What’s Wrong With “Mormon Doctrine”?

In 1958, Elder Bruce R. McConkie (then a member of the Church’s Quorum of the Seventy, the third highest Quorum in the Church) published a book entitled “Mormon Doctrine”.  It set out, in alphabetical order, his views on hundreds of different subjects relating to the Church, ranging from “The Atonement” to “Playing Cards”.

Though not an “official” Church publication, Elder McConkie was a noted and respected scriptorian, and his forceful and certain tone throughout the book gives it an air of authority.  Soon after it was published, the first edition of the book fell under criticism for some of it’s more unusual and ascerbic claims (the most notable one being that the Catholic Church is “The Church of the Devil” as described in The Book of Mormon).  Higher church authorities discussed the matter, and to make a long story short, the book was issued in a revised second edition in 1966.  After the revelation giving blacks the priesthood in 1978,  it was further revised, and that is the edition available today.

Before his death, Elder McConkie became a member of the LDS Quorum of the 12 apostles, making him a high-ranking authority and one of the 15 men LDS revere as “apostles”.  Since his death, Elder McConkie’s writings, including “Mormon Doctrine”, have enjoyed continued popularity, and he is one of the most quoted Church leaders in the Church’s own scripture lesson manuals and curriculum.

While many of the statements made by Elder McConkie have become outdated and fallen out of fashion in Mormon culture, “Mormon Doctrine”  continues to be published and sold to this day (even in Deseret Book, the LDS Church-owned bookstore). [Edit: As of March 2010, it appears the book is no longer in print or available at Deseret Book – CP] LDS Scholars who support the Theory of Evolution and other more “nuanced” understandings of the scriptures are those most likely to find themselves teaching things contradictory to Elder McConkie.

Whenever the topic of “Mormon Doctrine” comes up, people tend to downplay the book, as if it were harmless or “mostly correct”.  I agree it is “mostly correct”, but I think perhaps it is time to let the book go out of print and fade away (as has almost ever other book published by an LDS General Authority during the 1960’s.  When was the last time you saw “An Abundant Life” by Hugh B. Brown on sale at Deseret Book?)  And why?

Here are some of the many statements made in “Mormon Doctrine” that, at the very least, do not reflect the opinions of many modern Church members and leaders.  I won’t note why each one has fallen out of favor in some circles, but I will say that if these statements are true in general, apologetic scholarship on the Book of Mormon and creation of the Earth has run off doctrinal the rails, and scholars and apologists are living in a  state of delusion:

American Indians “When Columbus discovered America, the native inhabitants, the American Indians as they were soon to be designated, were a people of mixed blood and origin. Chiefly they were Lamanites, but such remnants of the Nephite nation as had not been destroyed had, of course, mingled with the Lamanites. (1 Ne. 13:30; 2 Ne. 3:1-3; 9:53; Alma 45:13-14; D. & C. 3:16-19.) Thus the Indians were Jews by nationality (D. & C. 57:4), their forefathers having come out from Jerusalem, from the kingdom of Judah. (2 Ne. 33:8-10.)”


Since the days of the Spanish conquests and colonizations of Mexico and South America, there has been further dilution of the pure Lamanitish blood. But with it all, for the great majority of the descendants of the original inhabitants of the Western Hemisphere, the dominant blood lineage is that of Israel. The Indians are repeatedly called Lamanites in the revelations to the Prophet, and the promise is that in due course they “shall blossom as the rose” (D. & C. 49:24), that is, become again a white and delightsome people as were their ancestors a great many generations ago.

Animals They were all created as spirit entities in pre-existence. (Moses 3:1-9.) When first placed on earth in the Garden of Eden, they were immortal. The revealed record, speaking of the edenic day, specifies: “All things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end.” (2 Ne. 2:22.) Such would have been the continuing condition had there been no fall of Adam, but Adam and all forms of life were subject to the fall and have been living on earth in their mortal states ever since.

Article on Marriage

When the Prophet returned (in 1835) and learned of the action taken relative to the publication of the article on marriage, he was greatly troubled. However, knowing that up to that date the new and everlasting covenant of marriage had only been revealed in principle, that there was as yet no command to practice it, and that the power and keys had not been restored whereby marriages could be solemnized so they would endure for eternity, he let the action stand. The higher order was to come later.


Adam’s fall brought temporal (natural) and spiritual death into the world. The temporal or natural death means that body and spirit separate, the spirit going to a world of waiting spirits to await the day of the resurrection, the body returning to the dust, the primal element, from which it was taken. The effects of this fall passed upon all created things.

Thus when man fell the earth fell together with all forms of life on its face. Death entered; procreation began; the probationary experiences of mortality had their start. Before this fall there was neither mortality, nor birth, nor death, nor — for that matter — did Adam so much as have blood in his veins (and the same would be true for other forms of life), for blood is an element pertaining only to mortality.


However, for our present purposes, it is sufficient to know that the time element since mortal life began on earth is specifically and pointedly made known. We are now nearing the end of the 6th thousand years of this earth’s “continuance, or its temporal existence,” and the millennial era will commence “in the beginning of the seventh thousand years.” (D. & C. 77.) That is, we are approaching the end of the 6th of the periods of one thousand years each, all of which periods have occurred since the fall, since the earth became temporal, since it gained its telestial status, since it became the natural earth that we know, since death and mortality entered the scene. Thus the period during which birth, and life, and death have been occurring on this earth is less than 6,000 years.


How weak and puerile the intellectuality which, knowing that the Lord’s plan takes all forms of life from a pre-existent spirit state, through mortality, and on to an ultimate resurrected state of immortality, yet finds comfort in the theoretical postulates that mortal life began in the scum of the sea, as it were, and has through eons of time evolved to its present varieties and state! Do those with spiritual insight really think that the infinite Creator of worlds without number would operate in this way?


Merely to list the basic doctrines of the gospel is to point out the revealed truths which are inharmonious with the theories of organic evolution and which were to taken into account by those who postulated those theories. In addition to the considerations so far mentioned attention might be given to revelation, visions, and angelic ministrations; to miracles, signs, and gifts of the Spirit; to the enjoyment of the gift of the Holy Ghost by the faithful; to the truths comprising the plan of salvation; to the decreed judgment according to works, and the ultimate assignment of all resurrected men to kingdoms or degrees of glory hereafter.

There is no harmony between the truths of revealed religion and the theories of organic evolution.

First Man

There were no pre-Adamites; the great archangel Michael, who descended from the courts of glory to be the father of the human race, was appointed to be the father of all living. Indeed, Adam and Eve were not able to have children and provide bodies for the spirit children of the Father until after the fall.

Plural Marriage

Obviously the holy practice will commence again after the Second Coming of the Son of Man and the ushering in of the millennium.

Flood of Noah

In the days of Noah the Lord sent a universal flood which completely immersed the whole earth and destroyed all flesh except that preserved on the ark. (Gen. 6; 7; 8; 9; Moses 7:38-45; 8; Ether 13:2.) “Noah was born to save seed of everything, when the earth was washed of its wickedness by the flood.” (Teachings, p. 12.) This flood was the baptism of the earth; before it occurred the land was all in one place, a condition that will again prevail during the millennial era. (D. & C. 133:23-24.)

There is no question but what many of the so-called geological changes in the earth’s surface, which according to geological theories took place over ages of time, in reality occurred in a matter of a few short weeks incident to the universal deluge. (Man: His Origin and Destiny, pp. 414-436.)

Birth Control

(Quoting President Joseph F. Smith:) : “I regret, I think it is a crying evil, that there should exist a sentiment or a feeling among any members of the Church to curtail the birth of their children. I think that is a crime wherever it occurs, where husband and wife are in possession of health and vigor and are free from impurities that would be entailed upon their posterity. I believe that where people undertake to curtail or prevent the birth of their children that they are going to reap disappointment by and by. I have no hesitancy in saying that I believe this is one of the greatest crimes of the world today, this evil practice.” (Rel. Soc. Mag., vol. 4, p. 318.)


As a result of his rebellion, Cain was cursed and told that “the earth” would not thereafter yield him its abundance as previously. In addition he became the first mortal to be cursed as a son of perdition. As a result of his mortal birth he is assured of a tangible body of flesh and bones in eternity, a fact which will enable him to rule over Satan. The Lord placed on Cain a mark of a dark skin, and he became the ancestor of the black race.

Caste System

However, in a broad general sense, caste systems have their root and origin in the gospel itself, and when they operate according to the divine decree, the resultant restrictions and segregation are right and proper and have the approval of the Lord. To illustrate: Cain, Ham, and the whole negro race have been cursed with a black skin, the mark of Cain, so they can be identified as a caste apart, a people with whom the other descendants of Adam should not intermarry. (Gen. 4; Moses 5.)



Both the Nephite and Jaredite civilizations fought their final great wars of extinction at and near the Hill Cumorah (or Ramah as the Jaredites termed it), which hill is located between Palmyra and Manchester in the western part of the state of New York. It was here that Moroni hid up the gold plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated. (Morm. 6; Ether 15.) Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, and many of the early brethren, who were familiar with all the circumstances attending the coming forth of the Book of Mormon in this dispensation, have left us pointed testimony as to the identity and location of Cumorah or Ramah. (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 3, pp. 232-241.)



Lamanitish tradition has preserved the account of the ministry among the ancient inhabitants of America of a white God called Quetzalcoatl. One of the most accurate and authentic sources of the secular history of America, for the period before Columbus, was written by Ixtlilxochitl near the close of the 16th century. His material, gained from ancient hieroglyphic writings handed down from his ancestors, contains such statements as these:

“Quetzalcoatl was a favorably disposed man, of grave aspect, white and bearded. His dress was a long tunic.” He was “just, saintly and good.” He taught “by deeds and words the path of virtue forbidding them their vices and sins, giving laws and good doctrine.” “He told them that in time to come, … he would return, and then his doctrine would be received.” (Milton R. Hunter and Thomas Stuart Ferguson, Ancient America and the Book of Mormon, pp. 195-222; Hunter, Archaeology and the Book of Mormon, vol. 2, Christ in Ancient America.)

It is well known that one of the chief reasons for the relatively easy conquest of Mexico by Cortez was the belief, almost universal among the Aztecs, that he was the great white God returning as he had promised. (William H. Prescott, The Conquest of Mexico.) Almost without exception Latter-day Saints have associated these traditions with the ministry of the resurrected Christ among the Nephites. President John Taylor, for instance, has written: “The story of the life of the Mexican divinity, Quetzalcoatl, closely resembles that of the Savior; so closely, indeed, that we can come to no other conclusion than that Quetzalcoatl and Christ are the same being. But the history of the former has been handed down to us through an impure Lamanitish source, which has sadly disfigured and perverted the original incidents and teachings of the Savior’s life and ministry.” (Mediation and Atonement, p. 194.)


Filed under Doctrines, Teachings, Policies and Traditions, Uncategorized

10 Responses to What’s Wrong With “Mormon Doctrine”?

  1. What version of Mormon Doctrine do these quotes come from? Or are they in all versions?

  2. Cinepro

    Those are from the post-1978 second edition, although I’m pretty sure they read the same in the first edition.

  3. Goldarn

    Wow! When they said intellectuals were bad for the church, they weren’t kidding! 🙂

    Seriously, now that apostles, who “outranked” him disagreed with his opinion, how did he have the gall to call it Mormon Doctrine?

  4. MC

    “apologetic scholarship on the Book of Mormon and creation of the Earth has run off doctrinal the rails, and scholars and apologists are living in a state of delusion:”
    I think it’s quite clear that apologists are operating outside the realm of Mormon Doctrine. No matter how many times they deny it, Mormon Doctrine (in book form and otherwise) is explicitly creationist. It explicitly embraces a belief in a global flood. It explicitly claims that death did not exist in the world before the fall, which allegedly took place about 6,000 years ago.
    IMO, Mormon Doctrine the Book is still being published because it still represents the beliefs of the mainstream rank and file Mormons, as well as the majority of the upper rank leadership, who tend to lean toward the conservative/traditionalist end of the spectrum. With the possible exceptions of birth control and Cain’s descendants, I highly doubt any of the other issues you’ve mentioned would raise an eyebrow at a priesthood meeting, or even coming out of the mouth of The Prophet himself.
    The fact is, most apologists are heretics who’ve essentially created a new religion residing within and using the structure of the mainstream church. The only reason they’re not disciplined or excommunicated for their heretical beliefs is because the church finds their work useful.

  5. Goldarn

    I think Bruce McConkie did everything he could to immortalize himself, so he could be famous forever. He wrote book after book, and area-claiming titles like “Mormon Doctrine” were the norm, not the exception.

    He wrote a poem, and when people didn’t use it enough, he had it made into a hymn, in which he forced 8 verses of poetry into 4 verses of hymn, so that everyone would always sing all the words. And he pushed for the Tabernacle Choir to sing it, so that the members would believe it was a “beloved” hymn.

    He even wrote an extra line to “Come, Listen to a Prophet’s Voice,” which was already a popular song. He really liked the “ye shall obtain” lines, didn’t he?

    He went to his deathbed hoping with all his might that people would always remember him. “Joseph, Brigham, Talmadge, McConkie,” is the company he wanted to keep. He was Right, with a capital R, and everyone who disagreed with him was Wrong, even GAs and Prophets. He had no problem referring to other prophetic teachings as “heresies,” even when taught by the apostles of his own day.

    I believe he foresaw members bearing testimonies like, “And I Thank God for Bruce R. McConkie, who showed us the way, helped us understand the True Nature of God, and saved the church from those who wanted it to be like the World.”

    Bear in mind that I don’t hate the man; I just think he’s a prime example of how to be arrogant and domineering while claiming to be humble. He’s a prime example of the man who believed his own hype.

  6. Sophocles

    When I arrived at BYU and first became acquainted with FARMS, I imagined that the Review of Books actually reviewed LDS books, for scholarly quality and doctrinal accuracy and such. I had dreamed of such a resource, and I immediately wondered if they had ever reviewed Mormon Doctrine.

    You can imagine my disappointment when I discovered the journal to be an ad hominem laden apologetic review of anti-Mormon books.

    I still think the church could use a resource like that. But I guess it wouldn’t do to have BYU scholars pointing out the flaws in books written by apostles. Talk about worlds colliding! You gotta keep your worlds apart.

  7. frank

    it would be great if mcconkie was still around so he could go round and round with the likes of peterson and all the FARMERS- i would love for him to expound on his ny cumorah with that meso american crowd. some one would lose their religion,testimony or church mmebership in what would probably be an angry war of words.
    thanx cinepro for bringing light to the infamous mcconkie doctines of mo’ism!

  8. gpen51

    The Tribune contained an article a few years ago, where Pres. David O McKays secretary (Clare Middlemiss) stated that Bruce R was asked to not publish Mormon Doctrine due to over 1,000 errors (or questionable facts) by Pres. McKay directly. He published anyway. If that doesn’t speak volumes about the entire house of cards/smoke and mirror reality of The Church, then please, continue to by your Gerald Lund & Blaine Yorgason fluff books and “be happy”.

  9. McConkie made neither the deciison nor the announcement. He simply reiterated the policy already in place. Read pp. 363-367 in Prince and Wright for a summary of the gradual changes which culminated in the final end to gathering in the 1950s. Without fanfare, [President McKay] began to send the message that the time for emigrating to the United States had permanently passed. President McKay is quoted as saying, We aim to keep our adherents here instead of encouraging them to immigrate. Monroe McKay is quoted as saying, During my mission, the official announcement to end the gathering came out. Chapter 3 of Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: David O. McKay also credits him with building temples, increasing the number of missions, organizing stakes worldwide, [and] persuading the Saints to build up Zion in their homelands rather than emigrate to America. Really, I just can’t imagine why you would be making a claim that a member of the First Council of the Seventy would receive and announce revelation for the Church, particularly when the actual president of the Church had been saying the same thing for the previous couple of decades.

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