SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — High-ranking Mormon leader Boyd K. Packer was remembered Friday at his funeral as an unwavering defender and teacher of church gospel, but also for his quick wit and humor.
Packer seemed to always have an appropriate quip in all situations, said M. Russell Ballard, a fellow member of a top governing church body that Packer led. Ballard recalled how Packer once said about aging, “Usually my memory is sharp but I don’t remember things that did not happen.”
Packer died on July 3 at the age of 90 from natural causes. As the president of the church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Packer was next in line to become the church president and prophet.
Church president Thomas S. Monson told the thousands of mourners in attendance Friday that Packer had a gift to boil down complex gospel concepts into words easily understood by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“He was inspired and talented as a teacher,” Monson said. “He taught with power and with authority.”
Packer was known for being a staunch advocate for a conservative form of Mormonism. That made him a model for like-minded, devout Latter-day Saints but also a target for gay rights groups and some more liberal Mormons.
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 2010, he denounced homosexual attraction as unnatural and immoral.
But none of Packer’s controversial remarks were discussed Friday during a memorial at the religion’s historic Tabernacle in Salt Lake City where he was canonized for his lifelong devotion to the religion. He served on the quorum for 45 years.
Dallin H. Oaks, a member of the quorum, said Packer taught by example, showing his fellow quorum members to be entirely loyal to the teachings and decisions of the church president.
Oaks said Packer was resigned to his fate as he dealt with his ailing health. Packer suffered from the aftereffects of polio, which he had as a young boy.
“He felt he would be just as happy teaching and testifying on either side of the veil,” Oaks said.
Packer leaves behind a family so large they filled 10 1/2 pews in the Tabernacle. He and his wife of 70 years, Donna, had 10 children and have 60 grandchildren and 111 great-grandchildren. The last one was born last week.
His oldest son, Allan Packer, spoke about the Mormon belief that families are for eternity. He told Packer’s grandchildren they will see their grandfather again shortly, so long as they are worthy.
It was the second recent funeral for a church leader. Fellow quorum member L. Tom Perry died on May 30 from cancer at the age of 92.
Replacements for Packer and Perry on the quorum will be chosen sometime in the coming months by Monson, considered the religion’s prophet. Members of the faith believe those decisions are guided by inspiration from God.
During one of many mentions to the afterlife in the funeral, Monson said about Packer: “He has gone to that paradise for which he is so well qualified. He leaves to his family and all of us who knew him a legacy of Christ-like love and devoted service.”