Saturday, August 18, 2018

President Boyd K. Packer on the choice to be obedient

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.
"It may seem unusual at first to foster self-control by centering on freedom of choice, but it is a very sound doctrinal approach.
"While either subject may be taught separately, and though they may appear at first to be opposites, they are in fact parts of the same subject.
"Some who do not understand the doctrinal part do not readily see the relationship between obedience and agency. And they miss one vital connection and see obedience only as restraint. They then resist the very thing that will give them true freedom. There is no true freedom without responsibility, and there is no enduring freedom without a knowledge of the truth. The Lord said, 'If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.' (John 8:31–32.)
"...Latter-day Saints are not obedient because they are compelled to be obedient. They are obedient because they know certain spiritual truths and have decided, as an expression of their own individual agency, to obey the commandments of God.
"We are the sons and daughters of God, willing followers, disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, and 'under this head are [we] made free.' (Mosiah 5:8.)
"Those who talk of blind obedience may appear to know many things, but they do not understand the doctrines of the gospel. There is an obedience that comes from a knowledge of the truth that transcends any external form of control. We are not obedient because we are blind, we are obedient because we can see. The best control, I repeat, is self-control."
- Boyd K. Packer, "Agency and Control," General Conference April 1983
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

President Packer considered in this talk the goal of obtaining the obedience of others. If we want to make sure someone obeys directions or guidelines, how is that best accomplished? One option is expressed in the military setting: the dominance and intimidation that are often portrayed as the officers and leaders "control" the enlisted men. But another very different option is shown in the Gospel's approach. A loving Father invites us to follow and exercise our own self-control. As we choose to be obedient, we find joy and blessings that follow—and so we are motivated to continue in that path.

President Packer discusses the charge that those in such a setting are obeying the requests or instructions of their leaders "blindly":

The sweetest form of discipleship is choosing to willingly follow the teachings of the Master, knowing that there is wisdom and joy in that path. As we begin to see more clearly, we will know that we are choosing wisely and will continue to choose to follow that path.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2018)

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