Why Boyd K. Packer Is My Hero

Years ago, beginning in the summer of 1992, I participated on Mormon-L, the first email discussion list for Mormons on the Internet. It was hosted on the BYU mainframes. Over the following year of actively contributing, I learned that many of the most active list participants were enthusiastic friends of Signature Books and Sunstone Magazine. Almost to a man, these Signaturi, as I came to think of them, adored the homosexual apostate, D. Michael Quinn, who was once a professor at BYU before he was first fired and then excommunicated. Another quality this “in crowd” shared was a universal hatred of Boyd K. Packer, the man who is now the the Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve.

It was in September of 1993 that the “spirit of criticism” towards our Church leaders became the most intense. That was the month that the notorious September Six were excommunicated for apostasy. And these critics, dissidents really, blamed Elder Packer for these excommunications. D. Michael Quinn was among those excommunicated, and they were outraged.

During the months leading up to these excommunications, Elder Packer gave a talk to the All-Church Coordinating Council in which he identified three dangers which had made major invasions into the Church. He said these three serious threats to the Church membership were 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.” Someone posted his talk, and the whole list exploded into the most horrific flame war I’ve ever seen on the Internet. And believe me, I’ve seen a lot of flame wars. I’ve even started a few of them myself.

Guess what the topic was? This flame war went on for about six months, generating enormous amounts of traffic, and it was an argument over whether or not Elder Packer was a fascist. During those months it was common to hear the Brethren in Salt Lake City compared with the Kremlin, the KGB and Hitler’s henchmen. Another favorite comparison was to the Borg of Star Trek fame. Finally, the apostasy on the list became so bad that it came to the attention of the school administration, and the list was kicked off the BYU computers. It was immediately restarted on an off-campus server, and it has continued to thrive to this day. Currently it is hosted at SmartGroups. It continues to be a very large list with many members and a lot of traffic.

The thing that I found most remarkable in all of this was that for the most part, these “saints” claimed to be faithful, active members of the Church. Yet on the list, a person could make a derogatory remark about any of our prophet-leaders with hardly a word of protest. But the slightest criticism of a popular Sunstone or Signature Books author would cause a great chorus of righteous indignation. Who did these “faithful, active members of the Church” think they were kidding?

Anyway, it took me about a year to fully understand what was going on with this list. Until this talk, the “spirit of criticism” was more or less covert. But this talk outed these dissidents until they were coming out of the woodwork like so many cockroaches. Finally, because this talk was so polarizing, it was easy to see who was on the Lord’s side, and who was working for the other team.

Ever since then, Elder Boyd K. Packer has been my hero because he has the moral courage to make himself a lightening rod for all the hatred that surely pours daily from dissidents within the Church, the wolves in sheep’s clothing that the Savior referred to in his Sermon on the Mount. (Matt. 7:15)


17 Responses to Why Boyd K. Packer Is My Hero

  1. chancefrisson says:

    Packer gets paid (salary) to speak for his employer. When he speaks, he intersperses his hardline misrepresentations of reality (like his statement regarding the nature of homosexuality) with an imbalanced proportion of feel-good speech (pathos), partial-context scripture (ethos), and facts that are obviously true (logos). He intentionally crafts/evokes a listener bias calculated to please his employer.

    There would seem to be more good and wholesome people to revere than a man who says whatever he wants, backpedals later to alter his message based on a public reaction to it (and correction by his employer based on that public reaction), and is otherwise completely insulated against personal loss or harm in doing this.

    There’s no uncommon largess in the man; he’s no admirable “lightning rod.”

    • Of course it is a terrible shame that Elder Packer is not perfectly unbiased, factual, rational, reasonable, and logical in this treatment of homosexual issues. But then I would imagine that his critics and dissidents within the Church imagine themselves to possess these qualities far more than they actually do. Your commentary in this blog reply shows you yourself to be far from unbiased. As for “hardline misrepresentations of reality,” that is in the eye of the beholder, don’t you think? Just how much good science has gone into researching matters related to homosexuality? For such research to occur it would have to be conducted by scientists that are neither advocates for our against homosexuality. And I cannot imagine anyone completely free of bias on this topic. As for his backpedaling, how is that different from elaboration or clarification? As you can see, “backpedaling” itself is used in this context as a propaganda term which shows you to be as biased as Elder Packer. Further, Elder Packer is supposed to be biased in favor of the gospel of Jesus Christ. You on the other hand are biased in the service of your master, the adversary. Sexual immorality is a serious sin which must be repented of unless damnation is the desired end. And the gay rights movement works tirelessly to promote a sinful lifestyle.

  2. Brent, I listened very carefully when President Packer told the “twinkie” the Touch of the Master’s Hand in General Conference. And I did not reach for my barf bag. What President Packer did in that talk that is rarely done when others use this cliched story is effectively explain how the story related to the gospel of Jesus Christ, the points he was making, and the scriptures that he was using in the rest of his talk.

    As for my Zion’s Best web site, the purpose of the site is the editorializing and opinions. I make that very clear at the top center of the main page. It is not just a site for providing information. It is also a site for expressing my opinions. That is what free speech is all about. Some people will read the site because they agree with me, others will read it because they disagree with me. Both are desireable as far as I’m concerned.

  3. Brent Hickman says:

    I’m actually sending this message to rebut one of your claims on your “Zion’s Best” web site. I wasn’t sure where to send this comment, but your post on Elder Packer seemed the most relevant place. On one of the pages in the site you claim that the poem “The Touch of the Master’s Hand” by Myra B. Welch constitutes a “spiritual twinkie.” I would like to call your attention to Elder Packer’s talk in the April 2001 General Conference which not only borrowed its title from the poem, but quoted it in its entirety. Surely there can be fewer things that lend greater gospel credibility to a literary work than a direct quotation by the acting president of the quorum of the twelve during an official address to the general body of the church.

    If you reached for the barf bag, as you put it, when Elder Packer gave this talk, then I think that your cinicism may be preventing you from digesting certain forms of spiritual meat when they come your way.

    I appreciate your intentions with the Zion’s Best web site, but in mingling your own opinions with the teachings of the apostles, it seems to me that you have inadvertently done a bit of “arc steadying”. For what it’s worth, I would recommend that you carefully look through the pages on your site and remove your own opinions. Instead I think you should just stick to providing information and links to other useful resources. For example, I felt that your top-25 talks page was fairly useful; although, even there I would recommend providing links to the original documents on the church site, and stating that the ranking is your own subjective one.



    • The Zion’s Best website and the talks there were put on the web before lds.org even existed. I have not linked to the Church website since because I have not been actively maintaining my Zion’s Best website. Instead I’ve been doing this blog.

  4. Sam says:

    The problem is this: does it create an atmosphere of “anti-scholar” feeling? I read, and have read, a great deal, including the scriptures (of course), “Jesus the Christ”, and all those other books in collection. Because I have read all these things, I often have comments in SS and Phood meetings. So, if I come to a wrong conclusion, or ask an “incorrect” question, no matter how innocent, no matter how much I simply want to know, will I be branded anti-church? Will the bishop call me in to talk about my testimony?
    I’m not talking about questioning basic doctrine, or course. But the interesting thing is, I’ve had people come to me after a meeting and tell me how much they enjoyed my questions, but they didn’t want to say anything in the meeting itself.
    Asking too many questions is quickly becoming something to avoid in the church. Lack of knowledge of some doctrine is suspect.
    Am I really just being too sensitive? Or were the people _in_the_meeting_I_was_in_ perfectly justified in giving their opinion (more than once) that people like myself should not be members of the church? Those people are never corrected. I became a HP group leader, and those people were never corrected, never changed their opinion (IFAIK), and still raised their hands to sustain me.
    For some reason, those kind of people never seem to be addressed, but people like me (who love learning) are vilified. When people like me start to feel that we had better “watch what we say,” as the White House puts it, then what’s the point of going to church? We don’t feel fellowship (how can we?). We don’t feel welcomed (because if “they knew what we were like, they would reject us”). And we can never progress, because we don’t dare talk to anyone about our feelings.
    And, frankly, I believe we have people like you to thank for it.

    • Some people are entirely too cowardly to risk the disapproval of others, but that is essential for speaking the truth. As for “people like you,” you know very little about me and I know nothing about you. So you are just making up false data to fill in the blanks, a common practice among those who are poorly educated.

  5. Anonymous says:

    He is known as “Darth Vader” around the COB. Keep that in mind, friend.

  6. I have mixed feelings about the matter. On the one hand, as long as the doubter remains in the Church, there is a chance that he will get a testimony and cease his doubting. And that is good. On the other hand, if he actively proselytizes among the members for fellow saints to share his doubts, he is a danger to the flock. At that point he becomes a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

    I guess my answer is that if the doubts are honest, I would prefer that he remain in the Church. But if his doubts are dishonest, and he has really decided that the doctrines are probably false, then I wish he would leave. He can always be rebaptized if he later finds out that he made an incorrect decision about the doctrine.

    What I don’t want, is people claiming to be faithful members while at the same time actively working to undermine the testimony of others. I hope that the Lord will find some way of running such people out of the Church. There seem to be quite a few such people on Mormon email discussion lists, and in the Bloggernacle.

  7. will says:

    John, you say that doubts should be resolved, one way or the other. Would you rather that a doubter conclude that the church is false and leave it, than stay in the church as a doubter?

  8. It is one thing to have doubts. It is a different thing altogether when one remains in the Church for the purpose of instilling those doubts in others. Doubts can and should be resolved, one way or the other.

  9. Gunner says:

    “If a faith will not bear to be investigated; if its preachers and professors are afraid to have it examined, their foundation must be very weak.” George A. Smith (Journal of Discourses, vol. 14, p.216)

    “…the Book of Mormon can and should be tested. It invites criticism.” (Hugh Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Mormon, 1957, p.53)

    But in this crushing of dissent how do you differ between decent and open questioning? Trying to bring the church down is one thing, but when people question a doctrine and belief they should not be crushed underfoot.

    It should not be a place of fear, and Packer seems to be doing that exact thing.

    I have a lot of questions and doubts. I also worry how my family and my wife’s family would act if I asked some of them out loud.

    A closed mind is not a peaceful mind.

  10. Anonymous says:

    As far as Gunner’s comments go, people are entitled to their own opinions, but once people reject the fundamentals of the LDS Church it simply makes no sense for them to be a member of it anymore. If you reject Smith’s testimony, the authenticity of the BofM, and the legitimacy of the Priesthood, there is no reason to be LDS. People who hold these opinions should go and find some other religion or belief system that is compatible with their convictions. They can voice their opinions however they see fit, but saying you are Mormon while contradicting the basis of the LDS Church is nutty. Most of the people who do it are axe-grinding malcontents.

    As far as mormon-l goes, ELWC (the Electronic Latter-day Women’s Caucus, aka “the ward from hell”) was a spinoff from it and was by invite only and was clandestine. ELWC-plus evolved to allow a few hand-picked men to participate. I dont know if its still operational or not, its been shut down in the past to screen out infiltrators. The same gal who headed mormon-l ran ELWC, but I dont know if thats still the case. There are some other smaller covert lists, one called “Deep Water” was one which I bumped into some of the members of. Scripture-L, still run by Greg Woodhouse over on yahoo groups, is a left-leaning list which Brent Metcalfe pops in on occasionally, if my memory serves me.

  11. Gunner, I would agree with you if we were talking about a nation or government, but we are talking about a church. There is nothing wrong with a church trying to keep its doctrine pure as it has been defined by its founders and current leaders, especially not if those doctrines are the “truth” as an article of faith. The Church of Jesus Christ does not force anyone to belong, but it does define the doctrine. And in order to maintain that doctrine, it has to have a mechanism for effectively opposing those without authority who would change its doctrines from within.

    I know that you would disagree with me on this fundamental principle, but the Brethren do not. And I am loyal to them, not those internal dissidents who would corrupt the doctrines of Jesus Christ as taught by His church and kingdom on earth.

    Those who oppose the Brethren are violating their sacred temple vows and serving the Adversary whether they know it or not.

  12. Gunner says:

    “That is, they keep their opinions to themselves or network on small, private forums which only their closest friends know about”

    “So the dissidents have been scared into hiding, participating under pseudonyms on such forums as Recovery from Mormonism and other, more secret, groups.”

    If victory is defined as creating an atmosphere where people are afraid to talk openly about what the believe and think then I would say Packer and the church is the loser. How can someone claim to be on the side of right when right forces people into hiding for their beliefs.

    Sorry but I think what you claim as good here is so so wrong.

  13. I don’t think he is any more mellow than he ever was. He just keeps on preaching the same gospel of Jesus Christ that he has always preached. But ever since the excommunications of the September Six, Brent Metcalfe, Janice Allred and a few others, his critics have gone underground. That is, they keep their opinions to themselves or network on small, private forums which only their closest friends know about. Even Sunstone and Signature Books have moderated their tone out of a desire to stay closer to the mainstream of the Church. They lose their credibility with the Church membership and many of their readers if they publish too much apostate material.

    I’m sure the enemies of Christ are still there. Except for a few highly visible leaders among them who have published, they haven’t been excommunicated. So the dissidents have been scared into hiding, participating under pseudonyms on such forums as Recovery from Mormonism and other, more secret, groups.

    If Elder Packer seems to be more mellow, it is just because his critics are more subdued, more covert than in the past. And he has had less cause to preach against them from the pulpit.

    I don’t know Elder Packer personally, but I’m sure that he is a sweet, humble man just as most prophets are. He just offends those who can’t stand to hear the truth. And that is what generates all the controversy.

  14. JMax says:


    My strongest impression of Elder Packer is that he has the finest speaking voice on anyone in the Twelve.

    Although he has been a ligtning rod in the past, I don’t recall any controversy about him in about ten years. Any insight on why he seems to be more mellow than in the past?

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