McConkie In Action

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Today’s post is by Wade Nelson.  I hope this doesn’t come across as a slam on Elder McConkie. While I disagree with many of his teachings and writings, I respect him for his devotion, integrity, and commitment. What follows is an anecdote from my family history that exemplifies how that devotion and commitment became action.

My mother joined the Church in Australia in the early 1950’s. She was no longer welcome in the family home so she moved out and emigrated to Utah where she was promptly deported to Canada.

Over the following decade most of her family joined the Church, all except for her father and a sister. My Grandfather was a communist all his life and a virulent anti-American.

His opposition to the Church was mainly ideological as being a member of a Yankee Church was more than he could take. When Elder McConkie arrived there to preside over the mission, post Mormon Doctrine I, my grandfather became someone he was determined to baptize if not convert.

They held a large meeting the kind of which many of us may have attended. Talks are given, the spirit is prayed for, and a general to invitation to join extended. At the conclusion of the meeting, Elder McConkie headed straight for my grandfather. He stood in front of him and asked him to join. When my grandfather declined, Elder McConkie grabbed him by the back of his jacket, lifted him out of his seat, and headed for the baptismal font literally carrying or dragging my grandfather.

As they “walked” there, he kept asking him, what size of shirt do you wear? My grandfather did not reply at first as he was too busy yelling “Get your bloody Yankee hands off me!

The Yankee never did let go. When they arrived at the changing room. Elder McConkie vehemently asked him one last time what size of shirt he wore. My Grandfather meekly and finally said “size 16” and at that, all resistance fled. They met many times over the years after the entire family moved to Canada. A large signed portrait of Elder McConkie and his wife held pride of place in my grandparents’ home until they passed away.

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Comments 11

  1. That is an AMAZING story! Thank you for sharing that. On one of the Mormon Matters podcasts one member of the panel said (to paraphrase), “They found McConkie’s interpretation of Mormonism utterly repugnant.” And, hoping not to cause offense, I must agree wholeheartedly.

    I dont think coercion is the appropriate way to win converts.(Perhaps it is the British reservation which I have.) I find McConkie dealing in “Double-think” and “double-speak” much of the time which makes me curious of his mental processes.

    I will not carry on “McConkie Maligning”, but I must say that your Grandfather is an extraordinary man to put up with that sort of, literally, manhandling and stay in the church whilst admiring McConkie.

    And thank goodness it occured back in the 70’s because now, in Europe, he would most likely have been brought before the European Council on Human Rights.

  2. This is the kind of story that should be canonized! Except for the baptismal bit, it sounds right out of the Old Testament!

  3. Cool Story! There is a fine line between coercion and free agency and it sounds like he crossed it a little but then there are also people out there who need a little “push or boost” to get them onto the right path.

  4. About twenty years ago Elder Loren C. Dunn of the Seventy was presiding at our Stake Conference. He felt inspired to call up to the stand a non-member to bear her testimony. She would not come up. After several minutes of repeatedly asking her, she still refused. Elder Dunn finally gave up. What an embarrassing situation and a terrible experience for that woman. However, if she had come up and borne her testimony and eventually joined the Church, it would have been a wonderful story to be related time and again to promote faith. I feel that if Elder McConkie’s action had failed it too would have been a terribe experience for your grandfather and embarrassing situation for all involved. But, it did work. Your grandfather joined the Church, had fond memories of the accasion, loved and respected Elder McConkie to his dying day. We can conclude that Elder McConkie was “moved upon by the Holy Ghost”. A wonderful faith promoting story, no ifs, ands or buts.

  5. “Get your bloody Yankee hands off me!”

    Obviously Elder McConkie didn’t let go because, as an American, he didn’t understand the ‘bloody’ nor the accent!
    🙂

    Great story!

  6. Wow, I can’t say that this a “nice, faith-promoting” story at all. I see it as a ham-fisted, arrogant, intimidating action that infringed upon the gentleman’s free agency. McConkie is lucky he didn’t get a fist in the nose. Can you imagine if this was done to any of you by some pastor, cleric, rabbi, priest? Furthermore, I don’t see this as a moment where the Holy Ghost “inspired” anyone, but that McConkie got lucky, just as Misseri mentioned that Dunn was unlucky. Nevertheless, a fascinating story and glimpse into life of Bruce McConkie. Thanks, Wade, for sharing.

  7. Very interesting story. By the way did your grandpa say why he all the sudden stopped resisting and went ahead and got baptized? I just can’t believe he would all of the sudden decide to do what Elder McConkie said. Thanks for sharing.

  8. The point I was trying to make in relating this story about Bruce McConkie was to demonstrate that in his actions as Mission President he was no less aggressive than he was in declaring Mormon Doctrine or otherwise advancing the cause of the Church, as he saw it. In that respect he was much like his father-in- law I suspect, thinking in particular of the Roberts-Smith debates earlier in the century. That said I know little about President Smith’s personal life or character or whether he was as domineering and aggressive as Elder McConkie. As writers and scriptorians, they were cut from the same cloth.
    Incidentally as I implied my grandfather was baptized that day, but I do not believe he was converted, and I say that with respect toward him. I have no idea whether Elder McConkie was moved by the spirit to do what he did, or whether he had just set a goal he was determined to achieve, probably the latter.
    But I am grateful for it nonetheless. As a result of my grandfather joining the Church over a dozen missionaries have now served missions. He joined I believe because he knew deep down that with my mother and grandmother having joined, the family would suffer if he did not follow suit. He needed the missionary equivalent of a cattle prod.

  9. Joining the discussion late, I knew Bruce R. McConkie during the time period mentioned above and can attest the story is vintage McConkie. I know of several individuals who had a similar experience, one (a member) was arguing with him about whether he needed to keep a certain commandment, and Elder McConkie–a visiting General Authority at the time–reached through his shirt and pulled out a couple of inches of his temple garment and said something to the effect of, “You exercised your free agency when you starting wearing this.” While living a short while in Las Vegas, Nevada in 1978, I saw Elder McConkie speak at a multi-Stake Conference. After dropping jaws with his comment that he couldn’t understand why would any good Latter Day Saint family would live in Las Vegas (there was a serious problem of apostacy there at the time) he reiterated to the members the need for extra vigilance to thwart the designs of the adversary and to hold fast to the Rod of Iron. I was fortunate to go up and speak with him afterward–as I shook his hand I was immediately overwhelmed with the feeling that I was floating–a feeling be being literally lifted on both sides by angels–as I walked away. It was a testament to me that he was indeed a special witness of the Savior and though his approach was unorthodox to say the least, it was approved by the Almighty who, in his own wisdom, evidently saw in him what He saw in some other plain-spoken men and women we have in recorded Church history. I would name them here, but Bruce R. McConkie is unique in his own way and as brought the Gospel to areas that before was a spiritual wasteland. You go back to an area where some years before there were no members and now it is teeming with them–and you wonder if the spirit of Elder McConkie was there (kind of like Kilroy)–smile.

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