President Boyd K. Packer was one of the most authoritative and straight-forward voices of the Twelve. His masterful teaching ability conveyed gospel truths to all within the sound of his voice, and his powerful testimony taught us about the nature of Christ and His relationship with His disciples. Many have referred to President Packer as a ‘watchtower’, and the warnings and admonitions he has given over the years have proven invaluable to members of the church, particularly at a time with many spiritual challenges. Statements made over 20 years ago by President Packer have proven to be very applicable for our day.
In honor of this remarkable apostle of the Lord and his lifetime of service, here are just a few instances when President Packer saw beyond his years and helped prepare the members of the church for the challenges we are facing today.
1. When he gave a bold and unflinching talk about the family.
In 1986, Elder Packer gave a very unfiltered talk about an adult’s role in protecting little children from the abuses of the world. He started his talk by illustrating the purity of children and their part in the Plan of Salvation, and then he describes four transgressions that directly affect children. You may find Elder Packer’s description of these specific transgressions very familiar.
“There is a sorry side to this subject as well. I wish not to dwell on that beyond listing four transgressions which plague mankind, all of which inflict suffering upon little children.
“First, that consummate physical union of man and woman belonging to the marriage covenant is now falsely proclaimed an acceptable indulgence for any two adults. Second, the misuse of that procreative power in degraded acts of perversion is widely promoted as the right of consenting adults. This selfish behavior carries neither the responsibility nor the rewards of parenthood. Third, the deliberate destruction of the innocent and helpless by abortion is now widely fostered—even publicly funded. Fourth, the bodies and minds and morals of increasing numbers of little children are brutalized and abused by those who should protect them.
“In it all, mankind has sown a bitter wind and reaps heartbreak, guilt, abandonment, divorce, addiction, disease, and death; and little children suffer. If these sins remain unchecked, civilization will be led unfailingly to destruction.
“The laws of God on marriage, birth, and nurturing of little children may seem rigid, but they are very practical. His law decrees that the only legitimate union of man and woman is between husband and wife. For, should that expression of love result in conception, marriage provides shelter for the child who enters mortality innocent and helpless. Marriage ensures security and happiness for parents as well.
“Whatever the laws of man may come to tolerate, the misuse of the power of procreation, the destroying of innocent life through abortion, and the abuse of little children are transgressions of enormous proportion. For cradled therein rests the destiny of innocent, helpless children.”
Conference address in October, 1986.
Read the entire talk here.
2. When he discussed open dissension toward leaders of the church.
President Packer saw a lot of changes during his life, both in the worldly paradigm as well as in the procedures of the church. It was President Packer himself who headed the publication of the 1978 version of the standard works. He understood better than most that change was necessary and ongoing in the church, but he wanted to make something very clear to those who did not approve of the changes being made. With many individuals in our day questioning the actions and statements of the prophets, Elder Packer’s voice rings clear and true for us.
“There are those within the Church who are disturbed when changes are made with which they disagree or when changes they propose are not made. They point to these as evidence that the leaders are not inspired. They write and speak to convince others that the doctrines and decisions of the Brethren are not given through inspiration.
“Two things characterize them: they are always irritated by the word obedience, and always they question revelation. It has always been so. Helaman described those who “began to disbelieve in the spirit of prophecy and in the spirit of revelation; and the judgments of God did stare them in the face.” (Hel. 4:23.) “They were left in their own strength” (Hel. 4:13), and “the Spirit of the Lord did no more preserve them; yea, it had withdrawn from them” (Hel. 4:24). Changes in organization or procedures are a testimony that revelation is ongoing. While doctrines remain fixed, the methods or procedures do not.”
Revelation in a Changing World
Conference address in October, 1989.
Read the entire talk here.
3. When he addressed members going through a crisis of faith.
One concern of the leaders of the church today is the ‘faith crisis’ that so many Latter-day Saints experience. In a world where more and more information has become available, it has become easier for us to come across information that can sometime shake our faith in the gospel. The leaders of the church have stressed the need for members to acknowledge their questions and to hold on to the testimonies they have already built. In 1991, Elder Packer talked about the importance of listening to the Spirit when we are building our testimony and how we need to avoid comparing our testimonies to others. Even and perhaps especially now, his words are crucial for members of the church to understand.
“Occasionally, the Spirit will press just firmly enough or often enough for us to pay attention; but from my experience, most of the time, if we do not heed the gentle feeling, if we do not listen with those feelings, the Spirit will withdraw and wait until we come seeking and listening, in our manner and our expression.
“I have learned that the very impressive and miraculous spiritual experiences come very infrequently. Something is amiss if they come too intensely and too frequently. The question then arises, from whence come these experiences? Remember that there is a counterfeit.
“You cannot force spiritual things. A testimony is not thrust upon you; it grows. And a testimony is a testimony, and it should be respected, whether it is small or large. We become taller in our testimony like we grow in physical stature and hardly know it is happening, because it comes by growth.
“I know that the gospel is true; the Spirit is there. If you rely on that, you will be doing the work of Him who is our Redeemer, who wrought the Atonement, whose Church this is, who lives. You will be blessed of the Father. Of these things I bear witness and invoke His blessings.
“You’d think there would be a better way for one of the Twelve to bear testimony, but we’re left to bear it in the same way our little grandkids do in Primary—just to say we know it’s true. But I know that He lives. I know His voice when He speaks. I know Him, and of Him I bear witness.”
How Does the Spirit Speak To Us?
From an address delivered at a seminar for new mission presidents, June 1991.
Read the entire talk here.
Boyd K. Packer truly was a prophet, seer, and revelator. His words of council two decades ago have proved even more true today than they did then. As we continue to hearken to his warnings and reassurances, may we be more prepared to face the challenges of the modern day. President Packer was a watchman on the tower. He saw exactly what was going to happen, and he said exactly what the Lord indicated to prepare us for what was coming. We are grateful for the service and words of this incredible disciple of Christ.