"Seek out the company of those who are searching for the truth, but doubt those who claim to have found it!"

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

George W. Pace and Bruce R. McConkie

I was doing a bit of reading today on George W. Pace, a former professor at BYU who was publicly derided and scolded by Bruce R. McConkie for writing what McConkie termed as “sectarian nonsense.”  It was apparently quite a traumatic experience for Pace, as I can scarcely imagine.  I went to speeches.byu.edu to read this discourse given by Bruce R. McConkie.
What follows is only part of that talk given at BYU (underlining is mine):
I shall speak of our relationship with the Lord and of the true fellowship all Saints should have with the Father. I shall set forth what we must believe relative to the Father and the Son in order to gain eternal life. 
I shall expound the doctrine of the Church relative to what our relationship should be to all members of the Godhead and do so in plainness and simplicity so that none need misunderstand or be led astray by other voices. 

I shall express the view of the Brethren, of the prophets and apostles of old, and of all those who understand the scriptures and are in tune with the Holy Spirit. 
These matters lie at the very foundation of revealed religion. In presenting them I am on my own ground and am at home with my subject. I shall not stoop to petty wranglings about semantics but shall stay with matters of substance. I shall simply go back to basics and set forth fundamental doctrines of the kingdom, knowing that everyone who is sound spiritually and who has the guidance of the Holy Spirit will believe my words and follow my counsel. 

Please do not put too much stock in some of the current views and vagaries that are afloat, but rather, turn to the revealed word, get a sound understanding of the doctrines, and keep yourselves in the mainstream of the Church.
There are yet others who have an excessive zeal which causes them to go beyond the mark. Their desire for excellence is inordinate. In an effort to be truer than true they devote themselves to gaining a special, personal relationship with Christ that is both improper and perilous. 

I say perilous because this course, particularly in the lives of some who are spiritually immature, is a gospel hobby which creates an unwholesome holier-than-thou attitude. In other instances it leads to despondency because the seeker after perfection knows he is not living the way he supposes he should. 

Another peril is that those so involved often begin to pray directly to Christ because of some special friendship they feel has been developed. In this connection a current and unwise book, which advocates gaining a special relationship with Jesus, contains this sentence: 
Because the Savior is our mediator, our prayers go through Christ to the Father, and the Father answers our prayers through his Son. 
This is plain sectarian nonsense. Our prayers are addressed to the Father, and to him only. They do not go through Christ … . We are entitled to “come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). 

And I rather suppose that he who sitteth upon the throne will choose his own ways to answer his children, and that they are numerous. Perfect prayer is addressed to the Father, in the name of the Son; and it is uttered by the power of the Holy Ghost; and it is answered in whatever way seems proper by him whose ear is attuned to the needs of his children. 

The Mainstream of the Church 
Now I know that some may be offended at the counsel that they should not strive for a special and personal relationship with Christ. It will seem to them as though I am speaking out against mother love, or Americanism, or the little red schoolhouse. But I am not. There is a fine line here over which true worshipers will not step. 

It is true that there may, with propriety, be a special relationship with a wife, with children, with friends, with teachers, with the beasts of the field and the fowls of the sky and the lilies of the valley. But the very moment anyone singles out one member of the Godhead as the almost sole recipient of his devotion, to the exclusion of the others, that is the moment when spiritual instability begins to replace sense and reason. 
The proper course for all of us is to stay in the mainstream of the Church. This is the Lord’s Church, and it is led by the spirit of inspiration, and the practice of the Church constitutes the interpretation of the scripture. 
And you have never heard one of the First Presidency or the Twelve, who hold the keys of the kingdom, and who are appointed to see that we are not “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14)–you have never heard one of them advocate this excessive zeal that calls for gaining a so-called special and personal relationship with Christ.
You have heard them teach and testify of the ministry and mission of the Lord Jesus, using the most persuasive and powerful language at their command. But never, never at any time have they taught or endorsed the inordinate or intemperate zeal that encourages endless, sometimes day-long prayers, in order to gain a personal relationship with the Savior. 

Those who truly love the Lord and who worship the Father in the name of the Son by the power of the Spirit, according to the approved patterns, maintain a reverential barrier between themselves and all the members of the Godhead. 
I am well aware that some who have prayed for endless hours feel they have a special and personal relationship with Christ that they never had before. I wonder if this is any or so much different, however, from the feelings of fanatical sectarians who with glassy eyes and fiery tongues assure us they have been saved by grace and are assured of a place with the Lord in a heavenly abode, when in fact they have never even received the fullness of the gospel. 

I wonder if it is not part of Lucifer’s system to make people feel they are special friends of Jesus when in fact they are not following the normal and usual pattern of worship found in the true Church. 

Let me remind you to stay in the course chartered by the Church. It is the Lord’s Church, and he will not permit it to be led astray. If we take the counsel that comes from the prophets and seers, we will pursue the course that is pleasing to the Lord. 
Would it be amiss if I reminded you that Jesus maintained a reserve between him and his disciples and that he did not allow them the same intimacy with him that they had with each other? This was particularly true after his resurrection. 

For instance, when Mary Magdalene, in a great outpouring of love and devotion, sought to embrace the risen Lord, her hands were stayed. “Touch me not,” he said. Between her and him, no matter what the degree of their love, there was a line over which she could not pass. And yet, almost immediately thereafter, a whole group of faithful women held that same Lord by the feet, and, we cannot doubt, bathed his wounded feet with their tears. 

It is a fine and sacred line, but clearly there is a difference between a personal and intimate relationship with the Lord, which is improper, and one of worshipful adoration, which yet maintains the required reserve between us and him who has bought us with his blood. 
Now I sincerely hope that no one will imagine that I have in the slightest degree downgraded the Lord Jesus in the scheme of things. I have not done so. As far as I know there is not a man on earth who thinks more highly of him than I do. It just may be that I have preached more sermons, taught more doctrine, and written more words about the Lord Jesus Christ than any other man now living. … 
I do not suppose that what I have here said will be an end to controversy or to the spread of false views and doctrines. The devil is not dead, and he delights in controversy. But you have been warned, and you have heard the true doctrine taught. Those who need to study the matter further would do well to get and study a copy of what I have said when it is published by Brigham Young University. 

Let us then end on the note of testimony and of prayer. I bear record of the divine sonship of him whom we have this day spoken. He is or should be our best Friend through whom we can be reconciled to God.

Some of you have likely read that before and know who the author/giver of the discourse is.  I have too, though I remember none of this stuff…at all.  In sharing this, I’m only doing so to see if we can expound on what was taught, and see where the “true doctrine” is in relation to what and how we worship and what is the “correct” path.  Some may believe this is faultfinding, but please believe me when I say I’m only looking at the contrast.  Who said what, what church they belonged to, their position in the church, really, to me, doesn’t matter one iota.  The doctrine is what I’m looking for.  It doesn’t really matter who said it, or where it was given, or if it was even given by a leader of whatever church…other than the fact the author is claiming to set forth “true doctrine.”  Otherwise, in this instance, I couldn’t care less.  Just looking for some thoughts on the how/what we worship + the idea of gaining a “personal relationship” with Christ versus maintaining a “required reserve” or a “reverential barrier” between Him and us imperfect mortals.  Just looking at the contrast in what I’ve read/heard from some, and what I read here and deciphering the difference between the two.

To recap, anyone disagreeing with what is shared above (1) won’t “inherit eternal life,” (2) is rejecting the expounded “doctrine of the Church,” (3) does not “understand the scriptures,” (4) is not “in tune with the Holy Spirit,” (5) is spiritually unsound, (6) does not have “the guidance of the Holy Spirit,” (7) does not have a “sound understanding of the doctrines,” (8) have rejected the “mainstream of the church,” and (9) needs to “repent and believe the accepted verities as [Bruce R. McConkie] set them forth.”

So, I ask…anyone care to disagree?  (P.S.  I do.)

Reminds me of what Joseph Smith said many, many years ago – in a time which seems almost in some other eternity:
“I did not like the old man being called up for erring in doctrine.  It looks too much like the Methodists, and not like the Latter-day Saints.  Methodists have creeds which a man must believe or be asked out of their church.  I want the liberty of thinking and believing as I please.  It feels so good not to be trammeled.  It does not prove that a man is not a good man because he errs in doctrine.”[1]
And this, from a separate conversation I had (contains some of the same dialogue):

That talk - "Our Relationship With the Lord" - is even more heinous if one realizes what led up to the talk and who McConkie stomped on to give it. McConkie gave that talk in his effort to refute "pure sectarian nonsense," but have you actually looked into what he was referring to? 

I'd recommend a google search of "George W. Pace". He, likewise, gave a devotional at BYU, and I might recommend cross referencing those two talks.

Here is the link to Pace's talk: http://speeches.byu.edu/?act=v...

And, to give you a head start on researching Pace, I'd start with reading his son's description of the event and how it was felt by them, personally: http://www.sethpayne.com/?p=40...

It's not only that McConkie told them to give up their idea of a "personal relationship" with the Savior (in favor of a "reverential barrier" - McConkie's own words), it's that he did so in strikingly dogmatic ways. Anyone disagreeing with McConkie's talk was told, in no uncertain terms, that they (1) won’t “inherit eternal life,” (2) are rejecting the expounded “doctrine of the Church,” (3) do not “understand the scriptures,” (4) are not “in tune with the Holy Spirit,” (5) are spiritually unsound, (6) do not have “the guidance of the Holy Spirit,” (7) do not have a “sound understanding of the doctrines,” (8) have rejected the “mainstream of the church,” and (9) need to “repent and believe the accepted verities as [Bruce R. McConkie] set them forth.

Not only did no one come out to repudiate any of his comments, but no one would publically support Pace and what happened. The guy was released from the devotional "circuit" and as a stake president in a matter of days, all because McConkie had issues with the way Pace felt about Christ. And, not only that, but McConkie likewise failed to discuss those issues privately with Pace...instead chose the venue of the Marriott Center and some 20000 students. 

As one of my friends stated, who happened to be there that night:

"I was in the meeting you refer to above, in fact I was sitting on the stage with my father in seats reserved for BYU faculty and church leaders (my father was both) and a few seats down from us was Bro. Pace, a close personal friend of my father’s. After the address and while walking home with my father, he said, “I can’t understand why Elder McConkie didn’t tell George (Bro. Pace) what he was going to do, didn’t give him some forewarning. He should have forewarned him.” He said this because Bro. Pace, all during the actual address and after, had been or appeared to be in a state of shock, as you can well imagine. There were 20,000 people, at least, in the audience.

I couldn’t then and I can’t now understand what it was about Bro. Pace’s book that bothered Elder McConkie so (and I don’t think my father could either). At the time Bro. Pace was a very popular religion teacher, fireside speaker and also BYU stake president, a position he was promptly released from in the days that followed. Sadly, in addition to other fallout, one of Bro. Pace’s sons who was serving a mission at the time and heard about the talk, this son was so disturbed by the whole affair…well I think it has something, maybe a lot, to do with his being out of the church today."

Perhaps the greatest of ironies of that McConkie talk is how a discourse that purports to be the only "true" doctrine on developing (or not) a "personal relationship with the Savior" somehow served as a backdrop to a real life beat down and humiliation to someone who was simply trying to serve Christ.

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