Bruce R. McConkie and
The Mormon Doctrine Saga
“When the time comes that you are called in and rebuked for something that you did that was right and proper, you stand and take it, you offer no excuses just take it.”
Bruce R. McConkie; advice to his son, Joseph Fielding McConkie
Even if they don’t own a copy of it, most Latter-Day Saints are familiar with a hefty volume called Mormon Doctrine by Bruce R. McConkie, who was a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy when he wrote and published it. It is truly a spectacular and extensive resource outlining how the doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints applies on a topic-by-topic basis.
Interesting enough, though, when it was first published in 1958 it garnered a great deal of controversy, and was subsequently pulled from shelves in early 1960. Later a revised edition was published and released several years later. A great deal of speculation went on as to why that occurred — for a volume with a title of Mormon Doctrine is no small matter.
In December of 2003, Bruce R. McConkie’s son, Joseph Fielding McConkie published a biographical recollection of his father called The Bruce R. McConkie Story: Reflections of a Son. An entire chapter, called The Mormon Doctrine Saga, is dedicated to telling the story of what happened with the book’s first publication, why it was pulled, and what was changed upon its re-release. The following represents relevant segments of this chapter 12 (emphasis added):
Question: What was all the flap and fuss about Mormon Doctrine, anyway?
Response: The first edition of Mormon Doctrine, released in 1958, caused something of a stir by directly identifying Roman Catholicism as the “great and abominable church” spoken of by Nephi in the Book of Mormon. The authoritative tone of the book was also a concern, with the question being asked, “What right does Bruce McConkie have to speak for the Church?” The book came in for some criticism because of the strong language in which it denounced marginal practices among Latter-day Saints, such as card games in which face cards were used [Ed. note: there’s a good deal of mystic and occult symbology within the suits and face-card images of traditional poker decks] and family reunions that were held on the Sabbath.
Question: Is it true that President David O. McKay banned the book?
Response: In January 1960, President McKay asked Elder McConkie not