President Boyd K. Packer, his wife Donna and their son Elder Allan F. Packer
of the Seventy and his wife Terri participated in the cornerstone and dedication
of the Brigham City Utah Temple. © 2012 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights
Last Friday, Boyd K. Packer, passed away at the age of 90.
“President Packer was a friend to family history research for many years,” said David Rencher, FamilySearch CGO. “It was my pleasure to assist the Packers when I served at the British Reference Desk in the Family History Library.” At the time of his passing, President Packer was president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Rencher said “President Packer and his wife Donna Smith Packer worked tirelessly on researching the Packer family in England. Their work culminated in the book On Footings from the Past: the Packers in England.1
President Packer served on the Church’s Temple and Family History Executive Council for many years. In 1975, he announced the creation of the Church’s genealogy department, formally integrating the Genealogical Society of Utah.2
President Packer made many trips to England, said Rencher. He served on the board of directors of the Society of Genealogists, London. On one of these trips he was impressed by the Federation of Family History Societies and noticed how they incorporated more than just genealogical details. Upon returning to Salt Lake City, he suggested that the then Genealogical Department change its name to the more inclusive Family History Department. The change was immediately embraced and the department has been known by that name ever since. FamilySearch might have a different name if it hadn’t been for the change.
The Genealogical Library in Salt Lake City was renamed the Family History Library and branch libraries were renamed to family history centers.3
When statistics in 1975 indicated that only 7.5% of Church members had participated in the four-generation program, he pushed for simplifications.4 I know that at one point the Church’s submission format instructions occupied an entire book. It contained arcane requirements such as precise rules on how place names had to be abbreviated to fit in the small spaces on family group sheets and pedigree charts. In 1980 he wrote a book which included a simple way for anyone to get started doing family history.
If you don’t know where to start, start with yourself…
Get a cardboard box. … Put it … in the way … anywhere where it cannot go unnoticed. Then, over a period of a few weeks, collect and put into the box every record of your life, such as your birth certificate, … anything that is written, or registered, or recorded that testifies that you are alive and what you have done.5
President Packer was a driving force behind microfilming new records. In 1977 he started an effort to acquire records of Native Americans. He requested that the Genealogical Society expand into Africa. He visited Jerusalem in 1977 and began talks for the acquisition of records there.6
President Packer’s family also has a great love for genealogy. His son, Elder Allan F. Packer, is the chairman of the board of FamilySearch International. As mentioned, his wife Donna wrote the Packer family history book. Even at her advanced age, I see her nearly every year at the BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy. And Donna is accompanied each year by Allan’s wife, Terri.
The funeral will be this Friday, 10 July 2015, 11:00 a.m. MDT in the Tabernacle on Temple Square in Salt Lake City. If past practice is followed, the funeral will be broadcast live. See the www.mormonnewsroom.org for more information. Expressions of sympathy can be posted on President Packer’s Facebook page or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
President Packer, we will miss you. God bless and comfort your family until we are all reunited at the resurrection.
1. See Donna Smith Packer, On Footings from the Past: the Packers in England (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1988); online archive, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/search/catalog/657631 : accessed 4 July 2015). The FamilySearch family history center in Brigham City, Utah contains a history that President Packer wrote about his parents. See “’The Best Team,’ the Life Story of Ira Wight Packer and Emma Jensen Packer,” part of a compilation, “Packer Family Histories,” (bound manuscript, n.d., Brigham City Utah FamilySearch Center); online archive, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/search/catalog/2388466 : accessed 4 July 2015).
2. James B. Allen, Jessie L. Embry, and Kahlile Mehr, Hearts Turned to the Fathers, a special issue of BYU Studies 34 (1994-95), 266.; online archives, BYU Studies Quarterly (https://byustudies.byu.edu/showtitle.aspx?title=123 : accessed 4 July 2015), 266.
3. “Ancestral Study Clarified,” Deseret News (Salt Lake City, Utah), 11 August 1987, p. B1, col. 5; archived online, Google News (https://news.google.com/newspapers : accessed 5 July 2015).
4. Allen, Hearts Turned to the Fathers, 272.
5. Boyd K. Packer, “Your Family History: Getting Started,” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (https://www.lds.org/ensign/2003/08/your-family-history-getting-started : accessed 4 July 2015); excerpted from The Holy Temple (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1980).
6. Allen, Hearts Turned to the Fathers, 247, 250-51.