Monday, October 11, 2010

No stranger to controversy: Elder Packer

Elder Packer has been a bold apostle, not afraid to take a stand.  Doing so has raised the eyebrows of some, while supporters appreciate his bravery in dealing with controversial issues. Below is a brief history of some of those areas he has spoken out on.

-- Jan 17, 1974
The ROLLING STONE publishes an article "The Mormon Word: No Hair, Sex or 3 Dog Night" which tells of the ASBYU Social Office's cancellation of a scheduled appearance by the group "Three Dog Night" immediately after a conference address by Boyd K. Packer. The article quotes Mark Alexander, BYU social vice-president: "In light of Elder Packer's talk, we are taking a closer look at the groups we are booking, and we are making sure we are in harmony with church standards". In the previous Oct General Conference, Packer referred to the "shabbiness, the irreverence, the immorality, and the addictions" associated with many contemporary entertainers, and intimated that the music itself was inherently evil. (1)

-- Feb 1, 1976
While speaking at a twelve-stake fireside at BYU about Mormonism and the arts, Apostle Boyd K. Packer says that some LDS musicians are -more temper than mental.- (1)

-- During 1976
Apostle Boyd K. Packer gives a talk in which he condones physical violence by young men of the Church (including missionaries) against men who appear to be showing sexual interest in them. (2)

-- Jan 8, 1977
Apostle Boyd K. Packer speaks at an anti-ERA [Equal Rights Amendment - providing equal treatment for women] rally in Pocatello, Idaho. He specifically asks that the amendment, originally passed by the Idaho legislature with a two-thirds majority, be rescinded. On the platform with Packer is Allen Larsen, speaker of the Idaho House of Representatives, who was also a stake president. Two weeks later the Idaho Legislature rescinds the ERA vote by a simple majority. (1)

-- Jan 14, 1977
Apostle Boyd K. Packer, in a talk at Brigham Young University, preaches: "We've always counseled in the Church for our Mexican members to marry Mexicans, our Japanese members to marry Japanese, our Caucasians to marry Caucasians, our Polynesian members to marry Polynesians. The counsel has been wise. . . . Plan, young people, to marry into your own race." (1)

-- Feb 1, 1977
Utah Senator Jake Garn, a faithful Mormon, inserts an anti-ERA speech by Apostle Boyd K. Packer into the Congressional Record. (1)

-- Mar 5, 1978
Apostle Boyd K. Packer gives a speech entitled "To the One" during a twelve-stake fireside at BYU. Although the entire speech deals with homosexuality, Packer uses the word "homosexual" only once because,"we can very foolishly cause things we are trying to prevent by talking too much about them." Packer says that finding the cause of homosexuality is an "essential step in developing a cure" and theorizes that the cause "will turn out to be a very typical form of selfishness." (1)

-- Apr 21, 1978
Robert Stevenson, an African-American Mormon, marries Susan Bevan, a white Mormon. They had met at Brigham Young University as students, but her Mormon family questions the viability of the relationship. Stevenson later notes that "everybody from the garbage man to the stake president had told her that marrying me would be to her eternal detriment." They seek an interview with a general authority, Boyd K. Packer. Packer calls in Marion D. Hanks. According to Stevenson, "Elder Packer squared off on one side, and Elder Hanks squared off on the other." Packer argued that Stevenson "could accomplish [his] mission in life and be more effective without being married to a white woman." Hanks said, "I think it's the best thing in the world that you marry Susan. I think that you'll be more effective and you'll be able to break down racial barriers easier." (1)

-- During 1980
[When Apostle Ezra Taft Benson faced a possible rebuke by fellow General Authorities for repeatedly using his church office to promote the politics of the John Birch Society] Ezra's biographer indicates that the most effusively supportive general authority in attendance was Apostle Boyd K. Packer: "How I admire, respect and love you. How could anyone hesitate to follow a leader, an example such as you? What a privilege!"  (3)

-- 22 August 1981.
Elder Boyd K. Packer, speaking to Church Education System personnel, warns that church history, "if not properly written or properly taught, may be a faith destroyer" and may in fact give "equal time" to the "adversary." He states, "There is no such thing as an accurate, objective history of the church without consideration of the spiritual powers that attend this work" and urged taking a selective approach to history. (4)

-- Aug 22, 1981
Apostle Boyd K Packer instructs BYU religion faculty, all seminary and institute teachers, and administrators of Church Education System that Mormon history, "if not properly written or properly taught, may be a faith destroyer," and he affirms that Mormon historians are wrong in publicizing controversial elements of Mormon past [originally scheduled to appear in the February issue of the Ensign, the address is withdrawn but later published in Brigham Young University Studies.] (1)

-- Feb 7, 1982
NEWSWEEK article on the rift between LDS historians and Church leaders: "A major conflict is brewing between professional Mormon historians and a group of church elders who insist that LDS scholars write only `faith promoting' accounts of the church. . . . [Apostles Boyd K. Packer and Ezra Taft Benson] "have been harshly critical of the methods and motives of LDS scholars who attempt `objective' histories of the church.  . . .  Mormon history should be presented as a sacred saga so that students can-in Packer's words-'see the hand of the Lord in every hour and every moment of the Church from its beginning till now.'" The article further quoted a lecture distributed to all Mormon educators in which Elder Packer denounced professional scholars who " write history as they were taught in graduate school, rather than as Mormons" and enjoined LDS historians to write selectively about "the faults and contradictions of church." (1)

-- 28 February 1982.
At a meeting of the B. H. Roberts Society, James L. Clayton of the University of Utah denounces the archival restrictions and challenges Elder Packer's position: "Selecting only those topics and historians that are comfortable in order to lead the membership more easily into the promised land is, to put it bluntly, intellectually and morally irresponsible from the historians' point of view." (4)

-- 10 August 1985.
Speaking at the regional priesthood leadership conference in Winder Stake on 10 August 1985, Elder Packer says: "We are in a time when `magazines' are available which defame and belittle the brethren. Authors are `scratching out' articles which seek these goals--and some young people are following. . . . These people argue, 'i[f] it's true, then say it.' . . . There are those who are crying sin and falsehood about the brethren and the prophets--especially regarding the Manifesto and polygamy. They are `offending little ones.'" Michael Quinn interprets the statement as referring to [his article documenting post-manifesto polygamy]. (4)

-- Mar 10, 1991
DESERET NEWS publishes report by national Associated Press of first counselor Thomas S. Monson's allowance for conscientious objection against Persian Gulf War. Although emphatic that LDS church leaders and membership support national decisions concerning war, Monson adds that a Mormon conscientious objector "can serve in some capacity that will suit his conscience and country together." This contrasts with LDS hierarchy's position during Vietnam War when only public statement was Boyd K. Packer's condemnation of conscientious objectors. (1)

-- 8 August 1992.
An Associated Press story by Vern Anderson quotes church spokesman Don LeFevre's acknowledgment that the "Strengthening Church Members Committee" "provides local church leadership with information designed to help them counsel with members who may hinder the progress of the church through public criticism." It also reports the experience of Omar Kader of Washington, D.C., formerly of BYU's political science department. Kader says a BYU administrator told him that Nelson, then Kader's stake president, kept a file on his political activities as a Democrat in Provo in the late 1970s. Nelson "categorically denied keeping a file on Kader" and also denied "knowing Omar and Nancy Kader."
        Nelson is director of the Evaluation Division, Church Correlation Department, which reports to Elder Boyd K. Packer... (4)

-- May 18,1993
[Utah] Apostle Boyd K. Packer tells All-Church Coordinating Council that LDS church faces three major threats: "The dangers I speak of come from 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." (5)

-- Oct 11, 1993
Steve Benson goes public concerning a conversation he had earlier with Apostle Dallin Oaks concerning Apostle Boyd K. Packer contacting Paul Toscano's stake president, Kerry Heinz, concerning Toscano's disciplinary council [Toscano was one of those excommunicated as part of a purge thought to have been orchestrated by Elder Packer, and would go on to be known as one of the 'September Six']. Oaks had publicly stated that "if Elder Packer is having any conversation with" President Heinz, "it is contrary to what I know about Elder Packer and how he operates." Benson states that Oaks had previously told him that Packer had contacted Heinz and that, "You can't stage manage a grizzly bear," adding that "it was a mistake for Packer to meet with Heinz and a mistake for Heinz to ask for the meeting." (1)

-- Oct 17, 1993
First Presidency issues statement concerning procedures for disfellowshipment and excommunication. 1995-1996 CHURCH ALMANAC states that this was in response to "extensive publicity given to six recent Church disciplinary councils in Utah." Coordinated by instructions from the Strengthening the Members Committee and apostle Boyd K. Packer to their stake presidents, six scholars and feminists had been excommunicated or disfellowshipped in Sep.  (1)

-- Oct 15, 1996
Boyd K. Packer, Twelve's acting-president, tells BYU devotional assembly that Bishops should exercise strict control over LDS funerals because families are conducting funerals where "several family members speak in a funeral, we hear about the deceased instead of about the Atonement." DESERET NEWS notes that he speaks about "unwritten laws" of church conduct, but does not quote or paraphrase Apostle Packer's statements against content of LDS funerals by grieving families. (1)

-- Oct 3, 2010
In a conference address, Boyd K. Packer indicates homosexuals are not born with same-sex attraction. "Some suppose that they were pre-set and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn tendencies toward the impure and unnatural. Not so. Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone?"  Later that week, several thousand march on Temple Square in protest of his remarks. The following day the church releases an altered version the text of Elder Packers remarks -- with some of the more controversial items changed or removed.

1 - On This Day in Mormon History,
2 - LDS Gay History Timeline [Unabridged],
3 - Quinn, D. Michael; Ezra Taft Benson and Mormon Political Conflicts, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought
4 - Anderson, Lavina Fielding, "The LDS Intellectual Community and Church Leadership: A Contemporary Chronology," Dialogue, Vol.26, No.1
5 - Quinn, D. Michael, The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power, Appendix 5, Selected Chronology of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1848-1996

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