Boyd K. Packer

As pretty much all of my Mormon and former-Mormon readers will know by now, Boyd Kenneth Packer, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, died on Friday, July 3, at the age of 90. I haven’t been surprised at all at the reactions from different camps. A great deal of vitriol has been heaped on his corpse in the last few days (my personal favorite: “Rot in hell, you bloated toad”), and, of course, the faithful mourn the passing of a great man who loved God and painted in his spare time (M. Russell Ballard said, “He was truly an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. From the crown of his head to the soles of his feet, he represented the Savior of the world”).

So, what was he: the Savior’s representative, or a vicious old toad? Quite clearly, how we see his life and legacy depends entirely on how we view the church he served for so long. Much has been said about Packer’s role in the September Six affair in 1993, his apparent preference for faith-promoting history over things “that are true [but] not very useful,” and his retrograde attitudes towards sexuality and, in particular, homosexuality. He clearly was a lightning rod who did not shy away from controversy. As Dallin Oaks said of him, “You can’t stage-manage a grizzly bear.”

I had only a few minor brushes with the man. Like all Mormon boys of my generation, I was well-acquainted with his talk, “To Young Men Only,” which, although it spawned countless jokes about “little factories,” made it clear to me that masturbation was a terrible evil, so I vowed to stop, and was quite successful (so much so that my urologist tells me that certain health issues I have had are a direct result of my not “stimulating my little factory”). I learned from Elder Packer that it wasn’t enough not to masturbate, but I was to control my thoughts with such vigilance that I would never allow my mind to wander to anything lustful. More than anything, this teaching is what filled my young mind with shame and guilt, which would remain for many years.

My first real-life brush with President Packer came in December 1983, a couple of weeks after I received my mission call. My birthday is in November, so I had agonized over whether I should squeeze in another semester of college before leaving or enter the MTC right when I turned 19. I finally decided to go back to school, which meant delaying my mission for a couple of months. When my roommate and I heard then-Elder Packer was coming to Provo to give a “missionary fireside,” we were excited, and we arrived early at the Provo Tabernacle to get good seats. Elder Packer spoke about how selfish it is to delay a mission for any reason, such as education or finances. I sat there, slowly shrinking in my seat, burning with shame for having acted so selfishly. Had I been more faithful, I thought, I would have been in the MTC at that very moment, instead of feeling all that guilt. After the meeting, my roommate insisted that we get in line to shake Elder Packer’s hand. The last thing I wanted to do was to have to look him in the eye, knowing I had shirked my duty and that he knew. As we got closer to him, the shame kept on building. Eventually, he put out his hand and shook mine. He looked me in the eye and asked, “Are you going to serve a mission, young man?” I told him I had already received my mission call and would be leaving for Bolivia in a few weeks. He patted my hand, smiled, and said, “Well, that’s just fine.” I was so relieved. Clearly, I had been forgiven, but I vowed I would never again put my own needs ahead of the Lord’s.

The next time I came across President Packer in person was in 1993, when I was working at the Church Office Building. Our editing staff had been invited to the All-Church Coordinating Council, which was a meeting of everyone in management in the building. We met in the auditorium, and we heard from M. Russell Ballard, President Packer, and finally, President Thomas Monson. I don’t remember Elder Ballard’s talk at all, but I do have a vivid memory of President Monson glaring at us over glasses he’d borrowed from Neal Maxwell, berating us for our poor efforts to spread the gospel message. But everyone else remembers President Packer’s talk, now (in)famous for his belief that the church faced three great dangers: “the gay-lesbian movement, the feminist movement (both of which are relatively new), and the ever-present challenge from the so-called scholars or intellectuals.” What struck me at the time was less his calling out of people who were “facing the wrong way,” but more that he read letters from members who were obviously distraught, yet his tone was disdainful and even mocking (the official transcript does not include the laughter he elicited at the letter-writers’ expense). I found the whole thing deeply troubling, and I remember thinking, as the auditorium rang with raucous laughter, “This is not a man of God.” I felt terribly guilty for thinking that, but I couldn’t shake it.

The last encounter I had with him was in 1996, when I attended the dedication of the Mt. Timpanogos Temple in American Fork, Utah. Our bishopric had received tickets to the celestial room, meaning that we would be in the same room as the prophet (Gordon B. Hinckley) when he spoke and offered the dedicatory prayer. At the time, we had 5 small children, and although we had tried to get out of the house early, we didn’t arrive until about 15 minutes before the meeting would begin. To our surprise, the room had been filled from the back, going forward, meaning that our bishop, who had arrived 4 hours early, was seated in the very back row. My wife and I, on the other hand, were in the second row, with only the secretary to the Quorum of Seventy and his wife sitting in the row ahead of us (I knew him from my days at the Church Office Building). Only a couple of things stand out to me: first was President Hinckley saying, as near as I can remember it, “That you are here means that you are the best people in the world, that is, if you were honest in your worthiness interviews.” I remember digging through my brain, trying to find some failing I’d missed, but I ended up feeling pretty good about myself. President Packer was to lead the “Hosanna Shout,” which is the point during the dedication when everyone stands, waves a white handkerchief in the air, and shouts, “Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna, to God and the Lamb!” three times, followed by, “Amen, Amen, and Amen!” He gave us some background history, and then led the shout. I thought he seemed bored in his matter-of-fact recitation of the “shout,” which was more of a low-key chant than anything. I’m guessing he was aiming at solemn dignity, but it sounded mechanical and uninspiring to me. I thought maybe I just wasn’t in tune with the Spirit.

And that’s pretty much it. I didn’t know the man and certainly didn’t know his heart. Part of me admires his dedication to the LDS church. His entire adult life was spent serving the church in one way or another. After a career in the Church Education System (mostly as an administrator), he was called into full-time church service as an Assistant to the Twelve when he was only 37 years old. Eight years later he was called as an apostle, so more than half his life was spent as a full-time church leader, with almost exactly half his life as an apostle. Anyone who saw him the last few years knows he was in very poor health, and yet he still served his church to the best of his ability. He was, by all accounts, a dedicated and loving husband and father to 10 children, and despite what some have said, it seems to me that he lived a fairly modest lifestyle.

At the same time, I completely understand why so many people disliked the man, maybe even hated him (for the record, I have trouble mustering hatred for anyone, so I don’t). His teachings, regardless of their intention, put me and many others through a great deal of unnecessary guilt and shame. A friend tells me that Packer’s teachings about masturbation drove him to attempt suicide at age 45. I know a lot of gay and bisexual members (and their spouses) who have suffered so much because of his condemnation of them. Am I angry? Do I blame him for putting people through all that? It would be easy to do so, but I don’t blame him, at least not entirely and not specifically him.. He was simply expressing what everyone in LDS culture knew about sexuality: outside of marriage, it was not to be expressed or even thought of. I’m sure he believed that as fervently as I did, so I can’t blame him for saying what I probably would have said had I been in his position. Did those teachings mess me up? Undoubtedly, but, whatever I experienced, those teachings didn’t originate with him, and they were expressed just as forcefully by others, such as Spencer W. Kimball.

It’s also easy to single him out for his role in quieting dissent and keeping a lid on those aspects of church history that are “not uplifting.” But again, he was merely giving voice to certain strains within the church as an institution. Alone, he could not possibly have orchestrated the excommunication of six very different personalities; the September Six happened because that’s where the church was in 1993. That the institution’s goals coincided with his beliefs is more a problem with the institution. Packer made an easy target, perhaps because people wanted to see him as an aberration, an outlier, so they could distance the church from its actions.

I suspect he recognized his role as lightning rod. He took it upon himself to attract the attention and vitriol of those who would otherwise understand that his “controversial” statements were simply restatements of what the church was already doing. Some might call that courageous, but I think he probably enjoyed it.

In the end, Boyd Kenneth Packer was just like the rest of us: complex, a mass of contradictions, and utterly human. May he rest in peace. And may all those who suffered shame and guilt because of his words find forgiveness–both for themselves, and for him.

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32 Responses to Boyd K. Packer

  1. Equality says:

    “Packer made an easy target, perhaps because they wanted to see him as an aberration, an outlier, so they could distance the church from its actions.” Good point, and it works in the opposite direction as well: some of the “Big 15” get a pass in some quarters because they speak softly, tear up when they give a talk, or tell homespun stories that give people the warm fuzzies. But nothing Packer ever said or did was ever publicly condemned, repudiated, corrected, or criticized in any way by any LDS church leader. Everything he said and did had the approval, of the top brass. His homophobia, sexism, and anti-intellectual crusade represents the position of the LDS Church on those issues. I agree with you that it is this fact that makes a lot of the more progressive believing Mormons (what few there be remaining) uncomfortable–it would be easier for them if they could argue that Packer is an aberration or a relic of a bygone era. But a look at the men called in recent years to replace the GAs who have died shows that Packer’s views are not dying with him. A younger generation of hard-liners will ensure another fifty years of the same kinds of attitudes (viz., Bednar, Cook, Christofferson).

  2. Hank says:

    And it appears that the diversity of thought that once existed in the leadership has been eliminated. The vetting gauntlet that the newly anointed have to pass seems increasingly severe. “One in purpose” appears to be less valued than “one in exact thought”, the occasional moments like Oaks and stage-managing bears notwithstanding.

    • runtu says:

      Seems to me the most recent additions to the 12 have been, for want of a better term, “company men.”

  3. jeanikins says:

    You said you don’t hate him Runtu and that gave me pause. I feel so much hatred and realize that it is not really the bigotry in the form of Boyd K. Packer but hatred for the organization that spawns the bigotry.
    In order to be a leader in such an organization there are expectations.

    Canada is famous for hockey – our national sport. On the team various people are given roles for which they are particularly suited. One of those is ‘the enforcer’ – loved by their fans and hated by opposing team’s fans for their brutality.

    I see Boyd as the enforcer of bigotry and closed minds. The enforcer has a lot of control. He walked the talk with a vengeance. He chose to take that calling and therefore is responsible for all the ‘collateral damage’ caused by his words, his attitude and his insistence that this was the Lord’s will.

    Everyone has to die; he did and I am glad.

    • runtu says:

      Like I said, I understand why people feel that towards him. My point was that, like it or not, he was the visible face of policies and beliefs that people like to pretend are not “mainstream” Mormon teachings and practices. They are and they were.

  4. CAB says:

    His talk at the all-stake conference at BYU in the late ’70’s which was addressed to homosexuals, dubbed “To The One,” was probably a tipping point for many.
    Then he came out with his list, “The Greatest Dangers to the Church Today.” I fit three of his categories (Feminist, intellectual, single mother) and I was still a faithful member of the church at the time. It hurt. A lot.
    I think he was an angry, hateful, fearful man, and a danger to all who did not fit into a certain pattern which he considered righteous. Diversity he did not like at all.
    The last time I heard him speak in person was about a year before I left the church. He spoke at our stake conference and I was convinced that he spoke then out of his own prejudices, not from love and certainly not for God.
    I know too many young gay men who committed suicide, in large part, I have been led to understand, because of his influence. I understand why the post-Mormon Gay community tends to loathe him. And although I do not advocate hatred toward anyone, I think they have reason.

    • runtu says:

      Like I said, I understand why people hate him. Things he said and did hurt a lot of people, but my point was that it wasn’t him, per se, but the institution. If he had been out of line, he never would have been allowed to say and do what he did.

  5. vikingz2000 says:

    It will be interesting (if I should live so long) to see if the church’s tenor will change when Uchtdorf becomes president of the church. I think of him as being closest to the ‘spirit’ of David O. McKay (my first years in the church) who was the epitome of a ‘prophet’ in style and moderation.

  6. Laozi says:

    I think the world of you, Runtu, but you probably have it wrong here. A man is not to be blamed for stating the views and implementing the policies of the institution he represents, even if that institution is evil and hurtful? That brings to mind some pretty ugly historical precedents.

    The thing about ethics is that they are supposed to constrain a person’s behavior against all forces, social, political, and emotional. Context is not supposed to matter. A moral person is someone who says, “I’d like to do X and my superiors want me to do X, but I won’t do it because it is wrong.”

    Packer wasn’t like that. He was either too weak to have an independent sense of ethics or he was too willing to subordinate his views to career exigencies. Packer gave some number of vulnerable individuals that little shove of guilt or shame or humiliation necessary to push them into suicide. He has blood on his hands.

    Thank heaven we no longer live in a society that recognizes “just following orders” as reason for exoneration. That Packer had the support of the Mormon hierarchy is not a reason to forgive him. He should be seen as the weakling, the moral coward, that he truly was.

  7. IrishLDS says:

    I don’t know any of you and am not in a position to judge even if I did.
    But I disagree with this portrayal of Brother Packer. I was raised in the church and have heard numerous sermons on the law of chastity, revelation, repentance, obedience and so on. The doctrines I have heard (especially in relation to addresses by Elder … and then … President Packer) were not unique to one man. They were institutional. That is true … but that is the extent of my agreement because they were also scriptural.
    This is fundamental. They are many who are unfamiliar with the words of Christ … but if they read the scriptures they would quickly describe him as intolerant, bigoted, racist, arrogant, chauvinistic, and so on. (Consider, for example, Richard Dawkins’ views). I’ve read various incorrect summations about how President Packer felt about sex, homosexuals, feminists, and intellectuals over the last few days that remind me of what Laman and Lemuel said about Nephi or what some Pharisees said about Christ. They’ve got the wrong end of the stick.
    I have read the words of Christ … his words are as challenging and as demanding as anything you can find in any address by Elder or President Packer. Christ makes demands of his disciples … and it is perverse to pretend that he does not. Therefore, any true representative of Christ will also make demands of us. We have a God of high expectations – an inconvenient Messiah. We know for a fact that many have walked away after hearing him speak “hard saying” – so why should we be surprised when the same happens today. The real issue isn’t whether the saying is hard or soft – but whether it is true. We are responsible for finding that out for ourselves. It takes revelation to do that.
    When obedience ceases to be an irritant and becomes our quest, in that moment God endows us with power! I know from personal experience the difference between obedience as an irritant and as a quest. So that someone is irritated by the demands of discipleship is not evidence that those demands are uninspired or not empowering. And often the only way to know that they are inspired is to do them.
    I know President Packer well enough to say, “He is a man of God” just as his invitations, his doctrines, and his testimony were of God. Was he infallible? No. Was he perfect? No. Was he inspired? Yes. Was he prophetic? Yes. That is my experience, even though I found (and find) some things he taught hard to live.

    • runtu says:

      You write, “The doctrines I have heard (especially in relation to addresses by Elder … and then … President Packer) were not unique to one man.” That was my point exactly, so I’m not sure what you are disagreeing with. That said, I don’t know anyone personally who has left the LDS church because it was too demanding, truth was too “hard,” or obedience was an “irritant.” This dismissal of the reasons people leave is lazy and unhelpful. If you are actually interested in redeeming any lost sheep, you ought to ask them why they left.

      • IrishLDS says:

        Maybe you need to read more than the first paragraph!
        I know people who have left for those very reasons – they had told me so – so you’re dismissing those reasons – not me. That said, I agree with asking why people leave. Some will be honest. Some will not be. The reasons are varied and complex. No question. As someone who was raised in the church, became an atheist, and then re-converted prior to missionary service – I think I know something about the motivations to discontinue activity in the church. I know alot about losing faith and regaining it.
        I think we can all find unpleasant experiences that we have had in the church … if we want to. Yet I have had many more positive experiences than negative. However, often that is merely treating the church as an institution, an organisation, a social entity – when there is much more to it than that.
        There are doctrines that underpin it. There are relationships that transcend the mortal. There are personal answers to the most important questions. And there are trials of faith – times of testing – and miracles. Many, many miracles. For me, leaving the church would be leaving too much that is good, and true, and hopeful – even though discipleship is sometimes hard, church is sometimes “boring”, and members are sometimes rude. So the “church” is not the same for everyone – granted, and the “lost sheep” should be looked for, listened to, loved, and invited back.
        But to be honest, some wouldn’t return to the church unless it became what they wanted it to become – unless it changed by declaring that some sins are not sins – and some commandments are not commandments. That is the reality. We both know that.
        Which means, for me, that even if Christ spoke personally at General Conference, some would not like what he said: some would accuse him of inducing guilt, of demanding only orthodoxy, and of ignoring diversity. That was my point. President Packer wasn’t just a reflection of the institution; he was a representative of the master. That was my point, too.

      • runtu says:

        I read past the first paragraph, and I stand by my response.

        “I know a lot about losing faith and regaining it.” Actually, you know a lot about how *you* lost and regained your faith, and that experience doesn’t necessarily apply to the rest of us. I know why I left, but I don’t know anyone who left for exactly the same reasons I did, so I don’t see my experience as universal. You sound like your heart is in the right place, but I can’t see how reducing everything to our negativity and inability to do the hard things is going to help anyone.

    • Laozi says:

      You say you have read “various incorrect summations about how President Packer felt about sex, homosexuals, feminists, and intellectuals.” Could you please point to them? I have read all of Packer’s original speeches on these topics and find the public summaries remarkably accurate.

      Could you, therefore, rather than saying some indefinite summaries are incorrect, either point to those summaries or tell us where the commonly held views are misguided? Where, in short, the common views differ from the documented transcripts of what Packer actually did say?

      If one if fully familiar with the texts themselves, it soon becomes obvious that the public summaries are remarkably accurate. We must thank Packer for being so forthright, so explicit in his views. He left no room for doubt about what he though.

      So tell us what in “to the one,” or in “the mantle is far, far greater than the intellect,” or in “to young men only,” we misunderstood.

      • IrishLDS says:

        I was talking about the summations in the press recently. These were as inaccurate as the statement that he headed the highest governing body in the church … which appeared in many news announcements of his death.
        I believe President Packer was free to believe what he wanted – just as every member is. We just had a referendum here in Ireland on same-sex marriage (or “marriage equality”) and I am aware that some members here voted differently than I did. With the recent ruling of the Supreme Court in the US – this is a hot issue for LDS on both sides of the pond.
        I cannot respond to what you understand about his views on this or any other issue. My view of President’s Packer’s statements on any sexual issue is that it cannot be divorced from his understanding of and loyalty to the atonement of Jesus Christ. I heard his 2010 conference address as an affirmation that the atonement of Christ has the power to change not just human behaviour but human nature. I suppose that is central to addressing the issue of sexual orientation. The emphasis then isn’t on whether I was born a particular way … but on whether I am “born again”, for example. As for his “hatred” of others – I didn’t sense that either. I sensed his concern, his hopes, and his love – his separation of the sin from the sinner. Yes, he appeared to “hate” sin: but it is unfair to say he hated sinners … because we are all sinners.
        It is easy to say that he was anti-homosexual, anti-feminist, and anti-intellectual – when in fact, it would be truer to suggest that he saw these as potential distortions of our true inheritance and potential as children of God.

        Sunday, I listened to an address he gave in 2013 – “These things I know” – and found myself very inspired by his words – rather than thinking he was guilty of ageism!

      • Laozi says:

        A few quick responses to IrishLDS.

        It is hard to take seriously a commentator who first says that there are lots of mischaracterizations of Packer in the press but refuses to identify any such things. He puts up a straw man whom he doesn’t even bother to clothe and then tells us that the straw man is insubstantial. Seriously, brother, put up or shut up. Who precisely is mischaracterising Packer and where did he or she do that?

        Second, you state that Packer was not anti-feminist, anti-gay, or anti-inellectual. Yet we all know he described those groups as the three greatest “threats” to the church and to God’s work. In my estimation, calling something a “threat” that must repent or be isolated is hostile to that person or thing, it is anti- that person or thing.

        Finally, you claim, or endorse Packer’s claim, that homosexuality is a “choice” that the gospel of Christ can overcome. You realize, I presume, that in this you are teaching false doctrine? On its website for gays and their families the church explicitly says that homosexuality is a genetic phenomenon. To the extent that Packer denied that, he was in apostasy. To the extent that you defend his apostasy, you too are in direct contradiction with the prophets and apostles and need to repent and stop teaching false doctrine.

        I think you need to decide who’s side you are on. Are you on the side of truth and hence willing to read Packer’s diatribes and acknowledge the hateful and destructive things they say? Are you willing to read the church’s statements on the genetics of sexual identity and repent for contradicting those statements on a public forum?

    • Ayon says:

      “Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee”

      Nowhere in the new testament does Jesus condemn homosexuality, intelectualism or feminism. He freely forgave all people and supped with sinners and publicans. Furthermore it could be argued that Jesus was both a feminist and an intelectual in that he seemed to treat women more as equals and less as property and probably was a follower of Rabbi Hillel. In fact the only people Christ said anything against were hypocritical religous leaders and Herod.

      “And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.”

      Obedience is NOT the first law of heaven. If there is a heaven, love is it’s first law.

      “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”

      Fomenting ill feelings, bigotry, shame and guilt is not what a disciple of Christ does.

      Jesus instructed to “beware of false prophets” indicating that we would know them by their fruits.

      I’m not a Christian nor a mormon, but it seems to me that one should be familiar enough with the literature to at least haltingly attempt to navigate though the religious landscape, especially if you espouse a religious system as “true” and doubly so if you consider the religious system you espouse as “the one and only true church”.

      • IrishLDS says:

        And yet …
        The very first thing Jesus did to commence his public ministry was be baptised … to fulfil all righteousness (Matthew 3). His first public sermon contains prohibitions against not just outward visible sins but inward ones too – anger, lust, for example (Matthew 5).
        To his own disciples he said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14) … so obviously he didn’t see an incongruity between love and obedience. Neither bare obedience nor pure love is the first law of heaven. The first law of heaven can be expressed as:
        Love of God or obedience to God … which is really the same thing.
        This suggests that some forms of obedience are as distorted as some forms of love. Just as I can obey in the wrong way, I can love in the wrong way too. It is the source, the motive and the object that matters most. This is clearly a Christian teaching.
        Another thing Jesus often said was, “Go, and sin no more!” This indicates that he believed that sin is real and should be overcome. Indeed, maybe his atonement has something to do with overcoming sin after all?
        I agree he hated hypocrisy – he was anti-hypocrites. Poor hypocrites … who is going to love the hypocrites?
        I also agree that genuine disciples of Christ seek to build, to edify, and to lift. But not everyone reacted to Christ as if that was his only desire and motive … so why should it surprise us if people react to his genuine disciples the same way? Indeed, Christ said some of his disciples would be blessed by being persecuted (Matthew 5). That a prophet is disliked is not proof he is not a prophet.
        Finally, I have access to more than just the New Testament for the words of Christ. He has clearly announced that some actions must be repented of. That does not mean he hates those who have committed those actions. If anything, it means He loves them more. He is telling them what is best for them to hear. So yes, love is the first law of heaven … but it is not the only one.

      • CAB says:

        Thanks, Ayon. You are my hero!

  8. IrishLDS says:

    Maybe you need to re-read it. You are attributing things to me that I did not say. I did not say I know why everyone leaves. I merely stated that I know “alot” about losing and regaining faith – not “everything” about why others do or do not.
    I think, it is equally unfair to assume that everyone in the church is blind and everyone who has left is justified. (NB – I am not saying that you claim everyone in the church is blind). I think we should honestly listen to those who have left – and, if possible – show them (or rather, invite them) to experience the best things the church has to offer. I agree with not assuming that they have left because of some personal failing.
    The situation is more complex than that — but at least some of the hatred, dislike, or opposition to President Packer comes from people feeling guilty about things he taught because they thought they were too hard to do (maybe impossible to do). I wonder whether that is justified.
    I largely stayed in Ireland because of a statement President Packer made while visiting here. It is a decision I regret – but I do not blame him personally for it. I blame myself. We are all personally responsible for what we choose to believe. We are responsible for the things we study, the acts we perform, and the way we treat others. We cannot delegate this responsibility to anyone else.
    President Packer was prophetic in things that matter most. Read his sermons and they will far transcend the three unimpressive incidents that you mention in your opening. Read the scriptures and you’ll find that his statements on sexuality were not unique among (either) ancient or modern prophets. (Example – Elder Scott preach against masturbation.) I actually read yesterday someone write that President Packer – a man who raised 10 children with his wife, Donna – “hated” sex. That is a strange twisting of a family man who loved being a husband and father. It is the one-dimensional approach of his detractors that is so off-putting. They are determined to see only “bad” in him that they twist, distort and pervert their portrayal.

    • runtu says:

      We seem to be talking past each other. I completely agree that things are complicated. I know the best the church has to offer; if it works for people, that’s great. For me, I acknowledged to myself that it wasn’t the true church, but it wasn’t until later that I realized how unhappy I’d been in the church. If you’re happy and believe in the church, good for you.

      • IrishLDS says:

        I agree … partially … because the church is true ;). Thanks for the good wishes. Same to you. Aristotle would be pleased that you are seeking to be happy!

      • runtu says:

        I am happy, thanks.

  9. IrishLDS says:

    Laozi,
    Thank you for proving my point.
    And thanks for the invitation to repent. It does sound “anti-“ when you say it.
    But I’ve been invited to repent on numerous occasions by those who were not anti-me but pro-me … so an invitation to repent is not proof of anti-sentiments, necessarily. If you prefer, we can characterise President Packer as anti-feminism, anti-homosexuality, and anti-(so-called)-intellectualism rather than anti toward particular feminists, homosexuals or intellectuals. As his son, Allan, said:
    [My] father was straightforward when he spoke from the pulpit, not harsh, as some listeners have felt. “It has been interpreted that way.” [My] father spoke to convey a message on an issue and not to certain people.
    Additionally, I did not say anything about the origins of homosexuality. There are plenty of things that are contrary to the gospel that have “a genetic” foundation. Homosexual orientation may not be a choice but homosexual behaviour clearly is – just as heterosexual behaviour. Interestingly, in his famous 2010 conference address – President Packer did not even mention homosexuality. I think his focus was far broader than that.
    However, even “natural” behaviour can be contrary to the gospel, aka, the “natural” man. And several scriptures teach that we will be held accountable for more than just our actions, but our words, our thoughts, and our desires. I do not believe that God will hold us accountable for things we cannot control – so that says sometimes about our natural dispositions – at least over time and with the aid of the enabling power of the atonement.

    • runtu says:

      I don’t know. When he was making fun of his correspondents in the meeting I attended, it sure came across as mocking certain types of people (gays, feminists, and so-called intellectuals) but also as being directed specifically at the people who had written the letters. It really bothered me and a lot of the people I worked with. Still does.

      I think people excuse this kind of stuff as “hating the sin, but loving the sinner,” but in my experience, the two are almost always one and the same.

      I understand that you believe the doctrines and practices of the LDS church, and that’s fine. As others have mentioned, it’s possible to uphold the church’s teachings with compassion and kindness, but sometimes people mistake cruelty and condemnation for straightforward speaking, and vice versa. As a young man, I used to admire people like Joseph Fielding Smith for proclaiming gospel truth with boldness; as I got older, I began to see that there was no virtue in placing dogma ahead of people. I suspect the JFSes and Packers of the world believed that the dogmas they espoused were for the blessing of people. Putting on my Mormon hat, I’d say it’s more important to “liken all scriptures” (1 Nephi 19:23) to individual lives and “adapt” (D&C 89:3) their application to real situations. Some people prefer drawing firm lines, as Packer clearly did.

      I think he was right about their not being a place for homosexuals, feminists, and intellectuals in the LDS church. It’s probably best that people understand that rather than try to convince themselves they can fit in a religion that doesn’t want them.

      • IrishLDS says:

        I wasn’t at the meeting but I’m aware that apostles can and do sin. The scriptures are full of examples of these kinds of sins against others. But as a genuine question, I wonder whether you consider Christ calling King Herod a “fox”, or the gentile woman a “dog”, or some Pharisees “snakes”, mocking, rude and disrespectful? I have even read revelations from Christ where he calls certain types of people, “fools”! Yet, apparently, his love … never fails!
        I’d need to know more about the specifics of the meeting to know whether I agree with you or not. But I do think that 1) all of us have sinned in relation to how we have treated others and 2) that President Packer probably softened his tone towards those he disagreed with by making his comments more abstract and less personal. I have noticed that it is hard to be humorous without saying something hurtful sometimes (for example, the alleged statement of Elder Oaks in relation to Elder Packer, “It’s hard to stage manage a grizzly bear,” could be viewed as offensive). So humour, which is wonderful, can be abused. So I wouldn’t be surprised by your account of that meeting … because I believe that only one perfect adult male has walked this earth.
        I would be worried if a person didn’t improve over time in how they teach and how they act. I would prefer if the LDS didn’t speak negatively about people in other faiths – although I am firmly convinced that the LDS faith is the best one available. So I grant your point in that sense.

        On the other hand, I know homosexuals, feminists and intellectuals who have found a place in the church. I think the real danger President Packer was pointing out in 1993 (the year I returned from my mission), was those who demand that the church change to accommodate them rather than changing themselves into followers of Christ. In that he was very much prophetic and his further point about the three directions this pressure or threat would come from, appear to me to be very accurate indeed.
        Hating the sin and loving the sinner is tough to balance especially if the respective sinner thinks “loving the sinner” includes tolerating the sin! That is why they often claim that they are not loved … because their sin is not accepted. I think that is why President Packer was viewed as he was. The word, “repent” can be spoken harshly and with wrath or it can be spoken honestly and warmly. Often we turn what is truly softly spoken into a hard saying because our own hearts are hard and bitter about the need to repent.
        There is no doubt that President Packer was a complex man – and he undoubtedly made mistakes – but many of the issues that people have concerns with or opposition to go far beyond him. They are at the very least, institutional (as you argued), or at the very most, inspired (as I argued).

        I think we know where we both stand … so enough said.

      • runtu says:

        I very much appreciate your comments and your desire to listen and communicate. I try very hard to extend the same courtesy to readers who disagree with me because I think life works much better when we understand and respect each other’s positions. Too often people come here spoiling for a fight, and I’ve never been interested in that. Anyway, as I’ve said, I’m happy you have found joy and meaning in the LDS church. It wasn’t for me, and I am much happier on the outside. But that’s just me.

        As for that meeting, it was in 1993, and I was a much younger man then. I have very vivid memories of the “loud laughter” at the expense of those people who had written the letters. It was disturbing to me, and it has remained with me all these years. I don’t condemn Pres. Packer for what happened, but I felt at the time that it was deeply troubling that an auditorium of people who were supposed to be building the Kingdom of God on the Earth were ridiculing the pain of real people. As I said, I wasn’t the only person on our staff who felt that way, though I do remember one colleague saying he was glad “Packer stuck it to them.” Oh, well. It’s in the past, and I used it only as an illustration of how I came to view Packer.

  10. Just Jill says:

    They are many who are unfamiliar with the words of Christ … but if they read the scriptures they would quickly describe him as intolerant, bigoted, racist, arrogant, chauvinistic, and so on.

    @IrishLDS–It would be interesting to see teachings of Christ laid out side by side with some of the more controversial teachings of BKP. I don’t believe there would be many, if any, similarities.

    I also believe that BKP’s talks have been edited by church governance before being printed in church magazines. I recall a fairly receet conference talk by BKP where he stated that being gay was a choice and that one can be ‘cured’ if one so chooses. (not his exact words but this was the meaning I extracted). This idea has been an outdated for quite awhile; even within the church. So outdated that when his talk came out in print this statement was excluded.

    I point this out to express that BKP was speaking as an imperfect human with his very own bigoted ideas. It was convenient for him that the church gave him a platform to spread his vitriol.

    I too find it hard to ‘hate’. But I will say that I certainly won’t miss the man.

    • IrishLDS says:

      I think you’ll find Christ taught many controversial things.

      Plus the scriptures do not contain everything he taught (this is true of the New Testament and the Book of Mormon.

      Do you think Christ’s teachings on lust are outdated too?

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