In his General Conference address “Gospel Learning and Teaching” in October 2010, David M. McConkie, First Counselor in the Sunday School General Presidency (and nephew of Bruce R. McConkie), made the following comments:
Soon after I was called to be a stake president, our stake presidency received training from an Area Seventy. During the training, I asked a question to which he responded, “That is a good question. Let’s turn to the Church Handbook of Instructions for the answer.” We then went to the handbook, and there was the answer to my question. A little later in our training, I asked another question. Once again he responded, “Good question. Let’s turn to the handbook.” I did not venture to ask any more questions. I thought it best to read the handbook.
I have thought since that the Lord could give a similar response to each of us as we go to Him with concerns or questions. He could say, “That’s a good question. If you will review Alma chapter 5 or Doctrine and Covenants section 76, you’ll remember that I have already spoken to you about this.”
Brothers and sisters, it is contrary to the economy of heaven for the Lord to repeat to each of us individually what He has already revealed to us collectively. The scriptures contain the words of Christ. They are the voice of the Lord. Studying the scriptures trains us to hear the Lord’s voice. (Ensign, Nov. 2010, 14-15)
Some obvious questions come to mind in reflecting on these statements by David M. McConkie. Has it always been “contrary to the economy of heaven” for the Lord to respond to questions already addressed in scripture? If it has always been so, then (assuming the accuracy of the official account of the beginning of the LDS faith), did not Joseph Smith err by asking the Lord questions on doctrinal matters already addressed in the Bible? Should he not have gone to Scripture for his answers instead of asking the Lord to provide these answers to him individually? Had Joseph Smith believed what David M. McConkie asserts, then the LDS religion would never have gotten off the ground.
If it has not always been “contrary to the economy of heaven” for the Lord to answer such questions, what has changed? One possible answer is that the LDS Church now has reliable and comparatively complete scriptures in the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price. The traditional view among Mormons appears to be that while these scriptures are reliable, the Bible is reliable only where it agrees with (current) LDS teaching. Many if not most Mormons view the Bible as less reliable than the other three “standard works” of the LDS Church. Another possible answer is that the LDS Church now exists, so that there is a collective organization with the priesthood, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and so forth, whose members now have the spiritual ability to read the scriptures and understand them. I suppose Mormons might accept both answers together.
What I would say to Mormons on this issue is this: When we who are evangelical, Bible-believing Christians have questions, or are asked questions, about doctrinal and practical matters, our answer will sound very similar to what David M. McConkie says: “Good question. Let’s turn to the Handbook.” For us, the Bible is the Lord’s Handbook of Instructions (among other things). It is contrary to the economy of heaven for the Lord to repeat to each of us individually what he has already revealed to us in the Bible. The Bible is the word of God—the written revelation of the loving heart of God, the holy standards of God, and the merciful works of God by which he reconciles us to himself through Christ and empowers us for life and ministry through the Holy Spirit. In the Bible, we hear the voice of the Lord. In the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, we find Christ.
Thus, when someone asks us, “Do you believe that all worthy males can hold the Aaronic priesthood today?” we reply, “That’s a good question. If you will review Hebrews 5-8, you’ll remember that God has already spoken to you about this.” When someone asks, “Will all of the redeemed live together in one glorious kingdom of God or will they be separated into three different glorious kingdoms?” we reply, “That’s a good question. If you will review Colossians 1:12-14 or Revelation 21:1-7, you’ll remember that the Lord has already spoken to you about this.” If someone wants to know if there is any God other than Jehovah, we reply, “That’s a good question. If you will review Isaiah 43:10 and 44:6-8, you’ll remember that Jehovah has already spoken to you about this.”
If LDS doctrine simply went beyond the Bible to provide additional revelations that agreed with and supplemented what the Bible teaches, that would be one thing. If, however, we find that LDS doctrine repeatedly conflicts with the teaching of the Bible, then our stance needs to be uncompromising. If you’ll study the Bible, you’ll find that the Lord has already spoken on a number of subjects on which the LDS Church claims to have the truth. Time and time again, a careful comparison of LDS teaching with the Bible turns up disconnects, discrepancies, and deviations of LDS doctrine from what the Lord has already said on these issues. I present just such a comparison in the Gospel Principles Scripture Study Guide, a resource on the website of the Institute for Religious Research. The method of that study guide can be summed up in five words: Let’s turn to The Handbook.
Tags: Church Handbook of Instructions, David McConkie, General Conference, modern revelation, Mormonism, Scripture