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Rooted in heritage of Brigham City's pioneers

President and Sister Packer reflect on family history

"Roots."

That single word recurs often when President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve and his wife, Sister Donna Smith Packer, speak of Brigham City, Utah.

They both have ancestors who settled there and in nearby communities of northern Utah's Box Elder County. Both were born and grew up in Brigham City. They married in the Logan Utah Temple in 1947, after which they moved into their first home together in Brigham City, where they lived until he was appointed in 1956 as a supervisor of Church seminary and institutes. Six of their 10 children were born in Brigham City.

Temple stands on site of Central School, shown around 1903. Boyd K. Packer began attending the school in 1930 at age 6.
Temple stands on site of Central School, shown around 1903. Boyd K. Packer began attending the school in 1930 at age 6. Photo: USU Special Collections, Merrill-Cazier Library

It is little wonder that they felt joy and humility when they learned a temple would be built in "the pretty little town" where their families' roots are deep. (President Packer claims that meadowlarks everywhere sing, "Brigham City is a pretty little town.")

During the October 2009 general conference, President Thomas S. Monson announced plans to build the Brigham City Utah Temple. In recognition of President Packer's deep roots in Brigham City, President Monson has appointed President Packer to preside over the temple's dedication and offer the dedicatory prayer on Sept. 23.

"I didn't propose there be a temple in Brigham City," President Packer said as he and Sister Packer spoke recently with the Church News in their home. "The Brethren brought that up. My contribution was not objecting. The same was true of the dedication; I didn't assign myself to that. I am glad I was assigned to it. I am grateful."

Aerial photos of the new Brigham City Utah Temple.
Aerial photos of the new Brigham City Utah Temple. Photo: Photo by Stuart Johnson, Deseret News

President Packer said he wasn't involved with the selection of the temple site. "One day, President Monson called and invited me to go with him to Brigham City," President Packer said. "The site he selected was a full city block with nothing on it, right in the center of the town, like it was just waiting for a temple to be built on it, and across the street east to the Brigham City Tabernacle, once called the Box Elder Tabernacle."

President Packer was very familiar with the temple site. On it once stood Central School, which he attended as a boy, entering first grade there at age 6 in 1930. He attended many meetings in the tabernacle across the street. He said it was at a meeting there when he was 8 that he received witness that George Albert Smith was an apostle of the Lord. Elder Packer, as a member of the Twelve, rededicated the tabernacle in 1987 after it had undergone renovation. "My mind was flooded with memories," President Packer said of standing on the site of the future temple.

Pausing for a photo during visit to see the Brigham City Utah Temple are, from left, David and Susan Packer, Sister Donna Packer, President Boyd K. Packer, and Elder Allan and Terri Packer.
Pausing for a photo during visit to see the Brigham City Utah Temple are, from left, David and Susan Packer, Sister Donna Packer, President Boyd K. Packer, and Elder Allan and Terri Packer. Photo: Photo courtesy President Boyd K. Packer

On July 31, 2010, President Packer presided over the ceremony to break ground for the temple and offered the prayer to dedicate the site. Since then, he and Sister Packer have watched the progress of the temple's construction.

During his conversation with the Church News, he reflected on the significance that a temple — a great school, a house of learning for the eternities — now stands on the land once occupied by the elementary school that helped provide a foundation for his academic learning.

Sister Donna Packer and Pres. Boyd K. Packer.
Sister Donna Packer and Pres. Boyd K. Packer. Photo: Photo courtesy President Boyd K. Packer
Boyd K. Packer and Donna Smith Packer, shown on their wedding day July 28, 1947, grew up in Brigham City and began their married life there. Six of their 10 children were born in Brigham City.
Boyd K. Packer and Donna Smith Packer, shown on their wedding day July 28, 1947, grew up in Brigham City and began their married life there. Six of their 10 children were born in Brigham City. Photo: Photo courtesy President Boyd K. Packer

President and Sister Packer spoke of some of the sacred work that is performed in temples, including ordinances in behalf of one's ancestors. It is a topic close to their hearts.

Jonathan Taylor Packer, President Packer's great-grandfather who came to the Salt Lake Valley in the second company of pioneers in the early fall of 1847, moved to Brigham City in 1860. President Packer's grandmother, Christina Sundby Packer, ran the town's co-op store.

Sister Donna Edith Smith, circa 1946
Sister Donna Edith Smith, circa 1946 Photo: Photo courtesy President Boyd K. Packer

Sister Packer's grandfather, Rasmus Julius Smith, and his mother, Juliane Sorendsdatter, were Danish immigrants who arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in 1854; young Julius walked the entire distance from Kansas City, Mo., where they and other Scandinavian Saints had joined a pioneer company for the westward trek. He and his mother went directly to settle in Brigham City with other Scandinavian settlers.

Julius married Josephina Beckman in 1871. He walked 22 miles from Brigham City to Logan every Monday morning and returned every Saturday as he helped build the Logan temple (see "In grandpa's footsteps," Church News, July 8, 2012). Josephina braided rugs for the temple's floors.

Boyk K. Packer family photo. Packers with sons Allan and Kenneth.
Boyk K. Packer family photo. Packers with sons Allan and Kenneth. Photo: Photo courtesy President Boyd K. Packer
Pres. Packer at the time of his high school graduation,  1942.
Pres. Packer at the time of his high school graduation, 1942. Photo: Photo courtesy President Boyd K. Packer

Of his and Sister Packer's ancestors, President Packer said, "They started with practically nothing and built lives that brought us to where we are, to live in comfort. There are blessings they earned for us. We have an obligation to them."

Sister Packer referred to an address, titled "They of the Last Wagon," delivered by President J. Reuben Clark Jr., during the October 1947 general conference. Principally, President Clark spoke of "the meekest and lowliest of … those great souls majestic in living testimony of the truth of the restored gospel … in name unknown, unremembered, unhonored in the pages of history, but lovingly revered round the hearthstones of their children and their children's children who pass down from generation to generation the story of their faith and their mighty works, and the righteousness of their lives. …"

Sister Packer said, "My grandfather was just a hod carrier; there wasn't anything lower than that in building the temple. He wasn't skilled, but he worked on the temple and on the Brigham City Tabernacle. He and the others didn't get discouraged. When a fire came to the Brigham City Tabernacle (in 1896), what did they do? They rebuilt. Grandpa Smith was part of the rebuilding."

Pres. Packer being sworn in as a city councilman, 1952.
Pres. Packer being sworn in as a city councilman, 1952. Photo: Photo courtesy President Boyd K. Packer

Patting President Packer's arm, she said, "We both feel very fortunate that we came from those stalwart pioneers that just didn't give up. When challenges came along, they just faced them and moved ahead."

President Packer said, "Those pioneers are part of our lives. Some of their homes are still there. We doubt any of them even thought about a temple being built in Brigham City."

Pres. Packer, sons Kenneth, Allan, David and Sis. Donna Packer.
Pres. Packer, sons Kenneth, Allan, David and Sis. Donna Packer. Photo: Photo courtesy President Boyd K. Packer
President Packer's father, Ira Wright Packer, owned Packer's Garage on Brigham City's Main Street; the top floor was converted into a large apartment so the family could be closer to work and school.
President Packer's father, Ira Wright Packer, owned Packer's Garage on Brigham City's Main Street; the top floor was converted into a large apartment so the family could be closer to work and school. Photo: Photo courtesy President Boyd K. Packer

And now there stands a temple right in the center of town, rooted in the heritage of President and Sister Packer's ancestors and other pioneers who are "revered round the hearthstones of their children and their children's children."

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Temple facts

When dedicated, the Brigham City Utah Temple will be the Church's 139th operating temple worldwide, and the 14th in Utah. It will serve more than 40,000 members living in northern Utah and southeastern Idaho in 13 stakes.

President Thomas S. Monson who, as President of the Church, announced plans to build the temple, has invited President Boyd K. Packer, President of the Quorum of the Twelve, to preside over its dedication on Sept. 23 and offer the prayer to dedicate the temple.

Announced: October 3, 2009.

Groundbreaking: July 31, 2010.

Public open house: Aug.18-Sept. 15, excluding Saturday, Sept. 8, and Sundays.

Dedication: Sunday, Sept. 23, 2012, in three sessions — 9 a.m., noon and 3 p.m.

Location: 250 South Main Street, Brigham City, Utah; across the street from the Brigham City Tabernacle.

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