SALT LAKE CITY — For more than 15 years as young apostles, LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson and the late President Boyd K. Packer sat next to each other in the faith's Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
That changed in 1985, when President Monson joined the First Presidency, but their seniority in the quorum reestablished that dynamic in 2008, when President Monson became the church's president with President Packer next in line to succeed him as president of the Twelve. In all, they spent more than 50 years serving together in senior LDS leadership on committees and in countless assignments around the world.
A week after President Packer died at age 90, President Monson paid tribute at his funeral to his "longtime friend in the work of the Lord," one he said left a legacy of Christ-like love and service.
"Boyd Kenneth Packer knew the Lord, and the Lord knew him," President Monson said.
Thousands joined President Monson at the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square to honor President Packer, who served nearly 54 years in senior leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Speakers called him a talented teacher, scriptorian, artist, example, friend and leader, and a diligent, devoted servant of Jesus Christ during a 59-minute service that provided rare insights into the workings of one of the faith's senior councils.
Speakers also paid remarkable tribute to President Packer's deep love and devotion to his wife of nearly 68 years, Donna Smith Packer.
President Monson said President Packer was an inspired, talented teacher who taught with power and authority and with "an ability to turn complex ideas into language easily understood by all."
"He leaves to his family and to all of us who knew him a legacy of Christ-like love and devoted service," President Monson said, adding that President Packer "provided a model for others to follow."
President Packer had served as president or acting president of the quourm since 1994. In fact, five of the now 10 living apostles in the quorum have never had another quorum president.
Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Twelve said he would miss President Packer and Elder L. Tom Perry, who died May 30. President Monson will call replacements before or during the church's October general conference.
"President Packer was a master teacher," Elder Ballard said, "and I've always tried to be a good student. He taught me the importance of listening and finding answer to life's questions by feeling and knowing the spirit and power of God."
Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Twelve said that President Packer would "best be remembered as a teacher. He was always teaching. He taught by example. He taught by talks and books. He taught by individual counsel and he taught in small groups, such as the instructions he gave in various meetings of general authorities."
Elder Oaks talked about how President Packer's teachings led the Twelve.
"He always taught entire loyalty to the leadership and decisions of the president of the church. President Monson, he taught us to love you and follow you."
He also taught church leaders the study of doctrine changes behavior quicker than does a study of behavior.
"This encouraged us to teach doctrine and principles rather than rules," Elder Oaks said.
President Packer saw church membership grow from 1.8 million members in 1961, when he became an Assistant to the Twelve, to 15.3 million today.
"He often challenged the Twelve and the Seventy, whom he also loved and led," Elder Oaks said, "to prepare for the governance and leadership of a church with many millions more members than we have now."
'Never to be parted'
The church president said the First Presidency and the Twelve never heard President Packer bear his testimony without expressing his love for Sister Packer. President Monson told President Packer's wife, Donna, that she would see him again.
"You have always been his beloved Donna," President Monson said. "You and he will be partners throughout eternity. ... You will be together again, never to be parted."
Both President Monson and President Packer's son, Elder Allan F. Packer of the Quorum of the Seventy, said President Packer lived what he taught.
"The home and the family are critically important," Elder Packer said, quoting his father's teaching that "the end of all activities in the church are to see a husband and his wife and their children happy at home."
President and Sister Packer set goals when they were married, their son said, which they titled "Our Legacy" and which hangs on the wall in their home:
"Faith in daily living and in the future. Courage in times of trial. Power in family unity. Service to God and mankind. We are covenant keepers."
The Packers have 10 children, 60 grandchildren, 111 great-grandchildren.
"They will fulfill our dreams," President Packer once said, "if they live the gospel and raise their children in faith."
Reality of resurrection
President Packer taught that funerals should be shorter than a sacrament meeting — the LDS Sunday worship service — and focus on the plan of salvation. His own funeral lasted just under one hour, as do all funerals of senior church leaders, who want to set an example to church members.
Each of the speakers testified of their belief in the reality of the resurrection.
President Monson said President Packer's spirit still lives and is in paradise, "for which he is well-qualified," and that all that his family, friends and church members knew and loved about him continues.
"Boyd K. Packer's ministry continues where he is now," Elder Ballard said, "in the spirit world, where he testifies with the same power and witness of the divine mission and atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ."
Elder Oaks revisited President Packer's own teachings years ago at the funeral of his friend, J. Willard Marriott, when President Packer discussed the Book of Mormon prophet Alma's teaching that the "great plan of happiness" would be destroyed if there was no temporal death.
President Packer said, "Do not think it strange to find happiness and death standing together in the same verse of scripture. Mortal death is necessary to the plan of salvation.
Elder Oaks said "love lives on, and death is only a horizon that limits our vision of the glories that lie beyond. The life that we treasure here in mortality is only temporary, but the supremely eternal life that we seek is inifinite in duration and incomprehensibly glorious in quality, and it is all made possible by the Savior Jesus Christ."
Elder Ballard spoke of visiting and reporting to President Packer the Sunday before his death.
"Two old friends said goodbye that Sunday afternoon, not knowing that it would be some time before we would meet again."
Warm and witty
Elders Oaks and Ballard talked about President Packer's sense of humor and quick wit.
"Usually my memory is sharp," he once said, talking about the effects of age on memory, "but I don't remember things that did not happen."
Elder Ballard called him a delight to be with, and Elder Oaks described him warm and witty, though forthright.
Often, when members of the Twelve were unable to to arrive at a decision on an issue, President Packer would say, "Let the pending items pend."
He held others to high standards, but he also forgave mistakes. Elder Ballard said he kept a small replica of the statue "Winged Victory" in his office.
"He liked this work of art because even though it is less than perfect in appearance, it is still a masterpiece," Elder Ballard said. "President Packer could overlook faults and human frailties and could see the divine in the people and in this great church."
He suffered numerous health challenges, including ongoing effects of his boyhood polio, but he always answered questions about it by saying he was fine and enjoyed a love of life and learning despite pain.
"He wore out his life in service to the Savior of the world," Elder Ballard said.
He sometimes wore out his quorum members. He loved the early morning hours, and Elder Ballard publicly thanked Sister Packer for helping those in the quorum who aren't quite such early birds.
"It was you, Donna," he said, "who encouraged our quorum president not to call us before 5 o'clock in the morning to discuss what was on his mind."
Elder Russell M. Nelson, who has assumed President Packer's duties as president of the Twelve but is not yet officially the quorum president, offered the invocation at the funeral and conducted the graveside service in Brigham City later Friday.
"For decades," Elder Nelson said of President Packer in the invocation, "he has been our leader, our teacher and our friend."
Elder Nelson also said that though his mortal sojourn was over, "the powerful impact of President Packer's life will be felt for generations to come."
Elder David A. Bednar of the Twelve gave the benediction and thanked God "for the example of President Packer as a diligent, devoted disciple of thy Son."
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency, and Elder Neil. A. Andersen of the Twelve were out of the country. The rest of the Quorum of the Twelve, including Elder Richard G. Scott, who has been suffering from health problems and is no longer attending meetings of the Twelve, were in attendance.
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir sang three hymns.
Kenneth W. Packer, a son, dedicated President Packer's grave in Brigham City, his beloved hometown, where at the invitation of President Monson he dedicated the church's temple there in 2010. Residents of Brigham City and surrounding communities — many waving in honor of President Packer's military service — line the streets as the funeral procession advanced to the city cemetery.
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