COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS, Utah — Bearing testimony of the temple’s sealing power and of eternal life, President Russell M. Nelson, President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, assured the family of Sister Donna Edith Smith Packer that they would be with their mother and grandmother again some day.
“Thanks to the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and thanks to Donna’s exemplary life as a devout covenant-keeper, her future is glorious,” President Nelson said.
Sister Packer, wife of the late President Boyd K. Packer who served as president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, was memorialized Monday, March 14, during funeral services at the Sandy Utah Cottonwood Creek Stake Center. She passed away Saturday, March 5, at age 94 from causes incident to age.
In attendance at the funeral services were the entire First Presidency: President Nelson and his counselors, President Dallin H. Oaks and President Henry B. Eyring; President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Elder Quentin L. Cook and Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; representatives of the Presidency of the Seventy, Presiding Bishopric and other general authorities and officers of the Church; and several emeritus general authorities; and their spouses.
President Nelson remembered Sister Packer as a model wife of a general authority for more than six decades. “She is a true matriarch, a saintly mother of 10 faithful children and a righteous, ever-growing posterity,” he said. “Donna’s loving kindness has blessed the lives of others around the world and beyond.”
President Nelson taught about covenants and eternal life in his remarks. He quoted what President Joseph F. Smith revealed years ago about life and death: “The righteous spirit that departs from this earth . . . is born again into the paradise of God.”
That glorious existence is “what we know as eternal life,” explained President Nelson. “In time, Donna and Boyd will be joined by their children and their great posterity to experience the fullness of joy that God has in store for His faithful children.”
He explained that the most important date in Sister Packer’s life was July 28, 1947, when she was sealed to her husband in the Logan Utah Temple.
President and Sister Packer “made a covenant, a covenant to each other, a covenant to God. When they were sealed in the holy temple it made it possible so that their 10 children were born in that covenant. They have remained faithful to that covenant.”
President Nelson said Sister Packer will help prepare a place for each precious and beloved member of this noble family. “One day, each one, if worthy, shall see the glorified, redeemed, exalted and perfected Donna Smith Packer, mother, sister, saint and daughter of the living God.”
President Nelson spoke for the other General Authorities and officers of the Church in “expressing our gratitude to Donna and President Boyd K. Packer for their efforts to make all our lives just a little bit better, a little happier, and better focused on the Lord and His gospel. We all want to be more like them.”
He read from Proverbs 31 to apply to Sister Packer, starting with verse 10 which reads, “Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.” Verse 29 he read thus: “Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou [dear Donna] excellest them all.”
Lessons from the raspberry patch
A daughter, Gayle P. Kezerian, said her mother was named Donna after the dawn of each new day, and she loved the dawn. Another daughter, Kathleen P. Bullock, spoke about how their family would go out in those early morning hours to work together in the raspberry patch.
As they worked together at dawn, their mother would guide the conversation to talk about their ancestors — and about the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“Those exchanges were the greatest treasure of all,” said Bullock. “I learned I belonged to an eternal family that reaches generations into the past and extends generations into the future. The stories my mother taught me in the raspberry patch taught me to follow eternal truths.”
Sister Packer taught the children hard work and a love of family history, said Kezerian, as she worked hard to take names to the temple. “Her diligent efforts have brought the saving ordinances to thousands of ancestors,” she said.
Both Kezerian and a son, Elder Allan F. Packer, an emeritus General Authority Seventy, said their mother understood Malachi 4:6: “And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers.”
They also both quoted a poem written by their father, about an ancestral home in England, called Groombridge Place:
“Our heritage, like life itself, we keep and yet pass on.
In doing so, we pay the debt we owe to those now gone.
What came from them, we hold in trust — stored treasure that will last.
Like Groombridge Place, our lives are built on footings from the past.”
Sister Packer had been named Brigham City Peach Queen in 1946, and after she married President Packer in 1947, he called her his queen.
Bullock said recently she sat in her mother’s favorite blue chair and opened her scriptures. There she found a folded copy of, “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.”
Her mother had underlined several words, and wrote “happiness” in the margin and pointed an arrow to the line in the proclamation that says, “Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
She also wrote “teamwork” in the margin and underlined the word “work.” Bullock said her mother knew it was a team effort.
“She and Dad were unified in their desire to raise a happy family in righteousness and to support each other,” said Bullock. “Mom was the one who kept the home fires burning. She willingly took care of everything on the home front, so that Dad could be focused on the special errand the Lord had given him to do. It was never a chore for her, she loved being Dad’s companion, and she loved being our mother.”
Her son, Elder Packer, also added: “As we pay tribute to Mom, we can hardly do so without recognizing Dad, because the two of them were a team. They were one.”
Their mother knew the principles in the Family Proclamation were true, and she lived them, said Bullock. “Mom’s eternal life, whether in the raspberry patch or standing at the pulpit, was all about sharing and exemplifying the teachings of Jesus Christ.”
Sister Packer had a firm and unwavering testimony, said Kezerian, and her favorite place was in her home, with her family.
Sister Packer’s legacy
Elder Packer expressed gratitude for all the General Authorities and leaders who were at the funeral. He joked that with all the descendants in the room, they almost needed to plan a stake conference.
The Packers had 10 children, 60 grandchildren, 157 great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandchild.
Elder Packer expounded upon his parents’ love of family history. He said his father said many times that there might be a few people who would greet him beyond the veil, but there would be thousands that were waiting for Sister Packer.
When Elder Packer performs sealings in the Draper Utah Temple, he said he points out the mirrors on each wall — and how the reflection represents all those ancestors who came before and all the descendants who will come after.
“We are committed to those sealing ordinances that link our families,” said Elder Packer. “We honor our parents who taught and more importantly modeled that,” he said.