SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Mormon leader Boyd K. Packer, president of the faith’s highest governing body, has died. He was 90.
Packer died Friday afternoon at his home in Salt Lake City from natural causes, church spokesman Eric Hawkins said in a statement. He was next in line to become president of the Salt Lake City-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
He had been a member of the church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles since 1970. The group is modeled after Jesus Christ’s apostles and serves under the church president and his two counselors.
Quorum member Russell M. Nelson, 90, now becomes the leader who would take Mormon President Thomas S. Monson’s place because he is now the most tenured of the group. Monson is 87 years old, and church officials have said he’s feeling the effects of his age.
When Packer was chosen for the group, he was already working for the church.
During his 45 years as a member of the quorum, Packer became known as a fearless defender of the gospel and master teacher of church principles, the church said in a news release.
Fellow church leaders called him a true apostle for the religion.
Packer spent most of his adult life working for the church and earned a reputation of being a tenacious advocate for his orthodox views on Mormonism, said Patrick Mason, chairman of the religion department and professor of Mormon studies at Claremont Graduate University in California. Some called him a bulldog, but Packer preferred the biblical analogy of “watchman on the tower,” Mason said.
Packer is remembered for giving a speech in 1993 in which he warned that the religion faced the greatest threat from three groups: feminists, homosexuals and intellectuals.
In 2013, a Utah gay-rights organization started a petition to protest the naming of a new Weber State University center after Packer.
The church credits Packer with being a key driver of the religion’s growth into a worldwide religion that now counts 15 million members around the globe.
In one of his last speeches, during a church conference in April, Packer spoke about the joy of romance and love and the importance of a man and woman and their children being sealed in a Mormon temple for eternity. Packer acknowledged marriage is a challenge and offered the key ingredients to successful marriages: “a cookie and a kiss.”
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