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President Boyd K. Packer, champion of families, master teacher, resolute defender of LDS doctrine, dies at 90

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SALT LAKE CITY — President Boyd K. Packer, president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and next in line to be president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, died Friday surrounded by family at home at about 2 p.m. He was 90.

President Packer was the fifth longest-serving general authority in the faith's history, among those who became apostles, and had served with other leaders who knew the church's founders. Across more than a half-century of church leadership, he became well-known and well-loved among Latter-day Saints as a champion of families, a master teacher, an artist and a bold, determined defender of doctrine — a role that sometimes attracted criticism that he met with resolve and stoicism.

“He was truly an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. From the crown of his head to the soles of his feet, he represented the Savior of the world,” said Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, in a statement released Friday by the church.

A modest man — a World War II bomber pilot too complex for the swashbuckling Hollywood stereotype — his private nature shrouded the humor, caring and lovingkindness known to family and associates.

President Packer believed one of his greatest contributions as a church leader was the publication of the LDS edition of the scriptures, including the Bible, a combination he described as "the library of the Lord." (See additional story.)

At his death, he also was one of two remaining LDS apostles who were at the pivot point of the most "earthshaking" change in the church in the 20th century — the 1978 revelation that extended the church's priesthood to all worthy males and temple blessings to all worthy members.

In recent years his body, afflicted with polio as a boy, began to fail him, while his mind remained sharp. In a concession to age and ailment, he sat in a large, maroon chair rather than standing at the podium to deliver the final eight of the 107 general conference talks he gave during his ministry.

His biographer wrote that his early commitment to obedience was a central motivating force in his life. In fact, he displayed rare and prodigious determination as a boy who wanted to become a pilot, as a pilot who decided to become a teacher and as an apostle who determinedly taught and defended church doctrine.

Place in history

President Packer's age and experience made him increasingly unique within senior LDS leadership. Born in his beloved Brigham City, Utah, on Sept. 10, 1924, and raised during the Depression, he spent more than 53 years as a general authority of the church.

Only four apostles served as general authorities longer — David O. McKay, Heber J. Grant, Joseph Fielding Smith and Wilford Woodruff — each having served as church president.

Ordained in 1970, President Packer and current LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson, who is 87 and was ordained an apostle in 1963, represent a distinct, closing era in church history: The new senior member of the Quorum of the Twelve, Elder Russell M. Nelson, was ordained an apostle in 1984.

President Packer also was one of two remaining leaders who served in the discontinued position of Assistant to the Twelve; the other was Elder Robert D. Hales. He was 37 when he was ordained to that calling and became a general authority on Oct. 6, 1961 (two years before President Monson became a general authority).

As an Assistant to the Twelve, then-Elder Packer's job was to help — and learn from — a quorum full of men with ties to the very beginning of the church. Six months after his call, he said, "I have worked with them at close view for these number of months. I have seen humanity, and I have seen dedication. I have seen work, and I have seen work and I have seen work. I have seen humility, and I have seen righteousness. I sustain the General Authorities of the Church."

He felt a deep connection to the quorum's head, President Joseph Fielding Smith. Born in 1876, President Smith was the son of late church president Joseph F. Smith and the grandson of the martyr Hyrum Smith, who had served as an assistant president of the church to his brother Joseph Smith, the faith's founder.

Three other living senior church leaders at the time were born even earlier than President Smith. All of them knew or were raised by Latter-day Saints who had crossed the plains in 1847. They all were old enough to remember the church before the Manifesto that ended polygamy in 1890 and Utah before statehood in 1896.

After most of the men in that 1961 quorum had died, he described "a certain loneliness" and lamented the sense of security he felt when he had access to President Smith or Elder LeGrand Richards, who had known Wilford Woodruff, the fourth president of the church.

"These senior Brethren have told me so many things that I am a product of their conveying to me the unwritten history of the church," President Packer said.

President Packer eventually would work and work and work as he'd seen others do. During his ministry, he made 273 visits to 81 countries outside the United States, according to his secretary.

Sure 'witness'

Following the death of President David O. McKay, then-Elder Packer was ordained an apostle on April 9, 1970, by the new head of the church, his revered President Smith. President Smith had been ordained an apostle by his father, Joseph F. Smith, who had been ordained an apostle by Brigham Young.

President Packer so seriously took his new role as one of those safeguarding the church that his 1995 biography was titled "Boyd K. Packer: A Watchman on the Tower." The watchman on the tower in ancient Israel had a perspective that allowed him to warn of approaching danger, a metaphor for modern prophets and apostles in the LDS worldview.

That seriousness was rooted in more than loyalty. The "great spiritual turmoil" President Packer experienced while a B-24 bomber pilot during and after World War II had changed the course of his life. One sleepless night in 1945, soon after a hurricane ravaged the island where he was stationed off the coast of Okinawa, the 21-year-old prayed in a bunker of stacked 50-gallon drums filled with sand.

On his knees under a brilliant array of stars, he received what he described as "a testimony, a witness, the witness."

"From that time to this," he later wrote, "my challenge has not been with obedience, nor with resolution or diligence; it has been with restraint!"

In the ensuing days, the pilot decided the Lord had given him a sure witness, and that he would give the Lord his life. "I don't care what you do with me," he said in prayer, "and you don't have to take anything from me because I give it to you — everything, all I own, all I am."

He gave it with what he would call a Danish determination. He did not consider that witness a calling at the time, but it became the foundation for the calling from President Joseph Fielding Smith in April 1970 to be a "special witness of the name of Christ in all the world," as modern apostles are described in LDS scripture.

He felt "obliged to bear that special witness" and to watch over the church.

"A number of his brethren recognize in Elder Packer the gift of sensing drifts, trends and directions that would alter or endanger the course of the unseen, or spiritual core of the church," wrote his biographer, Lucile Tate. "To its leaders, the church is a sanctuary in which are kept the pure gospel of Jesus Christ and the crucial ordinances which have the power to bless the Father's children and bring them back to him."

Defender of doctrine

Tate said President Packer took seriously "the apostolic responsibility" of a watchman — in part to be on the lookout, he said, for "a trend that will take us where we do not want to go; a teaching that seems harmless and appealing on the surface but will destroy the faith of our youth; individuals who cannot take counsel nor get beyond ego, and thus will drag themselves and others down."

He taught Latter-day Saints that their spirits learn differently than their intellects. His warnings all urged listeners to nurture their spirituality — or the spirituality of those with whom they had influence or for whom they had responsibility.

He raised alarms against immorality the "disease of profanity," bad music, the "plague of pornography," and substances that “interfere with the delicate feelings of spiritual communication" — coffee, tobacco, liquor and drugs.

A prodigious worker with remarkable recall who was known to devote hundreds of hours of research, analysis and prayer to an issue, he tackled the toughest issues of the day, including church history, intellectualism and secularism, the deterioration of families and what he once called "spiritually dangerous lifestyles," including abortion and gay-lesbian relationships.

"He does not skirt issues to save feelings," Tate wrote; "rather he is a courageous and caring critic... ."

He told Tate his directness didn't always serve him well. She wrote, "Elder Packer's direct thrust to the heart of an issue is one of his most characteristic traits, and it causes his brethren to acknowledge, with him, that he is not always a diplomat. He focuses on issues and is concerned about where they eventually will lead."

Tate wrote that while his critics would call him controversial, dogmatic and bigoted, he did not waver. Multiple times, he said he and the church might stand alone but had to stand on principle.

Serene, composed

"There is a position of truth — strong, powerful, steady," he told religious educators at BYU in 1970. "Somebody has to stand, face the storm, declare the truth, let the winds blow, and be serene, composed, and steady in the doing of it. ... Who are we anyway? Are we the ones who were born to be immune from persecution or from the penalties in connection with living and preaching the gospel?"

He said the church could not change because some wished or wanted it, because the Lord's words are "not to be adjusted by experiments or theories of men," Tate wrote.

"What has happened since 1830 did not come about because we followed the wisdom of men," he said at a 1991 BYU fireside. "It came because we followed the light described in the scriptures."

"The ultimate authority in the field of religion ... is held by a group of ordinary men called from many walks of life ... who are ordained as apostles, sustained as prophets, seers and revelators and presided over by one authorized to exercise all the keys of spiritual authority existing upon the earth."

At BYU in 2004 he said, "We may one day stand alone, but we will not change or lower our standards or change our course."

Revered by the majority of Mormons the world over, his sturdy resolve clashed at times with some groups.

Mormon intellectuals and a faction of scholars who study LDS history chafed when he delivered a 1981 talk he titled, "The mantle is far, far greater than the intellect."

Some critics resented his statement that "Some things that are true are not very useful," though others called it an obvious, self-evident statement. The talk was delivered to church-employed seminary and institute teachers at a Church Educational System symposium on the BYU campus. It recalled his past experiences as a supervisor of seminaries and institutes, when he had to confront church-employed teachers who had stopped teaching about the spiritual side of church history.

The talk argued that to be truly accurate, scholarly histories of the church should require a more comprehensive picture than solely secular histories provide.

"There is no such thing as an accurate, objective history of the church," he said, "without consideration of the spiritual powers that attend this work."

"In the church we are not neutral," he added. "We are one-sided. There is a war going on, and we are engaged in it. It is the war between good and evil, and we are belligerents defending the good. We are therefore obliged to give preference to and protect all that is represented in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and we have made covenants to do it.

"We are not free to do some of the things that scholars think would be so reasonable, for the Lord will not permit us to do them, and it is His church. He presides over it."

In 1993, President Packer issued a warning that the church faced danger from three movements, including "so-called scholars or intellectuals." That fall several intellectuals faced church discipline in their respective local congregations, and some critics concluded President Packer was behind it.

A few months later, the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve issued a joint statement saying that general authorities do not direct decisions of local disciplinary councils and reiterating the singular unanimity that characterizes decisions made by the faith's two leading councils.

“We have the responsibility to preserve the doctrinal purity of the church," the statement said. "We are united in this objective."

These incidents led some to criticize President Packer as being "anti-intellectual." His biographer reported that criticism was "personally painful to him," in part because with his educational doctorate he, too, was Dr. Packer. Characteristically, he did not respond.

“When Boyd is on to something that needs to be said, he is willing to pay the price to address an unpopular subject," the late Elder Neal A. Maxwell said. "A seer must do that, for if he is seeing ahead of the crowd, he is going to speak out and take the criticism that comes. But Boyd subjugates himself to the need, and he doesn’t ask any of us to defend him or try to explain him. He only wants our love and support.”

Another former colleague in the Twelve, Elder Dallin H. Oaks, said President Packer could be "austere" because he did not invite familiarity.

"When some academicians ... come in contact with Elder Packer, they feel uncomfortable because he will remind them that they are first Latter-day Saints and second, professionals in their fields."

Elder Oaks was the president of BYU when Elder Packer gave bold talks on that campus.

"Now, just to put this in perspective," Elder Oaks said, "I would estimate that during my administration the people who took issue with Brother Packer, or who didn't understand his intent, were only 5 to 10 percent. Perhaps another 30 percent didn't listen with comprehension, so had no problem. The remaining 60 percent listened carefully, understood what was intended, and said, 'Amen. That was great!"

President Packer expressed love and urged all to be civil to people who experience same-gender attraction, but despite criticism never waved from explaining the critical place in LDS theology of marriage between a man and a woman.

Champion of family

American Mormons are more likely to marry and on average have more children than people in other faiths. The reason is that family and marriage between a man and a woman are interconnected with salvation and temple ordinances in LDS theology.

Early in his ministry as an Assistant to the Twelve in 1963, then-Elder Packer clearly taught the preeminence of home and family within the church and its doctrine.

"The center core of the church is not the stake house," he said; "it is not the chapel; that is not the center of Mormonism. And, strangely enough, the most sacred place on the earth may not be the temple, necessarily. The chapel, the stake house and the temple are sacred as they contribute to the building of the most sacred institution in the church — the home — and to the blessing of the most sacred relationships in the church, the family."

At the end of his ministry, in his final general conference talk in April, he repeated one of his standard teachings about the family.

"Over the years," he said, "I have frequently taught an important principle: The end of all activity in the church is to see that a man and a woman with their children are happy at home, sealed together for time and for all eternity."

He also taught that when a man and a woman go to the temple to be married, they start a new church unit, an eternal unit essential to God's plan for progression and exaltation. As children are born to them, he said, they create a kingdom.

He said the role of church leaders was to strengthen the home.

"We do not build the church out of wards and branches and stakes and districts," he wrote. "We build the church out of families and individuals."

Family would be the center core of his life, too.

Master teacher

President Packer resolved to become a teacher while stationed on a small island in Japan before the end of World War II. Two years earlier, during pilot training after he had enlisted in 1943, he had learned the lesson that would become a fundamental of all of his teaching.

He and other pilots went to Washington State University for a crash course in meteorology, navigation and physics. "We thought the title 'crash course' was not encouraging to student pilots," he cracked. The joke masked insecurity.

A high school graduate, he was to compete with pilots who had some college or advanced training in a class that would go from basic math through calculus in a few weeks. However, the professor, a Dr. Schaefer, announced he would teach to the beginners. President Packer passed with ease.

"Dr. Schaefer's example inspired me to try to the best of my ability to teach basic, simple truths in the most understandable way," he said.

One writer said his ability to teach principles with simple everyday examples was a gift. Allan Packer said his father labored resolutely to develop it. President Packer spent dozens of hours on each talk working to make principles easier to understand.

"I have learned," President Packer would say, "how very difficult it is to simplify."

He applied the principle to teaching about the central figure in LDS theology.

“I have carried with me a great desire to bear testimony of the Lord, Jesus Christ," he said in one conference talk. "I have yearned to tell you, in as simple terms as I can, what He did, and who He is."

Spiritual crocodiles

He used comparisons as a teaching tool to unlock intangible principles.

“Tie the invisible idea ... to some tangible object the student already knows about, and then build from that knowledge,” he wrote in his landmark book, "Teach Ye Diligently" — an expansion of his master's thesis, "An Evaluation of the Teaching of Jesus in Terms of Selected Principles of Education."

His use of the method created memorable images for millions of Mormons. Among the most famous: He compared prayer to a radio beam and said repentance is like soap. He compared spiritual experiences to the taste of salt: Both can be difficult to describe but are real. He taught children about life, death and resurrection with the image-rich analogy of a hand representing the spirit fitting into a glove representing the physical body.

He impressed Whitney, the PBS filmmaker, with a classic conference talk in which he related a personal experience "in order to teach a lesson not easily learned." During a tour of Africa, a mission president surprised him with a one-day safari on his birthday.

They watched skittish animals arrive at a drying water hole reduced to little more than some muddy spots. He asked the guide why the antelope would not drink.

"Crocodiles," the guide answered.

Ever the naturalist, President Packer had studied and knew all the animals of Africa, and he scoffed; he could see no crocodiles. The guide insisted; President Packer resisted. The guide drove closer. Still President Packer saw nothing. Finally he made out the form of a crocodile "settled in the mud."

He was ashamed by his smart-aleck responses to the guide, but he hoped young people hearing the story would remember his lesson about spiritual crocodiles that kill or mutilate souls and destroy peace of mind. He said parents and church leaders are guides or rangers who raise warnings.

"Our assignment," he said, "is to see that you get through mortality without being injured by these spiritual crocodiles."

He taught his children the same way. Elder Allan F. Packer said that when he was 10, he told his father he didn’t always feel that he was getting answers to his prayers. President Packer used another analogy.

Pilots don’t use their parachutes every time they fly, he said, but they always wear them. He encouraged Allan to continue to pray, to be patient and to have faith answers would come.

"That lesson helped me through the early years of developing my testimony," Elder Allan Packer told the Ensign.

President Packer began to earn recognition as a great teacher as soon as he took an LDS seminary teaching job in 1949. His ability, orthodoxy and loyalty earned attention. In 1955, he was appointed supervisor of church seminaries and institutes.

His calling as a general authority in 1961 expanded the reach of his skill.

"As a master teacher, he has had a profound impact upon the church," said Clyde J. Williams, who compiled President Packer's teachings in the 2008 book "Mine Errand from the Lord: Selections from the Sermons and Writings of Boyd K. Packer."

Teacher in the Twelve

His colleagues in the Quorum of the Twelve came to rely on his gift.

“Elder Packer is very much a teacher,” the late Elder James E. Faust said in 1986. “While all of the Twelve are teachers, he’s a teacher in the Twelve.”

His insistence on including the spiritual in all things was a hallmark.

“We can become teachers, very good ones, but we cannot teach moral and spiritual values with only an (intellectual or) academic approach," he said. "There must be spirit in it.”

Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Twelve said President Packer was a prophet and "a gifted seer" because of his "deep comprehension" of scripture, which was illustrated when late church President Gordon B. Hinckley turned from the pulpit in a meeting to ask for a Book of Mormon. President Packer handed him his copy, in which he had notes in most of the margins and had marked numerous passages. President Hinckley thumbed through it, turned and handed it back, saying, “I can’t read this. You have got everything crossed out!”

He believed and taught that the gospel of Jesus Christ changed lives for the better. One of his quotes became a linchpin in the church's Addiction Recovery Program manual, which was based on the 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous.

"The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior," he said. "Preoccupation with unworthy behavior can lead to unworthy behavior. That is why we stress so forcefully the study of the doctrines of the gospel."

His final General Conference address on April 4, 2015, titled "The plan of happiness," he used a comparison to teach — and testify — that Christ also provides healing.

"Our spirits are damaged when we make mistakes and commit sins," he said. "But unlike the case of our mortal bodies, when the repentance process is complete, no scars remain (on our spiritual bodies) because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

Another hallmark was his clarification of the LDS doctrine of agency, the foundation upon which he said all other doctrines are founded. He taught that the term "free agency" is not scriptural. While agency is the freedom to choose, it doesn't include freedom from responsibility, accountability or consequences. He repeatedly taught that the correct — and scriptural — term is "moral agency."

He often said the greatest discovery and greatest commitment of his life came during that prayer where he gave his life to God in the days after he received his sure witness in that bunker on a Japanese island. The prayer was a decision to "loan or yield" his agency to God.

He never gave the details of that experience, but in the Spiritual Crocodiles talk he said, "That was a great trial for me, for I thought I was giving away the most precious thing I possessed. I was not wise enough in my youth to know that because I exercised my agency and decided myself, I was not losing it. It was strengthened!"

Soon after his call as an apostle, he explained further in a speech at BYU.

"Obedience — that which God will never take by force — he will accept when freely given," he said. "And he will then return to you freedom that you can hardly dream of — the freedom to feel and to know, the freedom to do, and the freedom to be, at least a thousandfold more than we offer him.

"Strangely enough, the key to freedom is obedience."

Priesthood revelation

In a 1975 prayer, Elder Packer “pleaded with the Lord that the way be opened for those from whom the priesthood is withheld."

At the time, and ever since Brigham Young announced the policy in 1852, the church did not ordain black men to the priesthood or allow black men or women to participate in temple ordinances. By the 1970s, several LDS prophets and apostles had wrestled with that policy for decades.

In June 1971, Elder Packer was part of an apostolic committee with Elder Gordon B. Hinckley and Elder Thomas S. Monson that met several times with three black LDS men about the challenges faced by black church members. The three apostles suggested a new church unit for blacks in Salt Lake City. More than 40 years later, the Genesis Group still meets today.

By June 1977, church President Spencer W. Kimball had been struggling with the issue for years. He invited Elder Packer, Elder Monson and Elder McConkie to write memos to him on the subject of blacks and the priesthood, which they did.

"President Kimball was concerned about that for several years. He was praying about it, going to the temple about it, and then he called a meeting of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the temple."

On June 1, 1978, President Kimball called a meeting of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the Salt Lake Temple. According to the biography of President Kimball by his son, Edward, "Elder Packer spoke at length, explaining his view that every worthy man should be allowed to hold the priesthood. He quoted scriptures (D&C 124:49; 56:4-5; 58:32) in support of the change."

President Packer recalled the moment in an interview with filmmaker Helen Whitney for the 2007 PBS documentary "The Mormons."

"We counseled together — we do a lot of counseling — and then we had a prayer circle around the altar of the temple," he said. "The answer came."

The answer was that the priesthood should be extended to "every faithful, worthy man in the church" regardless of race or color.

President Kimball told his son Edward the revelation was "the most important thing to happen in the church since the Manifesto” in 1890. "It is," he told his daughter, Olive Beth Kimball, "the most earthshaking thing that has happened in my lifetime."

President Kimball asked Elders Packer, Hinckley and McConkie to each draft an announcement. Elder Packer suggested a letter to local church leaders around the world. The drafts were combined and edited into a letter, which was sent to local leaders and released to the media. It immediately drew worldwide attention.

Family man

He married Brigham City's Peach Queen, Donna Smith, in the Logan Temple in July 1947. By his 90th birthday in September, they had 103 great-grandchildren and 60 grandchildren, a legacy provided by their 10 children — Allan, Kenneth, David, Laurel, Russell, Spencer, Gayle, Kathleen, Lawrence and Eldon.

They were married for nearly 68 years. (married July 1947) He also spoke of his love for her in his final conference talk.

"When it comes to my wife, the mother of our children, I am without words," he said. "The feeling is so deep and the gratitude so powerful that I am left almost without expression. The greatest reward we have received in this life, and the life to come, is our children and our grandchildren. Toward the end of our mortal days together, I am grateful for each moment I am with her side by side and for the promise the Lord has given that there will be no end."

Their oldest child, Elder Allan F. Packer of the Seventy, said his parents worked hard to make home life normal. "He focused on family not because of his ministry but because that was his focus as a father."

The Packer children worked hard outdoors with their father, and he always let them help with his artwork. He taught the church that the best teaching moments were when they were working with their children or when children ask questions. The Packers willingly dropped anything when a child had question because that indicated the child was ready to learn at that moment.

President Packer revered the example of his parents. The 10th of 11 children born to service station operator Ira W. Packer and Emma Jensen Packer, he honored his parents by carving a door knocker tied to a special story of their love. He later cast the knocker in bronze and gave a replica to each of his children. The tradition now continues with every one of Ira's and Emma's descendants.

The knocker represents the 1947 centennial of the Mormon pioneers arrival in the Salt Lake Valley. Ira and Emma joined the reenactment, driving from Nauvoo, Illinois, to Salt Lake. Ira rigged a cloth wagon top over the roof of the car and attached a plywood ox on each front fender. He branded one ox with his initials, the other with hers, then told his children the oxen represented “the best team that ever pulled together in this life.”

The brass knocker is a yoked ox. When visitors lift the yoke to knock, they can see those initials on the underside of the bow.

Ira Packer made the transition from his father's trade as a blacksmith fixing wagons to fixing early automobiles, but he struggled for many years building up his garage business and later a motor company.

“Sometimes in my growing years I thought we were poor,” President Packer said. “I later learned that that was not true. We just didn’t have any money.”

He learned to work at an early age. One of his first jobs was pulling cockleburs out of the family orchard and collecting them in a little lard bucket.

“It was not a get-rich-quick scheme at all,” he said.

Wit and artistry

Tate, his biographer, said he was a quick wit. Profiles written about him regularly mentioned his keen sense of humor. He rarely told jokes but was known for spontaneously responding to the moment.

A classic example came at the end of a triple date in high school. He and his friends dropped off each of the girls off at their homes then headed for the Packer garage to drop off Boyd. As they passed the parked car of a local police officer, another of the boys convincingly imitated a siren, an illegal device in a private car.

The officer jumped in his car, whipped it around and, lights flashing, followed the boys to the garage. There he confronted them: "All right, fellows, where's the siren?"

Instantly, Boyd said, "We just took her home."

Art and the outdoors were among his loves.

“I would rather be outside than inside any day, any time, in any weather," he said. "As a boy, I spent much of my time roaming the mountains, gathering feathers or birds for my collection."

In his spare time, he carved and painted life-size birds from wood, sculpting from copper the leaves and blossoms on which they perch. He also painted birds in acrylic and oil. For many years, he and his wife kept a pen of peacocks, pheasants and other fowl, so he had plenty of birds to use as models for his artwork.

"You don't really get to know him until you've walked through the forest with him," said his late, longtime friend and fellow general authority, President A. Theodore Tuttle. "On the wall of one of the homes he lived in, he painted every kind of bird that was common in that area. It was beautiful, and the birds were beautifully painted."

By 2012, he had completed nearly 600 original carvings, paintings, sketches, drawings and other works, including a mantel in his home with relief carvings of covered wagons. He then reluctantly agreed to publication of a book of his artwork, "The Earth Shall Teach Thee: The Lifework of an Amateur Artist."

“It seems appropriate now," he wrote, "that my artwork can serve to illustrate one of the most fundamental messages of the gospel: That God is the Creator of the heavens and the earth and all things that are in them, that all nature bears testimony of that divinely directed creation, and that there is complete harmony between nature, science, and the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Instead of social life, he and Sister Packer preferred to churn homemade ice cream and roast hot dogs with their children and grandchildren.

Funeral services are pending.

Contributing: Tom Hatch, Lynn Arave, Joseph Walker

E-mail: twalch@desnews.com

To learn more about President Packer, read:

A 1970 profile of him in The Improvement Era.

The transcript of his interview with filmmaker Helen Whitney for the 2007 PBS documentary, "The Mormons."

A 2014 interview with him and Sister Packer by Gerry Avant of The Church News as he was about to turn 90.

A 1986 profile in the Ensign.

A 1975 Deseret News story about his family life.

One of his last conference talks, in April 2014, about his testimony, "The Witness."

Another of his last conference talks, in April 2013, "These things I know."

Email: twalch@deseretnews.com