Remember that one about youth being generals in the war in heaven?
I have heard that it began life as a bit of overblown rhetoric from an EFY speaker. (If anyone can confirm or deny that, please do tell.)
It then was attributed to President Packer. (Or, sometimes, another member of the Twelve.)
It made the rounds.
In an unusual move, President Packer debunked it in a Church News article.
Apparently that didn’t cut it. I heard it again, over the pulpit, from a local priesthood leader within the last year. I debated over whether I should say anything to him, but when the seminary teacher made a beeline to him after the meeting asking for a copy, I felt that I had to say something. He insisted that he had found it on lds.org (but later realized the mistake and, to his credit, corrected it over the pulpit.)
And still it lives. A recent letter from the First Presidency was released debunking it again. (Note that the link appears to be a summary of the statement with some quotations from it and not the statement itself.) I find it interesting that priesthood leaders are asked to correct anyone who perpetuates it.
It is interesting to me that I have heard this quote–this false doctrine–many times, but always by speakers with the very best intentions. I’ve never heard it from someone who was interested in tearing down the kingdom by sullying the doctrine and confusing the Saints. We often speak of false doctrines (whether in times ancient or modern) as the tools of those intent on hindering the Lord’s work. But this one has found its footing among stalwart Saints. Perhaps we need to re-evaluate our thinking about false doctrine and apostasy and motives. We don’t need glinty-eyed priests in the second century in order to end up with an apostasy; all we need is good-hearted people without access to authoritative revelation or authoritative correction.
I’m curious as to why this quote is so popular. I think it finds a footing in some combination of our strengths and weaknesses. For example, people who share it seem to want to build up and motivate the youth (that’s a good thing). But perhaps they think the regular ‘ol gospel won’t do it–they need some superlatives, some celestial fireworks to get the message across. In short, the combination of a good-hearted motivation to help the youth combined with a desire for some fancy footwork (and lack of trust in the plain vanilla basics) to do it seems to cause the problem here.
The long life of this statement reveals another flaw in LDS culture: we’re willing to repeat things we haven’t bothered to verify. Anyone who types in “generals in the war in heaven” at lds.org will get zero results. Anyone who googles it will find that (almost all) of the references on the first page debunk it. I think we need to emphasize that you can’t just recycle every statement with quotation marks around it that gets handed to you on a pretty handout. Please make it a personal policy never to repeat a quotation in a talk or lesson if you have not sourced it yourself.