Mormons Gearing Up For Baptists
By Timothy Oliver
As the date draws near for the Southern Baptist's Convention in Salt
Lake City, Mormon church leadership is showing
signs of concern over possible Baptist impact on the Mormon community.
Two separate addresses given in February by Mormon apostles Boyd K. Packer
and M. Russell Ballard, and another by Mormon apostle Dallin Oaks given
at the April General Conference, were clearly intended to fortify the Mormon
faithful against arguments from outsiders that Mormonism is not a Christian
religion. All the speeches fit well enough with the Church leaders' relatively
recent proselytizing strategy of courting mainline and evangelical churches
as "fellow-Christians." It was clear, nevertheless, that the Mormon apostles
did not want their followers to be non-Mormon Christians. Not since the
passing of Bruce R. McConkie have Mormon apostles spoken out so directly
and forcefully regarding non-Mormon Christian views of Mormonism. This
article will focus on the first of these addresses, that of Mr. Packer.
Packer, who spoke at BYU's Marriott Center, said his message was "for
those who teach and write and produce films which claim that The Church
of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not a Christian church and that
we, the members, are not Christians." It was widely thought that his statement
had been prompted by The Mormon Puzzle, a teaching/equipping video
recently produced by the Southern Baptists and distributed with all the
materials necessary for a Sunday School class on the subject. Packer, however,
never named or addressed any critics directly, and always referred to them
in the third person. His address was not truly for them but obviously directed
to, and for the benefit of, the "we" in the above quote - the members of
the Mormon church, whom he wanted to style as The Peaceable Followers
Immediately following the statement quoted above, Packer confessed "When
faced with that question, I find myself disadvantaged - cornered, challenged.
I think you young people could do a better job of answering that question
than I." This was a staggering admission coming from the President of the
Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, charged with the responsibility of protecting
more than ten million people from being "tossed to and fro, and carried
about with every wind of doctrine."
Packer stated that ".confrontation is not the way to reason through
a challenge such as this." Throughout, he stressed a non-confrontational
approach to witnessing to outsiders. This rather contrasts with the exhortation
of Mormon scripture in the Doctrine & Covenants: "Wherefore, confound
your enemies; call upon them to meet you both in public and in private;
and inasmuch as ye are faithful their shame shall be made manifest" (sec.
71:7). It fits well, however, with the goal of preventing Mormons from
engaging in encounters that could seriously challenge their beliefs.
Packer did not give reasonable answers to Christian critics so much
as he assured Mormons it was proper not to worry or concern oneself with
their criticisms. Whatever the critics' reasons, whatever their evidence,
it just did not matter. Packer specified the proper Mormon attitude: "The
much better approach is to teach,.. We need not justify what we believe,
only to teach and to explain..There is a knowledge that transcends rational
explanations, sacred knowledge that leads to conversion." Mr. Packer has
hereby signaled to Mormons that they may legitimately suspend rational
thought when it comes to their religion. At the same time he has
relieved both them and himself of strict accountability to the Bible.
And, Gnostic-like, he has claimed a special, "sacred," inside knowledge
as sufficient authority on which to base belief in Mormonism.
Packer asserted, and Mormons like to believe, that this inner, subjective,
spiritually imparted witness or testimony "leads to conversion."
This is true only if one thinks of "conversion" in terms of an outward
profession, such as being baptized into the Mormon church. The truth is,
the very willingness to accept this spirit's testimony as sufficient proof
to establish the truth of Mormonism is demonstration that "conversion"
to Mormonism's most basic premises has already occurred. Reliance on the
Bible as an objective standard against which all claims to truth must be
measured has already been abandoned. The alternative choice to put faith
in the inner, subjective feelings and impressions of the heart has already
been made. Thus divorced from God's Word, the human heart is the devil's
playground (Jeremiah 17:9; Proverbs 28:26).
Rather than justifying their doctrine out of the Bible, Mormon leaders
are teaching their followers to believe in, and to offer to others, these
inner, subjective feelings and impressions as a sufficient basis for acceptance
of Mormonism. Packer explained, "While we can provide answers, they will
not be satisfactory, however, to those who do not accept continuing revelation."
He might just as well have said, "The proofs of Mormonism are believable
only to those who already accept Mormonism as true." Committing oneself
to Mormonism as true, accepting its basic premises and its revelations
as true, without having credible evidence that it is true, is the prerequisite
condition for obtaining the secret, sacred, insider's knowledge by which
one may "know" if it is true. And when this "knowledge" comes, it is not
in the communication of facts, but of feelings. More on this matter of
feelings will be noted later.
All of this - the arrogant "teach only" position, the refusal to be
accountable to the Bible, the inner, subjective, "sacred," insider's knowledge
- all of this stems from and leads to, spiritual pride. While inculcation
of this attitude might naturally obstruct Christian witness to Mormons,
it may also offer a significant opportunity. Baptists in Salt Lake
for their convention should stress that they feel loyalty to God obligates
them to justify their own beliefs according to His Word, the Bible. They
should also point out that failure to do so would expose themselves not
only to the false claims and teachings of false apostles and deceitful
workers (2 Corinthians 11:13-15) but also the judgment of God (2 Thessalonians
2:10-12; 1 Timothy 4:1). When fidelity to scripture is presented by Christians
as loyalty to God and concern for their own safety, rather than as accusation
against Mormon leaders, there may be many Mormons able to draw the proper
implications for themselves.
Packer complained that, "If they claimed that we do not fit the Christian
mold they have designed for themselves or that we do not conform to their
definition of Christian, it would be easier to reason together.. It is
one thing to say that we are not their kind of Christian. It is another
entirely to characterize us as not being Christian at all" (emphasis in
original). Clearly he wanted Mormonism included with other denominations
and streams of Christianity, recognized as unique from all others, but
still one of the fold. Apparently he would have the Christian world believe
that the Mormon church is no more different from other denominations than,
say, Roman Catholicism is different from Eastern Orthodoxy, or Baptists
are different from Nazarenes. If there can be "Methodist Christians" and
"Presbyterian Christians" then surely there can be "Mormon Christians."
(Only if there can also be "pseudo-Christians," a term much more communicative
of the facts about Mormonism.)
How different - and convenient for proselytizing - all this modern inclusiveness
is, compared to the teaching of early Mormon leaders and even Bruce R.
McConkie, a man with whom Packer shared the Mormon apostolic office for
more than twelve years. Wrote McConkie, "Mormonism is Christianity;
Christianity is Mormonism; they are one and the same, and they are not
to be distinguished from each other in the minutest detail" (Mormon
Doctrine, p. 513; emphasis in original). "Christendom.The term also
applies to the whole body of supposed Christian believers; as now constituted
this body is properly termed apostate Christendom..a perverted Christianity
holds sway among the so-called Christians of apostate Christendom" (Ibid.,
pp. 131-32; emphasis in original).
In the story of his first vision, Joseph Smith mentioned by name Methodists,
Baptists and Presbyterians. He claimed that in response to his question
of which church he should join, Jesus Himself told him "they were all wrong,"
and that all their creeds were "an abomination" in God's sight, and that
all persons professing those creeds were "corrupt." He later told his mother,
"I have learned for myself that Presbyterianism is not true." This condemnation
of all other churches, their creeds and even their members, is still enshrined
as scripture for the Mormon church ("Joseph Smith-History," Pearl of Great
Price, vv. 9-20).
These statements by Smith and McConkie, as well as hundreds of others
made by Mormon leaders right down to the present time, do to all Christians
and Christian churches exactly that which Packer so loudly complained of
Christian critics doing to Mormonism. It was sheer effrontery, then, for
Packer to claim in his address that ".we do not oppose other churches."
He must either claim ignorance of Mormon scripture and doctrine, or acknowledge
deliberate prevarication with intent to deceive, on the part of both himself
and Mormons generally. The doctrine on this subject has not changed, as
witness the Mormon scripture. Mormonism itself is an attack on Christianity
and all other Christian churches. That Mormons today have learned that
attack is carried forward most effectively by subtlety, by less than full
disclosure, and even outright denial such as Packer's, is no virtue.
In a hostile, reductionist caricature of the critics Packer stated,
"There is more to it than simply writing a definition of what a Christian
is and then rejecting anyone who does not conform to it." This statement
insults the care, the prayer and the study of God's Word by which Christians
have arrived at their understanding of what it means to be Christian. It
also perpetuates the equation of doctrinal disagreement with personal rejection.
This equation is a thought-stopping, emotion-stoking subterfuge that insulates
many Mormons from rational consideration of Christian objections to Mormon
Again, Baptists hopeful of effective witness for Christ in Salt Lake
City must not allow themselves to be drawn into such thinking themselves,
and thereby shamed into silence, as if their exposing Mormon falsehoods
was intrinsically mean-spirited, unchristian, personal abuse. They will
have to help Mormons make the distinction between doctrines and persons.
They will need to demonstrate by their words, their demeanor, and by every
means possible, a genuine love and care for the Mormons with whom they
Despite his counsel that members need not justify what they believe,
Mr. Packer proceeded to outline what he, in his apostolic office, evidently
believes justifies Mormons' belief in themselves as being Christians. First
mentioned were Mormon hymns that teach about Christ. Utilizing the power
of music to stir emotions, Packer did not merely refer to or quote from
such hymns - he interrupted his sermon to have them sung. No doubt there
were many moist eyes when he asked, "How do they [the critics his message
was "for"] account for such reverent tributes to the Lord? Well, that is
their problem, not ours."
It is no problem, of course, for Christians to understand that reverence
for, and hymns sung to, a false Christ is no proof of one's Christianity.
No one disputes that Mormons revere a being to whom they attribute the
name of Christ and other biblical titles. The charge has always been that
Mormon doctrine defines this being, and deity itself, in a manner impossible
to reconcile with the Bible's teaching. Hence the oft-repeated phrase
that "The Mormon Jesus is not the Jesus of the Bible."
However often Mormons may name the name of Christ, with however many
superlative adjectives they may preface the word, they refer to a created
being, a spirit brother of Lucifer, not the one and only Creator of all
things (including Lucifer). Their Jesus
is only one of unnumbered billions of virtually identical exalted beings
who rule over other realms he did not create - realms antecedent to, and
inclusive of, his own kingdom. Such doctrine is not merely "additional
information" about the Christ of the Bible. It is information absolutely
contrary to the Bible's teaching about Christ.
Given his age and experience, it is impossible to believe Mr. Packer
is unaware of these doctrinal issues, or the fact that they are among the
primary reasons for Christian charges that Mormonism is an anti-biblical,
anti-Christian religion. Given the intelligence suggested by his years
supervising the Church education system, it is equally clear that he knows
very well that objections to the above doctrines are not even addressed,
much less answered, by the fact that Mormons write and sing hymns in honor
of their false Christ, and expropriate true Christian hymns to the service
of the same. It is obvious then, that Packer's intention in having the
hymns sung during his sermon was not to answer such objections - not even
for his real audience, his fellow Mormons. He was, instead, playing with
and upon their feelings. The real objective of his emotional musical detour
was to deter Mormons from truly rational consideration of the specific
issues over which Christians separate from Mormons.
Eventually, Packer did briefly mention a half dozen or so other controversial
points of Mormon doctrine. But of course he did not explain what Christians
say on those points, much less answer them or explain the error of the
Christian arguments. Instead he dismissed Christians' disturbance over
these doctrines as the result of "misunderstanding." If the critics only
"understood," of course everything would be all right! (Or if they still
did not accept the Mormon gospel, still opposed it, their active resistance
would be "persecution," born out of personal wickedness - an idea Packer
later spared no pains to implant.) Never could it be, never must a Mormon
think, that any "detractors" actually do understand Mormon doctrine very
clearly, and are honestly convicted, by scripture, reason, evidence
and even the Holy Ghost, that Mormonism is wrong, that its doctrine
taken as a whole is an abomination, and that some who profess it
are corrupt - false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves
as apostles of Christ and ministers or servants of righteousness (2 Corinthians
Packer made another rather telling admission: "One reason for my feeling
challenged by this claim that we are not Christians, is that I do not know
how to answer it without quoting from revelations, from scriptures which
they reject." Again, this is as much as to say that one cannot prove Mormonism
is Christian without already believing in the Book of Mormon, Doctrine
& Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price as true scripture from God.
Christian critics of Mormonism would certainly agree, and point out
further that one cannot prove the Book of Mormon is scripture without already
believing it is. No valid reason can be given for implementing the famous
instructions of Moroni 10:4 in the Book of Mormon, much less for believing
and staking one's eternal life on the promised results, if one does not
already believe the passage itself to be true scripture from God. If the
book is not true scripture from God, then the "promise" of Moroni 10:4
is bogus, and any revelatory results produced by following its instructions
would be demonic, not divine.
Packer sought to confirm Mormons' confidence in their self-identification
as Christians by telling them to "Consider the name: The Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints." He also quoted from the Book of Mormon, 3
Nephi 27:1-9, which argues that if a church is named after a man it is
a man's church, "but if it be called in my name [i.e., Christ's] then it
is my church." If this were true, it would be too bad for the Mormon church,
since it was named simply, "The Church of the Latter-day Saints" from May
3, 1834, to April 26, 1838 (History of the Church, Vol. 2, p. 63;
Doctrine & Covenants 115:4). And of course many other churches, such
as the Church of Christ, would have equal claim with the Mormons to being
Christ's true church, following the logic that the presence of Christ's
name in the church's name makes it His church.
Such logic, however, is not valid. Indeed, it is amazing that an Apostle
is not embarrassed to employ it. One must wonder if Mr. Packer regarded
"The German Democratic Republic" of East Germany to have been a genuine
democracy, or a republic belonging to the people, because it was so named.
Names are not necessarily accurate descriptions, and are often used to
deceive. It has ever been the habit, the nature, of impostors to claim
the identity of those they seek to supplant.
The passage Packer quoted from the Book of Mormon did at least contain
the qualifying phrase, ".if it so be that they are built upon my gospel."
This negates the passage's own logic, and Packer's whole reason for citing
it, unless it can be conclusively proven by other means that the Mormon
church is indeed built upon Christ's gospel.
Evidently Packer did feel some responsibility here, since - aside from
the issue of criticizing Mormonism - the gospel itself provided the lone
doctrine with which he took a swipe at Christian non-Mormons. "Our critics'
belief, based on the Bible," he said, "holds that man is saved by grace
alone. Theirs is by far the easier way." This last sentence is untrue,
hostile, and arrogant. It falsely suggests a base motivation for the beliefs
of Christian non-Mormons. It also appeals to the spiritual pride of Mormons
who love to think their religion a "hard religion," and themselves noble
and courageous for choosing it anyway. As Packer himself later stated:
"It is not an easy church to belong to. The gospel requires dedication
and sacrifice. It is not an easy church to administer."
The Christian gospel, however, simple as it is, is evidently still too
hard for Mr. Packer to believe. Perhaps this is because the gospel of salvation
by grace alone leaves no room whatever, not just for human works, but for
human ego and pride. That fallen human nature is so sinful as to corrupt
all human effort past all possibility of its being given any place as a
means (either sole or partial) of salvation, is an admission too difficult
for Mr. Packer or any other unbeliever to make. All alike want to have
a hand in their own salvation. No one believes the true gospel of salvation
by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone - no one trusts God
to save him by that means - but those to whom God has granted such faith
(John 6:29, 44, 65; Acts 13:48). Those persons who do believe that gospel
cannot take any pride in their having believed, knowing that even their
faith is a gift, granted them from God (Philippians 1:29; 2:13).
No one should think, simply because Mr. Packer acknowledged the doctrine
of salvation "by grace alone" to be "based on the Bible," that Mormonism
is softening on this point. Packer is still very committed to the Mormon
gospel, which includes sinful human effort along with the Atonement as
an essential component of the means of salvation. To bolster that view
he quoted parts of James' teaching that true faith produces good works,
as if James was teaching that works are a prerequisite means to salvation.
In a deft move designed to kill two birds with one stone, Packer not
only affirmed the necessity of human works, but also lent support to standard
Mormon thinking that the Bible is insufficient to resolve religious controversies
without additional revelation and scripture. "Our position," he said, "also
based on the Bible but strengthened by other scriptures, holds that we
are saved by grace 'after all we can do,' and we are responsible by conduct
and by covenants to live the standards of the gospel." If both positions
are "based on the Bible" then obviously we must need the "other scriptures"
he referred to, to clear up the error. What are the "standards of the gospel"
Mormons must live? Packer mentioned a few of the things required of Mormons,
but in a speech of limited length he obviously did not have the time to
elucidate greatly on the literally thousands of "standards" of the Mormon
He did take considerable time, however, to bolster the Mormon self-image
of being unjustly persecuted, and the Mormon mindset that sees any effort
to bring biblical correction to false Mormon doctrine as persecution. This
is another of the means by which Mormons commonly assure themselves their
church is "true." They frequently ask, "Why else are we persecuted so?"
Or, to quote Packer himself, "Some of us puzzle over why, of all things,
we are said to be un-Christian. But that is our lot. The prophets have
told us that opposition goes with the territory. It was ever thus."
Packer first invoked the Mormon article of faith, "We claim the [right
to worship] Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience,
and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what
they may." His obvious implication was that for Christians to reject Mormonism
as anti-Christian, or make efforts to convert Mormons to biblical Christianity,
is somehow a denial of their rights of conscience. This ludicrously associates
reasoned, biblical criticism of Mormonism with coercive threat and imposition
of violence - the only means by which such rights could actually be denied.
If Mr. Packer was not trying to make just such an association there was
no point in making the quotation.
He followed with "A caution to those who willfully misrepresent us"
in which he recalled the story of Gamaliel urging the Sanhedrin to leave
the (true) apostles alone. Packer's point was that the critics of Mormonism
should leave it alone. Of course this point cannot be grasped without equating
Mormon apostles with the true apostles, and casting the critics in the
role of the wicked Sanhedrin, which, even after Gamaliel's advice, flogged
the apostles and forbade them to speak in the name of Jesus. Once again,
there is the subtle implication that criticism of Mormonism is equal to
actual persecution - physically coercive force threatening life or well-being.
>"While we must act peaceably," Packer said, "we need not submit to
unfair accusations and unjustified opposition." Of course any accusation
that would actually invalidate Mormonism is, ipso facto, "unfair,"
and all opposition is likewise "unjustified." Packer immediately added,
"'The Lord said unto [the Nephites], and also unto their fathers, that:
Inasmuch as ye are not guilty of the first offense, neither the second,
ye shall not suffer yourselves to be slain by the hands of your enemies'"
(Alma 43:46). Packer thus subtly associated modern critics of Mormonism
with Book of Mormon villains guilty of physical slaughter.
"If our detractors organize to come against us," Packer continued, "-
to disrupt our work (and that has happened before) - there will be those
among them who will say, 'We ought not to be doing this. This does not
feel good. What we are doing is not right.' And as surely as we remain
'peaceable followers of Christ,' a division will rise up among them, and
they will ultimately disarm and weaken themselves." Then followed his widely
published quotation of a Spanish saying, "The bullet came out of the wrong
end of the gun."
Packer's mention of "detractors organiz[ing] to come against us" could
hardly be taken as anything but an allusion to the perceived, impending
invasion of Baptists who plan on evangelizing Mormons during their convention
in Salt Lake City. Given his repeated association of modern critics with
past violence, Packer's assertion that this "has happened before" naturally
recalls real persecutions suffered by some early Mormons, or visions of
Johnston's army, sent by the US government to the Salt Lake valley to enforce
territorial law. Once again, there was the subtle association of modern
critics with past violence.
"Remain[ing] peaceable followers of Christ" means don't contest any
doctrines of the invading Baptist army, and don't try to defend or justify
Mormon beliefs to them. Packer's prophecy of the invading army of "detractors"
having qualms of conscience, dividing amongst themselves, disarming and
weakening themselves, cannot fail to bring to the mind of every Mormon
familiar with the Book of Mormon, a story about the "Anti-Nephi-Lehies."
This was a group of people who made an oath never again to take up the
sword to slay any person. So devout were they that when their enemies came
upon them they did not resist, but willingly gave their lives for their
faith and their oath. Many soldiers of the invading army, after slaying
1,005 of these people, were so overcome with remorse that they threw down
their own weapons of war and joined the Anti-Nephi-Lehies. More people
joined than had been slain. For many, then, this would be yet another association
of critics of Mormonism with Book of Mormon villains guilty of physical
slaughter, but with the thought that offering no resistance may win the
hearts of the critics.
In short, Mr. Packer wants Mormons to avoid any discussion in which
either Mormons or Baptists may clearly perceive and define differences
between themselves sufficient to prove Mormonism to be an anti-biblical,
anti-Christian religion. Anyone attempting to present such evidence in
proof of that claim is a "persecutor," and may rightly be thought just
as wicked and dangerous as all the violent persecutors in history. Teach
Mormon belief to those who may accept it, politely disregard and avoid
the rest - they are undeserving anyway. And, any that may be deserving
will have remorse and be converted later.
Packer revealed the Trojan Horse by which he hopes the "detractors"
will be undone and perhaps even converted: they will decide they "ought
not to be doing" their evangelism, and conclude it "is not right" because
it "does not feel good." He later tells his audience, "Be assured
that, if you will explain what you know and testify of what you feel,
you may plant a seed that will grow and blossom into a testimony of the
gospel of Jesus Christ" (emphasis added). Personal experience, as feeling,
is the lingua franca between Mormons, the spirit that works in Mormonism,
and the world at large. Any Baptists who somehow have been conditioned
to regard "experiencing" God as the true indicator of their relationship
with Him, and more important, more real, more fundamental to it, than God's
sovereign imputation of Christ's righteousness to them, and for whom that
"experience" of God is primarily a matter of feelings - such persons certainly
will be "at risk" of succumbing to Mormon deception if they visit Utah
and attempt to evangelize Mormons.
Let it be understood by Christians, the above is not a call for elimination
of feeling from spiritual life. Let it be understood by Mormons, critics
of Mormonism are not "past feeling" (Ephesians 4:18-19), whether natural
or spiritual. But the question is, what is a proper, God-ordained role
for feelings? It is a crucial question, because what is at stake is the
truth of God, and the means by which it is ascertained. God wants human
response to His truth to include the feelings and affections. The
Bible says He requires wholehearted devotion to Himself, and despises "worship"
when the heart is far from Him. But nowhere does the Bible teach that it
is by feelings that one is to ascertain the truth. If truth were
truly ascertained in that way, one could dispose of prophets and apostles
and the scriptures themselves, and be guided simply by personal revelation.
Jesus said God's Word was truth (John 17:17) and he said the Scriptures
were God's Word (John 10:35). God caused the scriptures to be written,
and faithfully preserved (Isaiah 59:21), to teach us all the truth we need
to live rightly before Him and to be saved in everlasting glory in His
presence (Romans 15:4; 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:2-4; 1 Peter 1:3-5). The
Scriptures are the standard by which we are to test all things, including
spirits, to determine what is good, and whether a spirit is the Holy Spirit
or a demonic spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:21; 1 John 4:1-6). And the Scripture,
the Bible, contains over-abundant evidence that Mormonism is a false, anti-Christian
Mr. Packer's whole message is testament to the fact that Mormon leaders
have no real answers to solid biblical objections to Mormon doctrine. He
claimed that "As converts mature spiritually, they gain 'a reason [for]
the hope that is in [them].' The gospel becomes as satisfying to the mind
as it is soothing to the heart. We spend our lives learning the things
of God. Those difficult questions one by one become testimonies"
(emphasis added). If this is true, why did not Mr. Packer thoughtfully
address a half dozen or so of the serious objections Christians raise against
Mormonism on which he has gained sufficient insight that they are now strengths
to his testimony? Since he was obviously speaking for the benefit of Mormons
and not their critics, why did he not share those insights with his friendly
and receptive audience? Why, instead, his self-confessed difficulty in
answering those questions? Why did he think the youth attending BYU "could
do a better job of answering" than he? Would he also confess they are more
spiritually mature than he? No - not on this side of eternity, one may
No, in the absence of real answers, arms of another kind must be used.
The fact is, the Trojan Horse by which Packer hopes Baptists will be undone
is the same horse on which he was riding high in the Marriott Center -
Feeling. Not just ordinary feelings, but spiritual feelings, feelings
induced by spirits and spiritual means (Ephesians 6:12). It is by feelings
the spirit in Mormonism operates on its subjects, and Mr. Packer is well
gifted in the language of that spirit. Much of his address employed timeworn
but effective thought stopping cliches to make subtle and not so subtle
appeals to emotions. As shown above, He knows well how to make his audience
feel as true things he would never dare publicly assert in so many words.
To an outsider his address might appear disjointed and rambling, at times
almost to the point of incoherence. But in fact, it was a masterful demonstration
of how Mormon leaders condition their people, as opposed to simply
Controlling people is difficult if they know they are being controlled.
The object, then, and the trick, is to get Mormons to censor their own
thinking - to voluntarily and without a second thought avoid anything that
could actually invalidate the Mormon church. If all who challenge Mormonism
are perceived as "persecutors," if all offers of biblical correction to
Mormon falsehoods are felt to be personal attacks, Mormon leaders can rest
assured that few of their people will give any evidence against Mormonism
the hearing, or the weight in a hearing, which it deserves. Objections
will always be "unfair and unjust." Criticism, will always be "persecution,"
"willful misrepresentation" born out of personal wickedness or, at best,
Packer did everything he could to make his people feel just that way
- everything, that is, short of making it explicit that he wanted them
to feel that way. That's the great thing about conditioning - its deniability.
Not only are the means by which conditioning is accomplished likely to
be overlooked, but its immediate effects are more noumenal than phenomenal,
and more a feeling than a conscious verbal thought. Mormons, having spent
a lifetime absorbing, believing, and being led about by such conditioning,
probably never know it is there. Hearing Packer's address, they would have
been affected by it in just the ways described above. But even those persons
whose sense of persecution was enhanced would probably be unable to put
into words why that was so. The associations made by Packer would do their
work without conscious verbal formulation of the association by the listeners.
They would never believe or acknowledge that Packer's intent was deliberately
manipulative, that he had employed long recognized and well documented
techniques of thought control, or that they had been duped. And that
- that would be exactly the response desired. Conditioning. Subtle seduction.
The perfect device.
Much else could be said about Packer's address that must be foregone
in the interest of space. One statement, however, made near the end of
his address - just moments, in fact, before the profession of himself as
an apostle with which he so frequently winds up his messages, - is too
important to pass over. "As I grow older in age and experience," he said,
"I grow ever less concerned over whether others agree with us. I
grow ever more concerned that they understand us. If they do understand,
they have their agency and can accept or reject the gospel as they please"
(emphasis in original). Of course he can't force them to believe, and no
one would suggest that he should try. Nevertheless, this statement is astounding.
Mr. Packer is a self-professed apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, the President
of a Quorum of Twelve Apostles. They claim to have a special message and
authority, to which, agreement and submission is essential
for full salvation in the presence of God - but Mr. Packer cares "ever
less...over whether others agree." Coming from such a person, and
taken with all else he said in his discourse about those who oppose Mormonism,
Mr. Packer's statement betrays an attitude toward their salvation that
can only be described as cavalier. His expression quite clearly is not
the sentiment of any true apostle of Him who gave His life for the salvation