Unfortunately, with the passing of President Gordon B. Hinckley, one of the “Mormon folkore” stories has resurfaced with a vengeance. Blogs galore have it quoted, most attributing the quote to Elder Boyd K. Packer. Unfortunately, there is no truth to the story, and even though it is a “feel good” type of quote that makes people say “Wow!”, Elder Packer refuted the quote clear back in 2001 here via Deseret News.
At the risk of giving it even more press, the quote goes along these lines:
You were generals in the War in Heaven and one day when you are in the spirit world, you will be enthralled by those you are associated with. You will ask someone in which time period they lived and you might hear, “I was with Moses when he parted the Red Sea,” or “I helped build the pyramids’” or “I fought with Captain Moroni.” And as you are standing there in amazement, someone will turn to you and ask you which of the prophets’ time did you live in? And when you say “Gordon B. Hinckley” a hush will fall over every hall and corridor in Heaven, and all in attendance will bow at your presence. You were held back six thousand years because you were the most talented, most obedient, most courageous, and most righteous.
I admit the first time I heard it I had to chuckle. “A hush will fall over every hall and corridor in Heaven, and all in attendance will bow at your presence”?? First of all, if you are familiar with Elder Packer’s words, that just isn’t his style. He doesn’t spend time writing touchy feely, warm fuzzy, “Saturday’s Warrior” type stories to the youth of the church such as above. Actually–and this is just my take, not doctrine–whenever the Brethren need someone who will cut to the chase on difficult topics such as abortion, homosexuality, chastity, etc., Elder Packer has been one chosen to speak out.
Yes, the Brethren have been quoted numerous times as stating that the Lord’s most valiant children have been reserved for these latter-days. Elder M. Russel Ballard, in a talk titled “One More” in the May 2005 Liahona stated:
First, make sure all of our youth understand who they are. From their earliest days in Primary, our children sing “I Am a Child of God” (Hymns, no. 301). Help them to know what it really means to be a child of God. Remind them that they are here at this particular time in the history of the world, with the fulness of the gospel at their fingertips, because they made valiant choices in the premortal existence. Our youth need to stand firm for righteousness and truth.
Notice, however, that his paragraph ends with “our youth need to stand firm for righteousness and truth”, not “because they made valiant choices in the premortal existence all will bow at their presence.” Keeping of your first estate does not guarantee the keeping of your second–here on earth. We were sent to earth to be tried and tested, and have to decide moment by moment whether we will stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things and in all places…
Wouldn’t we all be better off immersing ourselves in the doctrines of the gospel, rather than these cute little stories that many have referred to as “spiritual Twinkies”? Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, in “A Teacher Come from God,” Ensign, May 1998, p. 25 stated,
The need for continuing such solid teaching is obvious. In times like ours we all need what Mormon called “the virtue of the word of God” because, he said, it “had [a] more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them.” 17 When crises come in our lives—and they will—the philosophies of men interlaced with a few scriptures and poems just won’t do. (emphasis mine) Are we really nurturing our youth and our new members in a way that will sustain them when the stresses of life appear? Or are we giving them a kind of theological Twinkie—spiritually empty calories? President John Taylor once called such teaching “fried froth,” the kind of thing you could eat all day and yet finish feeling totally unsatisfied. (See John Taylor, The Gospel Kingdom, sel. G. Homer Durham (1943), 78.)
The quote falsely attributed to Elder Packer could fit the category of fried froth. It might make you feel good momentarily inside, but when crises do indeed come into our lives, it doesn’t give you sound doctrine with which to firmly grip on to your testimony. Instead, sound doctrine comes through immersion in the scriptures.