Wednesday, June 12, 2019

President Boyd K. Packer on balancing reason and revelation

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 in 2015 at age 90.
"The ties between universities and the churches that founded them have been severed because of constantly recurring contention between the spiritual and the temporal; the never-ending controversy between a narrow view of science and religion; the ancient conflict between reason and revelation.
"There are two opposing convictions in the university environment. On the one hand, 'seeing is believing.' On the other, 'believing is seeing.' Both are true! Each in its place. The combining of the two individually or institutionally is the challenge of life. Neither influence will easily surrender to the other. They may function for a time under some sort of a truce, but the subtle discord is ever present.
"They mix the way oil and water mix—only with constant shaking or stirring. When the stirring stops, they separate again. It takes a catalytic process to blend them. This requires the introduction of a third ingredient, a catalyst, which itself remains unchanged in the blending process.
"Each of us must accommodate the mixture of reason and revelation in our lives. The gospel not only permits but requires it. An individual who concentrates on either side solely and alone will lose both balance and perspective. History confirms that the university environment always favors reason, and the workings of the Spirit are made to feel uncomfortable. I know of no examples to the contrary.
"Spirituality, while consummately strong, reacts to very delicate changes in its environment. To have it present at all and to keep it in some degree of purity requires a commitment and a watch-care that can admit to no embarrassment when compared with what the scholarly world is about."
- Boyd K. Packer, "I Say unto You, Be One," Brigham Young University Devotional, February 12, 1991
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

President Packer shared these remarks with a university audience, discussing the particular challenges of that learning environment where historically reason and revelation, or science and religion, once coexisted, but then separated, and now sometimes compete. He reminds us that in our personal lives, both are important; we must learn to have them coexist and interact in our minds and thoughts. However, in the so-called "scholarly world," reason often pushes revelation to the side and even dismisses it as inferior and inadequate.

I found this to be a profound concept. Spirituality is strong, but "reacts to very delicate changes in its environment." We must take caution to preserve and maintain our spirituality in the face of many forces that threaten it. Truly it "requires a commitment and a watch-care" to give spiritual things the prominence and influence in our lives they deserve.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2019)

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