Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Sterling McMurrin on David O. McKay

A recent thread at Times and Seasons reminded me of an article I read which was a transcript of an interview with Sterling McMurrin. I don't know a whole lot about McMurrin, but he seems to be a very interesting character. He said the following about David O. McKay in the context of telling a story about a time when Joseph Fielding Smith reportedly tried to get McMurrin excommunicated from the Church.
President McKay started by saying, "What is it that a man is not ... " (Sterling interrupts his own story to say to Jack), "These are his exact words." "...What is it that a man is not allowed to believe? or be asked out of this church? Is it evolution?" Now nothing had been said in connection with my case about evolution, but he brought it up. (Jack murmurs with an understanding nod of the head to Sterling.) He said, "Is it evolution? I hope not, because I believe in evolution." Then he went to two or three other things. He said, "Is it something else? I hope not, because I believe in that."

I said, "Well, I will tell you something, President MacKay." He was making *me* look so good. I was feeling guilty as the devil, you know. And I still have guilt feelings about this. I said, "President MacKay, I think I caused some trouble in my ward. The teacher was saying that we believe that the negroes..." (This was before the revelation of course.) "...we believe that the negroes are cursed because of the curse of Cain. That is why they can't hold the preisthood." And I just said, I told them that I didn't want to argue the case, but I wanted them to know that I didn't believe that. And President MacKay said, "Well, I'm glad you said that, because I don't believe it either." And he said, "That was never a doctrine of this church. It is not a doctrine of this church and it never will be a doctrine of this church." He said, all it is, is we believe that there is scriptural precedent, these are his exact words "scriptural precedent". I knew he was referring to the Pearl of Great Price item that the negroes should not now be given the priesthood. Now he said, "That is a practice and it is a practice that is going to be changed." Now this was back in 1954. He said, "It is a practice that is going to be changed and it is not a doctrine of the church." And I said, "Well, now President MacKay, couldn't you make the statement that you just made to me in conference? Or put it on the front page of the Deseret News with the lines on it, you know, like they used to do sometimes with the statements from the First Presidency?" I said, "There are 1,000's of people in the church that believe that is a doctrine of the church. Now couldn't you make that statement in conference?" He sat there and with a kind of a benign smile you know, and I thought, there is such a thing as pushing the prophets a little too far. So I didn't say anymore. And he was thoughtful. And he said, "Well, all I can do is say that that is not a doctrine of the church, that it is only a practice and that it is going to be changed."

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