Yes, we're all gonna die. So we might as well make it count.
What is your governing core value?
Let's see what our moral compass is, shall we? Which direction does the needle point?
We each maintain an internal ranking of principles and values.
Values are not co-equal. Sometimes they clash and we have to choose between them. How do we decide?
How do we decide between mercy or justice? Between truth or loyalty? Between love or honor?
Which virtue sits atop our hierarchy of values?
A good example of how this clash of values plays out in real time is the way in which we believe Church history should be portrayed.
Remember the debate over Church history between Elder Boyd K. Packer (an apostle) and D. Michael Quinn (a BYU history professor)?
Quinn believed telling the truth about Church History supported mature faith and was more honest than hiding the facts; on the other hand Elder Packer believed some truths aren't very useful.
"Some things that are true are not very useful."
In 1981 Elder Packer gave his seminal talk, "The Mantle is Far, Far Greater than the Intellect."
Let's see if we can discern Elder Packer's governing core values from what he says in the talk.
His statement, "Some things that are true are not very useful," shows a very utilitarian mindset.
If you're unfamiliar with that concept, the doctrine of utilitarianism (i.e., "the end justifies the means") is simple: "An action is right insofar as it promotes happiness, and that the greatest happiness of the greatest number should be the guiding principle of conduct."
Using Church history as his example, Elder Packer told the CES teachers, "Your objective should be that [your students] will see the hand of the Lord in every hour and every moment of the Church from its beginning till now."
Elder Packer's top priority seems to be the promotion of faith in the Church (and its leaders) ― even over the truth per se.
In fact, Elder Packer's statement shows he believed truth to be something intrinsically value-less, meaning that truth could be wielded for good (to build faith) but could as easily serve to destroy faith, which would be bad.
In this way, truth becomes inherently untrustworthy and must be vetted for its effectbefore any value-judgment as to a particular truth can be made.
This is all very utilitarian. I mean, haven't we all heard of "lying for the Lord?" Our Church has practically made it one of our articles of faith.
Using the malleability of truth as though it were taffy, we can shape our history into anything we want, as a carpenter shapes a piece of raw wood into a tool of his choice.
In this case, a tool for indoctrination.
Too strong of a word? Let's see.
I want to suggest something:
Satan was a spiritual utilitarian.
In the War in Heaven, Satan was willing to sacrifice the agency of man in order for "none to be lost."
In other words, Satan believed the greatest good (our collective, universal salvation) would justify doing something very wicked (removing our agency).
I can't fault Satan for his desire that we all be saved, but I certainly take issue with his methods.
Even today we see those in authority who are willing to trample over our agency to achieve what they suppose to be a "greater good."
But when we value loyalty to an institution above the truth, and when we approach truth as a utilitarian tool, are we following in Satan's footsteps?
If being "in line" with leadership is a greater virtue than the truth itself, then whether leadership is right or wrong doesn't matter because truth is no longer independent of their authority; at that point, what is right is merely a reflection of what those in charge say is right.
And thus we see the great error in Satan's plan: utilitarianism always succumbs to the growing quicksand of arbitrariness and relativity that it creates.
An Interesting Anecdote
D. Michael Quinn was interviewed for his history professorship at BYU by Elder Packer. Brother Quinn recalled:
"When Elder Packer interviewed me as a prospective member of Brigham Young University's faculty in 1976, he explained: 'I have a hard time with historians because they idolize the truth. The truth is not uplifting; it destroys. I could tell most of the secretaries in the church office building that they are ugly and fat. That would be the truth, but it would hurt and destroy them. Historians should tell only that part of the truth that is inspiring and uplifting.'"
These views are found in Elder Packer writings and in the way he governed the Church.
Elder Packer said, "If you viewed Rembrandt only in black and white, you would miss most of his inspiration."
The reason this analogy strikes me as odd is because this is what Elder Packer proposes we do with Church history: that we make it black and white by ignoring the mistakes, imperfections, and missteps in our past and in the lives of our leaders (which in my opinion denies God the glory of working through such poor vessels).
Soon after Elder Packer gave his talk, Brother Quinn gave a rebuttal to the honor students at BYU in his remarks, "On Being a Mormon Historian."
"Sacred History (which is contained in the Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price) is an absolute refutation of the kind of history Elder Packer seems to be advocating. . . .
"Sacred History presents God's leaders as understandable human beings with whom the reader can identify because of their weaknesses at the same time he reveres the prophetic mantle. Sacred History enriches the lives of the readers by encouraging them to identify and empathize with fallible, human prophets, rather than discouraging them by presenting the prophets as otherworldly personages for whom the reader can feel only awe and adoration. "The History advocated by Elder Packer . . . is intended to protect the Saints, but actually disillusions them and makes them vulnerable. . . . The tragic reality is that there have been occasions when Church leaders, teachers, and writers have not told the truth they knew about difficulties of the Mormon past, but have offered to the Saints instead a mixture of platitudes, half-truths, omissions, and plausible denials. Elder Packer and others would justify this because 'we are at war with the adversary.'"