No, it’s not what you’re thinking. I believe this story is from when he served as mission president in New England, 1965-68, and I’m still not quite sure what to make of this story, other than that President Packer is not always the “hard-liner” he is made out to be.
“Scientific neglect can be a respectable procedure in discipline.
One missionary came into the mission field with some serious physical deformities. He was withdrawn, self–conscious, and retiring, particularly around girls. I had him examined by several doctors. Then I wrote to a friend of mine and told him I needed a substantial amount of money. He responded immediately with a check, the only condition being that he remain anonymous. With the cooperation of some able professional help, the deformities were corrected and the missionary was transformed in his appearance. Immediately his behavior changed.
Then I began receiving reports that he was breaking mission rules. I did not show much interest in the reports, although inwardly I was delighted. A few weeks later the problem came to a head when my missionary assistants reported that at a stake conference this missionary had left his companion and had gone up to the balcony to sit with a girl. There had been other times also, they said, when he had left his companion to go talk with the girl.
It was only after a long discussion that they understood I was doing something about the matter. I was treating it with scientific neglect. When the right times comes, I told them, the elder will either return voluntarily to observing the rules or he will be pulled back to observe the rules—but that “pulling” will be ever so gentle.
In a short time, when he was convinced that the transformation was permanent and that there would be time for all of the things he had been kept from enjoying during his earlier years, the elder did return to being a missionary. During his period of breaking the rules it took some faith to believe that he would not overreact and get himself into difficulties so serious we would be required to apply severe punishment. But my faith in him was justified.