April 19, 2015, marks exactly 30 years since Bruce R. McConkie, of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints died. I realize that he said some pretty controversial stuff. I know that he insulted people who believe in evolution, I know that he compared people who leave the LDS Church to barking dogs, I know that he eviscerated Eugene England and George Pace. Those are valid issues and can be discussed elsewhere. I will ignore any attack comments that show up.
I did want to take a quick moment and focus on his last talk, given two weeks before he died, titled “The Purifying Power of Gethsemane.” It is perhaps one of his most famous moments. For me it is one of the all time highlights of LDS General Conference and one of the most spiritual talks that I have ever heard. Though I disagree with Elder McConkie on many things, this talk always inspires me. It is an example of how good a General Conference talk can and should be. Here are a few of my favorite bits:
I feel, and the Spirit seems to accord, that the most important doctrine I can declare, and the most powerful testimony I can bear, is of the atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ.
His atonement is the most transcendent event that ever has or ever will occur from Creation’s dawn through all the ages of a never-ending eternity.
It is the supreme act of goodness and grace that only a god could perform. Through it, all of the terms and conditions of the Father’s eternal plan of salvation became operative.
Through it are brought to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. Through it, all men are saved from death, hell, the devil, and endless torment…
We do not know, we cannot tell, no mortal mind can conceive the full import of what Christ did in Gethsemane.
We know he sweat great gouts of blood from every pore as he drained the dregs of that bitter cup his Father had given him.
We know he suffered, both body and spirit, more than it is possible for man to suffer, except it be unto death…
We know that he lay prostrate upon the ground as the pains and agonies of an infinite burden caused him to tremble and would that he might not drink the bitter cup…
Finally, on a hill called Calvary … the Roman soldiers laid him upon the cross.
With great mallets they drove spikes of iron through his feet and hands and wrists. Truly he was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities.
Then the cross was raised that all might see and gape and curse and deride. …
Then the heavens grew black. … There was a mighty storm, as though the very God of Nature was in agony.
And truly he was, for while he was hanging on the cross for another three hours, from noon to 3:00 P.M., all the infinite agonies and merciless pains of Gethsemane recurred.
And, finally, when the atoning agonies had taken their toll—when the victory had been won, when the Son of God had fulfilled the will of his Father in all things—then he said, “It is finished” (John 19:30), and he voluntarily gave up the ghost…
And now, as pertaining to this perfect atonement, wrought by the shedding of the blood of God—I testify that it took place in Gethsemane and at Golgotha, and as pertaining to Jesus Christ, I testify that he is the Son of the Living God and was crucified for the sins of the world. He is our Lord, our God, and our King. This I know of myself independent of any other person.
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.
God grant that all of us may walk in the light as God our Father is in the light so that, according to the promises, the blood of Jesus Christ his Son will cleanse us from all sin.
Video of the full talk
Video of the first time that he read “I Believe in Christ” in public: