I’ve had people occasionally ask me about the chapter headings, and I’ve seen a fair few people try and use the Bible Dictionary to establish doctrine (even when the use they are trying to put it to actually contradicts scriptural text), so having come across the following statement from the man who at the very least supervised adding these materials, I thought I would share it. From Bruce R. McConkie himself:
[As for the] Joseph Smith Translation items, the chapter headings, Topical Guide, Bible Dictionary, footnotes, the Gazeteer, and the maps. None of these are perfect; they do not of themselves determine doctrine; there have been and undoubtedly now are mistakes in them. Cross-references, for instance, do not establish and never were intended to prove that parallel passages so much as pertain to the same subject. They are aids and helps only.
(From Mark McConkie, ed. Doctrines of the Restoration: Sermons and Writings of Bruce R. McConkie [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1989], 289-90, via an article by Robert Boylan at his blog Scriptural Mormonism).
I’ve made no secret of my desire for the footnotes to be revised (I’d like all the topical guide references removed on the basis that they are unnecessary, I’d like quotations to be better noted and more definitions for archaic terms, amongst other things, including for us to break away from spreadsheet format), and think reading the chapter headings can sometimes be counter-productive (because sometimes that can condition us to only look for certain things). That’s no reflection, however, on the work of great men like Elder McConkie. It’s likewise no lack of respect to realise that these aids are not infallible or part of the actual scriptural text, when Elder McConkie and others never meant for them to be taken that way.