Gays, Feminists and Intellectuals…oh my!

In May of 1993 I was working as an editor and publisher in the computer industry. My job required a lot of research and sourcing of material on the Internet. This was in the very earliest days of the World Wide Web. In fact, most of the material I obtained did not come from web pages but from mailing lists and online databases or FTP archives.

Although my job did not require it, I subscribed to a couple of LDS mailing lists. Part of my daily routine was to participate in the discussion that took place on Mormon-L. It is one of the oldest LDS lists, established in 1988 on one of the list servers at BYU. The discussions there were very similar to what we blog about today but mostly tamer.

One exception was a blow-up over an address given by Boyd K. Packer to the All-Church Coordinating Council. It can be found on several locations on the Internet. I prefer the formatting of the talk as presented on Light Planet. Without a doubt, it has been one of the most discussed and argued about addresses by a General Authority even to this day.

Background of the address

Early in his assignment to supervise Seminaries and Institutes, Elder Packer received counsel from President Harold B Lee who said, “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. You need to decide now which way you face."

Elder Packer then gave a few examples demonstrating the concept of being corrected or even reproved by those presiding over him in the leadership of the Church. He describes how difficult it is to be submissive to changes requested, even to the point of accepting changes in talks given in General Conference. I love Elder Packer’s conference talks.

In his talk he mentions the worldwide evaporation of values and standards within politics, government, society, entertainment and education. He then briefly discusses drift taking place even within the church and points out how critical it is that we recognize and take corrective action. He reminds us that these are signs of danger foretold for the last days.

The three areas of danger

Elder Packer did not speak in generalities that day. He was very specific and direct in his remarks. He clearly identified that, “There are three areas where members of the Church, influenced by social and political unrest, are being caught up and led away. I chose these three because they have made major invasions into the membership of the Church.

“In each, the temptation is for us to turn about and face the wrong way, and it is hard to resist, for doing it seems so reasonable and right. 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.

“Our local leaders must deal with all three of them with ever-increasing frequency. In each case, the members who are hurting have the conviction that the Church somehow is doing something wrong to members or that the Church is not doing enough for them.” He then mentions a recent conference address by President Benson on working mothers.

Counsel from a prophet

After reading excerpts of letters from members of the church demonstrating that each of these three areas are troubling to some, Elder Packer then offers the following counsel. Without diminishing the validity of the concerns expressed in the letters, he points out that without a true understanding of the plan of salvation, life will always seem unfair.

“That young man with gender disorientation needs to know that gender was not assigned at mortal birth, that we were sons and daughters of God in the premortal state. The woman pleading for help needs to see the eternal nature of things and to know that…she will find no enduring peace in the feminist movement. There she will have no hope.

Referring to an individual who offered to mediate between the scholarly community and the direction from the prophets he says, “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.”

Fifteen years later

Elder Packer was roundly criticized by many on the list for his perceived insensitivity to individuals and groups he mentioned in his talk. The criticism was so bad that it came to the attention of the leading councils of the church. The distribution of the list was kicked off the BYU servers. To many, this seemed like an attempt to squelch intellectual dialog.

You probably remember what happened to some within the scholarly community later that year. The plights of the September Six have been written up and discussed many times since then. I wonder if the same thing would have happened today. I can assure you that the dialog on LDS forums today is so much worse than what happened then.

The point of my essay is not to comment on President Packer’s condemnation of these three groups. I am not a member of any one of the groups so I can’t understand how it must have felt to have been identified as a grave threat and danger to the church. I only want to point out that today I believe we are more tolerant of dialog and even dissent.

Summary and conclusion

I love Elder Packer. He is one of my favorite apostles. His counsel over the years has helped and strengthened me tremendously. His health these days is not the best. I would not be surprised if he is called home soon. My wife’s family knows many of Elder Packer’s family as they are from Brigham City. I feel that he is like a distant relative.

I did not really understand the violent reaction to his talk back in 1993. Most members of the church were not even aware of what had transpired and most still don’t today. I felt bad for him. I know he was trying to be helpful. I have always felt that Elder Packer is one who, like Elder McConkie, has always tried to keep the caravan on the right path.

My apologies to those who read this post based on the title expecting to find some essay condemning gays, feminists and intellectuals. I hope you have not come away with that idea at all. I sincerely hope that we have become more tolerant over the years. I also hope that we have learned not to take offense when a prophet tries to give us counsel.


SilverRain said…
Thank you for this post. It is touching and thought-provoking. I'm afraid that while I can hope that we have learned to listen when a prophet speaks, I doubt we have.

It is fascinating hearing what it was like from someone who has lived through it. Although I was involved in computers in 1993, I really didn't get involved in the internet until 1997, and I've not been involved in LDS internet more than a couple of years.
Bryce Haymond said…
Take a look at what the Church published today on the Newsroom. The Divine Institution of Marriage. Those who choose to go against what the Church has counseled are not going to be happy.
Chino Blanco said…
This Thursday, August 14th, from 5:30 p.m - 8:30 p.m. at 2020 Main Street, Irvine, California:

ACTION ALERT: Tell the Right-Wing Consultants NO to Prop 8!
Tim Malone said…
Hi Chino,

You seem like an intelligent guy. Can you provide a link to a document similar to the one Bryce provided above so that I can understand the logical reasons for the opposition to marriage being between a man and wife? I've read the entries and links on your blog and they seem like nothing more than ranting and raving - let's go protest a PR company. Thanks.
Anonymous said…
This is the point I have come to.
Regarding the gay-lesbien issue the way I feel is that looking back at my life there is no doubt that I would have been better off if I had been adopted by a loving gay couple.
There is also the fact that I am aching when thinking about how inadequate and hurt they must feel in a totally straight and patriarchal society. I want to reach to them really bad and I hate hearing blunt talks of people who obviously don't have a clue of what it feels like.
These people may be wrong in their way to address to us but it does not change the point. The point being the plan of salvation.
We don't know why these people feel that they are different. I personnaly believe that there are several answers but I won't get into this right now.

There is still a way for me to follow both my heart and our is called Christlike love. It is surprisingly working on a lot of people and will not go against my commitment to the church...amazing;o) (being a little sarcastic here)
Chino Blanco said…
Hi Tim,

LDS 'Yes on 8' Game Plan

I've posted a letter sent from Boyd K. Packer on July 28th to the California LDS stake presidents:

BKP July 28

Apparently, there is a plan in place to put up one million 'Yes on 8' yard signs at 7:00 am on September 22nd.

Just me ranting and raving ...
Tim Malone said…
Sorry Chino,

That's not a letter from President Boyd K. Packer. You can start with the title. He would never sign a letter Brother Packer. The tone of the letter with the slang and poor grammar is another dead giveaway. Whoever put it on the Yes on 8 blog did not check the source carefully.

Also, some of the comments on the forums and blogs where you post are bogus. They pretend to be a Public Affairs representative of the church. Truth is one of the first causalities of any campaign, at least from those who oppose proposition 8.
Chino Blanco said…
Hi Tim,

Thanks for the compliment.

This is politics, not logic.

If there was any logic to any of this, what need for PR companies?
Chino Blanco said…
Hey Tim,

Q: What happened to the original blog where I found that letter?

A: It's no longer public.

Uh oh, somebody's in trouble.

Thank goodness the Internet comes with its own handy archiver:

Tim Malone said…
Well, that's understandable, but I still think it was pretty lame, whoever did it.

By the way, how did your visit to the PR agency open house go last week? Any press coverage?
N.E. said…
Mormonism, like all other religions is inherently divisive. It is a breeder of hate and intolerance. If you are Mormon you are feeding this beast and should be ashamed. You've lost your humanity.
Aaron said…
@NE You're every bit as much a bigot as any religiously bigoted person. Don't tell me I'm subhuman because I'm LDS. You know NOTHING.

I just want to say I appreciate A GREAT DEAL the constant, agonizing battle lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and transsexual folks in the Church wage, and given that there is a dearth of information for the LGBTT folks, I wouldn't expect them to know how to proceed.

The fact is that at best the established doctrine is absent to completely explain that Heavenly Father had an eternally true and love-motivated plan for us prepared based on what we were when we were born and that our sex and/or gender has bearing on the eternities when some of us have a biological sex or gender that isn't covered in the scriptures.

To cite absolutely undeniable, visual evidence (even for folks that ascribe to a super ignorant interpretation of social issues), for inter-sexed babies whose parents "make a decision" with a doctor, what was their sex and gender in the Pre-Earth Life? If the doc and the parents guessed wrong, what does that say about all the Priesthood ordinances and family creation decisions that person receives and makes?

Yes, we understand that everything will be worked out, but heterosexuals should NEVER take it for granted that within the doctrine, there is a great deal of comfort, direction, and understanding for THIS life offered to them that frankly IS NOT offered to those who are not heterosexual and fit into a binary gender profile. It is comforting that the Church has finally acknowledged sexual orientation as a state of being rather than a decision.

The answer, in my opinion? Where there is a lack of established doctrine, we must rely on personal revelation, even if it is incomplete. I really do believe we all have the light of Christ and the ability to choose from right and wrong, even when it is VERY HARD to tell when something is right or wrong, and that in the end will mean we will be OK. I would say as much for people who have received Church discipline just for insisting on their identity as who they are rather than someone with an illness or affliction: God will work all this out.

We still can gain a great deal, indeed all that God has prepared, from having faith in the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ, even in a world where we and others sometimes act on insufficient information. Does that mean we need to trust things people tell us that we know are wrong, or at least that we know have no basis in established doctrine? I don't think so. I am fighting cynicism.
Aaron said…
To summarize my take, I really do believe that God loves his LGBTT children because of who they are, and I believe that who they are absolutely has something to do with who and what they will become. In other words, I think people who are gay (meaning everything that entails) will continue to be so after they die, because gender and sexuality isn't just about attraction, and I think God has a plan for them that we don't understand yet. As a result, there is some suffering. Does current science still lack information to really explain who and what LGBTT people are? Yes. Does religion? Yes. I think we know enough about the science side of things to know that if our religion is to make any sense, we aren't going to get sexually lobotomized/butchered after this life.

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