President Packer died today, and I admit feeling down about it. He’s always been quite high on my list of favorite apostles. I know many who, while surely sad to see him go, are breathing a sigh of relief that he will not replace President Monson when that time comes. I know many who see him as a very abrupt, stern, and hard-nosed apostle. I’ve always felt that attitude was unfounded and based more on myths and legends than on truth and reality. There’s no denying that he had a strong sense of right and wrong, a firm commitment to his views on testimony and faith, and a no nonsense approach to living and teaching the gospel; would that we all could be so firm and devoted.
As I think over his life, I’m reminded of three things that seem to stand out more than the rest:
1–“The study of doctrine and the teaching of doctrine will change behavior more than the study of behavior will change behavior.”
This quote was, for a time, just about the only thing I seemed to hear at church, and it was a foundational piece of my fledgling testimony. I was deeply grateful when, a view years ago, Elder Bednar reminded us of this wise quote from President Packer, but expounded on it by reminding us that what President Packer was teaching us was that a study of doctrine related to the behavior you are trying to fix will change behavior faster than a study of behavior related to that behavior will change that behavior. What a profound and simple truth that we so often forget, and in that statement is, at least in part, the answer to a successful life.
2–I’m reminded of his age poem from a few years ago. In so many ways, this typifies for me the straight-forward, simple nature of his testimony. He didn’t mince words when it came to his declarations and statements regarding his faith, his relationship and testimony of the Savior, and his love for his wife and family. I will miss the clarity of his teachings.
3–I think the biggest impact he had on my life was his parable of the mediator, which was later turned into a video. As a teenager, this was the first time I really understood how the principles of Mercy and Justice worked together, and it was also the first time I really understood why a Savior was not only a good thing for us to have, but a necessary element of our lives on earth. Similarly, this is the man who brought us Spiritual Crocodiles. Both these principles–and many others–were important for me when I was younger, and when I needed the gospel taught simply, plainly, and powerfully.
I will him. I will miss his gentle, straight forward approach. He certainly represents in many ways the passing of that older generation. Yes, President Monson is still here, but the torch has been passed to younger generations of apostles (if a group of men in their 80s, 70s, and 60s can be called young…). I find it incredibly comforting that those men have had the opportunity to sit at the feet of a truly incredible servant of the Lord for so long.
Farewell, my friend.