Boyd Packer was born on September 10, 1924, in Brigham City, Utah, the tenth of eleven children born to Ira Wight Packer and Emma Jensen. As a young boy, he contracted polio. After graduating from high school, he enlisted in the United States Army Air Forces in the spring of 1943. He graduated as a pilot in September 1944 and was assigned to bomber training. He was on Okinawa when World War II ended, and his unit remained stationed on Japan until 1946. After leaving the military, Packer initially attended Weber College (now Weber State University), where he met his future wife, Donna Smith. They married in the Logan Temple in 1947 and had ten children, including current LDS general authority Allan F. Packer. After their marriage, Packer attended Utah State University, earning a B.S. degree in 1949 and an M.S. degree in 1953. He later earned an Ed.D. from Brigham Young University in 1962. Packer was also an artist, and enjoyed painting, particularly birds. In his career as an educator, Packer worked in the LDS Church’s Church Educational System, where he held various administrative positions overseeing seminary and institute programs, including as assistant supervisor of the church’s Native American seminary programs, general assistant administrator of seminaries and institutes, and later as supervisor of church’s seminaries and institutes. Packer served a four-year term on the Brigham City City Council. In 1961, Boyd Packer was called by LDS Church president David O. McKay to serve as a general authority as an Assistant to the Twelve, a position that no longer exists. While serving in the position, Packer was assigned to serve as president of the church’s New England States Mission. He also served for a time as the managing director of the church’s military relations committee.
Following McKay’s death in January 1970, Packer, then 45 years old, was called by new church president Joseph Fielding Smith as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles at the church’s April 1970 general conference. Between 1979 to 1981, he was on the committee that produced the new editions of the LDS scriptures. On September 12, 1991, Packer dedicated Ukraine “for the preaching of the restored gospel.” In 1993, Packer read the dedicatory prayer in the Spanish language at the dedication of the San Diego California Temple. When Howard W. Hunter, who had been President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, succeeded to the presidency of the church in 1994, he called Gordon B. Hinckley and Thomas S. Monson as his counselors in the First Presidency. Packer was the fourth apostle in seniority among the ranks of the church, behind Hunter, Hinckley and Monson, respectively. This created a situation where the only apostles senior to Packer were in the First Presidency. As a result, Packer was named Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve. When Hunter died in 1995 and was succeeded by Hinckley, Monson was again retained in the First Presidency and Packer was again asked to be Acting President of the Twelve. Of the five acting presidents of the Quorum in the church’s history, Packer served the longest in that capacity and is the only one to serve under two different church presidents. In 1999, Packer dedicated the Regina Saskatchewan Temple. Boyd Packer became President of the Quorum of the Twelve on February 3, 2008, when Monson became church president. In 2012, Packer dedicated the Brigham City Utah Temple.
Packer was well known for several talks and teachings, and several of his stories have been adapted into short films. His sermon about singing a hymn to drive off bad thoughts was adapted into the video Worthy Thoughts. His Parable of the Mediator (Jesus Christ) was adapted into the short film The Mediator. “The Candle of the Lord” (1982) is well known for its analogy of trying to describe what salt tastes like to trying to describe what promptings from the Holy Ghost are like. Packer also taught the importance of hymn-centered prelude music for worship services. Boyd Packer served as an advisor to the Genesis Group, a social organization of the LDS Church for African-American members and their families, and was also active in obtaining genealogical records on microfilm for the church through its Genealogical Society of Utah. In 1977, Packer was a key figure in getting Native American-related records filmed from the federal records centers in Los Angeles, Fort Worth, Seattle, and Kansas City. He was involved in negotiations that same year with archivists and scholars at Jerusalem to microfilm Jewish records.
In a General Conference Priesthood Session in October 1976, Packer gave a sermon entitled “To Young Men Only”, in which he discouraged boys of the Young Men organization in the Aaronic priesthood from pursuing activities which the LDS Church defines as immoral, including masturbation, the use of pornography, and homosexual activities. The sermon has been criticized over the years for encouraging homophobia and gay bashing. Further comments by Packer during his October 2010 address “Cleansing the Inner Vessel”, which echoed his views on homosexuality given in a 1978 speech, concerning whether homosexuality is an individual choice, generated a petition by the Human Rights Campaign. The church responded to this petition by reaffirming its doctrinal position on gay marriage while reiterating the universal need to follow “Jesus Christ’s second great commandment—to love one another.” Following the conference, Packer altered the published text of the sermon to “clarif[y] his intent.” In 2013, amid a nationwide shift toward acceptance and legalization of same-sex marriage, Packer attracted some attention for comments critical of “legalized acts of immorality” and warning of a “tolerance trap.”
Boyd Packer advocated that LDS historians should refrain from discussing history that does not promote faith. In a 1981 speech to educators in the LDS Church Educational System, he cautioned, “There is a temptation for the writer or teacher of Church history to want to tell everything, whether it is worthy or faith promoting or not. Some things that are true are not very useful.” Arguing that teachers should “give milk before meat”, he stated that “some things are to be taught selectively and some things are to be given only to those who are worthy.” Packer’s opinion applied to all historians who were members of the LDS Church: he stated, “One who chooses to follow the tenets of his profession, regardless of how they may injure the Church or destroy the faith of those not ready for ‘advanced history’, is himself in spiritual jeopardy. If that one is a member of the Church, he has broken his covenants and will be held accountable.” Packer’s comments raised criticism by some prominent Mormon and non-Mormon scholars. Soon after Packer’s 1981 speech, Mormon historian D. Michael Quinn gave a speech highly critical of Packer’s views, and suggested that a historian who followed Packer’s advice would sacrifice their honesty and professional integrity. Quinn also discussed what he viewed as a Mormon tradition of portraying LDS leaders as infallible people. C. Robert Mesle has criticized Packer as having created what Mesle views as a false dichotomy “between the integrity of faith and the integrity of inquiry.” Boyd Packer died at his home on July 3, 2015, from causes incident to age. At the time of his death, he was the second-most senior apostle among the ranks of the church and the fifth-longest serving general authority in the church’s history. His funeral was held on July 10, 2015, and he was buried in Brigham City.
- September, 10, 1924
- Brigham City, Utah
- July, 03, 2015
- Cottonwood Heights, Utah
Cause of Death
- natural causes