Which Direction to Face

When we serve in a church calling, one way to look at that calling is that you are to represent the Lord to the people you are serving. Boyd K. Packer passed along this counsel in one of his famous (and some might say infamous) speeches.

Elder Lee had agreed to give me counsel and some direction. He didn’t say much, nothing really in detail, but what he told me has saved me time and time again. “You must decide now which way you face,” he said. “Either you represent the teachers and students and champion their causes or you represent the Brethren who appointed you. You need to decide now which way you face.” Then he added, “Some of your predecessors faced the wrong way.” It took some hard and painful lessons before I understood his counsel. In time, I did understand, and my resolve to face the right way became irreversible.

The entire talk can be found here.

This has caused me to think about ‘leadership’ and ‘management’ in the church. I had these thoughts again during President Hinkley’s talk in the Priesthood session of conference. I have made a post about this on Blogger of Jared. You may read my post here.

Some do not like this talk by Elder Packer. I happen to think he is close to the mark.


6 Responses to “Which Direction to Face”

  1. 1 Hellmut April 4, 2006 at 10:36 am

    It’s that attitude that renders the Church unable to adapt to conditions abroad.

    Until they empower local members, Church will become increasingly a chore irrelevant to the needs of people.

    Jesus did not command: “Wash my feet!” He taught that leaders ought to focus on the lost sheep. Christianity is not about leaders. It’s about neighbors.

    When our management practices reflect that principle then the Church will prosper. Until then we will continue to fail retaining converts.

  2. 2 Eric Nielson April 4, 2006 at 11:37 am


    Thank you for reading this post and leaving your interesting comment. I might like to pose some questions/observations.

    Is the church not in the process of doing what you suggest with the additional quorums of the seventy. There are many more general authorities now than ever, many with names I can’t pronounce. This seems like a good sign and a step in the right direction to me. Also, it seems that there is a local structure in place with enough local authority to meet local needs. Bishops and Stake Presidents all over the world have significant responsibilities and are capable of doing much good within their sphere.

    Also, I view the gospel of Jesus Christ as quite universal in its application. When I think of the basics like:

    faith in the Lord Jesus Christ
    gift of the Holy Ghost
    Obedience to commandments
    Priesthood ordination
    temple ordinances
    enduring to the end

    These all seem quite universal to me and would not change regardless of local conditions. Once we get very far beyond these we are beginning to get outside the gospel as far as the Church (with a capital c) is concerned. Local members need to be the ones who provide the neighbors and friends to each other.

    What might I be missing?

  3. 3 C Jones April 4, 2006 at 5:36 pm

    Good post Eric. I think Elder Packer makes a strong case for his point. I like knowing where someone stands, and admire those who aren’t afraid to say what they mean even on unpopular or sensitive subjects.

    The most interesting question to me is:
    “How can we give solace to those who are justified without giving license to those who are not?”

    Certainly we are to focus on the lost sheep, but I think we are failing in that more at the ward level rather than at the GA level.

  4. 4 Eric Nielson April 4, 2006 at 5:58 pm

    C Jones:

    I believe you are right. At the local level is where patience and understanding really need to come into play.

  5. 5 Naiah Earhart April 6, 2006 at 2:22 am

    Hmmm. I do not find myself in human heirarchical constructs very often, if ever these days, but to expand it out further, as well as take it more internal is pretty fascinating. Gonna toss that one in the hopper. Thanks. Good food for thought.

  6. 6 Jeff June 27, 2006 at 4:09 pm

    I think its very frightening that the “students and teachers” in the Seminary and Institute programs are or were at one time viewed as the opposite of “the Brethren”

    Packer did an alright job dealing with such counsel, but to me it seems poorly set up and overgeneralized. I feel that he buckled under pressure in choosing “sides”, sure, it was better for him to support the Brethren than to support the Students and Teachers, but I think supporting BOTH would have been far more Christ-like. I appreciated his willingness to receive correction even from ordinary folks, that he expressed in the article, and I hope that all the General Authorities are blessed with the humility to receive such correction whenever they need it, as all people should be willing to do.

    ~Jeff, a “Mormon Gnostic”

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