Episode 153a: “The Mantle is Far, Far Greater Than the Intellect” for Dummies Part 1

Heather and Greg are Joined by Garen and Mike to discuss President Boyd K. Packer’s 1981 BYU talk “The Mantle is Far, Far Greater Than the Intellect.”

“The Writing of Latter-day Saints History: Problems, Accomplishments and Admonitions” by Leonard Arrington (download pdf from the Dialogue Archive)

“On Being a Mormon Historian (and Its Aftermath)” by D. Michael Quinn

Episode 153a

52 comments on “Episode 153a: “The Mantle is Far, Far Greater Than the Intellect” for Dummies Part 1”

  1. Megan Reply

    I’m committing the ultimate sin of writing this comment as I listen. I will try to edit for clarity… and remove bits that are addressed later on.

    Question: Was the urge to exploring history related to an increased call for genealogy? When did the real push to do genealogy occur – was it always part of church activity or was there a surge in interest, a beginning point where genealogy became a much more important idea? Or is it linked maybe to an increased emphasis on the importance of the experience of the pioneers – the sufferings of the saints?

    To Mike’s point which he illustrated with Abraham Liconln: There are NOT two histories to any character – there are dozens (even hundreds) of aspects, dozens of points of view to any character or event. There is one actual history, which is knowable only in a very limited way. (ie, there was a man named Abraham Lincoln. He was the president of the US. etc etc) and the rest is a complex spectrum which we can only approach obliquely through the biased reporting of the people who were there (including Lincoln himself), and which we then attempt to interpret by analysing as many views as possible, cross-checking and teasing out (as possible) the biases of each reporter. To imply that one of these aspects is sufficient, that concentrating on only one is actually desirable, is to completely misunderstand the value of history and the study of the past! A sainted Abe Lincoln is useless as an actor in a pivotal time in American history because he becomes a cardboard-cutout, making decisions that then make little sense, sitting as an uncomfortable two-dimensional super-hero in a complicated 3-d world! Getting some overly simplistic happy kindergarten story about patriotism is a really poor trade off for a fuller understanding of a great, flawed, fascinating man.

    Mike again: ‘The real issue is the attitude with which you write the history of the church.’ The problem is that in this talk Packer was trying to influence academic history, which, in order to be considered such, must be written with academic standards – thorough and intensive research, integrity towards sources (no cherry picking quotations and putting them out of context or not providing adequate references [looking at you, Nibley], no intentional exclusion of sources or burying of events), honesty about personal bias (as much as possible) etc. History as an academic pursuit is not followed by choosing a topic, deciding what the importance/value/lesson etc of that topic is and then happily writing up the history to prove that pre-chosen point! It is, instead, using the original sources and the analytical skills of the researcher to discover what the importance was, and it is undertaken with a prejudice towards the value of the fullest truth it is possible to find. Anything else is not history. It’s not. It’s Faith Promoting Stories. It’s a narrative, to quote the movies, ‘based on the true story’. It cannot, must not masquerade as history. No one, especially a non-academic, should be able to dictate the attitude with which history is written.

    Wow… I just figured it out! Mike, I think what you’re doing is conflating two utterly different things – history and faith narratives. They are not the same things, not at all. Faith narratives are mythic in construction and they have a specific purpose behind them, a moral lesson which must be learned. They are Aesop’s fables, Victorian children’s fiction, and the 3 nephite stories that get passed along by email chains throughout the church.

    History is not undertaken to provide a moral – although it certainly can, and it’s one of the most valuable effects of well-written history – but academic history intends to uncover, preserve and understand the people and events of the past, a goal which can only be pursued if the research is as complete as it can be and includes as many views, as many varied opinions and records as possible.

    Packer can totally dictate faith narrative, it’s his bailiwick. But it should be presented as faith narrative and not as Truth with a ‘T’ or history because frankly? It ain’t. And he should keep his nose entirely out of academia.

    • Kevin Reply

      I agree with your distinction between history on the one hand, and fables or myths on the other hand. But many people seem to be uncomfortable with the latter terms because, as commonly used, they often imply deception or condescension.

      I have also heard people draw a distinction between history and memory. To me, “memory” seems like a more respectful term for fables, myths, and other stories that are intended to convey important truths while not necessarily relating history. I’m defining “history” as a literal and reasonably comprehensive or balanced narrative of events.

      For example, the Exodus story is a key part of Judeo-Christian memory, though not necessarily part of history. It conveys the truth that God can lead people out of slavery into a community of freedom. It does not necessarily mean that hundreds of thousands of people spent forty years in the Sinai desert.

      • Megan Reply

        I certainly wasn’t trying to be condescending, and in fact I was careful with my word choices to avoid that very appearance. I did not make a distinction between history and fable, but between academic history and faith narrative. I didn’t call a faith narrative a myth but said it had mythic structure – in other words it follows a tradition that includes myth cycles because those are the faith narratives of earlier people. I make no judgement on whether or not current faith narratives are myths or fables, just that they follow that tradition – which is natural as they share the same purposes often (promoting an ethical structure, teaching a moral, strengthening cultural and belief bonds etc).

        The distinction between history and memory is more interesting because, of course, history is largely written from memories! History of course takes into account other data – physical evidence – but memories are essential as well. I would re-phrase your definition of faith narrative as ‘stories that are intended to convey important truths’ to ‘stories that are intended to convey important cultural beliefs and ethics. That takes us away from the muddy waters of different kinds of truth.

        The interesting thing about the Exodus story and other faith narratives is that the message meant to convey changes through time to suit the needs of the culture using the narrative. That’s why I prefer to avoid the idea of a ‘truth’ message that is given. For the early Jews the narrative might have been about the wrath of God, about obedience, about the dangers of outsiders rather than about slavery vs freedom. For our culture freedom resonates strongly and that message is brought forward. Of course this is true on the micro scale – each individual acquires a different lesson from the same narrative (scriptural or not). That’s the power of story, isn’t it?

  2. Sean Leavitt Reply

    I’m sorry Mike, but there aren’t “two histories” as you stated in regards to Abraham Lincoln. There’s just “history”. If you only tell one side of the story, you’re lying to your audience, and doing them a great disservice.

    If you only tell one side, you’re just telling a story. Not history.

  3. Hermes Reply

    History does not deliver morals, but it does provide the raw material from which real morals are drawn.  If we base our action on the historical, objective reality of things that did not (and do not) happen, we set ourselves up to fail miserably as moral beings.  What if we read 2 Kings 1:10 literally and assume that the world really works such that we can call fire down from heaven to defend ourselves?  What happens when we are attacked and reach automatically for Yahweh’s fireballs?  What happens when we believe that the best way to cure pathological self-loathing is through constant confession and “godly” sorrow?  What happens when we think that there are people on earth who are categorically more qualified to make moral decisions for us than we will ever be to make them for ourselves?

    Myth is most harmful when we assume it must be absolutely true (i.e. true no matter what).  In fact, it is only ever contextually, contingently, provisionally true (i.e. true until it proves false).  And words are just words until you put them in a situation, a story where killing is right (self-defense, justice) or wrong (malice aforethought, vengeance, wanton violence).  If we ignore context and pretend that there is something out there that transcends it (i.e. killing people is always right when Don Corleone gives the order), then we throw our personal morality out the window.  This is much easier to do if we have been conditioned to think that Don Corleone invariably makes the right decision, i.e. if someone has given us a sanitized history of Don Corleone, a fairy-tale that erases reality (he killed some bad guys and some good guys) and replaces it with fiction (he only ever killed bad guys; he would never order a good person killed; you can be certain the hit on Fat Tony is legit, even if he seems wholly innocent to you).  

    Information that you are going to use to make life and death decisions is a sacred commodity.  You don’t mess with it.  You don’t doctor it so that a real moral dilemma becomes artificially simple.  You don’t throw your own judgment out the window and hand yourself body and soul to Don Corleone (or anyone, no matter how well-meaning or authoritative).  Good leaders know this.  Good teachers know this.  Moral people know this.

    • Megan Reply

      ‘Information that you are going to use to make life and death decisions
      is a sacred commodity.  You don’t mess with it.  You don’t doctor it so
      that a real moral dilemma becomes artificially simple.  You don’t throw
      your own judgment out the window and hand yourself body and soul to Don
      Corleone (or anyone, no matter how well-meaning or authoritative).  Good
      leaders know this.  Good teachers know this.  Moral people know this’

      Bingo. Well said!

  4. JohnE Reply

    Maybe it was mentioned in the podcast but can anyone tell me the source that they are quoting Michael Quinn from?

  5. brandt Reply

    I think the audiences should have a huge consideration in these speeches.  Packer’s talk was addressing a group of CES Religious Educators – basically, paid Sunday School teachers.  Quinn was addressing historians.  Two drastically different audiences, with drastically different approaches to teaching.  One is an inspiration group, one is concerned with history.  I went through both talks, and viewed them from the other side, making notes as to what Quinn would say to specific points in Packer’s talk, and what Packer would say to specific notes in Quinn’s address.  Packer wants inspiration history – a hagiography of religious leaders.  Quinn, as a historian, cannot ignore the historical facts that are out there that make someone like Joseph the man he was.  He woudn’t be doing his job as a historian if he were to leave out the influence of magic in Joseph’s life, while Packer views magic as not fitting in correlated church doctrine. 

    I would give another great reference for this talk to Bushman’s introduction to Rough Stone Rolling, where he articulates the difficulties he has as a historian and as a believer, and actually explains (most likely to the believers) why he has to use such phraseology as “Smith claimed he saw,” or “Smith claimed an angel….” 

    While I disagree with much of what Packer says for  teachers, I know for myself, when teaching, I take the scope of the room and tailor my message to who I’m teaching.  Elders Quorum?  I’ve got reliable sources to back up my claims.  Is there an investigator?  I’ll keep it tame.  I also teach the teenagers both in Sunday School and now currently in Teachers Quorum.  While I’d love to get into nitty gritty nuances that the EQ loves to gobble up, I have to ask myself is it imperitive to the message that I’m teaching, or is it just so I can have “open-ness.”  So while I disagree with his anti-history rhetoric, I do agree with Packer on the sense that there need to be consideration to the audience to which you’re teaching.

    • Anonymous Reply

      People always say that “God is not the author of confusion.”  It seems to me that if God authored religion he wouldn’t make it so difficult to discuss and teach.  Even faithful (such as yourself) admit that they have to be careful what they discuss, when, and with whom.  How does sugarcoating things in one situation, talking nitty gritty in others, and whitwashing in yet other situations lead to anything BUT confusion?  You’ve got people coming out of CES and Sunday School not knowing the real history / truth about lots of things.  And then you put them in classes where you discuss it in a different way?  How does that create anything but confusion?

    • Greg Rockwell Reply

      In a vacuum, I’m just fine with this comment.  

      However, the position in which the Church presents itself has to be taken into consideration as well.  There is no ‘wink wink’ in the Church’s presentation.  There is no knowing irony as in the presentation of Santa Claus.  This is all presented as realler than real, high stakes, literal fact.

      I wasn’t so offended to find out that the narrative could not be true as presented, I was offended to discover that the truth tellers were actually “truth” mongers, willingly and KNOWINGLY selling me apocalyptic fables in exchange for money and unquestioning fealty.  

      The combination of the willful deceit with the doomsday predictions for the disobedient, the stakes that couldn’t possibly be higher, makes me angry beyond my ability to express.

      “Even if it’s not true, it’s a great place to raise your kids.”  Utter claptrap.  The truth is, the stakes have been anted up so impossibly high that the faithful are (quite understandably) not willing to wager eternal burning against freedom from tyranny, so they come up with a convenient, socially acceptable excuse for the terrible fear they have been taught to feel. 

      The only people I am aware of that seem to be able to handle the eventual stark reality without losing all their faith or being utterly intellectually dishonest, are the ones who were taught the “tough stuff” from the very beginning.  Sunstone & Dialogue Mormons, who teach their children EVERYTHING from the beginning are the only (semi) healthy models for child rearing I can find in the Church. (I can find many good examples outside of the Church.)

  6. cam Reply

    At some point in it’s history, the church began to sacrifice it’s own history for appearance.  To me, that’s just advertising.  If I’m going to “buy” something, as a consumer, I don’t just automatically believe the advertising, I check out objective reviews, read complaints, etc.  Packer seems to be urging the reviewers to stop being objective, and complaints to be quashed.  Advertising may appeal to a few gullible individuals, but to the majority of thinking people, it just makes us suspicious. 

    The church has a lot of money.  A lot.  If they put more effort into doing good rather than appearances, perhaps they would bring more people to the gospel of Christ that they claim is all important to them.  What image consultant would Jesus hire?

    • Anonymous Reply

      I’ve got to ask a potentially weird question.  Do the letters MDDR mean anything to you?  If so, hello old friend.  If not, then disregard.  🙂

      • cam Reply

        Heather, while I’m pretty old, and I’d like to consider you a friend, I’m afraid that MDDR escapes me.  Best wishes.

  7. Brad Reply

    Heather, you mentioned that it was David O. McKay who was the new apostle when Richard Lyman was ex’d. It was actually Spencer W. Kimball when this happened.

    This was a great discussion. Thanks!

  8. Steve Kimball Reply

    I’m still waiting for Mormon Expressions to have Daniel Peterson on?  I hear you can do that and ignore the damage he has done to ex-mormons.  Just give him three or so hours to talk about himself and how the church is true, and have the interviewer say “Uhuh” a lot.  Set him loose with the TBM on the show. 

    • Steven Stewart Reply

      Steve, he was recently on Mormon Stories.  I gotta admit, it was an interesting episode.  ME and MS always have “cooling off” periods between guests, but I REALLY agree, and would love to hear him sit down with John Larsen.  Not to be bashed, I’d just love to hear an honest discussion between them.  The conversation with Dehlin was great.

  9. Focus on the Positive? Reply

    “Focus on the Positive”?

    I think that you miss the whole point of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  The point is NOT that we have a bunch of perfect heroes in the scriptures.  The point is that we have one perfect God who alone worked a perfect atonement.  Our whole and only reliance is to be on Him and not on any man (2 Nephi 31:19 & Mormon 6:4).

    Do the scriptures focus on the positive?  
    –    David?  Obviously no.
    –    Jonah?  No.
    –    Paul?  He openly admits to sin and even murder.  
    –    Peter?  “Foot in Mouth” apostle.  Christ once called him a devil and told him to get behind.  
    –    Moses?  Because of his sin was stopped from entering the Promised Land.
    –    The people of Israel?  Consistent picture of rebelling against God.

    Nevertheless, in spite of all these openly imperfect men God worked a marvelous wonder.  His marvelous wonder was worked in a way that pointed all praise, honor and glory to Him.  So in the end, we don’t sing “Praise to the Man.”  We sing “Praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted” (Psalms 148).

    • Hermes Reply

      My personal problem with praising the Lord is that it has a strong historical tendency to turn into praising the Man.  From my point of view, Jesus is just another face of the Man–like every other saint or holy man since the beginning of time (and/or the anthropomorphic Israelite god(s) he displaced in the public eye).  Like it or lump it, people are always imagining God in their own image.  There are many ways to do this (as many different ways as people, perhaps), but the end result is the same: praising the Lord is praising the Man (his servant who is somehow identical to him, a Messiah, a Son of God, a mighty chosen one, blah, blah, etc., etc.).

      As for the honor and glory that God wrought for himself through lies and various other crimes more or less serious, I don’t respect it very much.  It is empty rhetoric.  God spends thousands of years beating the crap out of his chosen people (and everyone else he comes in contact with), lying to them through prophets (or failing to reach his prophets because they are such weak tools, so weak that no real master craftsman such as God claims to be would use them), and then turns around and says, “This is a reflection of my glory.”  Yeah, OK.  You don’t have any, dude!  A real savior has to actually save something, something tangible.  (A promise that my utter ruin and destruction is really salvation doesn’t qualify.)  God has a long record of talking big (but never consistently) and doing nothing (about most problems: somehow he manages to find car keys in the First World while pretending that the Third doesn’t exist).  I understand the impulse to thank something that we are still alive, that we somehow survived and came out from the past with our shirts intact, but attributing this to some grand master plan seems ludicrous (where is the evidence? what about all the other people who have lived in complete and utter ignorance of the imaginary planner? do they just not matter? why does the planner change his mind every time a new prophet appears?)  If God wants praise that means something, then he needs to put up or shut up (he could at least try to be more consistent: why does he have so many spokespeople who understand him so differently in spite of the fact that all claim to be his bosom buddies?).

      I am actually as much of a hardcore atheist as I come off here, but I am definitely tired of people who assume that their idea of ultimate reality (God) is universal and universally applicable when it is clearly not.

  10. Steve Kimball Reply

    I was talking to my psychotherapist just the other day and she said “If your in an abusive relationship and stay then there is something wrong with you–determine what it is, and find the nads to leave.”  I told her I was talking about my religion, and she said “so was I”. I just needed to share that. 

  11. Fred W. Anson Reply

    Greg, I thought that the oral timeline that you gave to kick off the discussion was quite good.  Could you please transcribe and post it here for our reference and study archives? 

    Big thanks.

  12. Joe Geisner Reply

    I had to stop my iPod at the 21:23 mark.

    I appreciate the work that goes into creating a podcast and I have found Mormon Expression both informative and entertaining, but I cannot continue until I at least post this comment.

    It is really important for people to get details correct in trying to place an event in historical context.

    “Story of the Latter-day Saints” was written by James Allen and Glen Leonard and published by Deseret Book in 1976. Ezra Taft Benson, Mark E. Petersen, Thomas Monson and Boyd Packer had major issues with the book.

    One of my other concerns at this point is placing any blame/responsibility/awards/praise on Leonard Arrington for opening up the archives and its contents. This idea is completely misplaced.

    Leonard was Church Historian. He was not the archivist (Earl Olson and later Donald Schmidt), Librarian, Managing Director (Alvin Dyer, Joseph Anderson and Homer Durham) or acquisitions person. Leonard had nothing to do with opening the archives up to researchers as the Church Historian.

    The archives had pretty well opened to researchers at the end of Joseph Fielding Smith’s tenure. Under Apostle and Church Historian, Howard W. Hunter the archives opened up wide open.

    The papers that were in the basement of the Church Administration Building were “found” by Mike Quinn in 1972 (?), but Joseph Fielding Smith, A. Wm Lund (assistant Church Historian) and Lauritz Petersen (assistant Librarian) all knew what was there. Mike told me personally they were stacks (not boxes) that had probably started being made in the 1940 or 1950s. It would have been found out six or so months later when the archives moved to the COB, but Mike did find them and told Arrington about the records. Arrington assigned his group to catalog the papers. Most of these papers were not made avaibable to the public and many of them are still restricted. (Brigham Young’s gold account book)

    I have not gotten very far, and maybe this is mentioned, but Packer was not alone in his condemnation of historians. He was supported by many Apostles and other leaders. As far as I can tell, Hunter and McConkie both supported the historians and sought for honest and professional history. Many of the  others in the quorum, not so much.

    • Greg Rockwell Reply

      Joe,

      Thank you!!!!! I was so hoping someone with a clearer view would be able to make some comments on those factors.

      • Fred W. Anson Reply

        Sure, but why stop listening?  The discussion was fascinating and thought provoking on a number of levels whether one agreed with any particular speaker or not. 

      • Joe Geisner Reply

        Greg,

        Thank you for your kind response to my comments. I have pretty much listened to the rest of the podcast since I wrote the first comment. Hopefully I have caught most of the comments made by people about the historical setting of the talk.

        I again want to emphasize that Packers talk sits in a much broader historical setting than implied in the podcast. I also want to suggest that some items you listed in your chronology may not be as important as initially described.

        Packer’s talk was just a part of the anti-History movement going on in the Church. Midgley, and Benson are both included in Quinn’s Nov 1981 talk as people who have also spoken against the New Mormon History. Mark Petersen was equally on the attack by going to peoples Stake Presidents and having them called in for disciplinary councils. For details about the anti-History movement people need to read Lavina’s “Doves and Serpents”, Gary Toppings “Leonard J. Arrington: A Historians Life”, and Arrington’s “Reflections of a Mormon Historian”. The conflict pretty much started with Packer and Benson right after Arrington was called as Church Historian. There was very little honeymoon, if any.

        Mike Quinn was not the only historian who went on the defense. I have letters from James Clayton (and who also spoke publically and was a prof. at UofU), Stanley Kimball (Southern Illinois U), and L. Jackson Newell (UofU) who all equally question Packer on his ideas. Leonard Arrington even sent a letter to Gordon Hinckley about the talk. Mike was the perfect focus for Newsweek because he was at BYU and Mike is amazingly articulate. He is made for this kind of press coverage.

        Lavina in “Doves and Serpents” explains that Arrington received the letter of release she has in her chronology for Jan 25, 1982, but the letters says he had actually been released in 1978. This is a real messed up situation and is only explained in “Doves and Serpents.”

        As for Kinderhook and “Saints Without Halos.” I really don’t think a case can be made for any influence by either event. I checked all three book about Arrington and can find nothing about these two items being a part of the story. The Joseph Smith III blessing may have played a part, and “The Story of the Latter-day Saints” played a huge part. Also the sixteen volume sesquicentennial history was being worked on and Packer was on the reading committee. These volumes were causing all kinds of problems. Even Milt Backman’s very faithful history “Heavens Resound”, was held up in Committee by non-other than Packer. Articles that were produced by Arrington’s staff had also caused poop to hit the fan. Wm Hartley’s history of the Seventy and MIke Quinn’s on the office of the Bishop caused all kinds of headache for Leonard.

        Packer did not only attack historians during this time. He also went after behavioral scientist in 1975, artists in 1976, homosexuals in 1976, 1978, 1990,
        2000, or 2003, feminist in 1977 and 1993, and scientist (also in Oct 1984), booksellers and people having funerals for loved one in 1988. The real question would be, who has Packer not attacked or offended.

        If you would like any of these talks Greg email me.

        • Hermes Reply

          Of course.  And the church’s ongoing war with feminists, gays, and intellectuals is not just one man (Packer) being behind the times.  Packer’s problem is that he can be pretty frank, saying what everyone knows bluntly rather than talking carefully around it.  I actually have come to appreciate Packer for telling it like it is (for him).  The real snakes are often too clever to give us something as bold, brash, and straight-forwardly idiotic as, “The mantle is far, far greater than the intellect.”

        • Anonymous Reply

          I certainly don’t think Leonard Arrington was the one responsible for the opening of the archives.  Sorry if I made it sound that way.  I just meant that he was the church historian when it occurred.  Thanks for the further information on what was going on in church history at the time.

          Can you elaborate on the funeral for a loved on bit?  I’m curious.  Thanks.  🙂

          • Joe Geisner

            The talk is from the October 1988 General Conference with the title “Funerals – A Time for Reverence” If I recall correctly, the essence of the talk is that funerals are a time for gospel principles to be taught (the atonement) and not a time to talk about the deceased. I recall deciding at that time that I would not have my funeral in a Mormon Church. Thank goodness, I have never seen a Mormon funeral follow Packer’s prescription. But I figure, why take the chance. 🙂

          • Fred W. Anson

            Ah! That explains why Mormon Funerals are so weird and filled with LdS dogma rather than honoring and remembering the life of a loved one at an important time for the deceased and their family. That solves the riddle! Thank you.  

            I guess they got the model from Joseph’s behavior at King Follett’s funeral. 

            Yep, good old “altruist” Joseph Smith could even find a way to turn a funeral into an opportunity to talk about himself! After all it was ALL about him wasn’t it?

            Need I give the three little letters? If so they would be N, P and D.  
            (see http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001930/ and/or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narcissistic_personality_disorder  )

          • Anonymous

            I just read it and holy crap!  He even tries to assert authority over funerals that don’t happen in LDS chapels. 

            “Occasionally a mortician, out of a desire to be of help and not
            understanding the doctrines and procedures of the Church, will alter a
            funeral service. Bishops should remember that when funerals are held
            under priesthood auspices the service should conform to the instructions
            given by the Church. We should regard the bishop rather than the family
            or the mortician as the presiding authority in these matters.”

            The BISHOP is in charge… not the family?!  Bite me Howie, you old fuddieduddie.

          • Joe Geisner

            Who did the drawing of “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil”, it is wonderful?

            Packer’s talks are crying our for historical analysis. A good friend has written a very good paper on Packer and “Sacred Secrecy” in his addresses. My paper on looking at Packer’s October 2010 address in historical context will be published in Sunstone in the next few months. But even a larger project needs to be done.

      • Joe Geisner Reply

        Greg,

        Thank you for your kind response to my comments. I have pretty much listened to the rest of the podcast since I wrote the first comment. Hopefully I have caught most of the comments made by people about the historical setting of the talk.

        I again want to emphasize that Packers talk sits in a much broader historical setting than implied in the podcast. I also want to suggest that some items you listed in your chronology may not be as important as initially described.

        Packer’s talk was just a part of the anti-History movement going on in the Church. Midgley, and Benson are both included in Quinn’s Nov 1981 talk as people who have also spoken against the New Mormon History. Mark Petersen was equally on the attack by going to peoples Stake Presidents and having them called in for disciplinary councils. For details about the anti-History movement people need to read Lavina’s “Doves and Serpents”, Gary Toppings “Leonard J. Arrington: A Historians Life”, and Arrington’s “Reflections of a Mormon Historian”. The conflict pretty much started with Packer and Benson right after Arrington was called as Church Historian. There was very little honeymoon, if any.

        Mike Quinn was not the only historian who went on the defense. I have letters from James Clayton (and who also spoke publically and was a prof. at UofU), Stanley Kimball (Southern Illinois U), and L. Jackson Newell (UofU) who all equally question Packer on his ideas. Leonard Arrington even sent a letter to Gordon Hinckley about the talk. Mike was the perfect focus for Newsweek because he was at BYU and Mike is amazingly articulate. He is made for this kind of press coverage.

        Lavina in “Doves and Serpents” explains that Arrington received the letter of release she has in her chronology for Jan 25, 1982, but the letters says he had actually been released in 1978. This is a real messed up situation and is only explained in “Doves and Serpents.”

        As for Kinderhook and “Saints Without Halos.” I really don’t think a case can be made for any influence by either event. I checked all three book about Arrington and can find nothing about these two items being a part of the story. The Joseph Smith III blessing may have played a part, and “The Story of the Latter-day Saints” played a huge part. Also the sixteen volume sesquicentennial history was being worked on and Packer was on the reading committee. These volumes were causing all kinds of problems. Even Milt Backman’s very faithful history “Heavens Resound”, was held up in Committee by non-other than Packer. Articles that were produced by Arrington’s staff had also caused poop to hit the fan. Wm Hartley’s history of the Seventy and MIke Quinn’s on the office of the Bishop caused all kinds of headache for Leonard.

        Packer did not only attack historians during this time. He also went after behavioral scientist in 1975, artists in 1976, homosexuals in 1976, 1978, 1990,
        2000, or 2003, feminist in 1977 and 1993, and scientist (also in Oct 1984), booksellers and people having funerals for loved one in 1988. The real question would be, who has Packer not attacked or offended.

        If you would like any of these talks Greg email me.

  13. Ubik1967 Reply

    If you imaging Packer as an angry Walt Disney instructing the Disney crew to stop telling the customers how all the magic works you can be sympathetic to his effort. After all his corporation is paying these people to maintain the illusion.

    Problem is living life as if Disneyland is actually real has some negative consequences. Especially for the kids.

    It really is like the Truman Show – except most of the players don’t know it’s a show and the show is produced for a God that does not exist. Life is funny.

    Btw an atheist could defend the Church better the Mike. Get one to role play as the appologist – he needs the help.

    • Fred W. Anson Reply

      YOU WROTE
      “Btw an atheist could defend the Church better the Mike. Get one to role play as the appologist – he needs the help.”

      MY RESPONSE
      Indeed!
      But unfortunately Nyal no longer seems to be available: http://mormonexpression.com/2009/10/22/episode-22-does-the-church-discourage-discussion-the-debate/

  14. Mark Johnson Reply

    One thing that was repeated that we shouldn’t concentrate on the ‘dirt’ and just focus o. The positive.

    Sureley what is dirt is a matter of perspective? One mans dirt is another mans gold, what is dirt to Mike is precious to Heather

    History should be taken as a whole, get all the facts, and don’t try and categorise between good / bad

  15. Steve Reply

    I wanted to know where the quote from Hugh B. Brown is found.  It is mentioned by Greg at approx 7:20.  Do you know what the title of that talk was, or where I can find it?

  16. Jdlamoreaux Reply

    That’s EXACTLY how I responded to my 5-year-old this year!! “What do you think?” Glad I’m not alone! Don’t want to ever lie to my kids, but I see why it’s tempting.

  17. Jason Rich Reply

    My response is to Mike’s position. He mentions that the history of a faith should only be given a positive, faith-promoting spin. How does he view the history of Catholicism, Hinduism, Islam, etc.? Should he read only books and stories that promote the truth of those faiths? I’m sure Mike enjoys pointing out the faith destroying points regarding the history of the Catholic church.

  18. aerin64 Reply

    I’m very late to this particular podcast and thread – but I had to pinch myself more than once to realize that it was Mike defending this talk and not my very believing Dad – who has also talked about focusing on the positive and not the negative parts of history. One is also supposed to be honest at all times – it is a dichotomy that is difficult to comprehend (at best). Mike represents the believing position very accurately (at least from my perspective).

    With that said, the talk makes a lot more sense if it really was directed to Quinn and to specific Mormon historians. Great podcast as always. I’m enjoying going through the back catalog.

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