Question: Why did Elder Boyd K. Packer state that "Some things that are true are not very useful"?


Question: Why did Elder Boyd K. Packer state that "Some things that are true are not very useful"?

Elder Packer was giving an address to religious educators called "The Mantle is Far, Far Greater Than the Intellect"

Elder Packer gave an address to religious educators called "The Mantle is Far, Far Greater Than the Intellect."[1] The quote shown above has become a favorite of critics as a way to demonstrate that the Church suppresses truth or intellectual thought.

Critics state that Elder Packer was telling Mormon historians to document only faithful history

A common criticism of Elder Packer's remarks is represented by the following quote from D. Michael Quinn:

Elder Packer demands that Mormon historians demonstrate and affirm that "the hand of the Lord [has been] in every hour and every moment of the Church from its beginning till now."

— D. Michael Quinn, "On Being a Mormon Historian," 80.[2]

Elder Packer was not speaking to Mormon historians, he was speaking to members of the Church Educational System (CES)

This does not accurately reflect Elder Packer's remarks, however, since Elder Packer was not speaking to "Mormon historians"—he was, rather, speaking to members of CES, the Church Educational System. Elder Packer makes his intended audience clear:

You seminary teachers and some of you institute and BYU men will be teaching the history of the Church this school year. This is an unparalleled opportunity in the lives of your students to increase their faith and testimony of the divinity of this work. Your objective should be that they will see the hand of the Lord in every hour and every moment of the Church from its beginning till now.

CES consists of Church employees who have been hired by the Church to teach its doctrine and promote faith in its young people

CES consists of Church employees who have been hired by the Church to teach its doctrine and promote faith in its young people. Surely it is well within the Church's purview to insist that the perspective on Church history taught in its religion classes will be supportive of, and not destructive of, faith? Surely the CES's study of history is not merely an academic exercise, but also has a spiritual goal?

Notes

  1. Boyd K. Packer, "The Mantle is Far, Far Greater Than the Intellect," Address to the Fifth Annual CES Religious Educators' Symposium, 1981; see also Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1991), 101-122; see also Boyd K. Packer, "'The Mantle is Far, Far Greater than the Intellect.'," Brigham Young University Studies 21 no. 3 (Summer 1981), 259–278. PDF link Later references to this address refer to the BYU Studies reprint, since the PDF is available on-line. It starts on page 1.
  2. The essay from which the footnote comes is derived from Quinn's Fall 1981 lecture to the BYU Student History Association. The first publication was, unsurprisingly, by the Tanner's anti-Mormon press (without Quinn's permission: see p. 89 of his account): "On Being A Mormon Historian," Salt Lake City: Modern Microfilm Co., 1982. The source here cited was from the reprinted version (with some additions) in D. Michael Quinn, "On Being a Mormon Historian (and Its Aftermath)," in Faithful History: Essays on Writing Mormon History, edited by George D. Smith, (Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books, 1992), 76 n. 22.