I was serving as a young high councilor when our stake president was released, and a new stake president called. Bruce R. McConkie, of the Council of the Twelve Apostles, was our conference visitor. Elder McConkie was a spiritual and intellectual giant. He was a “Lion of Righteousness” at the pulpit. His talks and texts have had a major impact on the church.
After the new stake president was called and sustained, a small group gathered in the relief society room for the setting apart. With the new stake president seated facing us, and with Elder McConkie standing behind him, Elder McConkie asked the stake president if he had any family members who would like to participate in the setting apart. The stake president said, “My son his here, but he is ‘only an Elder.’”
Big mistake! I cringed. I knew that Elder McConkie had given a talk entitled, “Only an Elder.” In that talk, he expressed his frustration whenever a Melchizedek Priesthood holder is referred to as “only an Elder.” He declared that that phrase should never be used or heard in the church.
Elder McConkie then “invited” the stake president to take a seat in the audience. In his booming deep voice, he repeated, “Only an Elder?!”
For the next twenty minutes, Elder McConkie gave us a stern lecture on what it meant to be an Elder. He declared: “I’ll have you know that I am an Elder. I am called Elder McConkie.” “Joseph Smith was called the First Elder of the Church.” “An Elder has as much priesthood as I have.” “An Elder can run the church.” “We vicariously ordain people in the temple as Elders.” And on and on.
When Elder McConkie wound down and concluded, the new stake president apologized, and the setting apart took place with his son in the circle.
This was a great learning experience for all of us. Everyone present had burned into brains: Elder is a great and noble office in the Holy Melchizedek Priesthood of God. There is no such thing as “only an Elder.”
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