Born in 1922,
Elder L. Tom Parry was 92 years old on 22 August 2014.
President Boyd K. Packer
years ago, on his 85th birthday, a friend told President Boyd K.
Packer that if he kept having birthdays it would make him old.
did and it has,” President Packer said as he spoke with the Church
News about his 90th birthday, which will be Sept. 10.
cooler-than-average August morning, President Packer and his wife,
Donna Smith Packer, sat near a glowing fireplace in their home and
reflected on the passing years that have brought him to the brink of
his 10th decade of life.
“Unbelievable,” he said of how quickly the years have passed. “All
of a sudden, it (his 90th birthday) is here. We weren’t conscious of
the passing years. There was nothing we could do to hold time back.
We tried to fill it with profitable lives. ... Ninety years. I feel
we can’t waste time. We always seem to be in a hurry, that there’s
something we need to accomplish.”
President Packer, who is President of the Quorum of the Twelve
Apostles, said he doesn’t think in terms of looking at the past and
wishing he could wind time backward, or do things differently.
quite content with what’s happened,” he said.
of his and Sister Packer’s contentedness stem from their family of
10 children, 60 grandchildren and 103 great-grandchildren.
of the joyful times was when we had our children in our home,”
Sister Packer said. “Lots of times people think those are the
stressful years. For us, it was just a very joyful time. I think
Heavenly Father gave us some special spirits. We learned to work
together on our projects.”
Believing children should have the opportunity to perform daily
chores, they chose places to live where they could have gardens and
animals to tend. In their early years, the Packers lived in Brigham
City, Utah, where they both grew up, and Lindon, Utah. They moved to
their current home in the Salt Lake Valley after he was called as an
Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve in 1961. That property
provided plenty of projects: gardens to plant and harvest; weeds to
pull; underbrush to clear; trees to fell; rails to split for fences;
a barn to repair and paint; and gates to be constructed, hung and
Working together on all those “little projects,” Sister Packer said,
helped make their home the joyful place it became and still is.
President Packer said that now all their children are grown, they
come back — with their own children and grandchildren.
“They help us out,” Sister Packer said. “When you get older,
sometimes you have little problems. Polio has come back to
[President Packer] and he’s in a wheelchair. Sundays are our days
with our family. They bring a meal and we visit and get caught up
with everybody. We do that 10 times and then start over again.”
polio to which Sister Packer referred afflicted young Boyd, the 10th
of 11 children born to Ira and Emma Packer, when he was 5 years old.
It was diagnosed as pneumonia, which left him unable to walk for a
time. It wasn’t until after he served as a pilot in the U.S. Army
Air Force during World War II and was suffering severe pain that
total body X-rays showed evidence of polio in the malformed bones of
his knees and hip.
only one word could be selected to identify President Packer, it
might be “teacher.” He has been a teacher in his home, in his career
as a seminary instructor and administrator, mission president and as
a General Authority, as well as a friend and neighbor.
“I’ve had a passion to give away everything I’ve got as far as
knowledge and testimony,” he said.
has one hope for those who he has taught and continues to teach:
“It’s the same hope I’ve had for my children — that they will have a
testimony of the gospel.”
of the reasons he liked working with his children on various
projects was that the work gave him opportunities to teach them.
liked to have them around and to teach them. They learned to ask a
lot of questions and they still telephone about practical things.
They call if they have a gardening question or a question about an
animal or just about anything else.”
particularly likes teaching about the Book of Mormon, which he
“discovered” while serving in the military during World War II.
“That was a great defining experience. I spent five years in the Air
Force. I devoured the Book of Mormon and it became imprinted on my
young seminary teacher in Brigham City, he followed the Church’s
curriculum of teaching the Old Testament, New Testament and Church
history, then he added an early morning class on the Book of Mormon.
When he became a supervisor of seminary and institutes, the Book of
Mormon became part of the Churchwide seminary curriculum.
Sister Packer said, “He’s always sharing bits of knowledge about
birds, any kind of wildlife. Often, I will overhear him sharing
little tidbits that will help people with their family life.”
President Packer said, “I get that from my experiences with the
older Brethren I served with.”
spoke of LeGrand Richards, Henry D. Moyle, A. Theodore Tuttle,
Marion G. Romney, Harold B. Lee, Howard W. Hunter and other late
apostles and prophets who “were always volunteering information. You
can learn a lot from what has been written, but there are a lot of
things that are not written. I learned to be a good listener. I
guess an attribute that has served me well after all these years is
obedience. I’ve learned to obey the gospel and the leaders.
Sometimes, it wasn’t easy but, unerringly, it was worthwhile.”
President Packer spoke of his association with Elder Spencer W.
Kimball, then of the Quorum of the Twelve and chairman of the Indian
Committee of the Church. From that association and earlier work
establishing the Intermountain Indian School in Brigham City,
President Packer’s love for the Indian people grew. It was a love
fostered earlier by his grandparents, Joseph Alma and Sarah Wight
Packer, who served two missions among the tribes of the Sioux Nation
in South Dakota.
While being the definitive teacher, President Packer is a constant
student. He has learned for his own edification as well as for the
benefit of the Church. Among his numerous assignments as a member of
the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, to which he was sustained in
1970, was working on “the scripture package,” the database that
enables computerized scripture searches.
“President N. Eldon Tanner (then a counselor in the First
Presidency) sent me to Palo Alto, California, to a month-long
computer school run by IBM. Except for working on my doctorate in
education, I don’t think I worked any harder anywhere to learn
anything than I did to take advantage of that training,” President
Seeing the ease with which scriptures can be searched, thereby
furthering gospel knowledge and increasing faith, testimony is one
of the dividends of his efforts.
President Packer bases his teachings on scriptural and gospel
truths. He has gained a reputation as one who “tells it like it is,”
regardless of what critics might say.
said he doesn’t care how he will be remembered or if people agree
with him. “If you start to play to the audience, then you’re not
genuine,” he declared.
Sister Packer said he is very conscious that he’s a servant of the
Lord and needs to listen to the promptings of the Spirit. “Sometimes
it takes courage to say some of the things he feels he has to say,
but that is what the people need,” she said. “People don’t know him
just by seeing him at the pulpit. He has a great sense of humor.
He’s been a very good father, not the domineering type in any way.
He is just a loving man who is considerate to all of us and is
friend of the Packer family who has known him more than 40 years
said many of his general conference addresses are something like
what a compassionate father would say in warning his children away
from pitfalls, danger and harm. “He simply wants to keep us from
getting hurt or losing our way,” she said.
President Packer’s humor showed through when he commented on why he
teaches as he does: “I don’t want you to make the same mistake
An associate said, “I’ve never seen him express
anger, but I have seen him show sorrow.”
Boyd K. Packer turns 90, By Gerry Avant LDS Church News, Published:
Thursday, Sept. 4 2014 2:45 p.m. MDT
Russell M. Nelson
Lessons, principles and habits
learned in childhood remain vivid in memory for Elder Russell M. Nelson,
who turned 90 on Tuesday, Sept. 9.
The fundamental principles of
honesty, integrity, courtesy and concern for others, which he
learned from his mother and father, still stand as life’s
guideposts. Those principles set him on the path that led him to
become a world-renowned heart surgeon before he was called in 1984
at age 59 to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
Born in Salt Lake City to
Marion C. and Edna Anderson Nelson on Sept. 9, 1924, just five years
before the stock market crash of 1929, Russell Nelson grew up a
child of the Depression. He remembers asking for permission to eat a
banana, a costly item for his family’s food budget, and merging a
finger-sized soap remnant into a new bar of soap to keep from
wasting it. He has retained the soap-saving habit.
At age 10, feeling a bit
grown up, he began working as an errand boy in his father’s
advertising agency, a job that brought him much satisfaction and
gave him an opportunity to meet people.
“My father wanted me to come
into his business,” Elder Nelson said. “That’s a desire of any
father’s heart, to have his son take over what he has built.”
However, in high school,
Russell discovered he liked chemistry and biology, and he realized
he had a love for people. “I remember the conversation so well when
I told my mother and father that I really didn’t want to go into
advertising, that I wanted to be a doctor so I could help people. I
could see the hurt in my father’s eyes but he didn’t let on. He
said, ‘Son, your mother and I will do everything in our power to
help you do what you want to do.’ ”
With his wife, Dantzel White
Nelson, whom he married in 1945, by his side, he pursued his career
in medicine, which included receiving doctoral degrees from the
University of Utah and Minnesota, and additional advanced work
residencies in Massachusetts and Washington, D.C. He helped pioneer
the development of the artificial heart-lung machine, a means of
supporting a patient's circulation during open heart surgery. This
development made open-heart surgery possible; he performed the first
surgery of that kind in Utah in 1955.
Father of nine daughters and
one son, he was serving as a Regional Representative at the time of
his apostolic call in 1984; previously, he served as Sunday School
general president (1971-79) and as a stake president.
He and Elder Dallin H. Oaks,
Utah State Supreme Court justice and former BYU president, were
sustained during the same session of the April 1984 general
conference. It was the first time in 40 years that two new apostles
were named at the same time, and the first time in nearly 21 years
that anyone had been called directly into the Quorum of the Twelve
Apostles without having first served in the ranks of the General
Authorities. The last so called was Elder Thomas S. Monson in
October 1963; prior to his call he was general manager of Deseret
Elder Nelson had become not only
a surgeon of renown but also a teacher in the international medical
community. He shared knowledge with surgeons throughout the world,
including India, South America, China and what was then the Soviet
Union. The First Presidency encouraged him to fulfill his obligations as
a surgeon, researcher and lecturer.
A few days after he was
sustained to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, he told a Church
News reporter, “You’re only happy in life if you’re rendering
service. Whether I’m a surgeon or an apostle, all I need to know is
that I’m doing what the Lord wants me to do” (Church News,
April 22, 1984).
For the next 21 years, Elder
Nelson fulfilled his apostolic assignments with the companionship of
his wife, Dantzel. Then, on a Saturday afternoon while seated beside
him on the sofa in their home, “the Lord took her in the twinkling
of an eye,” Elder Nelson said of her sudden and unexpected death.
They had been married more than 59 years.
Dr. Russell M. Nelson was a
world-renowned heart surgeon at the time he was called to the Quorum of
the Twelve in 1984. (Courtesy Elder Russell M. Nelson)
In 2006, he married Wendy L.
Watson in the Salt Lake Temple.
Elder Nelson said that as his
family began making plans to celebrate his 90th birthday, Sister
Wendy Nelson asked him to make a list of highlights during his 30
years as an apostle. When the Church News interviewed him in
hopes of writing a “life story,” Elder Nelson waved off details
about his personal interests (including his love of music and
proficiency as a pianist and organist) and wanted to talk instead
about the Church itself over the past three decades.
He commented on:
1. Church growth
The Church has more than
doubled in size during the past 30 years, from 5.6-plus million
members in 1984 to more than 15.2 million, as of the end of July. In
1984, there were 1,500 stakes; now there are more than 3,000; there
were 1980 missions then and 406 now.
When he was called to the
Quorum of the Twelve, Regional Representatives were assigned to help
the Apostles. Today, Regional Representatives no longer exist, and
international area presidencies have been authorized to work in each
area. “We now have 328 ordained Seventies in eight quorums.
Eighty-eight are General Authority Seventies and 240 are Area
Seventies. These Seventies go where we cannot go. We are truly
grateful for them.
2. Apostolic declarations
“Two important apostolic
declarations have been made in that 30-year period. ‘The Family: A
Proclamation to the World’ in 1995, and ‘The Living Christ’ in the
year 2000. The topics of these documents have eternal significance.
The latter declaration is a testimony of the First Presidency and
Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ.
3. Temple and Family History
Executive Council, 1990-2007
Elder Nelson has spent 17
years on the temple and family history executive council. The number
of temples has increased from 26 in April 1984 to 143. More are
“Family History work has also
changed in those 30 years. We now have much more member
participation. Family History Centers, which were so vital 30 years
ago, are becoming less necessary as more and more research work can
be done via our personal computers at home. There is a good shift in
the ratio of names brought to the temple for ordinance work. In 1984
most of the names were supplied from resources of the Church. Now,
the vast majority of ordinances are done for names submitted by
individual members of the Church. This is a remarkable change.
4. Priesthood Executive
Council, 1984-90; 2007-10
“There has been a strong
broadening of the Church curriculum, both in content and method.
With the advent of the Internet and distance learning, we can see
the day when the teaching of the Church will no longer need to be
centered in our Church buildings. Teaching could easily be done at
home. Technology assisted learning can be effectively implemented in
the home with such marvelous aids as the Bible Videos and other
“The unity of the Relief
Society, Young Women and Primary and responsibility of our sister
leaders is continuing to bless the Church in greater measure than
ever before. We counsel with the sisters at headquarters. They are
part of the team, every bit as much as the priesthood bearers.”
5. Missionary Executive
“There were 27,000-plus
missionaries in 1984. Before the announcement in 2012 about the age
change, we had 58,000 missionaries. Now we are over 87,000. We
expected a big bump. We also expected a drop after two years’ supply
of men were taken care of in one year and more than that for the
women. But we’re not seeing that drop that we had anticipated
because these missionaries are having such a fabulous experience
that they are telling their younger brothers and sisters to get
ready to go on missions.
6. Church Educational System
Elder Nelson has served on
the Church Educational System Board of Education and is now chairman
of the board’s executive committee.
“We have called a wonderful
commissioner of education and presidents of our universities and LDS
Business College. These men are outstanding.
“The impact of distance
learning is very important, not only for the seminaries and
institutes but for our universities.
7. Church History
For many years Elder Nelson
served as the adviser of the Church History Department. The advent
of the Joseph Smith Papers project, he said, is an example “that
shows you how much more we are learning about the history of the
Church and the contributions of the Prophet Joseph Smith.”
“That output has provided
greater accessibility to the history of the Church than we’ve ever
had. People with questions about the gospel can go to the Internet
and find answers to their gospel questions with greater accuracy and
facility than they ever had before.”
8. Assignment to open the
doors of Eastern European nations, 1985-1990
In 1985, when President Taft
Benson became President of the Church, he assigned Elder Nelson to
direct the affairs of the Church in all of Europe and, for a time,
Africa, “with a specific responsibility to open the doors of nations
under the yoke of communism. In the five years that I had that
assignment we opened Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Bulgaria,
Russia, Ukraine and Estonia, following up on the great work of
President Monson in the German Democratic Republic and Poland. I
made 27 trips to Europe in five years, to 31 countries.
9. Worldwide travel
In the 30 years he has served
in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Elder Nelson has traveled to
129 nations, some multiple times. He has participated in the
dedication of 30 countries, including six Balkan nations in four
days in 2010.
10. Other specific
• 1993, he represented the
Church at the Parliament of World Religions, held in Chicago,
•1997-99, he served on the
U.S. State Department of State Committee on Religious Freedom Abroad
• In the 30 years he has been
an Apostle, he has created 24 stakes, called 153 stake presidents,
performed 277 temple sealings, and written 16 pamphlets and books.
LDS apostle Elder Russell M.
Nelson turns 90, By Gerry Avant LDS Church News, Published: Tuesday,
Sept. 9 2014 10:05 a.m. MDT