We do not talk of those sacred interviews that qualify the servants of the Lord to bear a special witness of Him, for we have been commanded not to do so. But we are free, indeed, we are obliged, to bear that special witness…. I am a witness to the truth that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the Only Begotten of the Father; that He has a body of flesh and bone; that He knows those who are His servants here and that He is known of them. I know that He directs this Church now, as He established it then, through a prophet of God. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen Boyd K. Packer, April 1980
Do not mistake our reverent hesitation to speak glibly or too frequently of Him to mean that we do not know Him. Our brethren of Judah knew Him in ancient times, our brethren of Ephraim also. He is no stranger to His Saints, to His prophets and Apostles now. Boyd K. Packer,General Conference, October 1982
I don’t know just how to answer people when they ask the question, ‘Have you seen the Lord?’ I think that the witness that I have and the witness that each of us [apostles] has, and the details of how it came, are too sacred to tell. I have never told anybody some of the experiences I have had, not even my wife. I know that God lives. I not only know that he lives, but I know him. (Marion G. Romney, cited in F. Burton Howard, Marion G. Romney: His Life and Faith (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1988), 222)
As I've studied some of the published testimonies of Boyd K. Packer, I've discovered some interesting things. Boyd Packer shares the details of his call to be an LDS apostle in his October 2007 General Conference talk The Weak and the Simple of the Church. In his talk, he also references Marion G. Romney's testimony.
For a long time, something else puzzled me. Forty-six years ago I was a 37-year-old seminary supervisor. My Church calling was as an assistant teacher in a class in the Lindon Ward.
To my great surprise, I was called to meet with President David O. McKay. He took both of my hands in his and called me to be one of the General Authorities, an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
A few days later, I came to Salt Lake City to meet with the First Presidency to be set apart as one of the General Authorities of the Church. This was the first time I had met with the First Presidency—President David O. McKay and his counselors, President Hugh B. Brown and President Henry D. Moyle.
President McKay explained that one of the responsibilities of an Assistant to the Twelve was to stand with the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as a special witness and to bear testimony that Jesus is the Christ. What he said next overwhelmed me: “Before we proceed to set you apart, I ask you to bear your testimony to us. We want to know if you have that witness.”
I did the best I could. I bore my testimony the same as I might have in a fast and testimony meeting in my ward. To my surprise, the Brethren of the Presidency seemed pleased and proceeded to confer the office upon me.
That puzzled me greatly, for I had supposed that someone called to such an office would have an unusual, different, and greatly enlarged testimony and spiritual power.
It puzzled me for a long time until finally I could see that I already had what was required: an abiding testimony in my heart of the Restoration of the fulness of the gospel through the Prophet Joseph Smith, that we have a Heavenly Father, and that Jesus Christ is our Redeemer. I may not have known all about it, but I did have a testimony, and I was willing to learn.
I was perhaps no different from those spoken of in the Book of Mormon: “And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost, even as the Lamanites, because of their faith in me at the time of their conversion, were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not” (3 Nephi 9:20; emphasis added).
Over the years, I have come to see how powerfully important that simple testimony is. I have come to understand that our Heavenly Father is the Father of our spirits (see Numbers 16:22; Hebrews 12:9; D&C 93:29). He is a father with all the tender love of a father. Jesus said, “For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God” (John 16:27).
Some years ago, I was with President Marion G. Romney, meeting with mission presidents and their wives in Geneva, Switzerland. He told them that 50 years before, as a missionary boy in Australia, late one afternoon he had gone to a library to study. When he walked out, it was night. He looked up into the starry sky, and it happened. The Spirit touched him, and a certain witness was born in his soul.
He told those mission presidents that he did not know any more surely then as a member of the First Presidency that God the Father lives; that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the Only Begotten of the Father; and that the fulness of the gospel had been restored than he did as a missionary boy 50 years before in Australia. He said that his testimony had changed in that it was much easier to get an answer from the Lord. The Lord’s presence was nearer, and he knew the Lord much better than he had 50 years before.
There is the natural tendency to look at those who are sustained to presiding positions, to consider them to be higher and of more value in the Church or to their families than an ordinary member. Somehow we feel they are worth more to the Lord than are we. It just does not work that way!
It would be very disappointing to my wife and to me if we supposed any one of our children would think that we think we are of more worth to the family or to the Church than they are, or to think that one calling in the Church was esteemed over another or that any calling would be thought to be less important . . .
As General Authorities of the Church, we are just the same as you are, and you are just the same as we are. You have the same access to the powers of revelation for your families and for your work and for your callings as we do. . .
And so the Church moves on. It is carried upon the shoulders of worthy members living ordinary lives among ordinary families, guided by the Holy Ghost and the Light of Christ, which is in them.
I bear witness that the gospel is true and that the worth of souls is great in the sight of God—every soul—and that we are blessed to be members of the Church. I have the witness that would qualify me for the calling I have. I’ve had it since I met the First Presidency those many years ago. I bear it to you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Seven years later in General Conference April 2014 Boyd K. Packer shares his apostolic witness.
I wanted a personal testimony of the gospel. I wanted to know!
During one sleepless night, I left my tent and entered a bunker which had been formed by lining up 50-gallon fuel drums filled with sand and placed one on top of the other to form an enclosure. There was no roof, and so I crawled in, looked up at the star-filled sky, and knelt to pray.
Almost mid-sentence it happened. I could not describe to you what happened if I were determined to do so. It is beyond my power of expression, but it is as clear today as it was that night more than 65 years ago. I knew it to be a very private, very individual manifestation. At last I knew for myself. I knew for a certainty, for it had been given to me. After some time, I crawled from that bunker and walked, or floated, back to my bed. I spent the rest of the night in a feeling of joy and awe. . .
After all the years that I have lived and taught and served, after the millions of miles I have traveled around the world, with all that I have experienced, there is one great truth that I would share. That is my witness of the Savior Jesus Christ.
“And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!
I believe and I am sure that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that He lives. He is the Only Begotten of the Father, and “by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God” (D&C 76:24).
I bear my witness that the Savior lives. I know the Lord. I am His witness. I know of His great sacrifice and eternal love for all of Heavenly Father’s children. I bear my special witness in all humility but with absolute certainty, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Do you notice a difference in surety in the 2007 and 2014 testimonies? In his 2007 testimony, why was he puzzled when his ordinary testimony qualified if he had already received a manifestation that gave him knowledge?
Belief was always intended to grow into faith. Faith was always intended to grow into knowledge. In the Book of Mormon, knowledge of the existence of God equals being brought back into God's presence. We use these terms haphazardly in the church. Personally, I really don''t know too much about God because of my own experience. I believe on the testimonies of the eyewitnesses.
The record shows us that before the Brother of Jared has knowledge of the Lord, he has many experiences with the Lord:
And it came to pass that the brother of Jared did cry unto the Lord, and the Lord had compassion upon Jared; therefore he did not confound the language of Jared; and Jared and his brother were not confounded. Ether 1:35
And it came to pass that the Lord did hear the brother of Jared, and had compassion upon him, and said unto him: Go to and gather together thy flocks, both male and female, of every kind; and also of the seed of the earth of every kind; and thy families; and also Jared thy brother and his family; and also thy friends and their families, and the friends of Jared and their families. And when thou hast done this thou shalt go at the head of them down into the valley which is northward. And there will I meet thee, and I will go before thee into a land which is choice above all the lands of the earth. And there will I bless thee and thy seed, and raise up unto me of thy seed, and of the seed of thy brother, and they who shall go with thee, a great nation. And there shall be none greater than the nation which I will raise up unto me of thy seed, upon all the face of the earth. And thus I will do unto thee because this long time ye have cried unto me. Ether 1:40-43
And it came to pass at the end of four years that the Lord came again unto the brother of Jared, and stood in a cloud and talked with him. And for the space of three hours did the Lord talk with the brother of Jared, and chastened him because he remembered not to call upon the name of the Lord. Ether 2:14
Look closely at how the terms belief, faith, and knowledge are used in describing the Brother of Jared's experience.
6 And it came to pass that when the brother of Jared had said these words, behold, the Lord stretched forth his hand and touched the stones one by one with his finger. And the veil was taken from off the eyes of the brother of Jared, and he saw the finger of the Lord; and it was as the finger of a man, like unto flesh and blood; and the brother of Jared fell down before the Lord, for he was struck with fear.
7 And the Lord saw that the brother of Jared had fallen to the earth; and the Lord said unto him: Arise, why hast thou fallen?
8 And he saith unto the Lord: I saw the finger of the Lord, and I feared lest he should smite me; for I knew not that the Lord had flesh and blood.
9 And the Lord said unto him: Because of thy faith thou hast seen that I shall take upon me flesh and blood; and never has man come before me with such exceeding faith as thou hast; for were it not so ye could not have seen my finger. Sawest thou more than this?
10 And he answered: Nay; Lord, show thyself unto me.
11 And the Lord said unto him: Believest thou the words which I shall speak?
12 And he answered: Yea, Lord, I know that thou speakest the truth, for thou art a God of truth, and canst not lie.
13 And when he had said these words, behold, the Lord showed himself unto him, and said: Because thou knowest these things ye are redeemed from the fall; therefore ye are brought back into my presence; therefore I show myself unto you.
14 Behold, I am he who was prepared from the foundation of the world to redeem my people. Behold, I am Jesus Christ. I am the Father and the Son. In me shall all mankind have life, and that eternally, even they who shall believe on my name; and they shall become my sons and my daughters.
15 And never have I showed myself unto man whom I have created, for never has man believed in me as thou hast. Seest thou that ye are created after mine own image? Yea, even all men were created in the beginning after mine own image.
16 Behold, this body, which ye now behold, is the body of my spirit; and man have I created after the body of my spirit; and even as I appear unto thee to be in the spirit will I appear unto my people in the flesh.
17 And now, as I, Moroni, said I could not make a full account of these things which are written, therefore it sufficeth me to say that Jesus showed himself unto this man in the spirit, even after the manner and in the likeness of the same body even as he showed himself unto the Nephites.
18 And he ministered unto him even as he ministered unto the Nephites; and all this, that this man might know that he was God, because of the many great works which the Lord had showed unto him.
19 And because of the knowledge of this man he could not be kept from beholding within the veil; and he saw the finger of Jesus, which, when he saw, he fell with fear; for he knew that it was the finger of the Lord; and he had faith no longer, for he knew, nothing doubting.
20 Wherefore, having this perfect knowledge of God, he could not be kept from within the veil; therefore he saw Jesus; and he did minister unto him. Ether 3
If you are a witness in a court, you share what you know from first hand experience. Everything else is hearsay. Before this experience, the Brother of Jared had belief and faith. He obtained knowledge through his own personal manifestation of God.
Essential details are shared in court and add credibility to a story.
Where are the details in Boyd Packer's witness of Christ? When were the heavens opened to him? Where did it happen? What did he see? What are the events leading up to the manifestation? What did he receive over 65 years ago that left him without doubt? Those kind of details can be found in the scriptures as prophets share their witness of Christ.
Joseph Smith was in his 15th year, was confused about which church to join, went to the woods to pray, was seized upon by the powers of darkness, was delivered from the enemy and saw God. (Joseph Smith History 1)
Lehi heard the prophets, prayed for his people, saw many things in the pillar of fire, returned to his home, cast himself on his bed, was carried away in a vision, saw the heavens open . . . (1 Nephi 1)
Nephi - For it came to pass after I had desired to know the things that my father had seen, and believing that the Lord was able to make them known unto me, as I sat pondering in mine heart I was caught away in the Spirit of the Lord, yea, into an exceedingly high mountain, which I never had before seen, and upon which I never had before set my foot. . . and his vision continues (1 Nephi 11-14)
The list goes on and on. From the translator of the Book of Mormon to all the holy prophets in the Book of Mormon we read their eyewitness accounts. None of the circumstances surrounding their visions were the same, yet they were special witnesses of our Lord. They had more than a belief. They had knowledge.
David B. Haight seems to have had such an experience. He shared his testimony in the October 1989 General Conference. He was unconscious in the hospital when he received his witness of Jesus Christ. Here is an excerpt from his talk:
The terrible pain and commotion of people ceased. I was now in a calm, peaceful setting; all was serene and quiet. I was conscious of two persons in the distance on a hillside, one standing on a higher level than the other. Detailed features were not discernible. The person on the higher level was pointing to something I could not see.
I heard no voices but was conscious of being in a holy presence and atmosphere. During the hours and days that followed, there was impressed again and again upon my mind the eternal mission and exalted position of the Son of Man. I witness to you that He is Jesus the Christ, the Son of God, Savior to all, Redeemer of all mankind, Bestower of infinite love, mercy, and forgiveness, the Light and Life of the world. I knew this truth before—I had never doubted nor wondered. But now I knew, because of the impressions of the Spirit upon my heart and soul, these divine truths in a most unusual way.
I was shown a panoramic view of His earthly ministry: His baptism, His teaching, His healing the sick and lame, the mock trial, His crucifixion, His resurrection and ascension. There followed scenes of His earthly ministry to my mind in impressive detail, confirming scriptural eyewitness accounts. I was being taught, and the eyes of my understanding were opened by the Holy Spirit of God so as to behold many things.
The first scene was of the Savior and His Apostles in the upper chamber on the eve of His betrayal. Following the Passover supper, He instructed and prepared the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper for His dearest friends as a remembrance of His coming sacrifice. It was so impressively portrayed to me—the overwhelming love of the Savior for each. I witnessed His thoughtful concern for significant details—the washing of the dusty feet of each Apostle, His breaking and blessing of the loaf of dark bread and blessing of the wine, then His dreadful disclosure that one would betray Him.
He explained Judas’s departure and told the others of the events soon to take place.
Then followed the Savior’s solemn discourse when He said to the Eleven: “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33.)
Our Savior prayed to His Father and acknowledged the Father as the source of His authority and power—even to the extending of eternal life to all who are worthy.
He prayed, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”
Jesus then reverently added:
“I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.
“And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” (John 17:3–5.)
He pled not only for the disciples called out from the world who had been true to their testimony of Him, “but for them also which shall believe on me through their word.” (John 17:20.)
When they had sung a hymn, Jesus and the Eleven went out to the Mount of Olives. There, in the garden, in some manner beyond our comprehension, the Savior took upon Himself the burden of the sins of mankind from Adam to the end of the world. His agony in the garden, Luke tells us, was so intense “his sweat was as … great drops of blood falling … to the ground.” (Luke 22:44.) He suffered an agony and a burden the like of which no human person would be able to bear. In that hour of anguish our Savior overcame all the power of Satan.
The glorified Lord revealed to Joseph Smith this admonition to all mankind:
“Therefore I command you to repent …
“For … I, God, … suffered … for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; …
“Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, …
“Wherefore, I command you again to repent, lest I humble you with my almighty power; and that you confess your sins, lest you suffer these punishments.” (D&C 19:15–16, 18, 20.)
During those days of unconsciousness I was given, by the gift and power of the Holy Ghost, a more perfect knowledge of His mission. I was also given a more complete understanding of what it means to exercise, in His name, the authority to unlock the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven for the salvation of all who are faithful. My soul was taught over and over again the events of the betrayal, the mock trial, the scourging of the flesh of even one of the Godhead. I witnessed His struggling up the hill in His weakened condition carrying the cross and His being stretched upon it as it lay on the ground, that the crude spikes could be driven with a mallet into His hands and wrists and feet to secure His body as it hung on the cross for public display.
Crucifixion—the horrible and painful death which He suffered—was chosen from the beginning. By that excruciating death, He descended below all things, as is recorded, that through His resurrection He would ascend above all things. (See D&C 88:6.)
After David Haight received his vision, he shared it in the next general conference. It was not too sacred to share. If you are called to stand as a witness, you must witness. It would be foolish to call upon a special witness in a court of law only for them to remain silent.
Can you see a difference in the following testimonies?
Boyd Packer “If you have stumbled or even been lost for a time, if you feel that the adversary now holds you captive, you can move forward with faith and not wander to and fro in the world any longer. There are those who stand ready to guide you back to peace and security. Even the grace of God, as promised in the scriptures, comes ‘after all we can do’ (2 Nephi 25:23). The possibility of this, to me, is the truth most worth knowing. ” A Witness of the Savior Jesus Christ Ensign December 2015
David Haight “Wherefore, redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth. Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered.Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise.Wherefore, he is the firstfruits unto God, inasmuch as he shall make intercession for all the children of men; and they that believe in him shall be saved.” (2 Ne. 2:6–9.)” October 1989 General Conference
It is interesting they both quote Nephi near the end of their testimonies, but the atonement of Christ seems to be understood differently by David Haight. Boyd Packer points you to “those ready to guide you back to peace and security.” David doesn't even mention church leadership. “Redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah . . . how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah.”
In the courts, witnesses are cross examined. I had specific questions for these men claiming to be prophets. I wrote a letter to Dallin Oaks in 2011 and to the rest of the 14 LDS apostles in fall of 2013. They side stepped my questions and wouldn't give me a direct answer. Boyd Packer was among the 14 men who received my letters.
Why did Boyd Packer change his testimony between 2007 and 2014? Why didn't he answer my questions in 2013? In 2007 how does he describe his witness qualifying him as an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ? In 2014 how does he describe his witness qualifying him as an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ?
In 2006, a book entitled The Second Comforter Conversing With the Lord Through the Veil was written. The author spoke from first hand experience and invited others to come unto Christ. The author of the book wrote many other books. In 2013, he was excommunicated from the LDS church for writing a book which aligns the history of the LDS church with Book of Mormon prophecy. As an LDS prophet, did Boyd K. Packer feel threatened by a man who speaks face to face with God?
In a court of law, the jury needs to decide which witnesses are giving a truthful testimony. Being able to discern between true and false messengers is essential in our walk back into the presence of God.
What are your thoughts?