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An LDS Apostle’s Answers, Grounded in Mormon “Truth”

By Sharon Lindbloom
8 August 2017

MormonLeaks recently released “The McConkie Papers,” a series of 37 previously unpublished “sermons, lessons, and accounts” written by LDS Apostle Bruce R. McConkie. One of the files made available by MormonLeaks is “Answers Grounded in Truth,” a compilation of typed and (originally) handwritten, undated notes found in Mr. McConkie’s personal files.

About Bruce McConkie, Bill McKeever wrote,

“During his lifetime, Bruce Redd McConkie was probably one of the most popular theologians in the Mormon Church. This Mormon apostle regularly spoke at General Conferences, delivering a total of 69 messages since his installation as a General Authority in 1946. Today his speeches and writings are still quoted in LDS Church publications, including official church manuals. Although I rarely agree with his theological positions, I cannot fault him for writing what he truly believed. One thing that always impressed me about McConkie was that he did not shy away from expressing what he thought to be true. Compared to the spin and vagueness coming from today’s Mormon leadership, McConkie’s propensity to be blunt is something that I truly miss.” (“Bruce McConkie: Respected General Authority or Theological Hack?”)

Bruce McConkie died in 1985, but during his tenure as an LDS apostle Mormons admired, accepted, and believed him. His credentials as an LDS leader were impressive and he was trusted by the LDS Church to fully understand his religion and thereby teach nothing but the truth.

Given Bruce McConkie’s place as a trusted and respected Mormon theologian, coupled with his authority as an LDS apostle, some of the “Answers Grounded in Truth” found in his personal files are nothing short of astonishing. Although Mr. McConkie did not publish the answers he recorded to certain theology-related questions, there’s no reason to think that he didn’t believe what he wrote. Provided here are a few of Mr. McConkie’s answers grounded in what he believed to be truth.

Mr. McConkie was asked questions related to the creation of the earth regarding animals and plants. He answered:

“Animals were placed upon the earth in the same way Adam and Eve were: they were born of resurrected parents. A resurrected cow, for instance, came from an earth which has already passed through what we now experience, and through the normal birth processes had offspring…

“When they, the creators, that is all the noble and great ones who helped Elohim, Jehovah and Michael in the creation, when they helped they literally planted seeds. This we understand from both the temple account and the Pearl of Great Price accounts of the creation.

“Where did they get the seeds? From another sphere, from which they brought them. This means that the same kinds of animals and vegetables exist on all other worlds. The seeds came from some other planet, or planets. The same thing is true of horses, elephants and all animals. But this is so far beyond the saints that we don’t preach it.

“It means some resurrected elephants came and had offspring. Afterwards came the fall of Adam. All this is had in the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon. That’s why we don’t have the sealed portions. We’re trying to be kind to all the evolutionists at the BYU, hoping that if given time and opportunity, they will repent and believe the gospel. For political reasons we don’t tell them more.”

Though this may sound strange to non-Mormons, Mr. McConkie’s answers are a logical and natural reflection of the Mormon doctrine of pre-existence. Contrary to the biblical teaching that “it is not the spiritual that is first, but the natural, and then the spiritual” (1 Corinthians 15:46), Mormonism teaches that premortal spirit-life precedes mortal life on earth. BYU Professor Charles R. Harrell explained,

“A distinctive LDS teaching today regarding preexistence is that all living things—humans, animals, plant life, and even the earth itself—had a preexistence as spirts. The idea that the trillions upon trillions of insects and noxious weeds have spirits that existed for aeons prior to their fleeting and seemingly insignificant existence on earth is a curious thought. Even more astounding is the notion they will be resurrected to immortal glory at some unspecified time in the future.” (‘This is my Doctrine’: The Development of Mormon Theology, 212)

Another question Mr. McConkie was asked was about clarification regarding “the great and spacious building” mentioned in the Book of Mormon. In 1 Nephi 8, a vision was recorded by a Book of Mormon prophet. He saw a strange building full of people who mocked and scoffed at others who chose to partake of the fruit of the tree of life. Mr. McConkie had little doubt regarding the identity of “the great and spacious building,” as well as identification of the biblical “mark of the beast” (see Revelation 14):

“Once while I was in England, in the Salisbury Cathedral, the thought came to me that the great and spacious building which Nephi saw was probably St. Peter’s Basillica. After all, he saw the great and abominable church, which is headquartered in Rome, and Rome’s greatest and most spacious building is St. Peter’s Basillica. I can similarly reason about the mark of the beast: I know what the beast is—that is, which church it is—and what sign, or mark—the sign of the cross—it has used over the generations to symbolize its presence, pre-eminence and worship.”

Mr. McConkie’s antipathy toward Roman Catholicism is well-known. In the 1958 edition of his encyclopedic book, Mormon Doctrine, his entry for “Catholicism” directed, “See Church of the Devil” (108). Therefore, it is no surprise that Mr. McConkie’s “answers grounded in truth” connected the Catholic Church with the Book of Mormon’s “great and abominable church” (1 Nephi 13:6) and “the great and spacious building” (1 Nephi 8:26). Perhaps more surprising for non-Mormons are his remarks concerning the “mark of the beast.”

The “mark of the beast” as mentioned in the Bible is understood to be something that identifies followers who are loyal to the Anti-Christ, and seals them to this enemy of God. Though shocking for Christians, Mr. McConkie’s idea that this mark would be the symbol of the cross is consistent with Mormon tradition. Mormonism has shunned the symbol of the cross for a very long time, seeing it as an element of death and an emblem of Apostasy. Yet for Christians, the enduring symbol of the cross signifies allegiance and devotion to Christ. As the biblical apostle Paul taught, Christians “glory in the cross” because, the Bible says, “the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (Galatians 6:14; 1 Corinthians 1:18).

Mr. McConkie was someone who believed himself to be – and who was believed by Latter-day Saints to be – a true apostle of the true God, endowed with power and authority to speak for the Almighty. But his answers – far from being grounded in the truth God has revealed in the Bible – were contrary to biblical truth. Yet they faithfully represented Mormonism, a religion that diverges from Christianity at every turn.

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