Before I begin this column, I would like to thank LDS apostle Boyd K. Packer [BKP] for his service in the U.S. Army as a fighter pilot during World War II.
Now with that out of the way, let me say that I didn’t pick this fight. Packer did. In 1993 BKP called me his enemy, and as far as I am concerned, declared war on me.
I am not exaggerating, either. At a meeting of the “All Church Coordinating Council,” BKP warned of the dangers to the Mormon Church. He stated, “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.” Now, I like to think of myself as all three, so to BKP I was a triple combination threat. While Packer’s message was directed at a “small and elite” group of church employees, it has reached a much larger audience over the following decades through constant publication and discussion on the Internet.
The Mormon hierarchy has long had trouble with intellectualism. In 1945 the message was: “Any Latter-day Saint who denounces or opposes whether actively or otherwise, any plan or doctrine advocated by the prophets, seers, revelators of the church, is cultivating the spirit of apostasy. One cannot speak evil of the lord’s anointed … and retain the holy spirit in his heart. This sort of game is Satan’s favorite pastime, and he has practiced it to believing souls since Adam. He [Satan] wins a great victory when he can get members of the church to speak against their leaders and to do their own thinking.
“When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done. When they propose a plan — it is God’s Plan. When they point the way, there is no other which is safe. When they give directions, it should mark the end of controversy, God works in no other way. To think otherwise, without immediate repentance, may cost one his faith, may destroy his testimony, and leave him a stranger to the kingdom of God.”
Similarly, Mormon President Harold B. Lee once told church educators, “You must decide now which way you face. Either you represent the teachers and students and champion their causes or you represent the Brethren who appointed you.”
But BKP’s 1993 speech was not simply harmless rhetoric. His views have resulted in the excommunication of prominent Mormon intellectuals including gay LDS historian Dr. Michael Quinn. In the following decades the Mormon Church has also supported successful ballot initiatives to limit gay rights in California, Alaska and Hawaii. In 2004, the church endorsed a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in Utah.
Packer, in 1983, claimed that “a testimony is found in the bearing of it.” In effect, he taught that if you don’t know whether something is true, you should just bear your testimony of it anyway, as if you knew it, and eventually you will come to find that you do ‘know’ it. In psychology, this is known as brainwashing. In reality, it’s just plain hypocrisy. BKP has evidently repeated over and over again that being gay is somehow a threat to his church and now he “knows it.”
Two years earlier in his speech “The Mantle is Far, Far Greater Than the Intellect,” delivered at the 5th Annual Church Educational System Religious Educators’ Symposium, BKP told us exactly what he thinks of the truth: “Some things that are true are not very useful.” He then goes on to discuss his view that historians who publish controversial items deserve to be punished. Packer told his audience that accurate history can be “faith destroying,” and LDS historians must promote faith over facts.
“In the Church we are not neutral. We are one-sided,” he said. “There is a war going on and we are engaged in it. It is the war between good and evil, and we are belligerents defending the good. We are therefore obliged to give preference to and protect all that is represented in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and we have made covenants to do it.”
This is also known as the doctrine called “Lying for the Lord.”
Now, why should we care what a petty octogenarian homophobe has to say today? Because, unfortunately, many people in this state will use his words to justify their own homophobia. It’s certainly happened before.
In a General Conference sermon in 1976, BKP discouraged teenage boys from masturbating by calling their sex organs “little factories.”
“As you move closer to manhood, this little factory will sometimes produce an oversupply of this substance. The Lord has provided a way for that to be released. It will happen without any help or without any resistance from you.”
In this same talk his call to resist gay sex was more provocative when he encouraged young men to physically assault missionary companions who showed a sexual interest in them: “I repeat, very plainly, physical mischief with another man is forbidden. It is forbidden by the Lord. There are some men who entice young men to join them in these immoral acts. If you are ever approached to participate in anything like that, it is time to vigorously resist. While I was in a mission on one occasion, a missionary said he had something to confess. I was very worried because he just could not get himself to tell me what he had done. After patient encouragement he finally blurted out, “I hit my companion.” “Oh, is that all,” I said in great relief. “But I floored him,” he said. After learning a little more, my response was, “Well, thanks. Somebody had to do it, and it wouldn’t be well for a General Authority to solve the problem that way.” I am not recommending that course to you, but I am not omitting it. You must protect yourself.”
As BKP aged, his histrionic became more shrill. At the LDS Church’s 160th Semi-annual General Conference, Boyd K. Packer attacked gay people again, likening their love to incest and child molestation. He blasted those in the medical and psychiatric professions who justify homosexuality by saying, “ these impulses are inborn, cannot be overcome and should not be resisted.” He continued to rant, “They quote scripture to justify perverted acts between consenting adults. That same logic would justify incest or the molesting of little children of either gender.”
BKP was called to be a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles 40 years ago. Forty years has not filled his heart with love and compassion for his fellow man. Now, next in the line of succession to the LDS Prophet, he is as belligerent as ever toward gays.
We must remember that Packer is a man for whom the truth is utterly expendable. He councils Mormons to lie about their testimonies until they have one. He is a hater of intellectuals and feminists. He has counseled LDS members to marry only their own race. And worst of all, he ordered the excommunication of Michael Quinn, the greatest gay Mormon historian.