Missionaries are prone to speculate and indulge in what they consider is deep doctrine. Perhaps to abate speculation the reading material of missionaries is restricted to the standard works, Preach my Gospel, and Jesus the Christ. Despite this, amongst the missionaries there is always a collection of talks that are circulated, photocopied and studied secretly by the missionaries to fuel their doctrinal speculation.

Personally I am from the Preach My Gospel generation of missionaries and was among one the first groups to use these materials all the way from the MTC to the end of my mission. As an avid reader, the restriction on reading was outrageous to me. Especially when I saw all the books missionaries were allowed to read before. As soon as I became aware of the black market talks that circulated in the mission, I pounced on them and rabidly devoured them. In talking with other returned missionaries, I have discovered that these black market talks are pretty commonly circulated and discussed.

These talks reflect the mind set of missionaries, but also show how false doctrine gets circulated. In hindsight, I can see how these talks led to many wrong conclusions on my part and colored my teaching.

Alvin R. Dyer – For What Purpose


“You may not fully know that now but you were a person of nobility in the preexistence.  If you were not, you would have been born into one of these other channels, and you would not have been born in this day and age because the Lord has withheld the choice spirits of the preexistence to come forth in this, the last dispensation.”


Why do missionaries love it?

It gives a logically robust, if not theologically sound, reason why blacks were denied the priesthood. This talk perpetuates pseudo doctrines legitimise the priesthood ban. Missionaries, who are often called on to answer for these types of historical problems, find refuge in Dyer’s explanations, which they then share with investigators. 

From the talk:  “The reason that spirits are born into Negro bodies is because those spirits rejected the Priesthood of God in the pre-existence.  This is the reason why you have Negros upon the earth.” The neatness of the answer masks the cruelty that lies underneath it more palatable. Missionaries simply are not equipped to answer a question they are often asked, and they do not have the means to find a satisfactory answer in the available approved materials. The result is that simplistic falsehoods are embraced and shared.

This talk also plays up the elitist mentality of missionaries. You are the chosen generation, the third who will be the leadership of the celestial worlds when the times comes, the first third of the ressurection who will prepare the kingdom for Christ’s reign. This is a very attractive doctrine for missionaries. It makes them feel special, it gives the mundane knocking on doors a higher significance then it would have otherwise because they are part of the chosen generation who are seeking out celestial leaders.

What is wrong with it?

Looking back it amazes me how I was unable to see all of the many flaws with it.

First, it is racist.  Secondly, it raises the problem of evil circumstances.  To say that a person’s circumstance of birth is a reward for righteousness in the pre-existence, means that logically people who are born in terrible circumstances deserved that. Can you imagine telling a child born into a family who abuses them physically and sexually, or who have no money and are starving that they were born into that life because they deserved it due to their lack of faithfulness in the pre-existence?  This is a diabolical doctrine that is self-justifying.  Why do we need to be charitable toward those who have only gotten what they deserve?  What kind of God is it that would do this (this is the same issue Packer raised about homosexuality)?

Cleon Skousen – The Meaning of the Atonement


“Now, all of a sudden, we begin to catch the vision of the miracle of God’s creation. He goes up into the outer darkness of unorganized intelligences and unorganized bits of element and combines them together so that a little tiny bit of element has an intelligence attached to it and now you can command it.”


What do missionaries love about it?

This talk is highly speculative, as a result it was wonderful food for deep doctrine discussion amongst missionaries. Skousen explained the Atonement in terms of intelligences, godhood and other deeper principles and this became a wonderful springboard to discuss cosmic theology and Kolob doctrine. Missionaries eat this up with a spoon.

What’s wrong with it?

A decent exploration of some of the issues that arise from Skousen’s talk can be found here. Personally I have little beef with this talk. I don’t agree with Skousen’s model of the Atonement, but I don’t think there is much that is offensive or concerning about this talk.

Elder Bruce R. Mcconkie – Seven deadly heresies

“There is no salvation in believing a false doctrine. Truth, diamond truth, truth unmixed with error, truth alone leads to salvation.”

Mcconkie talks seem to be a missionary staple.  This one was quite popular.

Bruce R McConkie.jpg

Why do missionaries love it?

It is very black and white. Mcconkie has a very authoritative way of speaking. Missionary thinking is often plagued by this binary view of the world. The divisions between good and bad have never been so clear cut to me as they were on my mission, and Mcconkie lives in this black and white world. Again it gives nice neat answers to problematic areas of theology. It also delves into some speculative doctrine such as the progression of God and progression through kingdoms. The fact that Mcconkie raises these areas practically condones the discussion of them by missionaries.

What is wrong with it?

It is currently in vogue at the moment to denounce Mcconkie. This is partly I suspect because of the emphatic way in which he spoke. He presented his opinions as a declaration of the truth with no room for deviation from it. The seven deadly heresies talk exemplifies this. McConkie’s dogma puts all who disagree in the camp of “heretic.”

The two major problems that I have with this talk is its stance on evolution and progression through kingdoms. In both cases, the church has stated that there is no official position. Yet, Mcconkie firmly takes a stand and declares that all who disagree with him are heretics.  Missionaries who are unaware that there is no official stance often prefer the comfort of McConkie’s confidently declared view.

Elder Holland – Missionary Work and the Atonement

“I am convinced that missionary work is not easy because salvation is not a cheap experience. Salvation never was easy.”


Why did we love it?

Elder Holland is very bold in his manner of teaching. The version that appeared in the Ensign was edited to remove some of the stronger passages that were in the original MTC address.  At least in my mission, the original was circulated. There was also an audio version of another Holland MTC address that was circulated in which he said how missionaries should react when investigators didn’t read the Book of Mormon. The memory of Elder Holland crying out passionately will always remain embedded in my mind.

What is wrong with it?

In terms of content, it implies that we must go through some hard work to gain salvation, which downplays grace. Mormons are often criticized for a belief that we “earn” salvation rather than it being given to us by God’s grace.  Holland uses passionate rhetoric and performance to give his talks the appearence of conviction and strength that can distort his message. Just because you state something with passion does not make it any more true, but these talks seem to give that impression.

V. Dallas Merril – Will You?

“To invite with “Will you?” evokes a yes or no answer, which is an exercise of a person’s moral agency.”


Why Missionaries loved it?

It feeds into the confidence that missionaries need to have in their work. It reminds us that our purpose is to challenge people to change their lives and gives a theological background to why the commitment pattern should be followed.

What’s wrong with it?

It claims to respect agency by giving others a choice, but the technique puts people into a situation where they almost feel compelled to say yes. Here are two men in suits who are very nice, who are giving you a book, and then ask you ‘Will you let us come back?’  To say yes is so much easier than to say no. ‘No’ requires confrontation. This talk essentially promotes manipulative tactics and guilt to get people to agree to do things. To ask “Will you obey this commandment that we have told you comes from God?” makes it very difficult to decline as it implies the investigator would be rejecting God directly.

These are just a few talks that were highly circulated around on my mission and some of the false doctrines and attitudes that they helped foster. No doubt there are more, and I wonder if the same talks are found amongst missionaries across the world.


What talks were being read by missionaries on your mission?

What do you think of these talks?

What doctrines did you teach on your mission that you now see where flawed?

Why do missionaries like to speculate about deep doctrine?