President Packer Leaves a “Legacy of Christlike Love”

Contributed By Gerry Avant, Church News editor

  • 10 July 2015

Sister Donna Smith Packer looks on as pallbearers load the casket of President Boyd K. Packer into the hearse following funeral services in the historic Tabernacle on Temple Square, July 10, 2015.

“From the islands of the sea, from the hamlets in faraway places with strange-sounding names, from the hearths and homes of the many whose lives he blessed comes a resounding expression of gratitude, ‘Thank you, Father, for such a man as Boyd K. Packer.’” —President Thomas S. Monson

“Boyd Kenneth Packer knew the Lord, and the Lord knew him. I have a firm testimony of this truth,” declared President Thomas S. Monson of his longtime friend and General Authority colleague who died July 3.

Speaking during President Packer’s funeral on July 10, President Monson lauded the late President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for his ability to express gospel truths, “a gift he shared freely with the world.“

”He was inspired and talented as a teacher. ... He possessed the ability to turn complex ideas into language easily understood by all. He taught with power and with authority.”

Also speaking at the funeral were two of President Packer’s fellow Apostles, Elder Dallin H. Oaks and Elder M. Russell Ballard. Elder Allan F. Packer, a son and member of the Seventy, also spoke. President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency, conducted the service. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, and Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles were out of the country. All other members of the Quorum of the Twelve were in attendance.

President Packer, 90, had served as President of the Quorum of the Twelve since 2008 and previously served 14 years as the quorum’s Acting President. He was called as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles 45 years ago, after having served nearly nine years as an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve.

“From the time he was called to serve in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1970 until I was called as a counselor to President Ezra Taft Benson in 1985, President Packer and I sat side by side in our quorum meetings and in many other meetings,” President Monson said. “During the past 50-plus years, we served together on dozens of committees and Church boards. We filled countless assignments together throughout the world. Our friendship is one of long standing.”

President Monson said, “President Packer’s deep and abiding testimony of the Savior and of the gospel has been heard throughout the world and has touched and blessed countless lives. He fulfilled the scriptural mandate to ‘lift up the hands which hang down.’ He remembered the fatherless and the widows in their affliction. He gave of himself for the blessing of others. He lived as he taught, after the pattern of the Savior whom he served. Throughout his life he provided a model for others to follow.”

“Boyd Kenneth Packer knew the Lord, and the Lord knew him,” said Church President Thomas S. Monson during the concluding remarks at the funeral for President Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the historic Tabernacle, July 10, 2015.

Donna Packer, wife of President Boyd K. Packer, and her family watch as the casket of her late husband enters the Salt Lake City Tabernacle on Friday, July 10, 2015. Photo by Laura Seitz, Deseret News.

President Monson spoke of how President Packer ministered to those in need and also took special care of the Brethren with whom he served. “In my mind’s eye I can still see him entering our weekly council meeting, pushing Elder LeGrand Richards in his wheelchair after Elder Richards lost the ability to walk. Such was typical of the help Boyd Packer provided.”

President Monson said that a few weeks ago he and his counselors in the First Presidency—President Henry B. Eyring and President Dieter F. Uchtdorf—visited President Packer and his wife, Sister Donna Packer, in their home, where he had the opportunity to give President Packer a blessing. “As we placed our hands upon his head, we felt of the love of our Heavenly Father for this, His servant,” President Monson said.

After expressing condolences to Sister Packer and other members of the family, President Monson said, “President Packer is no foreigner nor stranger where he has gone, but a fellow citizen with the noble brethren with whom he served. Last Friday afternoon, God touched him, and he slept. His eternal spirit is now free from a body worn by work and impaired by illness. He has gone to that paradise for which he is so well qualified. He leaves to his family and to all of us who knew him a legacy of Christlike love and devoted service.

“From the islands of the sea, from the hamlets in faraway places with strange-sounding names, from the hearths and homes of the many whose lives he blessed comes a resounding expression of gratitude, ‘Thank you, Father, for such a man as Boyd K. Packer.’”

Elder Oaks said that in addition to his sacred calling as an Apostle, President Packer will best be remembered as a teacher. “He was always teaching. He taught by example, he taught by talks and books, he taught by individual counsel, and he taught in small groups, such as in the instruction he gave in various meetings of General Authorities.”

Donna Packer listens during the funeral service for her husband, President Boyd K. Packer. The service was held in the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Friday, July 10, 2015. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles remembered President Boyd K. Packer as a teacher during his funeral on Temple Square, July 10, 2015.

He mentioned some of those teachings. “He always taught entire loyalty to the leadership and decisions of the President of the Church. … Priesthood ordinances and covenants were uppermost in President Packer’s mind. He loved and promoted the use of the scriptures. And he was renowned for his focus on the central and eternal importance of the family.

“He taught that the study of doctrine will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior. This encouraged us to teach doctrine and principle rather than rules.

“While all of the Twelve are teachers, Elder James E. Faust observed many years ago that Elder Packer was ‘a teacher in the Twelve.’ …

“He repeatedly reminded the Twelve of the importance of each individual member of the Church, especially those who were struggling financially. He sometimes said, ‘We should always act as if they are present here in our councils.’

“He challenged us to qualify as Apostles, with special emphasis on testifying of Jesus Christ and achieving prophetic vision. His fervent testimony and his unusual gift of seership were an inspiring example to all of us.”

Elder Oaks said that President Packer often said he was “resigned” to his health challenges and entirely submissive to the will of the Lord. “He felt he would be just as happy teaching and testifying on either side of the veil,” he said.

He spoke of President Packer's way of teaching, his forthrightness of saying what needed to be said rather than being concerned with what people might think or if they might find his sermons uncomfortable to hear.

Elder Oaks said President Packer was known to those who worked with him personally to be warm and witty.

Of President Packer’s teaching about death, Elder Oaks quoted from a message President Packer delivered at a funeral in 1985. Speaking of Alma’s teaching that it would destroy the great plan of happiness if man did not suffer “temporal death” (Alma 42:8), President Packer said:

“‘Do not think it strange to find happiness and death standing together in the same verse of scripture. Mortal death is necessary to the plan of salvation.’”

In his remarks, Elder Ballard said, “President Packer was a master teacher, and I have always tried to be a good student. He taught me the importance of listening and finding answers to life’s questions by feeling and knowing the Spirit and power of God. As I have often said of him, he is an Apostle of the Lord from the crown of his head to the soles of his feet. He wore out his life in the service of the Savior of the world.

Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke at the funeral of President Boyd K. Packer in the historic Tabernacle on Temple Square, July 10, 2015.

The First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles sit during the funeral service for President Boyd K. Packer in the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Friday, July 10, 2015. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.

Elder Richard G. Scott and Elder Robert D. Hales attend the funeral service for President Boyd K. Packer in the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Friday, July 10, 2015. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.

“For many years, President Packer felt an urgency to see that the Church help prepare families for the future by teaching them of our Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. He constantly taught that gospel truths are in the scriptures and we should study and live by them. The ordinances and covenants of the priesthood were always on his mind, and he earnestly felt they needed to be explained to all of God’s children so they might have faith and seek the pathway toward eternal life.

“His anxious desire that people throughout the world have the message of the restored gospel in their lives was of constant concern to him.”

Elder Ballard described President Packer as a true shepherd of the General Authorities. “When anyone was ill, he always seemed to be the first one to call or visit,” he said.

He noted that President Packer grew up in very humble circumstances and consequently his mind and heart always related to those in and out of the Church who were struggling to raise families with limited resources.

“Those of us who had the privilege to know Boyd K. Packer personally were constantly impressed by his sense of humor and quick wit. Somehow, he would have an appropriate and humorous response to almost any situation. An illustration of that wit was when, on an occasion he was discussing his health, President Packer noted that “the only difference between being old and young is age.”

President Thomas S. Monson sits with President Henry B. Eyring prior to the funeral service for President Boyd K. Packer in the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Friday, July 10, 2015. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.

President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency conducts the funeral service of President Boyd K. Packer in the historic Tabernacle on Temple Square, July 10, 2015.

President Packer, Elder Ballard said, was blessed with a love of life and learning. “There was never a time when I got into a conversation with him that he did not know and understand at a very high level the topic we were discussing. He was a talented speaker, teacher, and artist. He had a wealth of understanding and a deep appreciation for all of God’s creations, including a great love of nature: the birds, the flowers, the trees, the animals, even a love of the heavens and the universe itself.

“Boyd K. Packer was a great defender of the Church and kingdom of God and a teacher of the pure doctrine of Jesus Christ. He knew that men are not perfect and that, occasionally, mistakes are made, but he knew that this is the Lord’s Church and that He is at the helm. … President Packer could overlook faults and human frailties and could see the divine in people and in this great Church.”

Elder Allan F. Packer, a son and member of the Seventy, said that to the family, President Packer is known as husband, father, and especially grandpa. He directed his remarks to the family.

Elder Allan F. Packer of the Seventy addressed President Boyd K. Packer’s numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren during funeral services for his father, who served as a General Authority of the Church for more than 50 years, July 10, 2015.

He quoted from “Our Legacy,” goals Boyd and Donna Packer set together when they married. They wrote:

Faith in daily living and in the future,

Courage in times of trial,

Power in family unity,

Service to God and Mankind,

Vision of eternities together.

Later this line was added: “We are covenant keepers.” This hangs on a wall in their home.

“As Grandpa, who described himself as an ordinary man, embarked on the journey of life with his sweetheart, he decided to give to the Lord that what the Lord would never ask for nor take. Grandpa willingly gave his agency to the Lord. He committed to do whatever the Lord asked him to do. With this gift to God, the Lord began to mold this couple to become extraordinary servants. There came to this family 10 children, 60 grandchildren, and 111 great-grandchildren, with the last one arriving last Monday.”

Elder Packer said, “Grandpa has now graduated—he has taken the next step. You and I and Grandpa have two parts, a body and a spirit that are combined when we are born. When a person dies, the body and the spirit temporarily separate.

“Grandpa has taught that the spirit and the body are like a hand and a glove. Just as a hand fits inside a glove, our spirit fits inside of our physical body to give it life when we are born. When we wiggle our fingers the glove will move. When our spirit is inside our body, the body can move. When a person dies, it is like taking the hand out of a glove. Without the hand in the glove, it is still. When a person dies, the body becomes still, but the spirit remains alive. That describes what has happened to Grandpa.

“Because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, when the right time comes, Grandpa’s spirit will fit back into his body, never to be separated again. This is called the Resurrection.

Family members of President Boyd K. Packer wait to enter the Salt Lake Tabernacle for his funeral on Friday, July 10, 2015. Photo by Laura Seitz, Deseret News.

Family members of President Boyd K. Packer wait to enter the Salt Lake Tabernacle for his funeral on Friday, July 10, 2015. President Packer leaves behind 10 children, 60 grandchildren, and 111 great-grandchildren. Photo by Laura Seitz, Deseret News.

“I know that Grandpa still is alive, and if we are worthy, we will see him again.”

Elder Packer expressed gratitude to the many people who assisted President Packer over the last few years when he needed extra help and to those who have sent letters and emails of condolence and sympathy.

He said his father “has a deep testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He knows it is true. He served for more than 50 years as a General Authority of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. …

“Some things in life are important. Others are critically important. The home and the family are critically important things. Grandpa has taught, ‘The ultimate end of all activity in the Church is to see a husband and his wife and their children happy at home.’“

Elder Packer said that in 1992 President Packer started a poem he called the “Unfinished Composition.” He added another section each 10 years. He quoted it as part of his conference talk in April 2013 entitled, “These Things I Know.” The last part includes these verses:

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,

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 will kneel before His wounded feet;

I will feel His Spirit glow.

My whispering, quivering voice will say,

“My Lord, my God, I know.”

Elder Russell M. Nelson and Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles offered prayers at the funeral.

Pallbearers were President Packer's sons and sons-in-law. Members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and President Packer's grandsons and great-grandsons served as honorary pallbearers.

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, accompanied by Tabernacle organists Richard Elliott and Andrew Unsworth, sang ­­­­­­three hymns, “Does the Journey Seem Long?” “The Wintry Day, Descending to Its Close,” and “Come unto Him.”

Interment was in the cemetery in President and Sister Packer’s hometown, Brigham City, Utah.

Attendees line up for the funeral service for President Boyd K. Packer in the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Friday, July 10, 2015. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.

 

Pallbearers remove the casket of President Boyd K. Packer from the hearse prior to entering the historic Tabernacle on Temple Square in Salt Lake City, July 10, 2015.

 

The casket of President Boyd K. Packer enters the historic Tabernacle on Temple Square in Salt Lake City, July 10, 2015.

 

Sister Donna Smith Packer, surrounded by family, follows the casket of her husband, President Boyd K. Packer, as it enters the historic Tabernacle on Temple Square as members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Presidency of the Seventy reverently show their respect, July 10, 2015.

The casket is brought into the Salt Lake Tabernacle during the funeral service for President Boyd K. Packer on Friday, July 10, 2015. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.

Sister Donna Smith Packer surrounded by family at the funeral of her husband, President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, in the historic Tabernacle on Temple Square, July 10, 2015.

 

The funeral service for President Boyd K. Packer, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, is held Friday, July 10, 2015, in the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.

Thousands of people gathered in the Tabernacle on Temple Square in Salt Lake City for the funeral of President Boyd K. Packer, July 10, 2015.

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir provided the music during the funeral of President Boyd K. Packer, July 10, 2015.

Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles expresses condolences to Sister Donna Smith Packer following the funeral services of President Boyd K. Packer in the historic Tabernacle on Temple Square, July 10, 2015.

Donna Packer, wife of President Boyd K. Packer, and her family watch as the casket of her late husband exits the Salt Lake Tabernacle after the funeral service on Friday, July 10, 2015. Photo by Laura Seitz, Deseret News.

People gather near the Brigham City Utah Temple as the funeral cortege for President Boyd K. Packer passes by, Friday, July 10, 2015. Photo by Ravell Call, Deseret News.

Garrett Mosser, 7, and his brother Colton, 9, and others watch as the funeral procession for President Boyd K. Packer heads to the Brigham City Cemetery on Friday, July 10, 2015. Photo by Laura Seitz, Deseret News.