Saturday, August 2, 2014

Can't We All Just Get Along?

Last week I received a lengthy e-mail from someone who had discovered these pages. He was obviously a very intelligent and thoughtful man, wisened through years of experience and rigorous intellectual curiosity. He wrote in part:

"I want you to know that I appreciate your blog very much. Yours is one of the few LDS conservative blogs. It is a shame that so many of our fellow Saints have embraced these caustic brands of liberalism, progressivism, and advocacy feminism. When President Packer spoke to the All-Church Coordinating Council in 1993, he was truly being prophetic."

It sent me searching for the talk to which he made reference. President Packer gave a sampling of letters he had received over a period of a few weeks. If you click the link, you will find the talk in its entirety.

President Harold B. Lee
He commenced his talk with a story about President Harold B. Lee:

"The twelfth chapter of Alma is like a field of precious stones lying about on the surface. I have picked one very small one, very precious one, only fifteen words, to use as my text. 'God gave unto them commandments, after [first] having made known unto them the plan of redemption.' (Alma 12:32)

"Thirty-eight years ago [1955] I came from Brigham City to the office I now occupy in the Administration Building to see Elder Harold B. Lee, who, next to President Joseph Fielding Smith, was the senior member of the Quorum of the Twelve. I had just been appointed the supervisor of Seminaries and Institutes of Religion. I knew there were serious problems in the system and I wondered why they had not appointed someone with more experience. [Editor's note: This was a year after President Lee's 1954 summer lecture series to the Seminary and Institute teachers designed to address those 'serious problems' which I have written about in these pages].

"Elder Lee had agreed to give me counsel and some direction. He didn't say much, nothing really in detail, but what he told me has saved me time and time again. 'You must decide now which way you face,' he said. 'Either you represent the teachers and students and champion their causes or you represent the Brethren who appointed you. You need to decide now which way you face.' Then he added, 'Some of your predecessors faced the wrong way.' It took some hard and painful lessons before I understood his counsel. In time, I did understand, and my resolve to face the right way became irreversible." (Emphasis mine).

President Boyd K. Packer
In his talk that day, President Packer surfaced the content of the letters he had received from members of the Church who expressed how much they were "hurting" because of the seemingly callous way they perceived they were being treated by uncaring and heavy-handed Church leaders. Life just hadn't been fair, was their implication, and they wanted to help President Packer "see" things differently. Strange, I thought, counseling a "seer" how to "see" better. Each offered to meet and give advice to President Packer on how he could help resolve their hurts and disaffection with the Church. Remember, this was back in 1993.

He cited a letter from an openly homosexual man who offered: "At your convenience I would be happy to meet with you to discuss the issues facing gay Latter-day Saints and the Church. The purpose for meeting is not to debate, or to presumptively call you to repentance, or to be called to repentance myself for being gay. The point is to meet together and share what we have for the good of The Kingdom and the furthering of the Will of the Lord on Earth."

Another came from a woman who had obviously been abused in her relationship with her husband, and she had given up on men in general and turned to advocacy for women's rights as a result. She wrote: "I'm upset that I was always advised to go back and try harder only to get abused more. I need some comfort, I need solace, need hope, need to know Heavenly Father sees all that I have endured. What hope do I have for a chance to live with Heavenly Father? If temple marriage is the key to the celestial [kingdom], where am I? Outside gnashing my teeth for eternity? Help me."

The third came from a self-described "intellectual" who sought an audience with President Packer to presumably educate him on what he (the letter writer) could do to mediate between the scholars in the Church and the General Authorities. Said he: "My concern is that the Brethren are contending with the church's own scholars. . . In the Catholic Church, the great scholars' efforts were used by the Church to refine and strengthen the doctrine (St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, for example). In our Church, the scholars are put down, even banished [and he names three of them, and they would be names all of whom you would know]. Once again I extend an offer to you to be a peacemaker between the Brethren and the scholars, if you wish me to attempt it, since I know so many in both groups. More than that, I understand the mind-sets of both groups."

This morning I was browsing through a sampling of blogs, something I rarely do because I have enough to do in my daily life without overly concerning myself with what critics of the Church's leadership are saying in the vast world of cyberspace. I was not surprised to discover there may be thousands of "enlightened" Church members and former members who are willing to offer their opinions on myriad topics persumably to counsel Church leaders about their deficiencies.

I found one who was giving advice to the leaders of the Church about how to address the dementia that is the "open secret" concerning President Monson. Who knew? Another blogger wrote about "Adultery Mormon Style." Still another had something to say about what the leaders of the Church could do to stop disaffected Mormons from leaving the Church. The word "compromise" was used.

I appreciate the well-intentioned offerings of others in these matters of "grave concern" to them. Their sincerity cannot be doubted.

Distilled to its essence, however, their collective issues are summed up in President Packer's concluding thought:

"The one who supposes that he 'understands the mind-set of both groups' needs to understand that the doctrines of the gospel are revealed through the Spirit to prophets, not through the intellect to scholars.

"Only when they have some knowledge of the plan of redemption will they understand the supposed inequities of life. Only then will they understand the commandments God has given us. If we do not teach the plan of redemption, whatever else we do by way of programs and activities and instructions will not be enough.

"'God gave unto them commandments, after having made known unto them the plan of redemption.' We face invasions of the intensity and seriousness that we have not faced before. There is the need now to be united with everyone facing the same way. Then the sunlight of truth, coming over our shoulders, will mark the path ahead. If we perchance turn the wrong way, we will shade our eyes from that light and we will fail in our ministries." (Emphasis mine).

I still long for the day that we may all be of one heart and mind in the Kingdom of God here upon the earth. It has happened before, and it will happen again. It is a condition, place, people and time known as ZION.

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