by Elder Boyd K. Packer
excerpt from a talk to the
All-Church Coordinating Council
May 18, 1993
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.
One of the early lessons was also my first lesson in correlation. The seminaries were sponsoring speech contests. They were very successful - much better than similar contests sponsored by the Mutual Improvement Association. It was an ideal gospel-centered activity for seminaries. They were succeeding beautifully under able teachers who could assist even the shy students. And we were instructed to discontinue them!
There was something of an uprising among the teachers. They accused Superintendent Curtis of the Young Men and President Reeder of the Young Women of being responsible. Perhaps they were. The teachers wanted Brother Tuttle and me to plead their cause before the Brethren. The logic was all on our side. Nevertheless we remembered the counsel of Brother Lee, and really, just out of obedience, we declined.
Later I could see that the seminaries served then only a very small part of our youth; the MIA, all of them. A B-minus program reaching most of the youth would, in the aggregate, bring better results than an A-plus program which reached relatively few. It wasn't until many years later, when some other problems arose, that I could see that those contests, even though they were gospel centered, pulled the teachers into an activity-oriented mind-set and away from the less exciting responsibility of teaching the Old and New Testaments to teenagers. Finally I could see that the very success of the program was an enemy.
Other lessons followed, some of them hard ones. I was asked to write an article for the Improvement Era. It was returned with the request that I change some words. I smarted! The replacement words didn't convey exactly what I was trying to say. I balked a bit, and was told that Richard L. Evans, then of the Seventy and magazine editor, had asked that the changes be made. I remembered Brother Lee's counsel. I had to submit. Now, though that article is piled under thirty-five years of paper, I'm glad, very glad, that if someone digs it out, I was "invited" to change it.
After one of my first general conference talks, I received a call from Joseph Anderson. In a very polite way he said that President McKay and his counselors suggested that I add one word to the text of my talk. Would I mind doing that? Actually the word was in my text, I just failed to read it at the pulpit. A most embarrassing lesson - the First Presidency! It was easier when Elder Evans corrected my work; even easier when one of my associates was kind enough to do it.
Only last Friday while putting together some things for a presentation, I read part of it to some brethren from BYU. I noticed they looked at one another at one place in my reading, and I stopped and asked if there was a problem. Finally one of them suggested that I not use a certain scripture that I had included even though it said exactly what I wanted to convey. How dare they suppose that a member of the Twelve didn't know his scriptures! I simply said, "What do you suggest?" He said, "Better find another scripture," and he pointed out that if I put that verse back in context, it was really talking about another subject. Others had used it as I proposed to use it, but it was not really correct. I was very glad to make a change.
Now you may not need a correlating hand in what you do, but I certainly do. This brother lingered after the meeting to thank me for being patient with him. Thank me! I was thankful to him. If I ever make that presentation, it will only be after some of our Correlation staff have checked it over for me.
Now I give you all full credit for knowing more about your work than anyone else - more, certainly than the staff of the Correlation Department. That is how it should be, for you are hired or called to be a specialist. I also know from experience how easy it is to get turned around, and, as Brother Lee warned, to face the wrong way.
Perhaps too many of us are strong advocates of our own specialized work or are such strong protectors of our own turf that we face the wrong way - maybe just sideways.
However much you know about your work, I doubt that you know, or have the time to learn, as much as do the Correlation staff about how your work interacts with everything else that is going on. The Council of the Twelve Apostles is the Correlation Committee, with the President of the Twelve and the two senior members acting as the executive committee. Correlation is the one department where they are hired to be generalists. They represent the Brethren in pointing out to you areas where you, in one detail or another, might, in the interest of the overall program, need to make an adjustment or two.
The principle of correlation is a sound principle. Without it, we could not possibly administer an ever-growing multi-national and multi-lingual church. Its full purpose is yet to be realized.
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