Snapshots of Life

Sunday, March 26, 2006

An unbroken chain

Good friend of Silent Thunder
ordained a Priest on March 26, 2006 by

Silent Thunder
ordained an Elder on September 26, 1999 by

Silent Thunder's father
ordained an Elder on August 5, 1972 by

Silent Thunder's grandfather
ordained a High Priest on April 20, 1966 by

Nicholas J. Teerlink
ordained a High Priest on August 27, 1939 by

Charles A. Callis
ordained an Apostle on October 12, 1933 by

Heber J. Grant
ordained an Apostle on October 16, 1882 by

George Q. Cannon
ordained an Apostle on August 26, 1860 by

Brigham Young
ordained an Apostle on February 14, 1835 by

The three witnesses to the Book of Mormon - Oliver Cowdery, Martin Harris, and David Whitmer, who were appointed to call
and set apart the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles according to revelation - on February 14, 1835 under the hands of

Joseph Smith Jr., Sidney Rigdon, and Frederick G. Williams of the First Presidency.
Joseph Smith was ordained an Apostle in June of 1829 by

Peter, James, and John who were ordained Apostles in the meridian of time by

The Lord Jesus Christ.

Now that is pretty sweet, if you think about it!

Sunday, March 12, 2006

A Model to Follow - Bruce R. McConkie

For those who have the time and patience to read yet another long entry. Don't feel bad if you don't, I had fun writing it.

I have always been fascinated by people. I have always been fascinated by history. When the two are combined my fascination doubles. I have discovered that biographies can be a treasure trove of insight into both people and history. A couple of years ago I read a biography of one of the most well-known and oft-quoted members of the Church in this dispensation - Bruce R. McConkie. Because the biography is written by his son, who is a respected gospel scholar in his own right, the information is all the more intimate and unique. I immediately came to admire a man who has no ties to me whatever and who was gone before I was even 5 years old. I don't know if it's appropriate to have "favorite" leaders, but I admit that I do, and if I were to make a list he would be right up there at the top along with the likes of Neal A. Maxwell, Lorenzo Snow, and Spencer W. Kimball. Here's a look at his life.

Bruce R. McConkie was born in 1915 into a faithful family with a strong pioneer heritage. His father, a lawyer by the name of Oscar, was a man with great spiritual gifts. Once when Bruce was just 5 years old Oscar was very sick with the flu. Oscar knew the faith of children and requested that Bruce kneel down beside his bed and pray. Bruce offered what I imagine was a simple prayer requesting that his father be healed. Immediately he began to recover. Once when giving Bruce's mother Vivian a blessing, Oscar offered a prophecy, "God chose her to bring forth prophets...those who if they are true, will shape the opinions of many, even nations...and in mortality, they will walk and talk with God."

Bruce grew up in Monticello, UT. and Salt Lake where he had an ordinary childhood. Always an excellent student, he excelled at journalism and debate in High School, but wasn't particularly skilled musically or athletically. He graduated from LDS High School at the age of 15 and spent 3 years at the University of Utah before going on a mission to the Eastern States. When he was 17 years old he met his future wife, Amelia Smith, daughter of then Elder Joseph Fielding Smith of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. He loved her with his whole soul and felt that she was "foreordained" to be his companion.

Before leaving on his mission to the East he received a father's blessing that warned him of Satan's desire to "overthrow" him because of his foreordination. He was blessed with gifts of healing, revelations, understanding, and teaching along with these words: "Through your faithfulness you will become a chosen vessel, exalted among your brethren in the holy order of the priesthood of our God." He served a successful mission. At one point he prophesied that an elder and sister in the mission would get married. You will not be surprised to hear that they did! Aside from his goals to bring souls to Christ as a missionary he had two personal goals that were clearly accomplished through the course of his life, namely: "to acquire speaking genius" and "to obtain the wisdom of the scriptures and live in harmony with them."

Upon returning from his mission he married Amelia, whose patriarchal blessing promised that she would "raise her voice in testimony in many lands throughout the world." The subject of Celestial Marriage later became his favorite topic to speak on. Not long after their marriage they had their first son, Bruce Jr., who died as an infant. Other children joined their family and they made their home on the outskirts (in those days) of Salt Lake, near Granite High School. Bruce became an attorney like his father, but he worked for the Deseret News as a journalist until his call to full-time church service.

Bruce was called to the 1st Quorum of Seventy at the age of 31 - the youngest man ever called to that position. Although he was young, the call came as no surprise to those who knew him, many had indicated that he would be so called at some point. Some have characterized Bro. McConkie as austere, aloof, and stiff, but according to his family he was a tender, sweet man who worked hard to reach people. He was a calm man with a unique sense of humor, frequently writing fun poems and cards. He was a man without pretention, often wearing worn out socks, old ties, and sporting bad haircuts - but he was bold. He didn't mix words and was very non-autobiographical, choosing instead to address doctrine strictly. The truth of this statement seems to be true of him, "Doctrinal teachers will be quoted a hundred years after their death while the popular speakers who people find so entertaining will be long forgotten."

In 1958 Elder McConkie wrote his most well-known and widely circulated work - Mormon Doctrine. Some in the church criticize this book and float around many rumors as to its evolution and content. The truth is, he was chastised by the brethren for not receiving input or consent and for the tone of some portions of the book. Nevertheless, he received the counsel humbly, and under a mentor, Spencer W. Kimball, slightly revised the tone and removed parts unrelated to Mormon Doctrine in particular. Other rumors surrounding the book are simply untrue.

Indeed Elder McConkie had an incredible gift to understand and teach doctrine, and it is no wonder. He studied the scriptures every night with his wife Amelia. It is said that he RARELY watched TV or listened to the radio, instead choosing to pay the price of study. From his college days he enjoyed walking to school and continued to walk to work when he worked at the Church Offices. While walking he would often assign himself a topic and then create a spontaneous discourse and see how well he did. He followed the same pattern as he traveled to various meetings around the world. He spent a great deal of time correcting false doctrines in the church and was often criticized for it. He got so much angry mail from members and non-members alike that he put a box in his office for a collection. His extraodinary gospel knowledge was invaluable later when he, along with Elders Packer and Monson and a committee of other leaders/scholars, worked to publish the current version of the Standard Works; including chapter headings, Joseph Smith translation, and cross references - to which he contributed very heavily. President Packer would later say of him, "If ever there was a man raised up unto a very purpose, if ever a man was prepared against a certain need - it was Bruce R. McConkie."

Elder McConkie was called to the apostleship in October of 1972 following the death of his father-in-law Joseph Fielding Smith. Several members of his family had had premonitions of the coming call, particularly in the previous April conference when he read his beloved poem turned hymn, "I Believe in Christ". Elder McConkie became aware the call would be coming 2 months before it came. While on the stand at a conference in Mexico the authority conducting read the names of the living Apostles for a sustaining vote. At this time there was a vacancy in the Quorum, leaving only 11 names to be read. Elder McConkie however, heard his name called as the 12th apostle. His call was much like that of Heber J. Grant's. Elder McConkie was not President Lee's first choice for the vacancy, but like Pres. Grant his call came from the Lord in large measure due to the faith of his forbears and a council in heaven. In fact, Elder McConkie felt strongly that the prophet Joseph and other progenitors had a great deal to do with the calling of apostles and prophets.

Perhaps like me you have heard it noted that Elder McConkie once said that "blacks would never receive the priesthood." This is usually in an effort to discredit other statements he made. Whether he felt that way at one time or another, I don't know. What is certain is that President Kimball asked Elder McConkie to make a written submission of his position on the issue during the intense period of "studying it out" that preceded the revelation in 1978. Elder McConkie outlined his view in favor of extending the blessings of the priesthood and the temple to all worthy members of the church. He later bore witness to the powerful outpouring of the Spirit experienced in the temple when the revelation was received and said, "I think the Lord waited to give this new direction to his earthly kingdom until his church was big enough and strong enough to absorb those of all races and cultures, without being overwhelmed by the world."

This man had a burning desire to live to see visions, entertain angels, work miracles, receive revelation, and enjoy all gifts of the Spirit - and he did. He taught the Saints to do the same and he gave a simple formula: "keep the law, search the scriptures, ask in faith." Once he prophesied to his son, who had never received better than a C+ in an English class, that he would yet write books. On another occasion a woman touched the hem of his jacket with the faith to be healed of her ailment and it was done. Yet again, while sick with cancer, he blessed a paralyzed mother in the hospital who now walks. During the funeral services for President Joseph Fielding Smith the veil was opened to his view while he was speaking and he saw his father-in-law in the midst of his father Joseph F. Smith and others. At another conference, while singing a hymn, the veil was taken from his eyes and he saw his brother - a gifted musician who had passed away before seeing the promise that he would make great contributions to music in the kingdom - leading a heavenly choir in a conference in the Spirit World. These are just a few examples.

In January of 1984 Elder McConkie was diagnosed with liver cancer. Through a series of medical miracles - the result of much fasting and prayer - the cancer was stayed for over a year. He fought the illness with great courage and continued his ministry - even extending a call to a Stake President once while lying on the floor of the office. In the midst of his pain he taught, "suffering sanctifies...we will all be tried and tested to the full extent of our power to withstand." Despite the efforts of people on both sides of the veil to save him, the cancer began to take its toll. Just before April Conference 1985 his sons gave him a blessing stating that he would "bear every testimony, teach every doctrine, and write every word that he had been foreordained in the councils of heaven to accomplish." The blessing was later sealed by the 1st Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve.

Elder McConkie fought to endure to conference to give one last address. His family fasted and prayed that he would have the physical and emotional strength to say the things that he desired to speak to the people. Each time that he tried to go over his remarks he broke down and couldn't get through his testimony. His parting words from that conference are powerful and their culmination will forever live as one of the most memorable testimonies ever given in this dispensation.

"I am one of His witnesses, and in a coming day I shall feel the nail marks in His hands and in His feet and shall wet His feet with my tears. But I shall not know any better then than I know now that He is God's Almighty Son, that He is our Savior and Redeemer, and that salvation comes in and through his atoning blood and in no other way."

Elder McConkie passed through the veil on April 19, 1985 surrounded by family in the midst of prayer. Surely the comforting words he spoke years previous to all the Saints are applicable to him, "All faithful Saints, all who have endured to the end, depart this life with an absolute guarantee of eternal life."

May Bruce R. McConkie be a model for us all!

(Most of the information comes from "The Bruce R. McConkie Story" written by his son, Joseph Fielding McConkie).