Boyd K. Packer (1924-2015), the senior apostle of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, died of old age in Salt Lake City at about 2 p.m. MST on July 3, 2015. He was 90 years old. Packer, who died just 33 days after fellow apostle L. Tom Perry (May 30, 2015), had been suffering from health problems for several years and so his passing was not unexpected. Replacing Packer as senior apostle will be Russell M. Nelson, who turns 91 on September 9th.
As far as church service, Packer was a former supervisor of Seminaries and Institutes of Religion as well as a former president of the New England States Mission. Packer was married to Donna, with whom he fathered ten children. He became an apostle in April 1970 at the age of 45. He received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Utah State University and his Ed.D in educational administration from BYU. He served as a pilot in the Pacific Theatre during World War II.
Several stories told by Packer have been turned into short films. One sermon about how a hymn helped drive away bad thoughts became Worthy Thoughts. Meanwhile, his parable of the Mediator (referring to Jesus Christ) was turned into The Mediator. (See the transcript below.)
More of a conservative hardliner, Packer has been blunt about some of his teachings and has been criticized by those who have more liberal stances. Sexuality is a topic he has addressed more than once. For example, at the October 1976 general conference, he gave a talk titled “To Young Men Only” that was turned into a booklet, which discouraged masturbation, the use of pornography, and homosexual behavior. Many felt that the LDS Church’s support of Proposition 8 in California legislating marriage as between a man and a woman came about primarily through Packer’s influence. Then, in October 2010, he gave a talk titled “Cleansing the Inner Vessel” regarding whether or not homosexuality is an individual choice. Perhaps due to criticism, Packer altered the published text in order to “clarify his intent.”
Claiming that non-faith-promoting history should be kept quiet, Packer gave a 1981 speech where he said that “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.” He also said that teachers should “give milk before meat,” adding that “some things are to be taught selectively and some things are to be given to those who are worthy.”
In his last general conference sermon (“The Plan of Happiness”) given on April 4, 2015 at the Saturday morning session, Packer spoke about marriage, saying that “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 for eternity” (Ensign, May 2015, p. 26). He used Abraham chapter 4 in that sermon, referring to how “in the image of the Gods to form they him, male and female to form they them” and how “we will cause them to be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth and subdue it.” He later quoted D&C 58:42 (“Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more”). He failed to quote verse 53, which puts limits on this forgiveness. It says, “By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins–behold, he will confess them and forsake them.”
Referring to this same passage, the Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Scripture Mastery Cards says “forsaking the sin is also important.” It reads:
To repent we must confess and forsake sin.
The Lord taught the Saints who had just arrived in Missouri how they could build up Zion and be forgiven of their sins.
Doctrine or Principle
If we will confess and forsake our sins, the Lord will forgive us and remember our sins no more.
Are there any sins that you need to confess to your bishop or branch president? What can you do to forsake your sins?
Our Top 10 Boyd K. Packer Quotes
“I bear witness that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, that the Atonement is not a general thing that is for the whole Church. The Atonement is individual, and if you have something that is bothering you–sometimes so long ago you can hardly remember it–put the Atonement to work. It will clean it up, and you, as does He, will remember your sins no more. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen” (Ensign, May 2015, p. 28). (These were Packer’s last public words given at the spring 2015 general conference)
“One of the characteristics that sets us apart from the rest of the world and identifies us as the Lord’s Church is that we provide baptism and other ordinances for our deceased ancestors” (“Come to the Temple,” Ensign, October 2007, p. 22).
“The doctrine we teach has no provision for lying or stealing, for pornography, for immoralities, for child abuse, for abortion, for murder. We are bound by the laws of the Lord’s church, as sons and daughters of God, to avoid all of these and every other unholy or impure practice” ( Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled, p. 292).
“Follow your leaders who have been duly ordained and have been publicly sustained, and you will not be led astray” (“To Be Learned Is Good If …”, Ensign (Conference Edition), November 1992, p. 73).
“That historian or scholar who delights in pointing out the weaknesses and frailties of present or past leaders destroys faith. A destroyer of faith—particularly one within the Church, and more particularly one who is employed specifically to build faith—places himself in great spiritual jeopardy. He is serving the wrong master, and unless he repents, he will not be among the faithful in the eternities” (Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled, p. 109).
“In the Church we are not neutral. 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” ( Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled, p. 110).
“Some things cannot be changed. Doctrine cannot be changed” (“For Time and All Eternity,” Ensign (Conference Edition), November 1993, p. 22).
“There is a temptation for the writer or the teacher of Church history to want to tell everything, whether or not it is worthy or faith-promoting. Some things that are true are not very useful. Historians seem to take great pride in publishing something new, particularly if it illustrates a weakness or mistake of a prominent historical figure. For some reason, historians and novelists seem to savor such things. If it related to a living person it would come under the heading of gossip. History can be as misleading as gossip and much more difficult–often impossible–to verify. The writer or the teacher who has an exaggerated loyalty to the theory that everything must be told is laying a foundation for his own judgment. He should not complain if one day he himself receives as he has given. Perhaps that is what is contemplated in having one’s sins preached from the housetops” (Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled, p. 106).
“Some things that are true aren’t very useful. And there are those in the past who have looked at the leaders of the Church, for instance, and found out that they’re human and want to tell everything. There are steps and missteps that don’t help anything. Some think that to be totally honest they have to tell everything. They don’t. If they’ve got the mindset for that, then they’re always grumbling — they have an appetite for it. They’re free to do that, but it isn’t really productive, it doesn’t really make anybody happy” (“President Packer Interview Transcript from PBS Documentary,” LDS Newsroom)
“First, in the Church, we don’t criticize; we don’t discipline members for what they think. But if they teach things that are going to lead people astray and to unhappiness, then we sound the alert. We don’t discipline them for their attitudes or their tendencies. We warn people if they go on that path: there are snares there, so stay away from them. It’s just that simple” (“President Packer Interview Transcript from PBS Documentary,” July 2007, LDS Newsroom).
And a bonus quote, as referenced from above:
“Let me tell you a story—a parable. There once was a man who wanted something very much. It seemed more important than anything else in his life. In order for him to have his desire, he incurred a great debt. He had been warned about going into that much debt, and particularly about his creditor. But it seemed so important for him to do what he wanted to do and to have what he wanted right now. He was sure he could pay for it later. So he signed a contract. He would pay it off some time along the way. He didn’t worry too much about it, for the due date seemed such a long time away. He had what he wanted now, and that was what seemed important. The creditor was always somewhere in the back of his mind, and he made token payments now and again, thinking somehow that the day of reckoning really would never come. But as it always does, the day came, and the contract fell due. The debt had not been fully paid. His creditor appeared and demanded payment in full. Only then did he realize that his creditor not only had the power to repossess all that he owned, but the power to cast him into prison as well. ‘I cannot pay you, for I have not the power to do so,’ he confessed. ‘Then,’ said the creditor, ‘we will exercise the contract, take your possessions, and you shall go to prison. You agreed to that. It was your choice. You signed the contract, and now it must be enforced.’ ‘Can you not extend the time or forgive the debt?’ the debtor begged. ‘Arrange some way for me to keep what I have and not go to prison. Surely you believe in mercy? Will you not show mercy?’ The creditor replied, ‘Mercy is always so one-sided. It would serve only you. If I show mercy to you, it will leave me unpaid. It is justice I demand. Do you believe in justice?’ ‘I believed in justice when I signed the contract,’ the debtor said. ‘It was on my side then, for I thought it would protect me. I did not need mercy then, nor think I should need it ever. Justice, I thought, would serve both of us equally as well.’ ‘It is justice that demands that you pay the contract or suffer the penalty,’ the creditor replied. ‘That is the law. You have agreed to it and that is the way it must be. Mercy cannot rob justice.’ There they were: One meting out justice, the other pleading for mercy. Neither could prevail except at the expense of the other. ‘If you do not forgive the debt there will be no mercy,’ the debtor pleaded. ‘If I do, there will be no justice,’ was the reply. Both laws, it seemed, could not be served. They are two eternal ideals that appear to contradict one another. Is there no way for justice to be fully served, and mercy also? There is a way! The law of justice can be fully satisfied and mercy can be fully extended—but it takes someone else. And so it happened this time. The debtor had a friend. He came to help. He knew the debtor well. He knew him to be shortsighted. He thought him foolish to have gotten himself into such a predicament. Nevertheless, he wanted to help because he loved him. He stepped between them, faced the creditor, and made this offer. ‘I will pay the debt if you will free the debtor from his contract so that he may keep his possessions and not go to prison.’ As the creditor was pondering the offer, the mediator added, ‘You demanded justice. Though he cannot pay you, I will do so. You will have been justly dealt with and can ask no more. It would not be just.’ And so the creditor agreed. The mediator turned then to the debtor. ‘If I pay your debt, will you accept me as your creditor?’ ‘Oh yes, yes,’ cried the debtor. ‘You save me from prison and show mercy to me.’ ‘Then,’ said the benefactor, ‘you will pay the debt to me and I will set the terms. It will not be easy, but it will be possible. I will provide a way. You need not go to prison.’ And so it was that the creditor was paid in full. He had been justly dealt with. No contract had been broken. The debtor, in turn, had been extended mercy. Both laws stood fulfilled. Because there was a mediator, justice had claimed its full share, and mercy was fully satisfied.” (Boyd K. Packer, “The Mediator,” Ensign (Conference Edition), May 1977, pp. 54-55).
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