Heed guidance, warnings of the Spirit

REXBURG, Idaho — Your lives are not your own, and if you live as you should live, you will be taken care of, President Boyd K. Packer told nearly 9,000 students at BYU-Idaho March 12.

President Packer greeeting students at BYU-Idaho
President Packer greeeting students at BYU-Idaho Photo: Photo by Michael Lewis

Speaking during the university's weekly devotional, President Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve, counseled students on living to receive the guiding influence — and warnings — of the Spirit and on the worth of the individual spirit. Saying he almost never entitled his addresses, President Packer said that this time he was calling his talk, "The Twenty-Mark Note."

"That title comes from an experience that I had something over 30 years ago. I was assigned with then-Elder Monson (now President Thomas S. Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency) to organize the Servicemen's Stake Europe for the military servicemen in all of Europe."

President Packer related how they met with local members at Berchtesgaden, Germany, a resort in the Bavarian Alps, originally a headquarters built by Adolf Hitler. The room in which they set apart the stake leaders stood on the spot and was a duplication in size of the cabin that had once stood there; the cabin was where Adolf Hitler wrote Mein Kampf.

President Packer said. ". . . I thought that we had come full circle where that had taken place on that site and now we were gathered there to organize a stake of Zion."

Continuing, President Packer related how he and his wife, Donna, proceeded to Munich where they caught a train for Berlin. The trip would take from about midnight to 10 a.m. "As the train was pulling out, one young elder said, 'Do you have any German money?' I shook my head, no. He said, 'You better have some,' and, running alongside, pulled from his pocket a twenty-mark note. He handed that to me."

Describing the train crossing the border between East and West Germany, President Packer said that about 2 a.m. a conductor, a "military-type soldier," asked for their tickets. At the time, new passports were issued for five years. President Packer's was for five years, but Sister Packer's was for three years. They had been told it would still be honored.

After checking their tickets, the conductor checked the group's passports. "The conversation took place, and I knew what he was saying. He was denying her passport."

President Packer said that after a few minutes of discussion: "Finally, not knowing what to do, I had a bit of inspiration and produced that twenty-mark note. He looked at it, he took the note, and handed us our passports."

Later, a member of the Church working for the Central Intelligence Agency told him that East Germany did not recognize three-year passports and that procedure would have called for Sister Packer to be put off the train "about two o'clock in the morning somewhere in East Germany."

"As you go through life, you will find that these things happen when you are living as you ought to live," President Packer said, adding that the elder who handed him the twenty-mark note was David A. Bednar, who was sitting behind him on the stand as president of BYU-Idaho.

President Packer also described traveling in 1976 with President Spencer W. Kimball to Rexburg in the aftermath of the Teton Dam disaster in southeastern Idaho. "We had a lot to do with the emergency personnel in the United States. By their rule of thumb — time of day, population, size of the catastrophe — they estimated that there should have been 5,000 casualties, and there were 11. Why? Because they were warned. Many of them told us that they were unusually on edge. When the warning came, they responded immediately."

During a meeting with survivors, "President Kimball leaned over and said, 'I cannot see an unhappy face among them.' I looked, and that was true — not one unhappy face! Why? There is a scripture that says, 'If ye are prepared ye [need not] fear.' (Doctrine and Covenants 38:30.) There are other scriptures, more than one, that speak of warning, that we will be warned of danger."

President Packer told the students: "As you go through college and learn the difference between the Church — which is a container, a vessel, a domicile for the gospel — and the gospel itself and concentrate on learning the gospel and how the Spirit operates, then you will be wise indeed."

Continuing, he told the students that the scriptures teach "that we are dual beings. We know there is a spirit and a body."

Reminding them that their spirits are eternal and that they have spirit bodies and intelligence that has existed forever, he said: "Probably one or two of you here might be described as a perfect athlete — perfectly coordinated, able to do anything! So here you have a beautiful physical body. If we separated your body from your spirit, what would your spirit look like? You will live to learn, if you will study and pray and feel, that you could have a very beautiful body and a very shriveled, weak spirit. On the other hand, you can have a body that is limited in many ways, and yet in the eternal scheme of things, you can train and teach your spirit so that it becomes of imperishable worth."

President Packer counseled: "If you can understand how the Spirit operates, you will be all right. There is not enough evil put together — if it was all brought together as some kind of a dark, ugly laser beam and focused on you — it could not destroy you, unless somehow you consented to it."

After urging the students to seek wisdom and understanding, he said: "You will be doing some things automatically, almost unwittingly. Without thinking, you will find you have been prompted and guided by the Holy Spirit. That is why this young elder, without knowing why, took a twenty-mark note out of his wallet as he was trotting along the side of the train and handed it to me as the train was pulling out. . . . That is how you will do things and then later look back and know that you were guided."

Don Sparhawk, BYU-Idaho media relations director, contributed to this article.

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