Not long after I had joined the faculty at Brigham Young University, I was asked to meet with Bruce Hafen, who had previously served as the president of Ricks College and as dean of BYU’s law school and who would later serve as a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy and as president of the St. George Utah Temple but who was, at the time, serving as the University’s provost — essentially its second in command and chief operating officer.
Incidentally, BYU hadn’t had a provost for very long at that point, and it doesn’t have one now. So, one year, Brother Hafen invited members of the faculty to submit definitions for the term provost. The winning entry was “most like Provo.”
We visited in his office for about half an hour, and I was beginning to wonder what the meeting was about. There were simply too many members of the faculty — even too many new members of the faculty — for the provost to spend a half hour with each of them.
“You’re probably wondering what this is about,” Brother Hafen suddenly remarked.
I admitted that I was.
He then explained to me that Elder Boyd K. Packer, of the Quorum of the Twelve, had asked him to locate somebody on the faculty with whom he (Elder Packer) could discuss Islam. Brother Hafen thought that I had passed the “test.”
He advised me that, with the General Conference of the Church approaching, Elder Packer probably wouldn’t contact me for a few weeks.
I went back to my office where a longtime friend, visiting from California, was waiting for me. (Many here would recognize his name.). He was a Church member with distinctly liberal inclinations, both politically and theologically; we’ve long since lost contact, so I don’t even know whether he’s still an active Latter-day Saint.
I may be mistaken, but I don’t think that I said anything to him about my conversation with Bruce Hafen.
A few minutes into our conversation, my office telephone rang. I apologized and took the call. Perhaps I had mentioned the reason for my visit with Bruce Hafen; that would explain my friend’s response to the phone call: “Who is it?” he asked, laughing. “Darth Packer?”
As a matter of fact, it was Elder Packer. We had a pleasant conversation for just a few minutes. He wanted to make contact with me, and said that he would be in touch. However, time passed, he was busy, and we didn’t talk again for a while.
To be continued.