Elder Allan F. Packer grew up baling hay, milking cows, feeding pigs and picking fruit as many young men did in rural Utah in the early 1950s.
Outside of learning to pray at the knee of an angel mother and hearing the gospel taught by one of the Lord's anointed, his life was as normal as any of his friends.
"We felt like an average family growing up," said Elder Packer. "Mom and Dad tried to keep our lives normal despite his calling as a General Authority."
The oldest of 10 children in the home of President Boyd K. Packer, president of the Quorum of the Twelve, and his wife, Donna Packer, Elder Packer shouldered much responsibility with chores at home and working on his grandfather's farms.
In the process, he learned to work.
"Even when he's exhausted, he keeps working," said his wife, Terri Bennett Packer. "His ethic is to work until the job is done, and done well. Being tired means nothing. It never occurs to him to quit before the work is completed."
Called to serve in the First Quorum of the Seventy in the April general conference, Elder Packer was called upon early in life to adjust to his father's responsibilities, sometimes at the expense of his own desires.
"I was interested in sports as a young man," said Elder Packer during a recent Church News interview, describing how he played middle linebacker and center on his Hillcrest High School football team.
He had success as an underclassman and eagerly anticipated his senior year. Then his father was called to preside over the New England Mission, headquartered in Cambridge, Mass.
Whether to pursue his dream perhaps his last opportunity to shine in athletic competition and earn a college scholarship or follow the family across the country to a new home and life was a challenge to the 17-year-old.
"Coming from a large family with limited resources, I felt a scholarship was my best chance for a college education," he said. But contrary to the pleadings of the football coach, Elder Packer left with his family and embarked on an adventure that ever so gently guided him from the joys and passion of his youth toward a life of service in the Church.
Here he would meet his future wife and leave for his mission in South America.
"I met Sister Packer during the service where I baptized my younger sister," he said. "She played the piano and gave a talk."
From the baptismal service they recognized each other's talents. So when opportunity arose for a double date, Sister Packer coaxed a friend into encouraging the young Allan Packer into asking her.
"When you see someone as good as he is, you have to make the effort," she said.
"She is quite the lady," Elder Packer responded. "Even then as a junior in high school it was obvious that she was talented."
After he left to serve in the Andes Mission then comprised of Peru, Ecuador and Colombia she felt to experience the spiritual growth he was undergoing and set to learning Spanish, and served as a volunteer missionary at the Hill Cumorah Pageant. Motivated by his enthusiasm for ham radio, she earned an operator's license.
Such devotion, coupled with her regular weekly letters, motivated Elder Packer to propose marriage less than three weeks after his return.
Two weeks prior to their marriage June 1, 1970, Elder Packer was called to serve in their BYU ward bishopric at age 21 and then ordained a high priest.
"I knew from the beginning of our marriage that I wouldn't be sitting with him in Church," she said. During the next 30 years, while raising eight children, they figured they sat together as a family for short stints here and there for a total of three years.
If they couldn't be together on Sundays, the Packers organized their schedules to be together during the week, often gardening in their yard.
"To teach kids how to work, you have to be with them, to show and teach them," said Elder Packer. "Children need to be somewhere, doing something all the time. If parents don't make plans, then friends and other activities will be substituted."
Such investment in family relationships built strong ties that sustained the family when he was called to preside over the Spain Malaga Mission in 2001. Missing the birth of four grandchildren, the marriage of a son, the death of her father and their sons' graduations tugged at heart strings, but "the Lord softened the experience," Sister Packer said.
"Our experience is: The blessings of service always outweigh the sacrifice."
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