Obligatory President Packer’s talk edits analysis

If only I had waited a day later to post my obligatory President Packer talk analysis. Just one day.

Oh well.

I planned on this one being short, but I ended up ranting. I ranted, deleted, ranted, deleted, ranted, then deleted some more. This is the short version.

By now, most of you have probably heard the hullaballoo of the edits made on President Packer’s talk once the written form of Conference hit the Church website. The three major changes of import (and you can see a great blog post comparing the spoken and written version here) are thusly:

1. The edit which changed the Proclamation on the Family from a “revelation” to a “guide.”

2. The edit which changed President Packer’s statement that “tendencies” cannot be inborn to “temptations.”

3. The edit which completely eliminated President Packer’s rhetorical question: “Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone?”

My thoughts:

1. This one is huge. I had always heard of the Proclamation on the Family as some form of revelation. It’s always been considered psuedo-scripture, or even with the same force as scripture. Whenever people want to cite the Church’s prophetic mantle, they cite this as revelation. Whenever people ask “Where have all the revelations gone?” this one is usually cited. I find all of these views on the Proclamation on the Family as problematic, but kept silent since this Proclamation is a huge sacred cow in the Church. For the deliberate edit demoting this officially from “revelation” to a “guide” is of great import, but will most likely (predictably) ignored.

2. This one people will probably be cheering about. There’s already a level of smugness about it for more liberal Mormons. This one doesn’t move me, nor did President Packer’s original statement bother me, but that’s because I’m jaded. Does this edit really change much? It’s moving the talk more towards the centrist “we talk about action, not orientation” position of the Church when it comes to homosexuality, and that’s that. Will it change the thoughts of more conservative Mormons when it comes to homosexuality? No. Absolutely not. Those who want to continue to believe homosexuality as a choice rather than part of your biological makeup will continue to trawl through past General Authority quotes to find what they want. In reality, this edit has a net difference of zero in our current situation.

3. This edit made me sad. Why? Because it’s a really, really good question, that’s why! I feel this is a dangerous move our Church has made in the interest of reducing some of the hate it’s attracted. But by golly, this is a deep theological question that everyone should struggle with for the rest of their life.

Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone? Why would he allow people to be born in abject, spirit-breaking poverty? Why would He allow children to be born to abusive parents who don’t even want them? Why would He allow women and children to be sold into sexual slavery and raped until their intestines fall out? Why would He allow people to butcher each other in wholesale slaughter? Why would He allow child molesters to kidnap children and brutally torture and scar them? Why would He allow that young mother of six to die of cancer when her family really needed her? Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone?

Ruminate on this question. Let it marinate in your soul. This ultimate question of evil is that which we should wrestle with all night long, like Jacob did with the angel of God. We are the inheritors of the birthright of Israel, literally he who wrestles with God. Yet when President Packer brings up such a crucial theological question, we sweep it under the carpet. Sigh.

First thought that went through my head when I saw the update: What’s the point of watching General Conference anymore? Watching General Conference is like participating in a beta – it’s buggy, there’s bad information and code, and in the end, it’s probably gonna be fairly different when it finally ships.

This brings up a really good question, though. President Packer’s message was off enough where the Church (or, at least President Packer) decided to edit the remarks for the printed, written format. In a way, outside political events forced this issue, but it’s an important one.

What if prophets are wrong?

It’s just as hard as the “Why would Our Heavenly Father do that to anyone?” question. Another really good one to think about. It holds thunderous implications about how we view the Church and God’s interaction with her.

In closing, I feel bad for President Packer. He’s an 80+ year-old man. He’s someone’s grandpa. Oh no! An 80+ year-old man thinks that gay people choose to be gay? WHAT A SHOCK. JUST LIKE, OH, I DON’T KNOW, EVERY OTHER 80+ YEAR OLD MAN EVER IN THE EXISTENCE OF 80 YEAR-OLD MEN. Seriously. Let’s all calm down. I’m done talking about this, really I am. I’m so sick of the whole gay issue. Let us all agree on this as Church members, yes? Gay people are still Heavenly Father’s children and they deserve to be treated as such, and if we so much as judge them mentally, or mistreat them verbally or physically, or refuse to accept them into the family of God, imperfections and all, then we bring upon ourselves the displeasure and judgment of a God who knows that we know better.

Nobody is benefiting from this. Not Church members, not gay rights activists, no one. No one is benefiting, and no one will win. We will only have losers if we continue down this route. We need to change tactics, we need to change how this discourse pans out and fast, because right now, nobody is winning. Everyone’s just losing.

And it’s making me sick to my stomach, how we’re so willing to tear each other apart and scream and rant and throw feces at each other like the primates we descended from.

That is all.

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “Obligatory President Packer’s talk edits analysis

  1. LHF

    Prop 18 is old news! Talk to me about Prop 19!

    Oh, California. It’s like a breakfast cereal. If you’re not a fruit or a nut, you’re a flake.

  2. cory

    Oh President Packer. Poor guy. That was a rough talk if I’ve ever heard one. Although I think I kind of zoned out somewhere between the story about voting on a kitty’s gender and pornography…it was kind of all over the place. I assumed it was a strong cautioning against our overall sinfulness.

    I too am sick of the “gay debate.” Can’t we go back to being that loving church that focuses less on political issues and more on humanitarian efforts and loving ALL our brothers and sisters. President Hinckley had been very keen on staying away from such hot button issues. It’s hard for people to hear our message of Christ’s atoning sacrifice when they are so focused on hating us for “our” political beliefs.

  3. E-rock

    I thoroughly enjoyed President Packer’s talk, I actually wrote a journal entry about it (and some others which stood out to me). I was surprised at the negative reaction by some to it. Its not like what he said was a surprise and new revelation.

    • Ted

      I think what was shocking was that he actually did step out of line of the established Church position, which was to talk about actions, not orientation. It’s a really, really touchy subject, and when you say things with such moral clarity (which ignores the experiences of thousands of members who must cope with being different at such a fundamental sexual level), you tend to set people off. You’re right; “President Packer is not a fan of homosexuality” should not be news. But I think it was a combination of tone and him contradicting official Church stance on such an emotional subject that caused the firestorm.

      For example, suppose President Packer gave a talk like this instead: http://beta-newsroom.lds.org/article/church-mormon-responds-to-human-rights-campaign-petition-same-sex-attraction

      For the most part, this talk has gotten a lot of good press everywhere, especially among Mormons. It’s a much more charitable (and in my opinion, realistic) response but still gets across the message President Packer was giving. I don’t think it would have caused such a hullaballoo.

  4. E-rock

    Good press release. But speaking the same message in a direct way is hardly justification for people calling his talk ‘hateful’ and ‘ignorant’ and demanding it be repealed, corrected, voted on, corrected some more, and then released. Its like the worst thing that could ever happen to anyone is being
    offended.

    • Ted

      The whole affair was rather unfortunate, I will agree. This whole thing has signaled a kind of shift in how members interact with the leadership in General Conference in general. These kinds of edits happen all the time after Conference, but because of the sensitive nature of this one, they had to press release it and it has definitely caused no small amount of angst with some people in my ward.

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