Last night on KUTV in Utah, an announcement was made which signals the end of an era. It was reported that Bruce R. McConkie’s Mormon Doctrine will no longer be published by the Church, and that it will not be sold by Deseret Book. Since I didn’t see the newscast, I’m not sure what reasons were given, but one viewer stated, “Why? For tighter correlative control, because of the book’s embarrassing clarity, and because of some controversial assertions in the book.” He also said that the publisher asserted the book was withdrawn because of poor sales.
Sandra Tanner was interviewed on the 5:30 segment of the news, with her collection of every edition of McConkie’s book. She provided me with her view of the decision:
I believe the main reason McConkie’s “Mormon Doctrine” was taken out of print was due to its candid discussion of LDS doctrines that the church is now trying to hide. Such teachings as God once being a man, his wife–Heavenly Mother, and Jesus being the literal, physical son of God are just a few of the doctrines that are being minimized in current manuals. If the LDS Church felt “Mormon Doctrine” presented a faulty compilation of their doctrines, why haven’t they issued an authorized compendium of their beliefs? Mormons often say to me, “That’s not official doctrine” as though there was some place to look up the official teachings. Where is the official systematic theology of Mormonism?
Interestingly, KUTV has posted their news stories from last night online, omitting any mention of this segment. There is speculation that it was held due to criticism of the way it was reported. We will update you here as more details become available.
Written in 1958, Mormon Doctrine has served as a reference book for members of the Church for over 50 years, but has recently gone out of vogue. References to McConkie’s work were taken out of the Gospel Principles manual when it was reissued this year for use in Priesthood and Relief Society classes. Now it seems it is being further phased out. It is only surprising that this has not been done before, since Mormon Doctrine has not enjoyed the support of every member of the highest Church Councils over the years.
I’d like to hold a little “In Memoriam” session here at Mormon Matters for Bruce R. McConkie’s Mormon Doctrine. It was the first book I ever purchased when a brand-new convert in 1979, in the authoritative-looking black-and-gold binding. It was the perfect place for a convert to go for a source of Church teachings in a pre-internet age. Thus, it shaped much of my early thinking about the Church. This was the third edition, having been revised to be “more moderate” in 1966, and then again in 1978 after the Priesthood revelation. Much of the Bible Dictionary in our current editions of the LDS scriptures come directly from Mormon Doctrine. McConkie himself described it as “the first major attempt to digest, explain, and analyze all of the important doctrines of the kingdom” and “the first extensive compendium of the whole gospel—the first attempt to publish an encyclopedic commentary covering the whole field of revealed religion.” Its teachings have had a major impact upon several generations of Latter-day Saints.
How have you been impacted by Mormon Doctrine?