4 things we’ll never forget about President Packer


President Boyd K. Packer died July 3 of causes incident to age. He was 90. (Photo courtesy Mormon Newsroom)

Boyd K. Packer, president of Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, died at home Friday, July 3, of causes incident to age. He was 90 years old.

The Church will announce details regarding funeral arrangements as they become available.

Packer was called as president of the Quorum of the Twelve on Feb. 3, 2008, when President Thomas S. Monson was ordained as President of the Church following Gordon B. Hinckley’s death. Packer was called as a member of the Twelve in 1970 after serving for nearly nine years as an assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

President Packer was born Sept. 10, 1924, in Brigham City, Utah, to Ira W. and Emma Jensen Packer. He contracted polio as a child—though it wasn’t diagnosed until years later—and had to re-learn how to walk as a young boy. In his later years, Packer received surgeries that remedied many of the effects of his disease, which he wrote about in a poem entitled “Unfinished Composition.” He read it an April 2013 General Conference address:

A metal hip erased my limp; / I walk quite straight again. / Another plate holds neck bones fast— / A wonderful creation! / It backed my polio away; / I’ve joined the stiff-necked generation.
A young Boyd K. Packer in the 1930s. (Photo courtesy Mormon Newsroom.)

A young Boyd K. Packer in the 1930s. (Photo courtesy Mormon Newsroom)

Like many of his generation, President Packer served in World War II and so never served a full-time proselyting mission for the Church. He enlisted in the Army Air Force in 1943 and became a pilot. He served as a bomber pilot in the Pacific Theater and was stationed in Japan for nearly a year after the war ended.

President Packer knew that he wanted to be a teacher. When he returned from Japan, he enrolled at what is now Weber State University in Ogden. He earned an associate’s degree from Weber in 1948 and a bachelor’s degree from Utah State University in 1949. He continued his education at Utah State and received a master’s degree in 1953. Nine years later in 1962, President Packer received a doctorate in educational administration from Brigham Young University.

Boyd and Donna Packer were married in the Logan Temple, July 27, 1947. (Photo courtesy Mormon Newsroom.)

Boyd and Donna Packer were married in the Logan Temple, July 27, 1947. (Photo courtesy Mormon Newsroom)

During those years in school, President Packer worked as a seminary teacher and Coordinator of Indian Affairs at a federally run school for Native American Students. He also served a four-year term as a city councilman in Brigham City. In 1955—two years after receiving his master’s degree—President Packer became an assistant administrator of seminaries and institutes.

President Packer met his wife, Donna Edith Smith—also a Brigham City native—at Weber State. They married in the Logan Utah Temple on July 27, 1947. They have 10 children.

In “Unfinished Composition,” President Packer wrote of his youth:

I had a thought the other night, / A thought profound and deep. / It came when I was too worn down, / Too tired to go to sleep.
I’d had a very busy day / And pondered on my fate. / The thought was this: / When I was young, I wasn’t 68!
I could walk without a limp; / I had no shoulder pain. / I could read a line through twice / And quote it back again.
I could work for endless hours / And hardly stop to breathe. / And things that now I cannot do / I mastered then with ease.
If I could now turn back the years, / If that were mine to choose, / I would not barter age for youth, / I’d have too much to lose.
I am quite content to move ahead, / To yield my youth, however grand. / The thing I’d lose if I went back / Is what I understand.
Elder Boyd K. Packer holding the new editions of the scriptures, 1982. (Photo courtesy Mormon Newsroom.)

Elder Boyd K. Packer holding the new editions of the scriptures, 1982. (Photo courtesy Mormon Newsroom)

Parable of the Mediator

President Packer grew in understanding through his many years as a teacher, a husband, a father and an apostle. He gave many landmark teachings that became popular in the Church, bringing gospel understanding to the masses in accessible, simple ways.

President Packer related the story of “The Mediator,” a parable for the atonement in which a young man fails to pay a debt and is saved from justice through the mediation of a friend, in an April 1977 General Conference address. It was subsequently made into a short film used in seminary classes, which is now available online.

The Holy Temple

President Packer is the author of The Holy Temple, which was first published in June 1980 by Bookcraft, Inc. The book is widely used to prepare Church members for temple worship and to enhance the understanding of previously endowed Church members.

In the book, President Packer “examines in appropriate detail the doctrines and practices surrounding the holy temples that dot the world.” After more than 30 years since the book was published, it remains the go-to source for information about LDS Temples and the parent of the pamphlet “Preparing to Enter the Holy Temple.”

Focus on the Family

The Boyd and Donna Packer family, 1961. (Photo courtesy Mormon Newsroom.)

The Boyd and Donna Packer family, 1961. (Photo courtesy Mormon Newsroom)

Throughout his ministry but especially during the controversial years of Proposition 8 in California and other debates regarding the traditional family unit, President Packer’s remarks were always firm in defending the doctrine of the family.

In his October 2010 General Conference address “Cleansing the Inner Vessel,” President Packer spoke plainly:

“There are both moral and physical laws ‘irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world’ that cannot be changed. History demonstrates over and over again that moral standards cannot be changed by battle and cannot be changed by ballot. To legalize that which is basically wrong or evil will not prevent the pain and penalties that will follow as surely as night follows day.

“Regardless of the opposition, we are determined to stay on course. We will hold to the principles and laws and ordinances of the gospel. If they are misunderstood either innocently or willfully, so be it. We cannot change; we will not change the moral standard. We quickly lose our way when we disobey the laws of God. If we do not protect and foster the family, civilization and our liberties must needs perish.”

Elder and Sister Packer in the Tabernacle at general conference, April 1970. (Photo courtesy Mormon Newsroom.)

Elder and Sister Packer in the Tabernacle at general conference, April 1970. (Photo courtesy Mormon Newsroom)

Dedication of Brigham City Temple

President Packer dedicated the Brigham City Utah Temple on Sept. 23, 2012. As a native of Brigham City, President Packer had a special interest in the temple. It was the 139th temple in the Church and the 14th in Utah.

With his death, President Packer’s “Unfinished Composition” draws to a close. The final words of his poem read:

I now can say with all certainty / That I know and love the Lord. / I can testify with them of old / As I preach His holy word.
I know what He felt in Gethsemane / Is too much to comprehend. / I know He did it all for us; / We have no greater Friend.
I know that He will come anew / With power and in glory. / I know I will see Him once again / At the end of my life’s story.
I’ll kneel before His wounded feet; / I’ll feel His Spirit glow. / My whispering, quivering voice will say, / “My Lord, my God, I know.”

Breanna Olaveson worked in the magazine industry before taking her writing from full-time to nap time with the birth of her first daughter. Her work has appeared in the Ensign, Liahona and New Era magazines, as well as Utah Valley Magazine, Utah Valley BusinessQ, Utah Valley Bride and the Provo Daily Herald. She lives in Utah county with her husband and three children. She blogs at www.breannaolaveson.com.

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