SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Several thousand people are expected at a public funeral Friday in Salt Lake City for Mormon leader Boyd K. Packer, who was next in line to become president and prophet of the religion.
The memorial service at the Tabernacle on Temple Square will be the second funeral in less than five weeks for a high-ranking leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Packer’s death on July 3 at the age of 90 from natural causes left the religion with two openings on a high-level governing body called the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Modeled after Jesus Christ’s apostles, the group serves under the church president and his two counselors in overseeing operations of the church and its business interests.
Fellow quorum member L. Tom Perry died on May 30 from cancer at the age of 92.
Packer had been a member of the church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles since 1970. As the longest tenured member of that governing body, he was next in line to become president of the Salt Lake City-based religion, which counts 15 million members worldwide.
Quorum member Russell M. Nelson, 90, now becomes next in line to take Mormon President Thomas S. Monson’s place. Monson is 87 years old, and church officials have said he’s feeling the effects of his age.
Packer was known for being a staunch advocate for a conservative form of Mormonism. That made him a model for like-minded, devout Latter-day Saints but also a target for gay rights groups and some more liberal Mormons.
Packer is remembered for giving a speech in 1993 in which he warned that the religion faced the greatest threat from three groups: feminists, homosexuals and intellectuals. In 2010, he denounced homosexual attraction as unnatural and immoral.
In 2013, a Utah gay rights organization started a petition to protest the naming of a new Weber State University center after Packer.
His oldest son, Allan Packer, said this week that it pained his father during his final years to observe declining morals around the world.
Allan Packer said his father’s greatest accomplishment was the family he raised with his wife of 70 years, Donna. They had 10 children, 60 grandchildren and 111 great-grandchildren.
Packer loved painting and sculpting and ditching his suit and tie to get dirty in the outdoors to hunt, fish and camp, Allan Packer said.
Replacements for Packer and Perry on the quorum will be chosen sometime in the coming months by Monson, considered the religion’s prophet. Members of the faith believe those decisions are guided by inspiration from God. Some past quorum members have been moved up from another governing body, the Quorum of the Seventy, while others have come from leadership posts at church-run universities.