President Packer’s son remembers father’s lifelong devotion to family

Credit: Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Credit: Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Credit: Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Credit: Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Credit: Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Credit: Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Credit: Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Credit: Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

For millions of Latter-day Saints, President Boyd K. Packer was a trusted apostle and priesthood leader who served as a General Authority for more than half a century.

But for his family, he was much, much more. Boyd Packer was a beloved husband, father and grandfather.

“My father was a private individual, so many people may not know about his family life,” observed Elder Allan F. Packer, President Packer’s eldest son and a member of the Seventy.

Elder Packer spoke with the Church News a few days after his father’s death on July 3. He said President Packer knew that his Church calling made him a public figure across the globe. But he and his wife, Sister Donna Packer, worked hard to raise their 10 children in a typical Latter-day Saint home far from any spotlight or privilege.

“When we were growing up, my parents were anxious for us to have the typical opportunities and experiences of life,” he said. “Our home life was very normal.”

Even after the children grew up, moved away and started their own families, the Packer home remained the family gathering place. It is still a favorite destination for grandchildren of all ages.

“My parents’ home was always open,” said Elder Packer with a smile. “My father loved to have the family drop in. And my mom always had food — so that was a draw.”

The Packers’ home in the Salt Lake Valley includes a large back yard with many trees, a pond and other natural features. It’s an inviting spot for birds and animals and an ideal place for raising active children. President Packer kept plenty of tools and building supplies on hand so he and his children — and later, his grandchildren — could work together on outdoor projects.

A well-educated man, President Packer possessed a keen intellect. He was a skilled writer and orator. But he was equally capable and comfortable working with his hands. He knew his way around a hammer, a saw and a chisel.

“He built his own birdhouses and he enjoyed sharing his interests and talents with his children,” said Elder Packer. “When the children grew up, he included the grandchildren and the great-grandchildren.”

Elder Packer said the many family projects were more than mere hobbies. Each activity offered President Packer opportunities to share life lessons and gospel truths.

“My father would create projects that would bring us together for a common objective and then, while we were working on a project, he would teach.”

Those teachings, added Elder Packer, helped the Packer children hone skills that have served them well throughout their lives in many capacities.

President Packer’s apostolic assignments took him to all corners of the world. He met with important government leaders. He was recognized in distant lands. But he always regarded himself as a typical Brigham City, Utah, boy who had been given atypical duties.

“He considered himself to be a regular person with a normal background and upbringing,” said Elder Packer. “As a boy, he worked in his father’s garage, and he always felt a close tie to Brigham City. It was his anchor and his home.”

President Packer approached gospel matters with reverence — but he didn’t take himself too seriously. Relatives and friends enjoyed his gentle humor and his witty habit for dropping old phrases at opportune times.

One of his favorites: “Use it up. Wear it out. Make it do, or do without.”

President Packer celebrated his lifelong love of nature and wildlife through his artwork. As a little boy, he sketched birds and other animals that lived around his hometown. He also taught himself how to carve wood. His artistic creations — which would ultimately be displayed in museum galleries — doubled as personal testimonies of the Lord’s creations.

That interest in the natural world also sharpened his observational skills and spiritual sensitivity, said Elder Packer. He learned to recognize evidence of the gospel all about him.

Since President Packer’s death, the Packer family is humbled and comforted by the many kind words, prayers and actions of others. Elder Packer expressed thanks and appreciation to all who have sent letters of sympathy or offered their condolences. @JNSwensen

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