Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will likely remember President Boyd K. Packer for his powerful, direct sermons. But they can also remember him by the pieces of art he created.

The president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the LDS Church died at home on the afternoon of July 3. He had spent more than 50 years as a general authority and almost all of his 90 years of life as a painter and sculptor. Over his lifetime, President Packer created hundreds of pieces of art, including sketches, drawings, paintings, carvings and sculptures.

In 2004, the then-Museum of Church History and Art in Salt Lake City hosted an exhibit featuring President Packer’s paintings and sculptures. Now, many of his works can be viewed in his 2012 book “The Earth Shall Teach Thee: The Lifework of an Amateur Artist,” and in person at Brigham Young University’s Monte L. Bean Life Science Museum.

President Packer’s fascination with art began at a young age. He wrote in his book that though his family didn’t have much money, his parents found ways to “create beauty out of nearly nothing.” They passed that ability on to their children by introducing them to music and art.

“If drawing is a disease, then all the children were exposed,” President Packer wrote. “The others had mild cases, while it seems that I was seriously afflicted.”

At age 5, he spent several weeks in bed with a fever that, years later, would be identified as polio. He passed much of his time during those weeks sketching with paper and pencil, which strengthened his love of creating. According to "The Earth Shall Teach Thee," the effects of polio took a toll in his later years, and at the time the book was published President Packer was no longer able to paint or sculpt.

But until that time, he continued to create art. When President Packer spent four years in the Army Air Corps during World War II, he took some art supplies and spent time sketching, painting and carving. He decorated letters home with sketches of birds.

President Packer used art to teach, both as a seminary teacher and as a father. He also used art to build relationships with his family. At one point, he worked with his children and grandchildren on carving and painting a wooden model of Noah's ark, complete with animal figurines.

"The grandchildren can come and play and touch and feel," President Packer wrote. "It is just part of the entertainment while they are at Grandma and Grandpa's house. Sometimes they break the pieces, but we glue them back together."

While his artwork extended into religious and family themes, the majority of President Packer’s work depicts wildlife and nature. Many are representations of birds, which he noticed wherever he traveled. He wrote in "The Earth Shall Teach Thee" that nature testifies of God.

“The beauty and precision of the universe, the endless variety of plant and animal life — all testify of a plan and of a Creator,” he wrote.

The Bean Museum’s Boyd K. Packer Gallery opened in June 2014, and it contains an extensive permanent collection of drawings, paintings and carvings President Packer created at different stages of life, starting when he was 9 years old.

Museum director Larry St. Clair said President Packer was committed to accuracy in his work, and he would sometimes borrow specimens from the museum to use as reference.

"President Packer had an interest in the museum for many, many years, and largely it was because of his love of wildlife and wildlife art," St. Clair said.

St. Clair said President Packer's entire collection includes more than 1,000 pieces. The Bean Museum is home to most of these, so works are rotated in and out of the exhibit.

Visitors enter a cozy gallery filled with art and memorabilia from President Packer’s time in the military. They can also look into a display modeled after a room in President Packer’s home, with paintings on the walls and scenes in the windows that depict the garden where he used to work on his art.

President Packer’s son, Kenneth Packer, works at the museum as an exhibits designer and was involved in developing the gallery.

“Art satisfied my father’s need to create — and it gave him great pleasure,” Kenneth Packer said in a Deseret News article written when the exhibit opened in 2014.

The exhibit, St. Clair said, uses the artwork in much the same way that President Packer himself did: to bear testimony of Jesus Christ.

"We wanted to have a space to not only honor him but use his artwork to actually testify to the role of the creator," St. Clair said.

Email: jjohnson@deseretnews.com