According Peggy Fletcher Stack writing in the SLTrib (21 Nov 2011):
Ronald E. Poelman, an emeritus LDS general authority known as a gentle leader who spoke often of service, unselfishness and forgiveness, died Saturday at his SLC home. He was 83.
Unfortunately (or fortunately), he will be remembered for a conference talk he gave (or did not give) in 1984. According to Pure Mormonism:
Elder Poelman began his talk by reminding the congregation that there is an important difference between the gospel and the Church. “There is a distinction between them which is significant”, he said, “and it is very important that this distinction be understood.”
Poelman cautioned that failure to distinguish between the two, and to comprehend their proper relationship, could lead to “confusion and misplaced priorities”.
The gospel, he explained, is the substance of the divine plan for personal, individual salvation and exaltation. The Church, on the other hand, is the delivery system that provides the means and resources to implement that plan.
Elder Poelman admonished the congregation to remain mindful that every church member has not only the right, but also the obligation to exercise his free agency and receive a personal witness not only of gospel principles, but also of Church practices. “In response to study, prayer and by the influence of the Holy Spirit we may seek and obtain an individual, personal witness that the principle or counsel is correct and divinely inspired.”
And the punchline was:
“As individually and collectively we increase our knowledge, acceptance, and application of gospel principles, we become less dependent on Church programs. Our lives become gospel centered.”
Some among the brethern were not too excited about the punchline, and Elder Poelman was encouraged to retape his speech with the “controversial” lines either taken out or rewritten. The version of the talk which appeared in the Ensign magazine was also censored.
Let’s all honor Elder Poelman for his strong belief in “free agency.”