Tuesday, September 26, 2006

McKay vs. publication of 'Mormon Doctrine'

Article Last Updated: 5/07/2005 01:25 AM=20
McKay vs. publication of 'Mormon Doctrine'=20
By Gregory Prince and Wm. Robert Wright
Salt Lake Tribune =20
Here is an excerpt from David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism:=20
A similar [controversy] occurred when Joseph Fielding Smith's
son-in-law, Bruce R. McConkie, then a member of the First Council of
the Seventy quietly wrote and published an encyclopedic book with the
presumptuous title of Mormon Doctrine.
[David O.] McKay's first step was to obtain a copy of the book and
study it. One of his secretaries noted, "He went through the whole
thing. He had paper clips [on the pages where he had a question], and
there were hundreds of them there." Then he summoned two senior
apostles, Mark E. Petersen and Marion G. Romney. "I asked them if they
would together go over Elder Bruce R. McConkie's book, Mormon Doctrine
and make a list of the corrections that should be made preparatory to
his sending out an addendum to all members of the church who have
purchased his book." . . .
Peterson and Romney took ten months to critique the book and make
their report to the First Presidency. Romney submitted a lengthy
letter on January 7, 1960, detailing what he felt were the most
egregious errors in the book and noting: "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.' "
On the same day, Petersen gave McKay an oral report in which he
recommended 1,067 corrections that "affected most of the 776 pages of
the book." Their reports placed McKay on the horns of a dilemma: How
could he regain control of doctrinal exposition without destroying
McConkie's credibility and career? . . .
. . . The following day, McKay and his counselors made their
decision. The book "must not be republished, as it is full of errors
and misstatements. . . . We do not want him to publish another
edition. We decided, also, to have no more books published by General
Authorities without their first having the consent of the First
Presidency." . . . McKay's message seems to have been unambiguous.
Nonetheless, McConkie audaciously approached McKay six years later and
pushed for publication of the book in a revised form, albeit with the
same title and general tone. At this point 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, Mc=C2Conkie wrote in a memo to
Clare Middlemiss, Mc=C2Kay's secretary, "President McKay indicated that
the book should be republished at this time." Mc=C2Conkie, who practiced
law prior to becoming a General Authority, was well versed in the
legal meaning of words; and so one is hard pressed to conclude that he
misunderstood Mc=C2Kay's cautionary statement, "should the book be
re-published," as a mandate to republish.
Instead, he moved with the same boldness of eight years earlier,
and published a second edition of Mormon Doctrine. The book became one
of the all-time best sellers in Mormondom, achieving the
near-canonical status that McKay had fought unsuccessfully to avoid,
and setting a tone of doctrinal fundamentalism, antithetical to
McKay's personal philosophy, that remains a legacy of the church to
this day.

No comments: