It might just be the posts that I read, but Boyd K. Packer is not the most popular of Apostles in the Bloggernacle (or perhaps among liberal Mormons more generally). I acknowledge that this is a speculative impression. At the very least, I have heard Elder Packer criticised at Sunstone and on the Bloggernacle on a few occassions at least. I was therefore surprised to find one of his sermons published in full in an issue of Sunstone. The talk was insightful, challenging and thought-provoking. As a result I wanted to reproduce some of his comments here that I found most interesting and/or inspiring. The address was originally given March 30th 1990, to a Regional Representatives Seminar.
‘In recent years [Church Leaders] might be compared to a team of doctors: issuing prescriptions to cure or to immunize our members against spiritual diseases. Each time some moral or spiritual ailment was diagnosed, we have rushed to the pharmacy to concoct another remedy, encapsulate it as a program and send it out with pages of directions to use. While we all seem to agree that overmedication, over-programming, is a critically serious problem, we have failed to reduce the treatments. It has been virtually impossible to affect any reduction in programs. Each time we try, advocates cry to high heaven that we are putting the spiritual lives of our youth at risk. If symptoms reappear, we program even heavier doses of interviews, activities, meetings, and assessment’
‘The whole correlation effort, which took about twenty years, followed that course and much was accomplished. The habits for moral and spiritual health were defined. The scriptures were prescribed as the basic nourishment. The curriculum, loaded with spiritual nutrients, was developed but we did not allow time for it to work and we failed to close the pharmacy or even effectively control it. We now have ourselves in a corner.’
‘The hardest ailment to treat is a virtue carried to the extreme. We cannot seem to learn that too much, even of a good thing, or too many good things, like vitamins taken in overdose, can be harmful. In recent years I have felt, and I think I am not alone, that we were losing the ability to correct the course of the Church.’
‘Both Alma and Helaman told of the Church in their day. They warned about fast growth, the desire to be accepted by the world, to be popular, and particularly they warned about prosperity. Each time those conditions existed in combination, the Church drifted off course. All of those conditions are present in the Church today.’
‘The patience of the Lord with all of us who are in leadership position, is not without limits.’
‘The most dangerous side effect of all we have prescribed in the way of programming and instruction and all, is the overregimentation of the Church. This overregimentation is a direct result of too many programmed instructions.’
‘It is not that any one thing we have been doing is wrong, for we have acted with the best of intentions. Some of us remember when President Kimball saw the outlay of curriculum and the vast display of printed material. He said he was frightened, “We have done it all with the best intentions.”‘
‘Latter-day Saints will come to depend upon the Lord instead of upon the headquarters of the Church.’
‘Matters with deepest doctrinal significance must be left to married couples and to parents to decide for themselves. We have referred them to gospel principles and left them to exercise their moral agency.’
I acknowledge that this is one side of the story, but it is a real dimension. A facet that I appreciated seeing from Elder Packer. I think there is much here which is of value, and has led me to think deeply about my own participation in the Church and my response to it and the programmes offered by it.
My questions are these:
Is there anything of value in his remarks?
Given that this was presented nearly 20 years ago, have we seen Elder Packer’s counsel followed?