Sustaining President Packer
Instead, I'm going to point out the instructions President Packer specifically gave to my generation in the Ensign two months ago, about how we are to deal with these angry people who want to take our faith from us.
In Finding Ourselves in Lehi's Dream, President Packer warned us what we can expect in our future:
"Atheists and agnostics make nonbelief their religion and today organize in unprecedented ways to attack faith and belief. They are now organized, and they pursue political power. You will be hearing much about them and from them. Much of their attack is indirect in mocking the faithful, in mocking religion...
You who are young will see many things that will try your courage and test your faith. All of the mocking does not come from outside of the Church. Let me say that again: all of the mocking does not come from outside of the Church. Be careful that you do not fall into the category of mocking." [emphasis added]
If my peers think our present concern is homosexuality, they need to wake up and pay closer attention to what is happening.
There are faithful members of this Church who deal with desires of homosexuality. They remain faithful and earn every blessing mortality has to offer. They make covenants in our temples. They hold callings in our congregations. They refuse to let this part of their lives rob them of their blessings, and they refuse to believe that their desires entitle them to break our Heavenly Father's commandments. I applaud them for their strength, courage, and faith. I am not ashamed to call them my brothers and sisters. There is nothing I wouldn't do to help them bear their cross of staying faithful to Jesus Christ. I love them, and I am honored to know the people I have known who deal with homosexuality and still glorify Christ in all that they do. They are no less Christian than any other member in good standing, and anyone who questions their faith offends Christ as they do so.
We could not be Christians if we hated homosexuality with the same disregard with which many gay rights activists have hated us. If any of the Brethren gave into such hatred, they would be removed from their place in the leadership of the Church. Having said that, I post President Packer's Conference talk below. The text is available here.
President Packer's warnings in his Ensign talk, together with the warnings in his Conference talk, are not solely about homosexuality. They are directed at anyone and everyone who would abandon their faith in Christ and His Church, feeling they are justified to do so for some unchangeable, "natural" part of their character. Some members will use homosexuality as an excuse to leave the Church, and therefore these warnings do apply to them. But the statement was worded exactly--to apply to anyone who will attempt to lay aside their covenants, pick up the titles of "atheist" and "agnostic," and attempt to leave this Church as if it had never happened to them. President Packer's statements aren't just obvious statements of something which is already happening. They are prophecies of things still to come.
Let me say it again, to be perfectly clear. If our concern in the Church was about homosexuality, we wouldn't have homosexuals in good standing in our church. But we do. So obviously there are people on the other side who need to get their facts straight.
Apostates come in every size and persuasion, and President Packer's talk in the Ensign has told my generation where we should look for our instructions on how to make sure we are not among them. And, surprise of all surprises, he didn't direct us to more statements from the General Authorities--which is what you would expect if this was about brainwashing us.
No, President Packer expects us to do our own study, get our own revelation from the Holy Ghost, and figure this out for ourselves. That's why he directed us to the scriptures:
"As we think of you young Latter-day Saints and think of the Book of Mormon and think of the dream or vision that Lehi had, we see that there are prophecies in there that can be specifically applied to your life. Read it again, beginning with 1 Nephi 8, and read on to the counsel that is given. The Book of Mormon talks about life after death: what happens to the spirit (see Alma 40:11–12) and what happens in the spirit world (see 2 Nephi 2:29; 9:10–13). All of the things that you need to know are there. Read it, and make it a part of your life. Then the criticism or mocking of the world, mocking those in the Church, will be of no concern to you as it is of no concern to us (see 1 Nephi 8:33). We just move forward doing the things that we are called to do and know that the Lord is guiding us." [emphasis added]
Upon inspection of that chapter, we see that verse 33 is the money maker:
"And great was the multitude that did enter into that strange building. And after they did enter into that building they did point the finger of scorn at me and those that were partaking of the fruit also; but we heeded them not." [emphasis added]
One of the things people in this Church need to figure out is that our covenants don't have a fine print, or terms of termination. Once you're baptized, it's forever; endowed and sealed, doubly so. When you make a covenant with God, He owns you--not the other way around. Our responsibility is then to give ourselves to Him completely. In thought, in word, in action. No more holding back. No more nooks for silent conspiracies. No more renegade philosophies of men, corrupt gender perception, cruel and selfish gay rights agendas, vengeful dwelling on personal offences, or any other refusal to repent and align ourselves with the mind and will of God. The two things all of those "issues" have in common is their total disregard for God's will, and their growing enmity against the leaders and members of His Church.
That is what the truth does. It condemns us, or it sets us free. And if we stand condemned, we must admit we've been wrong before it can set us free. And if there's anything I've noticed about straying members of the Church, there are three things they could say to God that would lift them where they stand, which would end so much of what they face, and what they're in for. Three things they could say, but they either won't, can't, or are afraid to say:
"I'm wrong. I'm sorry. I love you."
When I came into the Church, I had to learn this lesson too. It's what Repentance is made of. There was hatred in my heart for many people, and much of what had happened to me in my past. I was hurt and angry, but my journey had to begin with learning how wrong I was about everything--about God, other people, and myself. I had to learn how to apologize, and mean it. I had to learn to love, and trust that love would heal my sorrow, and take away my grief.
That's where change begins. Only then did the love of God touch me, and heal every wound of my soul. One day at a time. First the broken heart. Then the wounded body. That's how I became a living soul all over again. Fertile ground for a testimony that saved my life, and has made my life so beautiful, so wonderful, I am glad to be alive. I cannot wait to see my Savior again. I rejoice at the thought of coming into His presence. I am not perfect, but I am happy. I may not be spotless yet, but He taught me how to change. To feast on joy, and to share that gladness with others.
It all began with "I'm wrong. I'm sorry. I love you."
Those words are beautiful to me still... Repentance is so beautiful, I couldn't have made it up to save my own life. It just wasn't in me. But it is now, and I know God is an awesome God of healing. I testify of my Savior Jesus Christ--that He atoned for our sins. He bears us up when no one else can. He loves us when no one else knows how to anymore. I love Him. I worship Him. I love His Church, and I love the leaders He has chosen for it. I love my brothers and sisters, and I look forward to serving all kinds of people when I finally leave for my mission. Even if they hate me. Even if they think I'm crazy. Even if most of them slam the door in our faces. Even if there are those who try to make my mission the worst experience of my life. I don't care. In time, they will know that I loved them.
And in time, those who hate President Packer right now will eventually realize that he loved them too.
That is my testimony, and I bear it gladly in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.