I wanted to start a new series on the book Mormon Doctrine, by Bruce R. McConkie. Some have referred to this book (no longer being published) as “Bruce’s Doctrine.” In Greg Prince’s biography of David O. McKay, Prince cited a study by some general authorities that the book had over 1000 errors. The first edition of the book was published in 1958, and is now a collector’s item. (This one is currently for sale at a price tag of a mere $2000!) I purchased a 1979 second edition for $5.95.
The Second edition was first published in 1966, and some of the language has softened, but I thought it might be interesting to look at some of these so-called errors and get your opinions on whether the 2nd version was a big improvement, or if there were still things to be desired. (I’m curious why the 1979 version is not considered a Third Edition.) Because Bruce’s writings have often been criticized for his writings of blacks, I thought that would be the first place to start. I want to thank one of our wonderful readers (a lurker that rarely comments) for offering me a copy of a first edition to compare with my second edition. (Thank you anonymous person!!! I am extremely grateful.) I am also amused that the 1958 term “Negroes” was used instead of either “Blacks” or “African-Americans.”
|1958 Version “Negroes”||Deletions and Additions||1979 version “Negroes”|
|See Cain, Ham, Pre-existence, Priesthood, Races of Men.In the pre-existent eternity various degrees of valiance and devotion to the truth were exhibited by different groups of our Father’s spirit offspring. One-third of the spirit hosts of heaven came out in open rebellion and were cast our without bodies, becoming the devil and his angels. (D&C 29:36-41; Rev 12:3-9.) The other two-thirds stood affirmatively for Christ; there were no neutrals. To stand neutral in the midst of war is a philosophical impossibility. The Lord said: “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.” (Matt. 12:30)||See Cain, Ham, Pre-existence, Priesthood, Races of Men.
||See Cain, Ham, Pre-existence, Priesthood, Races of Men.As with all men, Negroes are the mortal descendants of Adam and the spirit children of the Eternal Father. They come to earth to gain mortal bodies and be subject to the probationary experiences of the present life.|
|Of the two-thirds who followed Christ, however, some were more valiant than others. Adam and all the prophets so distinguished themselves by diligence and obedience as to be foreordained to their high earthly missions. (Abr. 3:20-24) The whole house of Israel was chosen in pre-existence to come to mortality as children of Jacob. (Deut. 32:7-8) Those who were less valiant in pre-existence and who thereby had certain spiritual restrictions imposed upon them during mortality are known to us as the negroes. Such spirits are sent to earth through the lineage of Cain, the mark put upon him for his rebellion against God and his murder of Abel being a black skin. (Moses 5:16-41; 7:8, 12, 22.) Noah’s son Ham married Egyptus, thus preserving the negro lineage through the flood. (Abr. 1:20-27.)||In the providences of the Lord the gospel and all its attendant blessings are offered to one nation and people after another. During Jesus’ mortal ministry he and his disciples took the gospel to the house of Israel only; after his resurrection the word went forth to the Gentiles also. Those who live when the gospel is not on earth may receive its blessings in the spirit world after death.|
|Negroes in this life are denied the priesthood; under no circumstances can they hold this delegation of authority from the Almighty. (Abr. 1:20-27) The gospel message of salvation is not carried affirmatively to them (Moses 7:8, 12, 22), although sometimes negroes search out the truth, join the Church, and become by righteous living heirs of the celestial kingdom of heaven. President Brigham Young and others have taught that in the future eternity worthy and qualified negroes will receive the priesthood and every gospel blessing available to any man. (Way to Perfection, pp. 97-111.)||In all past ages and until recent times in this dispensation, the Lord did not offer the priesthood to the Negroes. However, on June 1, 1978, in the Salt Lake Temple, in the presence of the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve, President Spencer W. Kimball received a revelation from the Lord directing the gospel and the priesthood should now go to all men without reference to race or color.|
|The present status of the negro rests purely and simply on the foundation of pre-existence. Along with all races and people he is receiving here what he merits as a result of the long pre-mortal probation in the presence of the Lord. The principle is the same as will apply when all men are judged according to their mortal works and are awarding to their mortal works and are awarded varying statuses in the life hereafter.||This means that worthy males of all races can now receive the Melchizedek Priesthood, perform ordinances, and hold positions of presidency and responsibility. It means that members of all races may now be married in the temple, although interracial marriages are discouraged by the Brethren, and that the full blessings of the gospel may be made available to their ancestors through vicarious temple ordinances. It also means that Negro members of the Church may now perform missionary service and should bear the burdens of the kingdom equally with all other members of the Church.|
|In this connection it should be noted that other nations, also, have had lesser restrictions placed on them as pertaining to receipt of the gospel truths in this life. Christ limited his ministry to the lost sheep of the house of Israel and did not preach to the Gentiles. (Matt. 15:24.) He sent his apostles out initially with the same restriction (Matt. 10:5-6), and it was with some difficulty he persuaded them to go to all men when the period of Israel’s prior rights had expired. (Mark 16:15; Acts 10)||This new revelation is one of the signs of the times. It opens the door to the spread of the gospel among all people before the Second Coming in fulfillment of many scriptural promises. It has been received with joy and rejoicing thought the Church and is one of the evidences of the divinity of the Lord’s great latter-day work.|
|The negroes are not equal with other races where the receipt of certain spiritual blessings are concerned, particularly the priesthood and the temple blessings that flow therefrom, but this inequality is not of man’s origin. It is the Lord’s doing, is based on his eternal laws of justice, and grows out of the lack of spiritual valiance of those concerned in their first estate. Certainly the negroes as children of God are entitled to equality before the law and to be treated with all the dignity and respect of any member of the human race. Many of them certainly live according to higher standards of decency and right in this life than do some of their brothers of other races, a situation that will cause judgment to be laid “to the line, and righteousness to the plummet” (Isa. 28:17) in the day of judgment.||The official document announcing the new revelation, signed by the First Presidency (Spencer W. Kimball, N. Eldon Tanner, and Marion G. Romney) and dated June 8, 1978, is as follows:|
|“As we have witnessed the expansion of the work of the Lord over the earth, we have been grateful that people of many nations have responded to the message of the restored gospel, and have joined the Church in ever-increasing numbers. This, in turn, has inspired us with a desire to extend to every worthy member of the Church all of the privileges and blessings which the gospel affords.”|
|“Aware of the promises made by the prophets and presidents of the Church who have preceded us that at some time, in God’s eternal plan, all of our brethren who are worthy may receive the priesthood, and witnessing the faithfulness of those from whom the priesthood has been withheld, we have pleaded long and earnestly in behalf of these, our faithful brethren, spending many hours in the Upper Room of the Temple supplicating the Lord for divine guidance.”|
|“He has heard our prayers, and by revelation has confirmed that the long-promised day has come when every faithful, worthy man in the Church may receive the holy priesthood, with power to exercise its divine authority, and enjoy with his loved ones every blessing that flows therefrom, including the blessings of the temple. Accordingly, all worthy male members of the Church may be ordained to the priesthood without regard for race or color. Priesthood leaders are instructed to follow the policy of carefully interviewing all candidates for ordination to either the Aaronic or the Melchizedek Priesthood to insure that they meet the established standards for worthiness.”|
|“We declare with soberness that the Lord has now made known his will for the blessing of all his children throughout the earth who will hearken to the voice of his authorized servants, and prepare themselves to receive every blessing of the gospel.”|
From the revisions, it seems that the following errors happened in the First Edition.
(1) Pre-existent explanations were wrong. (However the 1979 entry for “Races of men” still says “The race and nation in which men are born in this world is a direct result of pre-existent life.”
(2) Mark of Cain was wrong. (However, the 1979 entry “Cain” states “The Lord placed on Cain a mark of a dark skin, and he became the ancestor of the black race. (Moses 5; Genesis 4; Teachings, p. 169)”
I find it a bit disturbing that he was still claiming the “how good you are in the past life determines your station in this life” drivel in 1979.
I had a missionary companion who took that to the next step and claimed that people born into the church must have lived better in the past life. His book may no longer be published, but his false teachings continue.
I have a first edition — 1958, 4th printing, and a second edition 1966, third printing that I used on my mission from 1967 t0 1970 (what a young’un ‘twas is then, but such a geezer is I now!)
However, if you think McConkie’s first edition racist rhetoric is bad, (among other things) you oughta read ‘For What Purpose’ by Alvin R. Dyer. When President Monson came to our mission, it was communicated through the zone leaders that he wanted (demanded? requested?) every copy of that talk turned into the mission office. I didn’t relinquish mine. Why not? I don’t know, but I still have it — the “cursed yellow race” and the rest of the whole hot tamale.
Wow, I’d like to see a copy of that. I do know a little of Dyer’s history. Any way I could get a copy? (Could you convert to a pdf?) You can email me at mormon heretic at gmail dot com.
I am going to look for it. I think I know where it is. It’s been a long time since I’ve looked at it. I don’t think I want to ‘release it’, or at this time, anyway. It obviously makes the church look bad. I mean, okay, targeting Blacks we all know about, but the “cursed” Yellow race, too?! It would be funny if it wasn’t so pathetic. As I remember he talks about birth circumstances a person is born into relative to his or her worthiness in the pre-existence. He also correlates the three sons of Noah with the three categories of intelligences mentioned in the PofGP. Also, as I recall, he also gives a fairly detailed breakdown of the progenitors of every ‘race’ (nationality). Stuff like that.
Oh, what did I do in the pre-existence to merit being born where I was, and WHITE! Well, a nice shade of light brown (I’m Italian).
If you’d like, I’d be willing to phone and read it to you sometime. Let me know and then I’ll email you my phone number and I can phone you right back if you’d like (I have a Canada/US phone plan).
I’ll go look for it and email you when I find it.
The Dyer talk is not difficult to find online.
Thanks Last Lemming, I think I found it. Vikingz, does this look like your talk? http://probationarystate.blogspot.com/2010/09/alvin-r-dyer-for-what-purpose.html
Wonder of wonders — not! I suppose this is another validation of what the ‘Preacher’ said in that there really isn’t anything new under the sun.
Yes it’s pretty much the same. Actually it’s a little more. My 8 page, single spaced ‘ancient’ copy that was typed, doesn’t have the beginning preamble about the Korean war. But other than that, it pretty much all there. Also, my copy says ‘March 19, 1962’ instead of 1961 as in this on-line sourse.
However, there is nothing in that talk that says ‘cursed yellow race’. Another lesson for me that memory can be very faulty, especially after forty or fifty years. Still, why did I reference that phrase in my mind to this talk? Did I read it from another source? Or, it just may be the result of an overextended inference when he says:
“Why is it that you are white and not colored? Have you ever asked yourself that question? Who had anything to do with your being born into the Church? Why not born a Chinese or a Hindu or a Negro”
“This is why you have colored people, why you have dark people, and why you have white people.”
“…to be born as a cursed member of the black race or to be cursed as one of the other people on the earth who have been cursed.”
Some other interesting sites right along with what Dyer was promulgating that I found on-line are:
Anyway, according to Dyer: “If you’re white you’re right; if you’re brown, stick around; if you’re black, you’re in the back (or ‘stay back’ as McKonkie taught me in my SLC, one week mission home training back in the day “And if you track out a Negro and get a come-back appointment, DO NOT GO BACK.” — pretty sure my memory serves me right on that one).”
What the mind of man can come up with to justify their actions and biases.
I always found Mormon doctrine to be a jarring book. In my youth it seemed that it was regarded as almost scripture. Until recently we still had an old guy in or ward who would religiously quote from it during talks and in Sunday school. Several people in the congregation would become uncomfortable when he started quoting from the book. I think the Bishop might of had a talk with him cause he hasn’t used it recently.
I’m just happy that we are distancing our selves from that old stuff.
astrallds – I have heard talks in Sacrament Meeting where it was not only used but referred to as the “Stick of Bruce.”
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You wrote: “I am also amused that the 1958 term “Negroes” was used instead of either “Blacks” or “African-Americans.” You may be amused, but the term is historically accurate. The term “Negro” was commonplace for most of the 20th century, and other terms such as “black” and “African-American” started to gain traction in the last quarter of the century. For Elder McConkie to have used either “black” or “African American” in his first editions would have been an anachronism and some future historian might claim the book a forgery for it.
I am not defending Elder McConkie for his use of the draconian term “Negro” but we need to soften our criticism when viewed through late 20th – early 21st century eyes. Spot on!
You wrote: “I am also amused that the 1958 term “Negroes” was used instead of either “Blacks” or “African-Americans.” The term “Negro” is historically accurate for the time as it was commonplace for most of the 20th century; other terms such as “black” and “African-American” started to gain traction in the last quarter of the century. For Elder McConkie to have used either “black” or “African American” in his first editions would have been an anachronism and some future historian might claim the book a forgery for it.
Perhaps we need to soften our criticism when viewed through late 20th – early 21st century eyes.