The congregation that filled the Kirkland Washington Stake Center May 7 to hear President Boyd K. Packer speak on "the drama of all ages" included about 1,000 young adults from 16 stakes and four regions, but an audience estimated at more than 40,000 looked on.
President Packer, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve, spoke at a Church Educational System fireside that originated Sunday evening in the stake center, located 15 miles north of the Seattle Temple. The fireside was carried by the Church satellite network throughout North America as far north as Alaska and as far south as Mexico, and to islands of the Caribbean. In some eastern locales, the fireside, which began at 6 p.m. (PDT), was videotaped for viewing on another date because of the lateness of the hour at which it started. The fireside was the fourth in a series of seven to be held in 1995 for single and married college-age young adult members of the Church."I speak from Seattle rather than from one of our Church schools to demonstrate equal concern for all the youth of the Church," President Packer said. "It is not possible for us to provide schools for all who are worthy and qualified to attend. You are all very precious to the Lord. He will bless you wherever you are as you seek to live the gospel."
Noting the young age of the congregation, President Packer spoke of two youth mentioned in the Bible: Timothy, to whom Paul wrote, "Let no man despise thy youth," (1 Tim. 4:12-16), and David who faced Goliath " . . . in the name of the Lord of hosts." (1 Sam. 17:38-46.)
"You young adults have invisible Goliaths to conquer, both physical and spiritual Goliaths. You will need to be trained how to protect yourself against them," President Packer said.
He spoke of immunizations, in which antibodies are injected to protect the body against contagions. He noted that while the body can be protected from contagious diseases with proper serum, the mind and spirit are immunized with ideas and with truth. "It is my purpose . . . to inoculate you with an idea, a truth, which, if admitted into your thinking and into the cradle of your feeling, may protect you against wicked spiritual diseases to which you are exposed every day of your lives," President Packer said.
"The course of our mortal life, from birth to death, conforms to eternal law and follows a plan described in the revelations as the great plan of happiness. The one idea, the one truth I would inject into your mind is this: There are three parts to the plan. You are in the second or the middle part, the one in which you will be tested by temptation, by trials, perhaps by tragedy. Understand that, and you will be better able to make sense of life and to resist the disease of doubt and despair and depression."
He said the plan of redemption might be likened to a grand three-act play, with Act I titled "The Premortal Life" or "The First Estate;" Act II, covering the span from birth to the time of resurrection, titled "The Second Estate;" and Act III titled "Life After Death, Eternal Life."
"In mortality, we are like one who enters a theater just as the curtain goes up on the second act," President Packer said. "We have missed Act I. The production has many plots and sub-plots that interweave, making it difficult to figure out who relates to whom and what relates to what, who are heroes and who are villains. It is further complicated: you are not just a spectator; you are a member of the cast, on stage, in the middle of it all!"
President Packer noted that the line, "And they lived happily ever after," is never written into the second act. "That line belongs in the third act when the mysteries are solved and everything is put right. . . .
"Until you have a broad perspective of the eternal nature of this great drama, you won't make much sense out of the inequities in life. Some are born with so little and others with so much, some in poverty, with handicaps, with pain, with suffering, premature death even of innocent children. There are the brutal, unforgiving forces of nature and there is the brutality of man to man. We've seen a lot of that recently.
"Do not suppose that God willfully causes that, which for His own purpose, He permits. When you know the plan and purpose of it all, even these things will manifest a loving Father in Heaven."
The script of "this drama of all ages" is found in the scriptures. President Packer told his listeners that when they understand the Plan of Salvation, it will give purpose and direction to their lives.
"There is, of course, a villain in all this, the adversary, the schemer, the destroyer," President Packer said. "He got off track in Act I. He has sworn to spoil the plan for everyone. He has legions of angels, dark angels, to help him do it. He, too, has a plan called the cunning plan, a very subtle plan, a secret plan, the plan of destruction. . . .
"Now, here you are on stage in Act II of this eternal drama, your own second estate. You live in the last days, a dispensation of intense testing and unequalled opportunity. Paul, the Apostle, wrote a remarkable prophecy to young Timothy. He said, `In the last day, perilous times shall come.' (2 Tim. 3:1.) He described our day in accurate detail.
"Just as the air you breathe may expose you to deadly virus, the thoughts you think may introduce spiritual diseases which, untreated, may be spiritually fatal."
President Packer said that the "antidote, the immunization, which can protect, even cure," is given. He quoted 2 Tim. 3:13-16, in which Paul counsels Timothy to rely on the scriptures. President Packer said that 1 Nephi, chapter 8 describes the great and spacious building. "Put those verses together with 2 Timothy, chapter 3, and you will see the world in which you live. Read the scriptures thoughtfully."
President Packer spoke of some "ideas floating around that are spiritually dangerous." He used the word freedom as an example.
"A little twisting of the word freedom can lead to the loss of it. Individual freedom without responsibility can destroy freedom. For example, right now there are many who indulge freely in that which the Lord has forbidden, and as a result, compelled, I suppose, by physical impulses, are prisoners to an incurable disease, and they expose the innocent as well.
"It is in the name of freedom that terrorists now seek to destroy the institutions of society established to guarantee freedom. Read the first few verses of Helaman, chapter 12, and you will learn why terror will be visited upon mankind."
President Packer said diversity is another word that self-destructs if handled carelessly. "Beware of those who teach diversity in which everybody, every philosophy, and all behavior must be accepted everywhere with standards adjusted to accommodate and to please everybody. They are really arguing for their own brand of conformity.
"For example, if we change the standards at Church schools - and there are some who press for that - to conform with the world, we lose the very idea of an education rooted in faith in the Restored Gospel. Then there will be no choice, and diversity will have eaten itself up.
"The hidden trap connected with diversity is that it can cause you to accept what is and lose sight of what ought to be.
To those who suppose they have "lost" their future because of mistakes, President Packer gave "one more inoculation." He said that for a number of years he found relaxation in carving and painting songbirds, sometimes spending a full year on a single carving. He said he
once had a newly carved bird on the back seat of a car driven by Elder A. Theodore Tuttle, who hit the brakes suddenly. The carving, thrown to the floor, was damaged.
"Elder Tuttle felt terrible, supposing he had ruined a year's work," President Packer said. "When I waved his apologies aside, he said,
You sure don't seem to be upset about it.' To reassure him, I said,Don't worry; I made it, I can fix it.' Actually it had been broken and repaired many times while I was working on it.
"Later Brother Tuttle likened that experience to lives, broken or badly damaged, supposedly ruined with no hope of repair, not knowing that there is a Maker, a Creator, who can fix any of His creations no matter how hopelessly broken they may seem to be."
The fireside was conducted by Kirkland Washington Stake Pres. Robert G. Condie. Richard L. Porter, Church Educational System Director of the U.S. Northwest/Canada West Area and second counselor in the Kirkland Washington Stake presidency, made some opening remarks. Music was provided by the Greater Seattle Institute of Religion Chorus, directed by Erin Rogness and accompanied by Sheri Fairbanks. One verse of "Our Savior's Love" was sung in Spanish; and a verse of "Lord, I Would Follow Thee" was in French; the hymns' other verses were in English. The invocation was given by Ryan Allred; the benediction was by Heidi Northover.