President Packer had only spoken for a few seconds before I knew there would be backlash. Everything he said was directly applicable to me... and to my brothers and sisters who live with same-sex attraction. As I listened to his talk, I was torn in two ways. I knew his message was true. But most members of the Church who live with same-sex attraction don't need fire and brimstone. They already know that acting on their temptations is wrong... and they respond much better to hope, love, and support in order to gain the faith to change. In the moment, I, like thousands of others, felt like President Packer was telling me I just hadn't tried hard enough. That I wasn't good enough. And while I knew from the Spirit that those were not his intentions, I could already guess how the rest of the world - who heard the talk without the guidance of the Spirit - would react.
The reaction was immediate and vehement, from all corners of the world and seemingly every walk of life. From the Church and without. From men, women, family members, and hundreds of others. Some simply disagreed with his statements; others wished for violence to befall him. Everyone seemed up in arms.
I just re-read President Packer's talk from General Conference. As I read, I noticed something interesting. President Packer was a professional teacher. His talks are meticulously formatted to have opening, supporting, and closing sections that build on one another. In recent years, he has meandered a bit, but there's still a format.
In his opening remarks, President Packer talks about the importance of the family, the powers of procreation, and foreshadows to the rest of his talk:
"To be entrusted with the power to create life carries with it the greatest of joys and dangerous temptations."
So obviously he's going to be talking about pornography, adultery, fornication, and homosexual relations. That's all covered in the dangerous temptations. However, the main theme of his talk is pornography, as can be seen when he switches to the body of his talk with this statement:
"In our day the dreadful influence of pornography is like unto a plague sweeping across the world..."
then gives a number of other statements:
"The effect of this plague can be, unfortunately often is, spiritually fatal."
"Pornography will always repel the Spirit of Christ and will interrupt the communications between our Heavenly Father and His children and disrupt the tender relationship between husband and wife."
"The priesthood holds consummate power. It can protect you from the plague of pornography—and it is a plague—if you are succumbing to its influence."
Then came the phrase that ignited everything:
"Some suppose that they were preset and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn tendencies toward the impure and the unnatural. Not so. Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone? Remember, He is our Father."
Taking apart this statement in context gives it a bit more meaning. Simply living with same-sex attraction does not make you impure. Church doctrine is clear in that respect. So what did he mean by these "inborn tendencies toward the impure"? Aside from pornography, it is tendency and temptation to act on attractions outside of marriage. President Packer was not claiming that we could change homosexual attractions... he was simply stating that each of us has the power to choose to overcome or give in to temptation.
He then goes on to quote Paul to explain why he was so definite in his statement - "God . . . will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it."
He continues by explaining the Church's continuing position in moral politics:
"Regardless of the opposition, we are determined to stay on course. We will hold to the principles and laws and ordinances of the gospel."
And finishes his talk with this injunction:
"the simplest and most powerful prevention and cure for pornography, or any unclean act, is to ignore and avoid it. Delete from the mind any unworthy thought that tries to take root,"
President Packer gave a clear, direct, and concise talk on pornography and other sexual sins. I don't know if he realized that everything in his talk could also be applied to same-sex attraction... or how painful that application would be. But I know that his final statements were heartfelt and true:
"I promise that ahead of you is peace and happiness for you and your family."
"And I invoke the blessings of the Lord upon you who are struggling against this terrible plague, to find the healing that is available to us in the priesthood of the Lord."
As I read the talk again this evening, the Lord confirmed to me that I'm on the right path. I'm doing what I should be. I'm moving forward. And that is what matters.
Ultimately, as I go through life, it is my responsibility to listen with both my ears and my heart - to know when the Lord is speaking to me - and to follow Him. Then President Packer's promise will come true in my life. I will find peace and happiness... and the strength that comes through Christ the Lord.