I grew up in the days of Bruce R. McConkie. When it came time for Elder McConkie to speak in General Conference, I sat up a little taller and paid close attention. I was never disappointed. That man had a gift for speaking that was beyond this world. I don’t know how anybody could listen to him and not be convinced that what he taught was the mind and will of the Lord.
Elder McConkie seemed fearless to me. Although he had many critics both in and out of the church, what they had to say didn’t seem to bother him. His next public address was all the more powerful as he blasted their weak arguments. Those who didn’t know him criticized his profoundly authoritative manner, claiming that an apostle of the Lord should be more tolerant.
I think the brethren of the church appreciated him much more than the sisters. His leadership was undeniable. If I were in the military, Elder McConkie was the sort of man that I would have no problem in following. Every time I listened to one of his discourses, I came away with a greater determination to follow the Lord and to know what Elder McConkie knew.
The power of teaching doctrine
Our apostles today are no less powerful in their knowledge of the gospel and their ability to teach it with power and impact. I get the same feeling of wanting to stand a little taller and do a little better each time I hear from Elder Oaks or Elder Holland or President Uchtdorf or Elder Bednar. Fearlessly teaching doctrine with power has always impressed me.
One of Elder McConkie’s themes was that we need to know what Joseph knew. I was extremely motivated by his intellectual abilities demonstrated both in writing and in speaking. I don’t claim to have anywhere near the knowledge he had, but I continue to be motivated to read and study the doctrine because of his great example. With knowledge of doctrine comes personal power.
When I stand to speak or teach in church, my desire and goal is to present doctrine in such a manner that it can’t be misunderstood. I know that’s an ideal and probably impossible desire in this mortal world, but it continues to guide my thinking and my preparation. I want to be taught the gospel when I am in church and hope that those who speak or teach come prepared.
Leadership of Joseph Smith
Joseph Smith was just as bold and fearless in his ministry, especially towards the end of his life during the Nauvoo period. Because of his boldness in denouncing wickedness and proclaiming the truth, he made many enemies. He was comfortable with authority and led with power that comes from knowing you are doing the will of the Lord, or at least attempting to do so.
When he first visited Joseph Smith, the angel Moroni told him that his “name should be had for good and evil among all nations.” Years later the Lord encouraged Joseph: “Be patient in afflictions, for thou shalt have many; but endure them, for, lo, I am with thee, even unto the end of thy days.” Even though friends deserted him and became enemies, he continued faithful.
Few have confronted more antagonism and trials than did Joseph Smith. He was besieged with dozens of unjustified lawsuits and was often in jeopardy of his life. He was poisoned, beaten, tarred, unjustly imprisoned, and once sentenced to die by firing squad. And yet through all this he remained bold and courageous in declaring the truth to the end of his life.
The boldness of the Savior
When the Savior taught in public, there were always those who listened and watched closely in an attempt to catch him in his words. For some strange reason, they could not see that he was the Son of God, even though he declared it unto them openly and clearly. Although it went against the tradition and custom of his day, he was bold and fearless in teaching the truth.
He went about doing good, but there were those who wanted to destroy him. They were the elite and ruling class of their day. They controlled what was taught in their churches and mandated the practices of their society by their interpretation of the law. They were the intellectuals who knew, at least in their own minds, that they were right and he was wrong.
The Savior knew what the response to his doctrine would be. He knew that it would get to the point within a few short years where he would be betrayed and crucified. Yet he remained true and faithful to his purpose and mission to boldly declare the truth and teach the gospel. Because of his love, he did what he promised to do when he offered his life as a ransom for us.
Summary and conclusion
Bruce R. McConkie did not shy away from taking on the enemies of the church as he boldly taught the doctrines of salvation with power. Joseph Smith did not hesitate to declare the truths of the restoration even though trusted friends turned and became his enemies. The Savior knew in advance that what he taught and did would cost him his life after just a few years.
These men are my heroes. So are others who follow their example and do what they did. I want to be like them. I want to know what they knew and teach it in the same manner. By so doing, I should not expect that I will get treated any different than they did. It is doubtful that it will cost me my life, but I have no doubt that I will be criticized for teaching the truth.
Bruce R. McConkie, Joseph Smith and the Savior all had their critics and enemies. They still do. They gave their lives for what they believed. Should we do any less? The attacks of the critics will mean nothing when we meet these great men in the life to come. The Savior will embrace us and will plead our cause before God and we will hear, “well done, thou good and faithful servant.”