The Grampa had not intended to use a talk from this period of Elder Packer's career and was searching for a talk given soon after he was called to the Twelve. This talk just kind of popped up, and I wonder if it was purely accidental, or if, perhaps, someone out there needs to learn the lessons Elder Packer was teaching.
He was an Assistant to the Twelve when this talk was delivered to the One Hundred Thirty-sixth Semi-Annual Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints convened in the Tabernacle on Temple Square in Salt Lake City Utah. Elder Packer was also serving as President of the New England Mission at the time.
My dear brethren and sisters: We are greatly pleased to be in the mission field. In trying to convey to you that feeling, the best I can do is to tell you that when it comes to missionary work we feel just the way Elder LeGrand Richards sounds. We appreciate deeply the opportunity to serve in the New England Mission. We are amazed at the great power and strength of the missionaries. We stand in awe of the Latter-day Saint missionary.
A few days ago the general authorities assembled in the upper room of the temple to prepare for general conference.
President McKay admonished us to feel free, perfectly free, uninhibited. From this invitation I approach with reverence a subject I had theretofore not intended to pursue.
"I'm a person"
Some years ago two of our little boys were wrestling on the rug before the fireplace. They had reached the pitch -- you know the one -- where laughter turns to tears and play becomes a struggle. I worked a foot gently between them and lifted the older boy (then just four years of age? to a sitting position on the rug, saying, "Hey there, you monkey, you had better settle down." He folded his little arms and looked at me with surprising seriousness. His little boy feelings had been hurt, and he protested, "I not a monkey, Daddy--I a person.
I thought how deeply I loved him, how much I wanted him to be "a person"--one of eternal worth. For "children are an heritage of the Lord. . . ." (Ps. 127:3.)
That lesson has lingered with me. Among the many things we have learned from our children, this, perhaps, has been the most tempering.
Much of what I know -- of what it matters that one knows--I have learned from my children.
Parenthood is the greatest of educational experiences. Bishop Brown made reference to a lesson taught to his 12 year-old son. Were you conscious of the lesson learned by a much older Bishop Brown?
Our children and the children and youth in the Church are great teachers. Let me relate two lessons.
In the days of the pioneer settlements, it was not uncommon to have a ward marshal whose assignment it was, under the direction of the bishop, to maintain orderly conduct among the teenagers.
On a Sunday evening after sacrament meeting, the ward marshal at the little settlement of Corinne came upon a buggy with some teenagers. Since it was his responsibility to check on the young people, he stealthily crept near the buggy to see just what was going on. He managed to reach a rather insufficient tree very close to the buggy just as the moon came out. He had to stand more or less at attention to keep from being seen, but he could easily hear all that was transpiring in the buggy.
Later, in reporting it to the bishop he told of what had gone on. There had been some jokes told, much laughter, and the usual teenage chatter. He said they sang several songs. The bishop interrupted his report with the question, "Well, was there anything out of order in that situation?;' His answer, "Yes! me behind that blamed tree."
Always our youth are teaching those of us who are older, and they teach serious, sacred lessons, too.
"When do I die?"
President Joseph T. Bentley presided over the Mexican Mission. I recall hearing him tell an incident that happened, I think, somewhere in Mexico. An 11-year-old boy had been seriously injured in an automobile accident. By the time they got him to the doctor, he was dying from loss of blood. In looking for a donor for an emergency transfusion, the doctor decided on the boy's seven-year-old sister. He explained to the little girl that her brother was dying and asked whether she would be willing to donate her blood in order to save his life. The little girl turned pale with fright, but a moment she consented to do it.
The transfusion was made, and the doctor came to the little girl. "The color is coming back into his face," he said. "It looks as though he is going to be all right." She was happy her brother would be all right, but said, "But doctor, when am I going to die?" She had thought all the time that she was not just giving her blood but literally her life to save an older brother. We learn great lessons from our youth.
With parenthood such a glorious experience, how important it is that we have reverence for it.
Frequently I receive letters and not infrequently young couples come, particularly of college age, struggling to achieve advanced degrees, and they ask for counsel on the coming of children in their lives.
Never has a generation been so surrounded with those who speak irreverently of life. Never has there been such persuasion to avoid responsibilities of parenthood. Never has it been so convenient to block that frail footpath of life across which new spirits enter mortality.
Several years ago, while representing the Church at the University of Montana, I found myself on a panel with representatives from several churches. The moderator asked each of us to respond to the question, "Do you believe in planned parenthood?" My answer was a resounding "yes!" with this explanation: We plan to have families.
Often when young couples come, they ask the specific question, "How many children should we plan to have?" This I cannot answer, for it is not within my province to know. With some persons there are no restrictions of health and perhaps a number of children will be born into the family. Some good parents who would have large families are blessed with but one or two children. And, occasionally, couples who make wonderful parents are not able to have natural offspring and enjoy the marvelous experience of fostering children born to others. Planned parenthood involves a good deal more than just the begetting of children. Nothing in our lives deserves more planning than our responsibilities in parenthood.
I am concerned because our young couples are often in a quandary, particularly when the arbitrary limiting of families is represented as an act of social good.
In this generation we find the indiscriminate marketing of products. Medical advancements with the potential to sustain life and to extend it for the infirm are advertised -- even among our unmarried youth -- as agents to prevent life and to extinguish it.
Young couples are continually told that parenthood means forfeiture of advanced degrees and limiting of occupational progress, a representation they will live to know is false.
Approach parenthood with reverence
Whether you will be blessed with many children or but a few, or perhaps experience parenthood through the raising of little ones left homeless, is a matter that will be made known as your life unfolds. But I urge you, I warn you to approach parenthood with reverence. When you covenant in marriage and are free to act in the creation of life, when you stand at the threshold of parenthood, know that you stand on holy ground. Recognize also that in those areas of greatest opportunity lie the snares of persistent temptation.
We are grateful for our family, grateful for all of our children. We have learned so much from them, some of the things we weren't conscious that we wanted to know. Each of them is needed and wanted in our family; and I say again, much of what I know, of that which matters that one knows, I have learned from our children.
Young couples, draw reverently close to your Father in heaven in these monumental decisions of life. Seek inspiration from the teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Grow close to him. Perhaps you, as he, will come to "suffer the little children to come unto [you], and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God." (Mark 10:14.) In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.