Monday, May 30, 2016

Boyd K. Packer on appreciating the innocent casualties of war

President Boyd K. Packer (1924-2015) served as an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve (a position that no longer exists) from 1961 to 1970, when he was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.  He served as president of that Quorum from 1994 until his death on July 3, 2015 at age 90.
"In armed conflicts there are casualties. Sometimes clean, worthy men, innocent of any desire to kill, devoid of any aggressive will to own that which belongs to someone else, fall victims of the confused, wicked ugliness of war.
"'For,' the prophet Moroni said, 'the Lord suffereth the righteous to be slain that his justice and judgment may come upon the wicked; therefore, ye need not suppose that the righteous will be lost because they are slain; but behold they do enter into the rest of their God.' (Alma 60:13) There are homes among us now where this heartbreak is known.
"I read somewhere some simple lines of verse about a mother—and a telegram. Deep within lies a seed of strength and consolation—understood, perhaps, only by those who have faith. I can read but a few lines.
"'Killed in action—in the line of duty.'
Blind went her eyes with pain.
A moan of mortal agony,
Then all became still again.
"'Oh God! My God! Where were you
When my son was being slain?'
And the scalding tears of bitterness
Drenched her cheeks like the summer rain.
"But a soft voice seemed to whisper
In the twilight's afterglow,
'I had a son—at Calvary
Two thousand years ago.'"
- Boyd K. Packer, "The Member and the Military," Conference Report, April 1968, pp. 33-36; or Improvement Era June 1968, 71:58-61
Click here to read the full talk

President Packer gave this talk in general conference when he was a young general authority serving as an Assistant to the Twelve. It was during the time of US involvement in the Vietnam conflict. He discusses the appropriateness of involvement in the military as we strive to uphold principles of liberty and justice. But he also addresses the sobering reality of the sacrifices that result when casualties occur. This anonymous poem puts that sacrifice into an interesting perspective:

On Memorial Day in the US, we traditionally remember with appreciation the sacrifices of those who served in the military and "gave the last full measure of devotion." How we should appreciate those individuals, and the families they left behind in sadness and sorrow.

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