President Packer Loved Hymns
Boyd K. Packer, president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, died Friday, July 3, 2015 at the age of 90. Known for his teaching of doctrines of the Restoration, he was also an advocate for music and the arts. For more than half a century he has encouraged appreciation for music, in particular the singing of the hymns of the Restoration. “When music is reverently presented, it can be akin to revelation,” he taught. “At times, I think, it cannot be separated from the voice of the Lord, the quiet, still voice of the Spirit.”
Members of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir have felt a special connection to President Packer. For decades, since he began serving in the highest councils of the Church, first as an Assistant to the Twelve and then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, he has spoken at General Conference sessions where the Choir, too, has participated.
President Packer observed at a General Conference in 2007, “Worthy music of all kinds has its place. And there are endless numbers of places where it can be heard. But the Tabernacle on Temple Square is different from them all.”
“The Tabernacle stands in the world as one of the great centers of worthy music,” he continued, “The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, identified by the name of this building, has been a voice of the Church for many years.”
President Packer had an affinity for the stirring hymn, “Come, Come, Ye Saints,” a song that has become a signature of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
President Packer described his tie to the song with an account of his brother “who became a brigadier general in the Air Force. During World War II he was a bomber pilot and took part in some of the most dangerous and desperate raids in Europe. He returned to an assignment in Washington, D.C., about the time I finished pilot training in the same B-24 bombers and was heading for the Pacific. We had a day or two together in Washington before I left for overseas.
"We talked of courage and of fear. I asked how he had held himself together in the face of all that he had endured.
He said, “I have a favorite hymn—‘Come, Come, Ye Saints,’ and when it was desperate, when there was little hope that we would return, I would keep that on my mind and it was as though the engines of the aircraft would sing back to me:
‘Come, come, ye saints,
No toil nor labor fear;
But with joy wend your way.
Though hard to you
This journey may appear,
Grace shall be as your day.’”
—Hymns, no. 30
“From this he clung to faith, the one essential ingredient to courage.” President Packer was a man of such faith and courage who has been called by the Lord to “come” home.