Pres. Packer: individual of varied interests, talents, traits

Set apart March 12 for the second time as acting president of the Council of the Twelve, President Boyd K. Packer is known among colleagues and close associates as a modest individual of varied interests, talents and traits.

Foremost, he is a husband, father and grandfather who cherishes family life, and who includes in the realm of family those ancestors whose records and stories he and his wife have researched and whose temple work they have done themselves or have fostered.He is recognized as a disciplined student who, already having an understanding of the doctrine contained in the scriptures, searches the sacred books to comprehend their principles. He is lauded as a master teacher who has great ability to pass along his understanding and comprehension to others. He is appreciated as a man whose wit, though quick, is never unkind.

In Faith Precedes the Miracle, President Spencer W. Kimball wrote of an incident that typifies the insight and intuition, the compassion and comprehension of President Packer. President Kimball wrote of a sacrament meeting that Elder Packer, then an Assistant to the Twelve, had attended in Cuzco, Peru, in 1964. President Kimball described the scene of a little boy who was dirty and dressed in tattered clothes – apparently an orphan who lived on the streets – who came to the open doorway of the chapel during the sacrament service.

"Almost unobserved, he slyly came to the sacrament table and, with a seeming spiritual hunger, leaned against the table and lovingly rubbed his unwashed face against the cool, smooth white linen," President Kimball wrote.

The child was sent back into the street by a woman sitting on the front row. "A bit later the little urchin, seemingly compelled by some inner urge, overcame his timidity and came stealthily, cautiously down the aisle again, fearful, ready to escape if necessary," President Kimball wrote.

"From his seat on the stand, Elder Packer caught his eye, beckoned to him, and stretched out big welcoming arms. After a moment's hesitation, the little Lamanite ragamuffin was nestled comfortably on his lap, in his arms, the tousled head against the great warm heart – a heart sympathetic to waifs, and especially to little Lamanite ones."

The compassion that swells President Packer's heart, sometimes shown in tear-filled eyes and emotion-choked voice, grew from the example of his parents. He was born in Brigham City, Utah, Sept. 10, 1924, the 10th in a family of 11 children to Ira W. and Emma Jensen Packer.

In an interview with the Church News for the July 21, 1985, issue, President Packer, then a member of the Council of the Twelve, said: "In a number of my talks, I've told how my mother taught us lessons very early in life. One was an incident where their house nearly burned down. She had stayed home because she had an impression not to go to town with her family. She told us to always follow the promptings of the Spirit."

He said his mother, thinking she was being taken advantage of, once turned away a boy who was begging at her door. "For 50 years, she taught us to never turn away those who have need of our help," President Packer said.

President Packer was encouraged as a young boy to read, to study the world around him. His Danish mother spread newsprint on the floor where he would sprawl and draw. He considered becoming a professional artist. He eventually created beautiful paintings, either in oils or acrylics, and illustrated several books. He became an expert carver of wood, creating life-like birds perched on leaves and blossoms he sculpted from copper.

At age 21, when he was a bomber pilot during World War II stationed on an Okinawan island in 1945, he strolled a lonely beach, pondering his future. He decided to become a teacher. After the military, he enrolled at Weber College, now Weber State University, in Ogden, Utah. He next attended Utah State University in Logan, from which he graduated a member of Phi Kappa Phi, the national honorary scholastic society.

President Packer credits his wife, Donna Smith Packer, for making it possible for him to pursue a career in education and, later, to serve as a General Authority. They married in the Logan Temple 47 years ago, but he still refers to her as "my bride." They are parents of 10 children, and have 51 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Sister Packer has been a profound influence in President Packer's life. Her willingness to be centered in family life and to encourage him in service, he said, are fundamental reasons for his progress.

Encouraged by his wife in his chosen profession, he taught seminary for six years, during which time he completed his work for a master of education degree at Utah State University. His work in the seminary at Brigham City included opening the first Indian seminary and adding a fourth-year Book of Mormon course, which thereafter became standard in the seminary curriculum. As a member of the Church's Scriptures Publication Committee, he was instrumental in the publishing of new editions of the scriptures.


Pres. Boyd K. Packer

  • Born Sept. 10, 1924, in Brigham City, Utah to Ira W. and Emma Jensen Packer.
  • Served in U.S. Army Air Corps, 1942-46.
  • Married Donna Smith in Logan Temple, July 29, 1947; parents of 10 children, they have 51 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
  • Received bachelor's degree, 1949, master's degree, 1954, from Utah State University; doctorate in educational administration from BYU, 1962.
  • Called as Assistant to the Twelve, Oct. 1, 1961.
  • Served as president of New England States Mission, 1965-68.
  • Called to Council of the Twelve, April 9, 1970.
  • Set apart as acting president of Council of the Twelve June 5, 1994; and again March 12, 1995.