Besides being a bold firebrand of an apostle, the recently departed Boyd K. Packer was also an accomplished folk artist.
Ten years ago, my family and I toured the Church History and Art Museum in Salt Lake City. One of the exhibits was of the painting and wood carvings Elder Packer had done throughout his life. I was struck by how excellent they were, particularly the wood carvings of small animals and birds; clearly the result of careful real-life observation and exquisite technical skill. (An example of his work is seen to the left.)
Later, I wrote him a letter thanking him for some talks he’d given and complimenting him on his art, especially the wood carvings.
He replied in a letter dated August 17, 2005. One paragraph reads: “I am glad you enjoyed the museum visit. That seems like another life as the years have moved on. Because of causes incident to age, I am not able to do that fine work anymore.”
The pathos of those statements also struck me. I noted that he didn’t blame his lack of recent art on the demands of his ministry, but only on the realities of advancing age. (In retrospect, it’s inspiring that despite “causes incident to age,” he still maintained a vigorous and productive global ministry for another decade after writing that letter!)
Clearly, though, he loved those carvings and it hurt to not be able to do them anymore. At least in his golden years he had all those great achievements to look back on, and the memory of the feeling of creating them in the first place.
Truly, this was a life deeply and well lived.
More examples of his art can be seen here and here.
In a 1990 address to Regional Representatives, Elder Boyd K. Packer said:
In recent years I have felt, and I think I am not alone, that we were losing the ability to correct the course of the Church. You cannot appreciate how deeply I feel about the importance of this present opportunity unless you know the regard, the reverence, I have for the Book of Mormon and how seriously I have taken the warnings of the prophets, particularly Alma and Helaman.
Both Alma and Helaman told of the church in their day. They warned about fast growth, the desire to be accepted by the world, to be popular, and particularly they warned about prosperity. Each time those conditions existed in combination, the Church drifted off course. All of those conditions are present in the Church today.
Helaman repeatedly warned, I think four times he used these words, that the fatal drift of the church could occur “in the space of not many years.” In one instance it took only six years. (See Helaman 6:32, 7:6, 11:26)
It’s especially interesting that he mentions the book of Helaman as being a prophetic parallel for our day, in addition to Alma. The superscription to Helaman–the introductory summary between the title and chapter one of the text–is part of the scriptural record, not an editorial study aid by modern church printers, like the individual chapter headings are. One of the items in that ancient superscription is this:
An account of the righteousness of the Lamanites, and the wickedness and abominations of the Nephites.