and members, while well regarded by others. After the book's first edition was removed from publication at the instruction of the church's First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, corrections were made in subsequent editions. The book went through three editions, but as of 2010, it is out of print.
In 1958, McConkie, who was at the time a member of the First Council of the Seventy of the LDS Church, published a book entitled Mormon Doctrine: A Compendium of the Gospel, which he described as "the first major attempt to digest, explain, and analyze all of the important doctrines of the kingdom" and "the first extensive compendium of the whole gospel—the first attempt to publish an encyclopedic commentary covering the whole field of revealed religion." He included a disclaimer that he alone was responsible for the doctrinal and scriptural interpretations, a practice unusual at the time.
In writing the book, McConkie relied heavily upon the LDS Church's scriptures and recognized doctrinal authorities including Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Orson Pratt, John Taylor, and Joseph Fielding Smith.
Scrutiny by church leaders
Church leaders were surprised by its publication (since he had not asked permission and was not asked to develop such a work) and responded that while they applauded the attempt of the book to fill a need, it used a harsh tone. Apostle Mark E. Petersen said it was "full of errors and misstatements, and it is most unfortunate that it has received such wide circulation."
On January 5, 1959, apostle Marion G. Romney was assigned by church president David O. McKay to read and report on the book. His report was delivered on January 28, which mainly "dealt with Elder McConkie's usage of forceful, blunt language; some strongly worded statements about ambiguous doctrine and matters of opinion; and the overall authoritative tone throughout the book, though in general Romney had a high regard for Mormon Doctrine and felt it filled an evident need remarkably well." The report concluded, "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.'"
Nearly a year later, after meeting to discuss the book, the January 8, 1960 office notes of McKay reflect that:
"We [the First Presidency of the church] 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."
McKay called Joseph Fielding Smith on January 27, 1960, to inform him of the decision to not allow further publication of the book:
[McKay] 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 ... are corrected.' Brother Smith agreed with this suggestion to report to the Twelve, and said, 'That is the best thing to do.'
When the First Presidency met with McConkie about their decision, he responded, "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 his biography of his father, Joseph Fielding McConkie states that six years later:
"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 [of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles] was assigned to be Elder McConkie’s mentor in making those changes. ... 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."
Other accounts of the meeting suggest that McConkie sought out permission and generously interpreted McKay's counsel:
McConkie audaciously approached McKay six years later and pushed for publication of the book in a revised form .… McKay, age ninety-two and in failing health, did not take the matter up with his counselors or the Quorum of the Twelve. Rather, he said that 'should the book be re-published at this time,' McConkie would be responsible for it and 'that it will not be a Church publication.'
Three days after meeting with McKay, McConkie wrote in a memo to Clare Middlemiss, McKay's secretary, "President McKay indicated that the book should be republished at this time".
The second edition of Mormon Doctrine, with its approved revisions, was published in 1966. Horne states, "The most obvious difference between the two editions is a more moderate tone."
A third edition of the book was published in 1978 after church president Spencer W. Kimball received a revelation that the priesthood should be extended to all worthy male members.
While the large majority of the Bible Dictionary included with the LDS Church's publication of the Bible in 1979 borrows from the Cambridge University Press bible dictionary, modifications were made to some entries to better reflect Mormon beliefs, and Mormon Doctrine heavily influenced those changes.
For example, the entry for "Abraham, covenant of" in the Bible Dictionary is exactly the same as the entry for "Abrahamic covenant" in Mormon Doctrine, with the exception of one paragraph. Many other Bible Dictionary entries teach identical concepts with closely paralleled wording as corresponding entries in Mormon Doctrine.
In 1972, McConkie was called to serve in the Quorum of Twelve Apostles by church president Harold B. Lee.
Out of print
Citing poor sales, Deseret Book opted in 2010 to cease printing Mormon Doctrine. Despite Deseret Book's claim that the decision was based on declining sales, some observers opined that the move was due to the book's uncompromising presentation of controversial Mormon ideas from which the church is attempting to distance itself. Aaron Shafovaloff of the blog Mormon Coffee stated that the book's Amazon.com sales rank was far higher than many other Mormon titles that are still in print. A story on KUTV reported that local Salt Lake City booksellers reported consistently strong sales of the book.
- Horne, Dennis B. (2000). Bruce R. McConkie: Highlights From His Life & Teachings. Eborn Books. ISBN 1-890718-01-7.
- Paul, Erich Robert (1992). Science, Religion, and Mormon Cosmology. University of Illinois Press. p. 179. ISBN 978-0-252-01895-4. Retrieved 2009-07-21..
- Prince, Gregory; Wm. Robert Wright (2005). David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism. University of Utah Press. p. 50–52. ISBN 0-87480-822-7.
- McConkie, Joseph Fielding (2003). The Bruce R. McConkie Story: Reflections of a Son. Deseret Book. ISBN 1-59038-205-6.
- Lavina Fielding Anderson, “Church Publishes First LDS Edition of the Bible”, Ensign, Oct. 1979, 9.
- Stack, Peggy Fletcher (21 May 2010). "Landmark 'Mormon Doctrine' goes out of print". Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved 2010-05-31.
- "Bruce McConkie’s 'Mormon Doctrine' out of print due to low sales.". 23 May 2010.
- "Church-Owned Deseret Book Stops Publishing McConkie’s 'Mormon Doctrine', Claiming 'Low Sales'". 20 May 2010.
- "Publisher Stops Printing Popular LDS Book". 20 May 2010.
- "A Requiem for Bruce R. McConkie’s Mormon Doctrine" : A discussion of Mormon Doctrine on Mormon Expression