The next article was written by President David L. Cook, from the Chile Santiago South Mission for “El Mensajero“, a mission newsletter, which will be distributed on July 10th, 2015 under the title “The Passing of Another Giant — Presidente Boyd K. Packer”. Published with the author’s permission. Leer en español.
WE WERE SURPRISED to learn this week of the passing of President Boyd K. Packer. President Packer was the longest serving apostle and the 5th longest serving General Authority in the history of the church. At the time he began his service he served with senior brethren that were connected with the first generation of leaders of the Church. To some, Elder Packer had a stern outward demeanor. However, those that knew him well understood that the private man was kind, fun loving, generous with praise, and had a wonderful sense of humor.
Shortly after I was called as a stake president in 1998, I received a call from our Area President asking if Sister Cook and I could meet Elder Packer at the airport and transport him to his hotel. As you can imagine we were a little nervous with the assignment. He was coming to meet with the mission presidents in the Northeastern United States. As we drove him to his hotel he slept in the backseat of our car. At the time he was 73 years old. I remember thinking when most men his age were enjoying their retirement he was traveling the world preaching the Gospel and building up the church and literally wearing himself out in the service of the Lord. As we bid him farewell that night at the hotel, he asked me if I could meet him in the morning and drive him to visit the Church historical sites. He said he would leave the morning meetings in the hands of the Area President while we went to the Sacred Grove, the Hill Cumorah and Mendon, NY. I sensed that he wanted and needed a recharge from being in these sacred places.
The next morning when I met him he was reading a story in the Wall Street Journal about Pope John Paul II. I asked him his opinion of the Pope and he said, “He is a fine man of God.” Hardly the comment of a harsh dogmatic man that some thought him to be. As we drove between the historic sites he occasionally slept. Again, I saw the fatigue knowing that had been on the road many days already prior to this most recent assignment. He loved being in the sacred sites of the restoration and treated each one with deep reverence. When we were done visiting the sites I took him to the church were the meetings were being held. As I dropped him off I assumed my services as a driver were no longer needed, but he invited me to join him in the meeting. I was the youngest man in the room full of seasoned mission presidents. I felt a little awkward being the only one without a reason to be there. I sat in the back while Elder Packer taught the mission presidents for 2 hours. The fatigue that I had seen earlier was gone. He was powerful as he taught.
Elder Packer’s teaching method was always based on questions. He felt that through inspired questions would come revelatory answers. I look back now and I remember the questions the mission presidents were asking. Some questions were quite technical about how to handle various situations that mission presidents are faced with. After answering a number of these questions he listened to a particularly technical question, as he did so he got a big grin on his face. He then said something that has stayed with me all these years – “Presidents, I have never intentionally violated a rule, policy, or principle of the Church. However, I have bent some so far out of shape they are hardly recognizable. Now, Presidents, just get the spirit and you will not make a mistake in your decisions.”
A couple of years later he was in town for another mission president’s seminar where Preach My Gospel was being introduced to the mission presidents. Sister Cook and I were invited to join he and Elder Ballard for lunch with the mission presidents. As we greeted him he asked Sister Cook if I was treating her well. She smiled and said “Most of the time.” Elder Packer then smacked me up side of the head with a big smile on his face and said, “What’s the matter with you? Treat her well all of the time.” I don’t know many people that have been smacked in the head by the President of the Quorum of the Twelve. I am still trying to treat Sister Cook well all of the time.
About 10 years later I was called as an Area 70 and had the great privilege to be instructed by Elder Packer on several occasions. Elder Packer was revered by the Brethren as a seer. More than any man I have been aquatinted with or been taught by, he relied on inspiration to teach and preach. I never saw him use a prepared text or even notes and often spoke without his scriptures, although he quoted from them. He always taught the need to follow the spirit and frequently taught the Brethren not to fear. He said they would never make a mistake without being warned first. He promised that as we take a few steps into the darkness of uncertainly that the Lord will light the way for us. He was a living connection to the past and spoke of the unwritten order of things in the church, of the things that are caught rather than taught. I heard him say on more than one occasion that the greatest developments in this dispensation were the revelation on the priesthood in 1978 and the publication of the LDS editions of the scriptures in 1979 and 1981.
Just like you, he was a common boy made uncommon by the Lord that called him to be a special witness to the world. He grew up in the small town of Brigham City. His father was an auto mechanic and lacked wealth or rank. Elder Packer was a pilot in World War II who was touched by the horror of war and throughout his ministry loved and cared for the poor, the displaced and the weak. He returned from the war to marry his sweetheart and became a school teacher. He came from common folk. Always remember the Lord does not do his work by the rich and powerful but by the common men and women that love and revere him. The entire church was blessed by Presidente Boyd Kenneth Packer’s powerful spiritual insights.
No doubt the Lord has prepared men to be called to the Holy Apostleship to fill his purposes in the months ahead.
–President & Sister Cook
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