Bruce R. McConkie
Bruce R. McConkie was born July 29, 1915, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, but before he was a year old, his family moved to the small town of Monticello, Utah. They returned to Ann Arbor in 1925 in order for Bruce’s father to continue his studies, and when he finished the following year, the McConkie family settled in Salt Lake City.
Undergraduate Education, Missionary Service, & Family
A studious and intelligent young man, Bruce R. McConkie graduated high school at age 15 and studied for three years at the University of Utah before leaving in 1934 to serve a mission in the Eastern States. His mission fostered his love of studying and teaching the doctrines of the gospel. It also gave him the opportunity to participate in the first Hill Cumorah Pageant in 1936.
When he returned to Utah, Bruce R. McConkie continued to attend the University of Utah, earning a bachelor of arts degree. He graduated in 1937 alongside his classmate Amelia Smith, who earned a bachelor’s degree in bacteriology and pathology. They were married that same year in the Salt Lake Temple by Amelia’s father, Joseph Fielding Smith. Early in their marriage, they suffered a tremendous hardship: their first child lived less than two months. However, they eventually became the parents of eight more children.
Post-Secondary Education, Career, & Church Service
In 1939 Bruce R. McConkie graduated with a doctor of laws degree (now equivalent to a juris doctor) from the University of Utah. He worked as an assistant city attorney in Salt Lake City for a few years before the onset of World War II called him into active duty in the United States Army. Having participated in the ROTC at the University of Utah, he was given an assignment in military intelligence at Fort Douglas. He served from 1942 to 1946, attaining the rank of lieutenant colonel by the time of his discharge.
After the war, Bruce R. McConkie worked for a short time as a reporter for the Deseret News. He soon, however, was called away again, this time into Church service. He became a general authority seventy in 1946 and later became part of the presidency of the seventy. From 1961 to 1964, his responsibilities took on a new setting as he presided over the Southern Australian Mission. There, he lived and taught the motto “Seek the Spirit”—a motto that spanned not only his missionary service but much of his life.
In 1972 Elder McConkie was called to be a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles by Church President Harold B. Lee. In addition to fulfilling his many ecclesiastical responsibilities, Elder McConkie continued to diligently study the scriptures, resulting in the publication of several books on Latter-day Saint theology and doctrine.
Scholarship & Late Life
One such volume was Mormon Doctrine, the first attempt to create an all-encompassing encyclopedic collection of LDS doctrine. The book was first published in 1958 and created some stir due to its strong tone and some controversial points, which were based on Elder McConkie’s personal interpretations of scripture. A second, revised edition was published several years later and remained in print until 2010. His knowledge of the scriptures was called upon again as he wrote the chapter headings for the 1979–1981 editions of the standard works.
Elder McConkie’s very bold and authoritative tone, combined with some of the personal interpretations he voiced pertaining certain doctrines, has at times created controversy among members of the Church. However, this same boldness and authority enabled him to bear extremely powerful testimony of the Savior Jesus Christ and His gospel, and that testimony is the greatest legacy Bruce R. McConkie has left. He authored the words to the moving hymn “I Believe in Christ” as well as the fourth verse of “Come, Listen to a Prophet’s Voice.”
Elder McConkie battled with cancer for several years. In his final General Conference address in April of 1985, he declared emotionally and powerfully his testimony of the reality and divinity of the Savior, Jesus Christ. Two weeks later, at age 69, he passed away in his home in Salt Lake City.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie spoke nearly thirty times at Brigham Young University, addressing such topics as celestial marriage, personal revelation, and the nature of Jesus Christ. His intriguing style and potent testimony have left their mark indelibly on the membership of the Church and of the BYU community.