Dennis B. Horne is the author of several books, including a biography of Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Horne’s writing can also be found on sites such as The Interpreter Foundation, LDS Living, and FAIR.
Who is Dennis B. Horne?
I am an independent researcher and author. I grew up in Bountiful, Utah, and served a mission to Independence Missouri. I obtained my bachelors from Weber State University in Communications with an emphasis in broadcasting. I spent some ten years, off and on, working for two local Salt Lake City television stations before I went to work for the LDS Church twenty years ago. I have been married twice to wonderful women (one of them deceased and on the other side of the veil for the last twelve years) and three daughters.
The spark of interest I felt for church history and doctrine when I attended Seminary grew into a roaring fire while I served a mission. That is where I first heard the other missionaries speak so respectfully and reverently of Elder Bruce R. McConkie’s teachings and testimony. He had passed away just a few weeks before I graduated from high school, and I had not had the sense to pay attention to his final famous (April 1985) General Conference address at the time he delivered it.
Following my mission, and on the side while pursuing my degree, I voraciously consumed Elder McConkie’s writings and those of the other great doctrinal thinkers and authorities of the Church. I even became a small-time collector of Mormon books when I could afford it. I began assembling my own files, filled with talks and articles related to church history and doctrine.
These books and files became my main interest outside of gaining my secular education.
Fortunately, I came under the influence of two knowledgeable and wise CES men, who gave me invaluable counsel in how to approach my gospel and historical studies: what to feast on; what to be wary of and why; what to study for proper perspective, and where to find the purest and sweetest doctrine.
These formative years in my twenties helped me avoid a serious crisis of faith, such as what has become something of a fad today. During the decade of the 1990s I felt, rightly or wrongly, that I might become knowledgeable enough to begin considering the possibility of doing some writing.
I loved good Mormon books and soon developed the desire to contribute to the field myself.
How little I knew how difficult that would be.
What is Dennis B. Horne’s writing schedule?
Outside of work, family, and church service hours, I mostly write when the desire comes upon me. When a subject captures my interest enough to carry me through the enjoyable but laborious tasks of researching, organizing, writing, rewriting, editing, proofreading, and the publication process, then I find myself using most of my spare time digging for sources or at the keyboard. Early on I realized that any manuscript of mine would be competing for publisher’s investment dollars with the efforts of BYU religious educators and other historians and scholars. I knew that I would have to put my best efforts into my projects or forget about it.
As of this writing I have the title of Technical Writer for the Church Printing Division. What I really am is a copyeditor, proofreader, and page designer, cleaning up information given me by others and making it usable.
Here I will share an experience that I have heretofore largely kept to myself.
My employment accidentally placed me in a position to be of anonymous service to the church some years ago. I had spent a few years researching and writing a biography of President Lorenzo Snow (published as “Latter Leaves in the Life of Lorenzo Snow,” by Cedar Fort). Then I learned that the coming year’s priesthood and Relief Society manual would consist of selection from the teachings of Lorenzo Snow. A very small pre-press print run of this manual was produced so that it could receive a final review from selected individuals (some General Authorities, Correlation, Curriculum) before publication for the Church.
Even though I really wasn’t one of those designated reviewers, I managed to obtain a copy and spent some days closely inspecting the life-history portions. I did this because I believed that, fresh off my extensive research for the biography, I knew more about Lorenzo Snow’s life than anyone else that would be reviewing it. I also felt an obligation to use the time, talents, and knowledge that I had gained to further the work of the Lord.
On close examination, I found some substance errors (mostly of a biographical nature). I then wrote a report explaining and correcting each of them and sent it to a contact in the Correlation Department, but I stipulated that my name not be used as the source of the corrections. I later was pleased to note that the published manual (for 2013 study) had my corrections incorporated into it.
The most significant correction was the clarification that President Snow did not prophesy an end to the southern Utah drought at the time he received his famous tithing revelation in St. George in 1899 (as portrayed in the church-produced movie “The Windows of Heaven”).
The tithing manifestation was indeed true and real, but President Snow’s son LeRoi C. later created an accompanying fiction of a prophecy that if the locals paid their full tithing it would yet rain that very season and save their livestock and crops. President Snow uttered no such prophecy and there was no end to the drought for two years.
I was also asked to write a clarifying Ensign article on this misunderstood episode, to further explain this correction of history to church members, but in the end my article was dropped because it was thought to be repetitive of the corrected material on that event in manual. My article did eventually appear in “Mormon Historical Studies.” Enough time has elapsed that I can now relate that episode without ruffling any feathers.
What were the catalysts for writing “Called of God by Prophecy” and “I Know He Lives”?
The Callings book was written fresh off the completion of the McConkie biography and while I sought a publisher for it. Thankfully, Eborn Books ended up publishing both books. The subject of revelation attending calls to service had long been of interest to me and I had collected enough inspirational accounts of such calls that felt compelled to forge ahead. It was also a shorter and simpler manuscript to prepare than the McConkie bio had been.
The recent “I Know He Lives: How 13 Special Witnesses Came to Know Jesus Christ” volume, about the special witness of Jesus possessed by modern apostles, came about in an unusual way.
Several years ago I painstakingly prepared and polished a fine piece focusing on Elder Bruce R. McConkie’s special witness of Jesus Christ, with the hope that it might be published somewhere by April 2015, the 30th anniversary of his passing. However, both journals I submitted it to rejected it for what I considered lousy reasons (I suppose I am not the only author to have thought that).
The rejections, of what I considered some of my very best work, made me mad, so that on further thought I decided to write a dozen more similar pieces on other apostles. Most of them contain accounts (many lesser-known) of the special witness of other modern apostles who had beheld Jesus. I also added a few chapters about some apostles who had probably not seen Jesus, but whose life or teachings had some special relevance to the subject anyway.
Thus, I could produce a quality book and get my McConkie article published despite the previous rejections. The plan worked well. I had a blessedly inspirational experience researching and writing that book, though I will admit that I struggled with a concern that I was sharing information perhaps too sacred for a public book.
Over and over again these apostle’s numerous witnesses of the Savior were confirmed to me by the Spirit. These repeated precious experiences, plus the plentiful divine guidance I received in finding and understanding many of the sources, made this book the most special to me of the eight I have produced. (I have published with Eborn Books and Cedar Fort; my publication of Elder Abraham H. Cannon’s diaries was self-published; all my titles are currently in print; CFI also di the Lorenzo Snow bio in bonded leather, which is available from them.)
I remember sitting at my computer with all of the sources that I had found about President Boyd K. Packer’s special witness, wondering how on earth I was going to put that mass of material together in an organized and readable fashion.
I started writing and by the end of the day I had a decent rough draft of his chapter with all the sources in correct position. It simply flowed, and that experience helped make the other chapters easier to assemble also.
As I have pondered the sacred testimonies related in that chapter, I have come to a feeling, a recognition, that President Packer not only saw Jesus more than once, but also handled His resurrected body, and further, that he also beheld the Father.
All of the chapters were a joy to prepare; research notes from past decades suddenly found their place. There are many sources/accounts—precious gems and nuggets—in that book that few people are aware of because of the diversity of their original locations.
What were some of the challenges you faced writing and publishing your biography of Elder McConkie?
The challenges were many and difficult. I refer you to the substantial account I have written about my experience preparing and getting published a biography of Elder McConkie, as posted on the website that I blog at: Truthwillprevail.xyz.
As you will notice, I waited many years before I felt comfortable sharing this unusual story, so that most participants were either deceased or retired.
Would Dennis B. Horne change anything about his original approach to Elder McConkie’s biography?
As I say in the posted account, I probably would simply not write it. Twenty to twenty-five years ago when I was immersing myself in the project, Elder McConkie had not been gone for as long as he has now and his name was still much more of a lightening rod. Yet, even knowing what I know now, I don’t think I could have changed anything that would have improved or eased the experience.
Some things simply need the passage of time to open doors or smooth paths, and some things may never be able to be done.
But I did do it and I feel a quiet satisfaction for that; I overcame a lot. The chapter on Elder McConkie’s special witness in my “I Know He Lives” book contains further material about him than either edition of the biography; it just seemed time to reveal now what couldn’t be shared in 2000 or even 2010.
What are common misunderstandings about Elder Bruce R. McConkie?
Those who only knew of Elder McConkie’s preaching/pulpit demeanor often thought he behaved in normal life the same as he did before an audience; a very common misperception. He was really an amiable, fun-loving, social person.
Even after being prodded to change his speaking style; to loosen up and use a little humor, he found it no use; he quickly reverted to teaching strong and solid scriptural doctrine in monotone. Elder Glen L. Rudd (now deceased), one of Bruce’s inner circle of friends, told me that story (but without the monotone observation).
Elder McConkie’s marvelous book “Mormon Doctrine,” especially the first edition (1958) also must be one of the most discussed, debated, criticized, loved, read, quoted, and interesting doctrinally-oriented books of Mormonism.
When I see people talk about it in online forums, I often become annoyed by the lack of accurate information being related. Much of this stems from the Prince-Wright, David O. McKay biography, which unfortunately contains a one-sided, negatively-biased section on the book. The authors seemed to me to have disliked “Mormon Doctrine” and therefore left many of the facts out of their account.
Both my bio, and Joseph Fielding McConkie’s biography of his father, were available for the authors to consult for a more complete and balanced review of this episode, but were ignored. Needless to say, for many reasons, this important, even legendary, book, is vastly misperceived.
Speaking now of the second edition, in general I find that unorthodox liberal/progressive-types malign or ignore it, while doctrinally sound and mature folks love and quote from it.
With regard to Elder McConkie’s teachings today, there are some people who are trying to marginalize or discount or outright repudiate what he taught, and some are even trying to tie their efforts to the institutional Church. Since more recent quotes from more recent general authorities are used in church curriculum, instead of Elder McConkie’s quotes (which were so prevalent in church manuals from the 1980s), they try to use that development as their proof. Some of his critics are trying to proclaim (falsely) that the church and its current leadership have repudiated him and his teachings. This is all fictional nonsense invented to lessen his remaining considerable doctrinal influence with members.
One thing many critics forget is that, because Elder McConkie taught from the scriptures, they must also depreciate or disregard the scriptures themselves in their quest to denigrate Elder McConkie’s doctrinal thought—a strategy that usually backfires. As a general authority once said to me while we were discussing Elder McConkie’s powerful teachings (and I paraphrase): Elder McConkie’s teachings will last because he taught doctrine; knowing that doctrine lasts.
I would add that evidence of the strength of his doctrine is found in the effort critics still go to trying to defeat it. President Russell M. Nelson has twice been quoted in the Deseret News talking about his choice experiences being taught and trained by Elder McConkie during his first year as an apostle.
Some astute observers place his personal doctrinal knowledge and teaching prowess second only to the Prophet Joseph Smith. I am biased, but I agree. Certainly he ranks with the very finest, in company with the Pratts, Talmage, Cannon, Roberts, the Smiths, and Packer.
I would surmise that Elder McConkie’s most overlooked major contribution might be his work on the study helps contained in LDS scriptures, such as chapter headings, some entries in the Bible dictionary, and his assigned oversight of the whole project. Yet it is also true that many people have heard of the invaluable work he did.
What is one thing that most inspires Dennis B. Horne about Elder Bruce R. McConkie?
His determination to learn true gospel doctrine and teach it by the power of the Holy Ghost. Secondly, his determination to part the veil and commune with heaven; to receive revelation. He succeeded admirably at both. He came to possess what he called a “perfect” knowledge that Jesus Christ lives.
In the last year, a (likely-genuine) source has come to light, though shared with us by unworthy and deceitful methods, containing an account written by Elder McConkie of a vision of the Savior that he received:
I shall tell you of a vision I seemed to see when I removed the seal from a sacred book [the Bible] and began to study, ponder, and pray about the things I found written therein.
I seemed to see a little group of favored and select souls upon whom the light of heaven rested with a soft and hallowed radiance. These chosen ones lived and moved and had their being in the midst of an evil and wicked people whose minds were darkened with unbelief and whose souls were stained with sin. . . .
I chose to mingle with those upon whom the heavenly rays fell, and as I stepped, with deep feelings of unworthiness, into that sacred circle, I beheld His face, the face of the Blessed One whose countenance shown with divine light shed forth abundantly upon those whom he had called and ordained.
They were all dressed after the manner of the Jews. Their clothing was woven from the country cloth of Galilee. They had turbans on their heads, sandals on their feet, and several of them carried staves in their hands.
I seemed to see a man called Peter, a rugged, courageous, valiant soul from Capernaum. With him were his partners, James and John, the sons of thunder. These three sailed their boats on the Lake of Gennesaret and sometimes sold their fish as far south as Jerusalem itself.
These three had but recently climbed the snow-capped heights of Hermon where Jesus, his raiment white and glistening with celestial brilliance, was transfigured before them. These three had seen the divine Shekinah once more rest in the land of Israel and heard the voice of the Father testify: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.” (Matt. 17:5.)
What is Elder McConkie’s unpublished book “These Three”?
I am pleased and grateful to have read and reread Elder McConkie’s unpublished manuscript, “These Three: Elohim, Jehovah, and Michael.” This is the best and most insightful doctrinal work that I have ever read. It is drinking from a well of living water, enlightening the mind and heart.
“These Three” traces the work and mission of Elohim, Jehovah, and Michael (Heavenly Father, Jesus, and Adam), reviewing their parts in the plan of salvation. From the pre-mortal existence and councils, to the creation, the fall, the atonement, the spirit world, the resurrection, the judgement, the last days, and into eternity again. It contains the best and most detailed explanation of the doctrine of the creation of the earth that I know of anywhere. The material on the resurrection is fascinating. I even noted that Elder McConkie had borrowed a sentence or two from this manuscript for use in his final general conference talk.
As to whether or not it will ever be published, I can only reason and speculate, as below:
– It was not published when originally written because it did not go through the internal manuscript review process implemented by the First Presidency for books written by General Authorities. A question might arise if it would have to go through a correlation review today, or if it could be issued by a commercial publisher, thereby skipping such a review. I would not want a word of it edited/revised/altered by anyone no matter how smart they were. As wonderful of a work it is that Correlation does implementing the policies and instructions of the First Presidency to keep church doctrine coming from headquarters pure, they do tend to water things down or remove them.
– It is now thirty-three years since Elder McConkie passed away; he is no longer known to most of the church; his books no longer sell well and most are out of print. On a side note, several years ago Elder McConkie’s critics made a stir about his book Mormon Doctrine going out of print, saying that the church was repudiating him and his doctrinal teachings. This was complete nonsense and those speaking loudest seemed to know the least. Mormon Doctrine went out of print because it wasn’t selling well. So, there may be a sales potential question involved for “These Three.”
– However, I think there are still enough left of the older generation that remember him that there could still be a strong enough audience to make a publisher’s investment well worth it. Especially for a new McConkie title that no one had heard of or read before—a powerful promotional grabber. I know two fine publishers who would snap up “These Three” like lightening if it were offered to them. Whether Deseret Book would be interested is a question they would have to answer. I, for one (though I am biased), would think they would be fools not to run with it if they were given the chance. Yet Deseret Book has acted foolishly many times before.
– The Church itself probably does not own the intellectual property rights to the manuscript and does not physically possess a copy (last I heard). It is not in the Church History Department’s archives and it is not in the files of the Quorum of the Twelve. The McConkie family would probably own the copyright unless it was determined to be a work-for-hire situation—meaning since Elder McConkie was an apostle, maybe this written work would therefore be owned by the Church, but I doubt it. His children own the rights to his published works. Church leaders might simply ignore the matter and leave it in the hands of the family, or perhaps counsel the family on whether to publish it or not. Then it would be up to them to publish it and they may or may not want to; I have no idea.
– I can think of some good reasons why it ought to be published (besides royalties). Providing interested readers with a doctrinal feast of enlightening meat and edifying drink; raising the gospel knowledge level of those who would study the work. Such lofty motivation is supposed to be the reason any LDS author writes and publishes such a book. If it is not they are flirting with or engaging in priestcraft. Further, reliable word has reached my ears that someone, without permission, has had printed and leather-bound a dozen photocopies of “These Three” and sold them to well-healed collectors.
This means that the probability is that eventually copies of copies (and exponentially more copies of copies) will begin to leak and circulate.
This is not how Elder McConkie’s finest (in my opinion) doctrinal work should be disseminated. A reputable publisher should be producing an exemplary hardback (and digital) edition. Lastly, whomever owns the copyright should keep in mind that the unscrupulous anti-Mormon website “Mormonleaks” (that has already betrayed the McConkie family twice by posting a lot of unpublished McConkie-related materials) might someday somehow obtain a copy of “These Three” and publish/post it themselves. This would be a bizarre development; sort of like the devil delivering up the gold plates of the Book of Mormon to the Prophet instead of the Angel Moroni. It would also damage the market as some folks might prefer to download it for free, rather than pay for it. Better to do it right, soon, than for the devil’s servants to sully the situation by illegally posting it on their site.
There is precedent for its publication today. In 1911, when an anti-Mormon opportunist was able to use a disgruntled church employee to gain access to the Salt Lake Temple, he took pictures of interior rooms. He then tried to blackmail the Church into paying him $100,000 or he would exhibit the pictures in venues in the east. To spoil the blackmail plot, President Joseph F. Smith commissioned James E. Talmage to write a book about temples that included superb quality pictures of the Salt Lake Temple interiors. This is how the book “The House of the Lord” came about. President Smith said, in effect, that he would not deal with thieves or in stolen goods.
In the 1990s, the manuscript for B. H. Roberts’ here-to-fore unpublished masterwork, “The Truth, The Way, The life, an Elementary Treatise on Theology,” was published with explanatory essays by BYU Studies, to balance another publication of the same manuscript by non-LDS contenders. This helpful method of publication enabled readers to understand context and related issues, and that Roberts was not speaking for the Church, but only for himself. Such would also be the case with “These Three” if it were published.
To summarize, it would seem beneficial for either the Church or the family to have the publication of “These Three” done right and enable the many who believe and enjoy Elder McConkie’s teachings to benefit from, to them, a new sumptuous doctrinal feast prepared by him some forty years ago. Otherwise, sooner or later, the devil will do his thing through his mortal emissaries.
How does technology increase scriptural literacy? Impede it?
Dennis Horne: I am no expert on using technology to study the scriptures, such as with the LDS library app. I have long taken advantage of technology to quickly find verses when I can’t remember where they are in the scriptures. As an amateur historian, I have appreciated being able to use technology to view items in the Church History Department’s archives that they have scanned and posted online. They are doing a marvelous work with that, making it easier and more convenient to perform in-depth research without having to travel to their archives.
What does Dennis Horne see as today’s greatest spiritual dangers?
Outside of the obvious: immorality (adultery, fornication, homosexuality, porn) and drug and alcohol addiction, I personally believe our times to be the beginning of an age of mass misinformation. This is largely attributable to the internet and some members unfortunate susceptibility to accept and even champion the standards of the telestial world we live in. We are supposed to live in it but not of it, yet it seems as though it only takes loud and persuasive voices from worldly activist sources, and some in the church become ashamed of what the scriptures and apostles and prophets have taught us for so long, and then they may leave the church or criticize it from within.
The noisy-beyond-their-numbers LGBT lobby was crafty in persuading people to equate a natural aversion to homosexual behavior, with the true and evil prejudice of racism. They invented the label “homophobia” and gave it the same strong negative connotation as “racist” and were thereby enabled to shame people into viewing something wrong as being right.
Evil then became good, and good became evil. Both Isaiah and Moroni warned against that devilish reversal being a huge problem in our day; they were prophets indeed. No unclean thing can enter the kingdom of heaven, and immorality in all its forms, including homosexual, is unclean. This is a large-scale textbook case study of carefully manipulated misinformation guiding people away from gospel light and instead into mists of darkness.
On those occasions when I take the time to skim the comments of various apostates that have been excommunicated (or will be) over the last several years, I quickly notice that they usually leave the church based on misinformation or misunderstanding. The reasons they give for losing faith are predicated on a false or misinformed understanding of whatever they are troubled or upset about. They either haven’t done enough homework, or did poor homework, or believed bad sources or interpretations.
In other words, they come to understand the history or doctrine of the Church incorrectly. Having been fooled by the bad scholarship or incompetent reasoning/knowledge of someone else, in person or in print, they begin to doubt, and soon they are out of the Church.
For instance, I skimmed the so-called “Letter to a CES Director” some years ago when it first came out. I have read few things so ill informed. If someone is doubting or thinking of leaving the Church over that piece of misbegotten propaganda, I have some swampland in the Sahara to sell them.
For others, modern social issues are their trouble. They find they cannot live in the world without becoming of it; therefore, when the conscience of the telestial world tells them what to think and feel, they find that those false philosophies oppose the revelations of God, and again, they might leave.
President Boyd K. Packer uttered a prophetic explanation that beautifully describes the entire situation: “As we continue on our course, these things will follow as night the day: The distance between the Church and a world set on a course which we cannot follow will steadily increase. Some will fall away into apostasy, break their covenants, and replace the plan of redemption with their own rules.”
This declaration describing today’s “church vs. world” equation is as true as anything ever spoken by the power of the Holy Ghost. The distance is increasingly widening; the telestial “world” is “set on a course which we cannot follow” but which these misled people choose to follow anyway. The world is the false philosophies of men; the great and spacious building; the corrupt state of our modern society; the turning of good into evil and evil into good.
And so, we watch as these people follow the world into apostasy; we watch them break their covenants and rail on the Brethren, and we soon see that they have come up with their own rules, having discarded or revised the plan of redemption to suit themselves. Pres. Packer’s prophesy will see more and more fulfillment as the decades pass before the second coming.
I have a cousin, now atheist, who started to lose his faith in the gospel because he read an anti-Mormon book that told him that the papyrus that Joseph Smith translated to get the Book of Abraham was actually an Egyptian funerary text, or book of Breathings, and had nothing to do with Abraham. The papyrus had been translated by Egyptologists and such was the fact. The anti-Mormon book he read purposely withheld from him the fact that the papyrus roll that Joseph Smith translated the Book of Abraham from had been burned in the great Chicago fire and no longer existed. Not existing, it couldn’t be translated. He swallowed the misinformation, his doubt grew, he read other misinformed books and websites, lost his faith and left the Church.
Over the months and years we began to extensively discuss his issues with the church by email. I could easily answer all his questions and objections because they weren’t very hard; just the usual anti-Mormon gunk repeated on all their websites. As time passed, although I didn’t specifically ask God for it, as I went about my normal routines of study and research, I found marvelous, satisfying answers and refutations of his objections. They jumped off the page/screen at me. I tried sending some of them to him, but his heart had become too hard.
Some years ago I read the story of a person who had become troubled and began to doubt after learning there were several different accounts of the First Vision shared by Joseph Smith. He had been told, incorrectly (more misinformation), that they were a contradictory mess. He swallowed the lie instead of carefully studying them for himself, blamed the church for not telling him there were other versions (it had in the Ensign but he didn’t know it) and so he was on his way out, and gravitating to other misinformation on the way.
When I read his story, I thought I would reread the several First Vision accounts myself. I had read them many years before, but thought I would again see if I could tell what all the fuss was about with the doubters. I took a few hours and studied them closely, analyzing and comparing them the best I could. I was thrilled to see how they corroborated and supported each other, furnishing further details and insights, creating a more complete and whole picture than did the main one canonized in Joseph Smith—History.
As I concluded my study, the Holy Spirit came upon me and gave me an understanding that I will not here describe, and left me with a sure witness that the vision I had just studied about occurred exactly as Joseph had said it did, in all the accounts.
What event from Bruce R. McConkie’s life would Dennis B. Horne most want to witness?
With Elder McConkie, I would probably want to witness the times the Lord spoke to him, using actual words, or the personal revelation he received when it was revealed to him that he would soon be called to the Quorum of the Twelve. Either those instances, or when he was present at the time the 1978 revelation on the priesthood was received by President Kimball in the temple. (All of these events are recounted by him in his chapter in my “I Know He Lives” book.)
As for a single question, I have often wondered if his moving declaration of his special witness concluding his final general conference talk was based on some marvelous spiritual experience/manifestation that I was unaware of, and if so, to describe it to me (something he wouldn’t do).
As for President Lorenzo Snow, I would like to have witnessed his interview with Jesus in the temple, when Jesus appeared to him and told him to reorganize the First Presidency and not wait, and who he should name as his counselors.
Either that, or ask him to relate to me what he saw in his famous tithing manifestation in the St. George Utah Tabernacle in 1899. Or, the vision he had, for which he developed his famous couplet: “As man now is, God once was; as God now is, man may become.” He saw something marvelous then that I wish he had explained better.