Dear President Packer,
Though you passed from this life just three days ago, I already miss you and want to thank you for the influence you have had on my life. I am writing you this personal note to thank you specifically for something I recently experienced.
About eighteen months ago I had the impression that I should study your words and to begin with your first talk as an apostle and then carefully read and ponder every talk you have given in General Conference for the past 45 years. I started in 1970 and made my way through each and every published talk until your last conference address. This was a delightful and amazing experience. I loved re-reading all these talks and immersing myself in your teachings, your stories, your insights and your testimony.
I want to tell you what a blessing you have been in my life and how consistent and powerful your influence has been on me. Though I was only a deacon when you were called into the Twelve, your words have sunk deeply into my heart over your long ministry—from the very beginning. It was amazing as I studied these many talks that there were only about four or five that I did not remember. I have read and re-read The Power of the Priesthood a dozen times. I loved what you said about the difference of the authority and the power of the priesthood: “We have done very well at distributing the authority of the priesthood. We have priesthood authority planted nearly everywhere. We have quorums of elders and high priests worldwide. But distributing the authority of the priesthood has raced, I think, ahead of distributing the power of the priesthood. The priesthood does not have the strength that it should have and will not have until the power of the priesthood is firmly fixed in the families as it should be.” You then said in that talk, with your characteristic warning voice: “Now, fathers, I would remind you of the sacred nature of your calling. You have the power of the priesthood directly from the Lord to protect your home. There will be times when all that stands as a shield between your family and the adversary’s mischief will be that power. You will receive direction from the Lord by way of the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
I remember so well The Weak and the Simple of the Church as that spoke to me as a lay member. You said so clearly: “Everything that is done in the Church—the leading, the teaching, the calling, the ordaining, the praying, the singing, the preparation of the sacrament, the counseling, and everything else—is done by ordinary members, the “weak things of the world. We see in the Christian churches their struggle to fill the need for clergy. We do not have that problem. Once the gospel is preached and the Church is organized, there is an inexhaustible supply of faithful brothers and sisters who have that testimony and are willing to answer the call to serve. They commit themselves to the work of the Lord and live the standards required of them.” Your saying those things truly spoke to me.
I appreciated so much your talk The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. Again, you spoke to the lay member, the normal person like me when you asked: “Haven’t you felt at times like Nephi, who said, ‘I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do”? (1 Nephi 4:6). Haven’t you at times felt very weak?…Life moves all too fast. When you feel weak, discouraged, depressed, or afraid, open the Book of Mormon and read. Do not let too much time pass before reading a verse, a thought, or a chapter.” I have loved that counsel and love turning to The Book of Mormon for strength.
I was so aided by Personal Revelation: The Gift, the Test, and the Promise. I loved your gentle teachings in that talk about learning to listen to the still small voice: “The Holy Ghost speaks with a voice that you feel more than you hear. It is described as a ‘still small voice.’ And while we speak of ‘listening’ to the whisperings of the Spirit, most often one describes a spiritual prompting by saying, ‘I had a feeling …’
“The Prophet Joseph Smith explained: ‘A person may profit by noticing the first intimation of the spirit of revelation; for instance, when you feel pure intelligence flowing into you, it may give you sudden strokes of ideas, so that by noticing it, you may find it fulfilled the same day or soon; … those things that were presented unto your minds by the Spirit of God, will come to pass; and thus by learning the Spirit of God and understanding it, you may grow into the principle of revelation, until you become perfect in Christ Jesus.’
“Revelation comes as words we feel more than hear. Nephi told his wayward brothers, who were visited by an angel, ‘Ye were past feeling, that ye could not feel his words.’
“The scriptures are full of such expressions as ‘The veil was taken from our minds, and the eyes of our understanding were opened,’ or ‘I will tell you in your mind and in your heart,’ or ‘I did enlighten thy mind,’ or ‘Speak the thoughts that I shall put into your hearts.’ There are hundreds of verses which teach of revelation…This voice of the Spirit speaks gently, prompting you what to do or what to say, or it may caution or warn you. Ignore or disobey these promptings, and the Spirit will leave you. It is your choice—your agency.” All of those teachings greatly strengthened me in my desires to understand more about personal revelation.
Many of these talks gave me permission and encouragement, as a lay member, to dive deeper and deeper into gospel study and meditation. I have read and studied The Father and the Family many times. My wife and I have eleven children and your counsel has been so important to me. I’ll never forget your prophetic words, given 18 months before the Proclamation on the family and over 21 years before the recent Supreme Court decision about marriage: “The ultimate purpose of the adversary, who has ‘great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time,’ is to disrupt, disturb, and destroy the home and the family. Like a ship without a rudder, without a compass, we drift from the family values which have anchored us in the past. Now we are caught in a current so strong that unless we correct our course, civilization as we know it will surely be wrecked to pieces.
“Moral values are being neglected and prayer expelled from public schools on the pretext that moral teaching belongs to religion. At the same time, atheism, the secular religion, is admitted to class, and our youngsters are proselyted to a conduct without morality.
“World leaders and court judges agree that the family must endure if we are to survive. At the same time, they use the words freedom and choice as tools to pry apart the safeguards of the past and loosen up the laws on marriage, abortion, and gender. In so doing, they promote the very things which threaten the family.” You saw all this so clearly nearly a generation before it all happened.
Who could forget the Balm of Gilead? This talk was so comforting. I can still hear your voice ringing perfectly in my mind saying:
“One night a knock came at his door. A little girl said simply, ‘Daddy wants you to come over. He wants to talk to you.’ ‘Daddy’ was the stake president. A grieving, heartbroken young man went to see his spiritual leader. This spiritual shepherd had been watching his flock and had something to say to him. The counsel from that wise servant was simply, ‘John, leave it alone. Nothing you can do about it will bring her back. Anything you do will make it worse. John, leave it alone.’” I loved that.
I, of course, loved your talk so much in October 1982 called Scriptures. That was when you told us all about the coming forth of the new editions of the scriptures. I was so moved by the story you told of the nearly insurmountable task of printing the scriptures that we all have carried in our hands for the past 35 years. You recounted:
“The technical problems seemed insurmountable. Computers could help, but there was always the human factor. How could you cross-reference the Bible with any other book? To cross-reference it with the three volumes was to require tens of thousands of footnotes. Thereafter there would be hundreds of thousands of possible combinations of information. It was too big even to think about. The technical challenge alone was staggering, to say nothing of maintaining accuracy, harmony, and consistency with the biblical text itself. It could not be done!
“But in that meeting also was Mr. Derek Bowen, editor, a most remarkable man. A World War II injury had left him unable to hear. Thereafter he devoted his remarkable compensating abilities to the editing, typesetting, and printing of Bibles. He was, perhaps, the one man in the world who could direct such a printing project…
“Several years into the project we asked for a report. How were they progressing with the tedious, laborious listing of topics in alphabetical order? They responded, ‘We have been through Heaven and Hell, past Love and Lust, and now we’re working toward Repentance.’…
“After more than seven years of quiet, intensive work, the Latter-day Saint edition of the King James Bible came off the press. Already work was well under way on the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. Over the years manuscripts had come into our hands which made possible the correction of printers’ errors which had crept into early editions.
“The work would be seen by more than the sympathetic students and the devoted members of the Church. The cold, impartial eyes of the research scholars would study it, and the angry eyes of enemies and detractors would pore over it. It must be correct in every detail.
“Finally, after two more years, the books came from the press, the most accurate we have ever had.
“Three months later, Derek Bowen, master editor of Bibles, passed away in England.” I have never forgotten that story. Thank you for letting us see that miraculous process through your eyes.
I have always loved your tremendous regard for the history of the Church. I love your sense of heritage, whether it be for your Brigham City background or your spiritual roots to Nauvoo and Palmyra. This foundation inside of you has undergirded all you have taught us over the years. It has been and will always be an anchor to me.
I loved your Tribute to the Rank and File of the Church and felt your love for us who are just the regular vineyard laborers. You gave me such a perspective of the history of the Church when you said it this way:
“There sits behind me on the stand Elder LeGrand Richards of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
“He remembers personally some of those who helped to open this work.
“He attended the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple and remembers President Wilford Woodruff very clearly. He heard him speak on several occasions.
“Yesterday Elder Faust mentioned the incident where Wilford Woodruff, leading a group of immigrants, was inspired not to take an ill-fated boat. Brother Richards heard Brother Woodruff give that sermon, name a number in the audience, and say to them, ‘If I had not followed that prompting, you would not be here today.’
“President Woodruff was only two years younger than the Prophet Joseph Smith, and he had been an Apostle for five years when the Prophet was martyred.
“Hands we have touched have touched the hands that shaped the beginnings of this dispensation.
“Some things have not changed very much over the years. Some things have not changed at all. This work has been brought through 150 years by ordinary men and women and children across the world.
“The rank and file of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, present and past, who now number in the millions, have each carried their part.” That part of your talk, given 35 years ago, always stuck with me and I wanted to carry my part.
I have never forgotten The Mediator. You gave that while I was serving my mission in Germany and I used it many times to try to teach our few investigators about the Atonement. That parable, once read, never leaves a person’s mind or heart. Thank you for that talk!
Of course, no youth can forget Spiritual Crocodiles. We have been to Africa many times since–one of our daughters served her mission in South Africa and when we picked her up we visited Krueger National Park—I thought about your talk there–and currently our youngest daughter is serving in Zambia. Thank you for that amazing talk. It left an indelible impression on my soul. I am so grateful that you never spoke with a sense of apology. I’ve always admired your boldness and your pure assurance. Thank you for the hundreds of testimonies you have borne over the years. They have blessed me very personally.
Thank you so much for a lifetime of service. Thank you for the books you have written. I read Teach Ye Diligently many times. Thank you for writing The Holy Temple. I’ve used it in my teaching and in my studies. Thank you for your dear family. We were blessed by having Allan in our Stake Presidency there in the Cottonwood Creek Stake. We recently met your son, Kenneth, at the Monte Bean Museum when we did a story on the re-opening (and on your amazing display) for Meridian Magazine. I’m so glad your wonderful art pieces will be in that museum for generations to enjoy. Thank you, truly, for being that watchman on the tower.
I want to end by relating one personal story that you will likely not remember but has been a blessing in my life, but, now that you are in the Spirit World, you will perfectly recall this. Maurine and I lived in the Washington, D.C. area for 11 years (2000-2011) and you came and visited our Annandale Virginia Stake. During the priesthood leadership session of that weekend you basically opened up the entire time to questions.
After a few questions had been asked and answered, one brother you called on stood up and, with a bit of a doubtful tone in his voice, asked you the following: “What does it really mean to be a ‘special witness’ of the Lord Jesus Christ?” At that very moment, the Spirit whispered to me that I would be called upon to answer that question. Within a second or two of that prompting you looked out at the assemblage of priesthood leaders and said, “Who will answer that question?”
I was temporarily stunned and thought that perhaps I should defer to some other leader in the stake to answer. There was silence and no hands went up. I raised my hand and you called on me, “Go ahead, brother. Stand up.” Fortunately I was very familiar with your own words over the years and I said, paraphrasing your own witness, “During the days of Jesus’ ministry on the earth he worked with his twelve apostles and knew them and was known of them as one man knows his friends. It is no different today.” You said, “You are exactly correct. Next question.” Perhaps others have forgotten that experience. I never will.
I give you my personal witness and testimony, borne of the Spirit many times, that you are a prophet of God. I have been deeply and richly blessed by your words and your teachings my entire life. Thank you, President Packer, for all you have done, all you do and all you will yet do in the Spirit World to move this work forward. My wife and I love you and Donna and will be forever grateful to you.
With love and gratitude,
Scot Facer Proctor
Editor’s note: A more detailed and personalized copy of this letter (without reference to the Spirit World) was delivered to President Boyd K. Packer in August, 2014, to which he graciously responded with love and appreciation.