In 1958, Bruce R. McConkie published a book entitled “Mormon Doctrine” which was designed to cover a wide variety of topics with brief explanations like an encyclopedia. At the time, he was a member of the First Council of the Seventy in the Mormon Church and would later become an apostle in 1972.
Critics like to pick out very select quotes from this encyclopedia work, particularly from the first edition, and use those quotes to portray official Mormon doctrine. However, they completely ignore the context for the book.
1. Bruce R. McConkie gave a disclaimer at the front of the book, stating that he alone was responsible for the doctrinal and spirtiual interpretations.
It’s clear that McConkie obviously did not mean to infer that everything within the book was official Mormon doctrine, but instead were his opinions and conjecture from the things that he had learned in his personal story.
2. The prophet and apostles of the Mormon Church disagreed with many parts of it.
After a meeting between the prophet and his two counselors, President David O. McKay’s notes read, “We decided that Bruce R. McConkie’s book, ‘Mormon Doctrine’ recently published from Bookcraft Company, must not be re-published, as it is full of errors and misstatements, and it is unfortunate that is has received such wide circulation.”
Another example is that Apostle Mark E. Petersen’s copy of the first edition marks 1,067 corrections.
3. Numerous corrections were made before being re-published.
Though McConkie agreed to not re-publish the book, he later approached President McKay and asked permission to do so. In 1966, President David O. McKay instructed McConkie that he could re-publish the book if many changes were made. Another Mormon leader, Spencer W. Kimball, was assigned to be McConkie’s mentor in making the changes. After a vast number of changes were made, in both content and tone, the book was re-published.
Even in its revised form today, McConkie’s “Mormon Doctrine” book is still not considered official Mormon doctrine, but well-considered opinion. Therefore, while many critics try to pull out very narrow quotes, usually from the error-prone first edition, it’s clear that its contents should not be construed as Mormon doctrine.