Phineas

Bruce R. McConkie’s Legacy.

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I recently listened to a Faith Matters podcast with Patrick Mason as the interviewee.  He talked about Bruce R. McConkie’s rigid black-and-white style of teaching the gospel.  He said that the McConkie way of doing things served a purpose for a time but that it has since backfired.  (These are my words as I’m recollecting the conversation so I might be butchering it.)

Don’t get me wrong. I like Elder McConkie.  I spent a lot of time reading Mormon Doctrine as a kid.  He was a very influential guy.  Possibly the last theologian General Authority.   But I get the sense that the church is in a transition phase right now.  We are slowly moving away from the more rigid rhetoric of McConkie, Joseph Fielding Smith,  Packer, etc.  And I feel that’s a good thing. 
 

Am I right in my assessment?  If so, is it good?
 

 

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@Phineas

Reality: there are always gradations of sin.

Reality: God cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance.

Reality: if we focus more on the first rather than the second, human nature drives us to believe there is much more allowance for sin than there really is.

Summary: Stay away from the edge of the cliff.

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7 hours ago, Phineas said:

I recently listened to a Faith Matters podcast with Patrick Mason as the interviewee.  He talked about Bruce R. McConkie’s rigid black-and-white style of teaching the gospel.  He said that the McConkie way of doing things served a purpose for a time but that it has since backfired.  (These are my words as I’m recollecting the conversation so I might be butchering it.)

Don’t get me wrong. I like Elder McConkie.  I spent a lot of time reading Mormon Doctrine as a kid.  He was a very influential guy.  Possibly the last theologian General Authority.   But I get the sense that the church is in a transition phase right now.  We are slowly moving away from the more rigid rhetoric of McConkie, Joseph Fielding Smith,  Packer, etc.  And I feel that’s a good thing. 
 

Am I right in my assessment?  If so, is it good?
 

 

I don't think that it is good.

Bruce R. McConkie did not exist in a vacuum.  Many of his ideas were gained from Joseph Fielding Smith who in turn got them from Joseph F. Smith who in turn got them from his mother who...in turn got them from Hyrum Smith (and probably Joseph Smith).

These ideas were gained in direct relation from a line which can actually be seen and traced in their origins and ideology.

All McConkie was doing was relating that same ideology from the origins of the Church, theological ideas which you can see his forbears also relate in their writings and journals.

When you forget the foundations of your religion it inevitably leads to it's weakening.  A house whose foundation crumbles many times has serious problems. 

If the Lord is unchanging, if the gospel is unchanging...

Changing according to the whims of societal fancy would seem to be attempting to force the Lord to change to the morality of society rather than society holding onto the morality of the Lord.

Which has me concerned with some of the things that are occurring today.

HOWEVER, we also know that this type of change is inevitable.  It happened many times in the Old Testament.  There are multiple instances where it had fallen into the morality of the times only to have the People of the Lord be smitten and driven back to following the Lord.  By the time the Savior came in his mortal ministry there were many traditions in the Church that really did not align with the gospel he taught.  That was STILL the true religion that he was a part of.  He went to the authorized Priest of the time to be baptized under that authority.  He followed the precepts of that gospel.  That was still the authorized Church of the Lord and the authority went through it even though it had changed in many ways from it's inception. 

I am certain though that it was not easy for them to follow at times.

We also see a similar pattern in the Book of Mormon.  The people, instead of following the prophets and apostles grew prideful.  They pushed political and social idolatry and mocked the statements of prophets and apostles.  Local leaders would lead entire cities into following them and the prophets would have to go and visit those places physically...many times only to be persecuted and tossed out.  We see that happening today, though more online.  We've recently seen prophets and apostles say things online only to have MEMBERS tear them down.  Many of those same members are the leaders of their local areas.  What do you think they are doing with their local areas as well?

The same things that happened in the scriptures are happening in real time today. 

Many think that we need to adapt to the relative morality of the world.  It is true that changing our ideas to align with the world may make us temporarily more popular.  That is a temporary thing though.  As Elder Bednar has pointed out, that temporary praise can lead to a dark path.  As modern society turns more anti-religion, that praise would soon turn to trying to extinguish our ability to practice religion.  We have seen this in action recently as many of those use the situation of the world to try to stop those who wish to practice their belief from doing so.  It is probably going to get worse.  By acquiescing to these people we will gain a temporary reprieve from their opposition, but it is only temporary and soon they will be pushing further to destroy the religions of the world that do not go further into following their social morality found in western society today.

So, in my opinion, I do not feel it is a good thing, but I realize that there are many that do.   They feel that things grow outdated, and that in order to appeal to society today and to "mature" in our own morality, things must change in order to reflect the better morality of today in the West.

 

Though, it is a morality that is only really found in the West.  Morality is seen differently in Africa, and most of Asia which actually consists of a majority of the population of the world.  Many of those nations currently do not share the morality being pressed upon them by the West, and unlike the Native Americans and others who were forced to accept Western morality in the past, have not yet been forced to accept the morals of the West currently and may not without major conflict in the future.  Whether that is a good thing or not is probably in the eye of the beholder.  You can read almost daily about condemnations of the goings on in Nations that are not in the Americas or Europe, and many times it is exclamations of anger and disgust at these other nations.  In some ways we are still very much like our colonial predecessors in trying to force the Native Americans to convert to our beliefs as we try to do the same thing today to others who do not share the same belief system that we do.

Edited by JohnsonJones

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7 hours ago, Phineas said:

We are slowly moving away from the more rigid rhetoric of McConkie, Joseph Fielding Smith,  Packer, etc.  And I feel that’s a good thing. 

Wrong.

Do his words not matter anymore? Do we no longer consider mcConkie, Joseph Firlding Smith, and Packer’s words as doctrine. Last I checked, his words still exist. They are still published by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (which I would point out, we are a member of the church, not a member of the past 10 years of general conferences. So many members forget that)

If you look at the social movements within the membership and on the fringes of the church, yes, you are right. But when you look at the church itself, it still holds their words as doctrine. Though we only have a few people on leadership today that speaks as forthright as those three did, the high expectations of God remain the same.

The more soft toned talks we hear these days are for those that may not have a full testimony or are not ready for the meat of the gospel, so they are given milk. But don’t let that lead you to believe that the “rigid rhetoric” is only that. The gospel mindset that McConkie, Smith, Packer, Oaks, and so many other “controversial” leaders taught us essential when it comes to living the gospel.

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Personally I am not a big fan of Elder McConkie. He had a commanding presence, was a good speaker, and quite knowledgeable. But, he also seemed quite arrogant, conceited, and vain...but everyone has their faults. If he were alive today I would still sustain him as an apostle. If he was good enough for the Lord then he would be good enough for me.

Also, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not becoming less rigid. Some policies and procedures of the church may seem easier to some due to recent changes, but the church is not the same thing as doctrine. The doctrine of Christ does not change.

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The Church has to meet people where they are; and the simple fact is that a critical mass of people today don’t respond to Elder McConkie’s style the way they would have a couple of decades ago.

I think this is perhaps both good and bad.

On the one hand, I think there can be some nuance to the Gospel that—while I’m sure Elder McConkie was aware of it—it often isn’t fully captured by his rhetoric.  (But then, maybe that’s just the nature and constraints of teaching over the pulpit;  because I can’t really think of many modern apostles whose Conference talks are significantly more nuanced than McConkie or whose understanding of the Atonement are clearly deeper than his.)  Moreover—while Elder McConkie was indeed a giant, he is only one apostle out of over a hundred that we’ve had since the Restoration.  Twenty-two more apostles have been called after Elder McConkie.  There are only so many weeks (and therefore, Sunday School lessons) in a year, and it’s inevitable that the influence of old apostles will to some degree fade away as the Curriculum Committee tries to update its materials to include the light and knowledge we’ve received since Elder McConkie’s day.

On the other hand:  I think it’s pretty obvious that our society is plunging headlong into a state where it is ever less-willing to endure ideas it doesn’t want to hear, and willing to go to greater and greater lengths to silence and punish those who engage in WrongThink.  Elder McConkie stridently condemned sin, in ways that tend to alienate people today.  McConkie was also very fundamentalist in issues like creationism and scriptural interpretation; and our “science”-worshipping youth for whatever reason feel like there isn’t room enough in the Church for both McConkie and themselves. To the extent that modern Church discourse cites Elder McConkie less than it used to—I think this is probably part of the reason why, and I’m not sure it reflects well on the people that the Church is trying to reach.

 

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1 hour ago, JohnsonJones said:

We also see a similar pattern in the Book of Mormon.  The people, instead of following the prophets and apostles grew prideful.  They pushed political and social idolatry and mocked the statements of prophets and apostles.  Local leaders would lead entire cities into following them and the prophets would have to go and visit those places physically...many times only to be persecuted and tossed out.  We see that happening today, though more online.  We've recently seen prophets and apostles say things online only to have MEMBERS tear them down.  Many of those same members are the leaders of their local areas.  What do you think they are doing with their local areas as well?

The same things that happened in the scriptures are happening in real time today. 

Unfortunately I see this almost every week. We have a neighboring stake that hasn't followed much of the recent counsel from church headquarters regarding activities, sacrament meetings, etc... The Stake President was openly holding mass activities last year, and no mask wearing was enforced by him or the bishops under him. Some wards have even been holding in-person 2nd hour meetings, weekly youth activities all year, etc... I work in healthcare, and know that a lot of the issues surrounding covid-19 are completely bogus and baseless. However, I try to follow the counsel of my leaders, and would not go against their wishes as many in the church currently are. It is discouraging to see so much cherry-picking going on with regards to counsel and/or commandments.

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3 minutes ago, scottyg said:

We have a neighboring stake...

FYI: Some are under the impression that all 'stakes' or especially 'neighboring stakes' are under the same set of rules or guidance, they are not. 
Stakes even under the same area authority may do different things, like hold in-person 2nd hour meetings, while a neighboring stake does not. Both can be in full compliance with the area authority.  

Church headquarters gave 'general advice'.
Area authorities gave 'more detailed advice'.
Stake presidents, with their local keys, give the 'final detailed direction to their specific stake'.

Some stakes sing, others do not.
Some hold activities, others do not.
Etc.


 

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16 minutes ago, NeedleinA said:

FYI: Some are under the impression that all 'stakes' or especially 'neighboring stakes' are under the same set of rules or guidance, they are not. 
Stakes even under the same area authority may do different things, like hold in-person 2nd hour meetings, while a neighboring stake does not. Both can be in full compliance with the area authority.  

Church headquarters gave 'general advice'.
Area authorities gave 'more detailed advice'.
Stake presidents, with their local keys, give the 'final detailed direction to their specific stake'.

Some stakes sing, others do not.
Some hold activities, others do not.
Etc.


 

Very true. I only mention this because this stake president was with us in an online training several months ago. We share the same area authority and he made it very clear what we could/could not do, and what areas had leeway. Now, could he have been given different and/or specific direction in a different setting from our area authority that I do not know about...yes, that is possible. I am not trying to speak poorly of others, and am sorry if that is how my remark came off. He does hold keys as well, and it is not my place to judge his decisions.

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A worthy post, @NeedleinA. Expanding on one part:

1 minute ago, NeedleinA said:

Church headquarters gave 'general advice'.
Area authorities gave 'more detailed advice'.
Stake presidents, with their local keys, give the 'final detailed direction to their specific stake'.

My possibly faulty understanding looks more like this:

  • Church headquarters communicates the policy and guidelines that Church leaders are expected to implement. This may include both advice and directives.
  • Area authorities oversee implementation of the policy and guideline directives in the stakes and offer help, advice, and oversight to the stake presidencies.
  • The stake presidents and their counselors implement Church instruction in they way that they see fit for their stake.

Regarding that final bullet point: Stake presidents are given fairly wide latitude for such implementation. While not as autonomous as, for example, a Catholic bishop and his diocese, a stake president nevertheless has great discretion in how programs are implemented. Salt Lake occasionally has to reign back in a rogue stake president, but that's unusual. For the most part, stake presidents implement procedure as they see fit, and are effectively a prophet to their stake. I believe that this is why you sometimes see such wide variance between stakes, even adjacent stakes.

Or maybe I'm totally wrong. I have a brother-in-law who is a stake president. I should run some of this stuff by him and find out what he has to say about them. Yeah, right. Like I'll remember to ask him about this next time I see him.

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Back when I was fresh, and they gave me the Gospel Principles Instructor calling,  I had to pre-read the lessons to figure out what I believed.   Gospel Doctrine was a favorite go-to for this process.

8 hours ago, Phineas said:

But I get the sense that the church is in a transition phase right now.  We are slowly moving away from the more rigid rhetoric of McConkie, Joseph Fielding Smith,  Packer, etc.

Well, eternal truths are still eternal, and our teaching of them are not changing.  If Elder Packer's final 2015 General Conference talk, or his 2010 much-criticized talk "Cleansing the Inner Vessel" have been replaced by something less rigid, please cite the General Conference talk.  What do you propose, as a comparison?

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12 minutes ago, Vort said:

stake presidents implement procedure as they see fit, and are effectively a prophet to their stake.

Bingo.

As it relates to the what stakes can/can't do because of Covid, our area was heavy on advice and very light on directives.
In my immediate area, we have a stake still on virtual only meetings, while our stake will be holding a stake wide outdoor youth activity in two weeks.
County lines divide the virtual (city) vs. in-person stakes (rural). Each stake president regularly checks county covid rates and adjusts accordingly for their stake.

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@Phineas, I don't mean to come down on you. I doubt anyone here does. Let me try to respond more specifically to your post.

18 hours ago, Phineas said:

I recently listened to a Faith Matters podcast with Patrick Mason as the interviewee.

Let me say in sincerity and brotherly kindness that I think this was your first mistake. I am no fan of "Faith Matters", though I concede the group name's gently clever pun. Many, including some on this site, seem to consider Terryl Givens and his wife Fiona as Second Prophets. They are no such thing. The group is seriously off-kilter. They seem to me to be, to some extent at least, wolves in somewhat shabby sheepskins. I do not completely doubt their sincerity in all things—but I could say the same for any anti-Mormon or anti-Christian group. For just one example, consider the first seven of their so-called Big Questions:

BIG QUESTION #1: Does our faith have a unique story to tell about creation, human origins and humanity’s relationship with the earth?

BIG QUESTION #2: In the past, church leaders have made some significant mistakes. How much should I rely on pronouncements and teachings of our leaders today?

BIG QUESTION #3: Is there something really unique or revolutionary about our understanding of Christ’s atonement?

BIG QUESTION #4: I’m going through a period of serious doubt. Does doubt ever lead to greater faith, or is this likely my new normal?

BIG QUESTION #5: Why do people leave the church and how should we engage with friends or family members who leave?

BIG QUESTION #6: What about our LGBT brothers and sisters?

BIG QUESTION #7: I’m really put off by patriarchy. Isn’t it a big problem for a modern church?

Aside from the first "Big Question", which is pretty much an obvious and generic question about any religious organization, this is a laundry list of relatively trivial issues that gall at the woke and the politically correct. What kind of people put such questions as their "Big Questions"? Small, shallow, trivial-minded people without testimonies, that's who.

Is there anyone who could come up with a better set of seven Big Questions? A better question might be, Is there anyone who couldn't? off the top of my head, here are seven far better Big Questions:

BIG QUESTION #1: Who and what is God?

BIG QUESTION #2: What is the nature of our true relationship with God?

BIG QUESTION #3: What (if anything) is our duty before God?

BIG QUESTION #4: What (if any) promises has God made to us, and what (if any) are the conditions of the fulfillment of those promises?

BIG QUESTION #5: What does our duty to God look like regarding our duty to and treatment of our fellow man?

BIG QUESTION #6: What is the nature of the family? If it is important, then why is that the case?

BIG QUESTION #7: Can I insure my own happiness and that of my family now and in the life/lives to come? If so, how?

"But those are not questions that concern me!" reply the so-called Faith Matters group. And that is exactly the point. They are concerned about fringe topics that are all the rage with the woke and the politically correct, but miss or ignore the actual, central questions upon which the Restored Church has important answers. Instead, they concern themselves with such stupid questions as "What about our LGBT brothers and sisters?" (Yes, what about them? They are children of God, just like the rest of us. They are subjects of salvation, just like the rest of us. They are expected to abandon the natural man and embrace the Good News, just like the rest of us. And if they turn away from God and follow after their lusts, they will be destroyed, just like the rest of us.) "I'm really put off by patriarchy." (And therefore...? Lots of people were "really put off" by Christ, but he was still The Way, even to them.)

I have zero confidence in the sincerity of intent of these people. To me, they look like agitators, not humble, truth-seeking Saints.

18 hours ago, Phineas said:

He talked about Bruce R. McConkie’s rigid black-and-white style of teaching the gospel.

Can he provide some examples of a non-black-and-white style of gospel teaching? "Jesus was sort of born the Son of God, and might have atoned for our sins, depending on how you look at it"? Do we have gospel truths or gospel, you know, sort of truish things that change as we become more woke?

18 hours ago, Phineas said:

He said that the McConkie way of doing things served a purpose for a time but that it has since backfired.

What examples did this man give of how McConkie's so-called black-and-white style of teaching eternal truth "backfired"?

Quote

Don’t get me wrong. I like Elder McConkie.  I spent a lot of time reading Mormon Doctrine as a kid.  He was a very influential guy.  Possibly the last theologian General Authority.

For the record: We do not have "theologians" in the Restored Church, certainly not in the traditional Catholic sense of the word. Our so-called theology is nothing less than revealed truth.  It does not come from scholarly development based on ponderous academic research. It comes from the revealed word of God, no theology involved. Any part of our current doctrine that may have been determined by "theology" is suspect.

Quote

But I get the sense that the church is in a transition phase right now.  We are slowly moving away from the more rigid rhetoric of McConkie, Joseph Fielding Smith,  Packer, etc.  And I feel that’s a good thing. 

This is because you have allowed yourself to be deceived by people like those involved in Faith Matters.

It is true that rhetorical and teaching styles change. For example, the Lectures on Faith were written in a question-and-answer format common in the early 19th-century United States. That style fell out of favor and has looked decidedly old-fashioned for many generations. Today, with FAQs being common, the Q&A format doesn't look as strange or as dated. Such styles wax and wane.

But the truths taught by the prophets you mention are not up for vote. And if the direct "tell-it-like-it-is" style is frowned on today as entirely too rigid and bossy, just wait another generation.

The fact that you "feel that's a good thing" is evidence that your mind has been poisoned to some degree by the raw sewage such sites and podcasts have been pumping into your brain. I urge you to rethink your position, and to cut off the source of pollution from your brain.

Quote

Am I right in my assessment?  If so, is it good?

There's my take, for whatever it's worth to you.

Edited by Vort

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3 hours ago, scottyg said:

Elder McConkie. ...was a good speaker

His voice is Unbearably boring. I only read his talks

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9 minutes ago, Fether said:

His voice is Unbearably boring. I only read his talks

I could hardly disagree more. The guy had a wonderful, dry sense of humor that you can miss in reading but can't miss in oratory.

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2 hours ago, Vort said:

I could hardly disagree more. The guy had a wonderful, dry sense of humor that you can miss in reading but can't miss in oratory.

I am familiar with the sense of humor... however when he starts going on about doctrine (which is fascinating and great to read), I have a difficult time paying attention

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17 hours ago, Vort said:

No, you are not right.

Just as an aside, I’ve been trying to understand why so many people in today’s America say, “No, you’re right” (and other such similar incongruous expressions) rather than saying, Yes, you’re right.” As a consequence,  I’ve been trying to locate some kind of English language expert who can explain to me why this strange linguistic phenomenon is happening so often lately?

“Am I right in my assessment?” Yes. “If so, is it good?” Yes. So maybe someone can explain to me why so many 21st century Americans start affirmative answers to yes and no questions with a ‘no’ rather than a “yes?’

Edited by Jersey Boy

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49 minutes ago, Jersey Boy said:

Just as an aside, I’ve been trying to understand why so many people in today’s America say, “No, you’re right” (and other such similar incongruous expressions) rather than saying, Yes, you’re right.”

Methinks you misread my response.

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I am some what of the notion that a great deal of what many teach as doctrine concerning what is the true doctrine that flows from G-d is not really doctrine.  At the very foundation of our doctrine is that there will be changes in our doctrine.  Consider from our scripture our 9th Article of Faith:

Quote

9 We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.

And there are other problems to revelation - ancient and modern.  That is that G-d reveals teachings (doctrine) according to our language and understanding.  I would use the examples of Abraham Chapter 3 and Doctrine and Covenants section 88.  In essence these two scriptures are talking about the same principles of doctrine.  One is given according to the science and mathematics (integer and rational integer number theory) of ancient Egypt at the time of Abraham (who was in Egypt teaching Pharaoh and his scholars).  The other is given according to Newtonian science (physics and mathematics) that was the understanding at the time of Joseph Smith.  As a student of science - I have studied the science and mathematics of ancient Egypt (including the Egyptian creation - what asserts that all matter was created from a watery abyss).   I studied Newtonian physics and the real number theory.  And I have also studied quantum physics and imaginary number theory.

I am convinced that if the revelation of Abraham Chapter 3 and D&C 88 were to be given today with a backdrop of quantum physics and imaginary number theory that the revelation would look different enough that many might not notice that the central subject was the same.  From the Book of Mormon we learn more about "Types and Shadows" concerning doctrine of things that were, that are now and that are yet to become.

I am also convinced that we need to pay the most close attention of all to our living Apostles, prophets, general authorities and finely our local leaders (including sisters called to leadership positions within the body of the Latter-day Saints).  Let us gather in our solemn assemblies and our counsels (including priesthood, relief societies and young women and Sunday School) to use our spiritual gifts to enlighten one another.  Let us also study, fast and pray for understanding and personal revelation - but let us do so with the keeping of our sacred covenants and laws as manifested to us.  Let us use all that G-d grants us that we come to a unity of the faith that will be finalized with the return of our Messiah and king.

 

The Traveler

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12 hours ago, NeuroTypical said:

Back when I was fresh, and they gave me the Gospel Principles Instructor calling,  I had to pre-read the lessons to figure out what I believed.   Gospel Doctrine was a favorite go-to for this process.

Well, eternal truths are still eternal, and our teaching of them are not changing.  If Elder Packer's final 2015 General Conference talk, or his 2010 much-criticized talk "Cleansing the Inner Vessel" have been replaced by something less rigid, please cite the General Conference talk.  What do you propose, as a comparison?

I’d say Elder Uchtdorf is the most notable comparison.

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12 hours ago, Vort said:

@Phineas

What examples did this man give of how McConkie's so-called black-and-white style of teaching eternal truth "backfired"?

No specific examples that I can remember.  He basically said that McConkie had a more authoritarian style of teaching.  So, in a way, he held on the reins too tight. 

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1 hour ago, Phineas said:

No specific examples that I can remember.  He basically said that McConkie had a more authoritarian style of teaching.  So, in a way, he held on the reins too tight. 

Is there something wrong with that? Bruce Redd McConkie was an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. Literally. How much more authoritative can you get?

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