Sister Donna Edith Smith Packer, the wife of the late President Boyd K. Packer, who served as president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, died Saturday, March 5, 2022, at 10:25 p.m. from causes incident to age. She was 94.
Sister Packer will be remembered for her love of family history work, her treasured role as a wife, mother, and grandmother and for her dedication to the gospel.
Born to William W. and Nellie Jordan Smith, Donna was the oldest child of four and grew up in a household of boys.
Donna was precious to her husband and honored by her children, and she will be remembered for her strong belief in the eternal nature of families. Known for prioritizing traditions and togetherness, she made a lasting impact on her posterity totaling more than 200 members. President Packer shared his love for Donna in his final general conference address in April 2015: “When it comes to my wife, the mother of our children, I am without words. The feeling is so deep and the gratitude so powerful that I am left almost without expression. … I am grateful for each moment I am with her side by side and for the promise the Lord has given that there will be no end.”
Born October 20, 1927, in Brigham City, Utah, to William Waldamer Smith and Nellie Edith Jordan, Donna was the only daughter and the oldest of four children. From her youth, Donna developed a love of reading, a keen interest in family history and a talent for music, playing the piano and violin. As a young woman growing up during World War II, she worked at her father’s gas station, in the local cannery and in Brigham City orchards picking fruit. She graduated from Box Elder High School in 1945 and earned a scholarship in music to attend Weber State College. She graduated from college with an associate degree of science in 1947.
In 1946, Donna attended a Church gathering where a young man, Boyd Kenneth Packer, was the guest speaker. She later commented that he made a striking impression on her. “I couldn’t say I knew he was the one,” she said, “but I knew he was the kind of person I wanted to marry.” Boyd and Donna courted and were married on July 28, 1947, in the Logan Utah Temple. They established their home in Brigham City and together had 10 children, seven sons and three daughters.
Boyd Packer watched as she was crowned “Peach Days Queen” in Brigham City. Then, he was asked to speak in a Sunday evening sacrament meeting by a distant cousin. It was the ward Donna and her family attended, with her father serving as a counselor in the bishopric.
“When Boyd was introduced and came to the pulpit he was prompted to speak on obedience,” the biography says. “He then urged Church members to willingly respond to calls that came to them. Donna Smith, who was dating several young men, one rather seriously, listened intently to Boyd Packer. She thought, ‘Now, this is the type of man I would wish to marry.’”
She married Boyd K. Packer on July 28, 1947, and he served for more than 50 years as a general authority and served with seven prophets. He died July 3, 2015, at the age of 90.
Donna viewed her role as a mother as a divine responsibility to teach and lead children to follow Jesus Christ. “Mom’s life focus was love of family and the gospel of Jesus Christ,” said Kathleen Packer Bullock, the Packers’ youngest daughter. “We all knew how deeply she cared for us children and how much she loved our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. … Mom radiated goodness.” In their home, Donna and her husband taught their children hard work, gratitude, resourcefulness and faith.
In 1965, the family moved to Boston for three years and Donna served with her husband as he presided over the New England Mission. She and her husband worked together to lead the mission and care for their then nine children, ranging in ages from 3 to 17. Donna also managed the mission home and supervised and trained local Relief Society, Young Women and Primary leaders.
Upon their return from Boston, Donna was involved in her community and served as a volunteer in the local schools. In 1973, Donna Packer was given the “Exemplary Woman of the Year Award” from Ricks College, now BYU–Idaho.
Beginning with a family history class in her early teen years, Donna exhibited a lifelong dedication to family genealogical research. Eldon Packer, the youngest of the 10 children, said he remembers playing with toy cars as a young boy while his mother worked on genealogy. Through her efforts, a detailed volume about the Packer family was published in 1988. Donna made similar efforts on her own family line, writing numerous life stories for her direct ancestors and producing videos of present and past generations. In her later years, Donna took family history courses from Brigham Young University, and in 2012, at age 84, she earned a certificate in family history.
Motivated by a love of children and a clear vision of their identity as children of God, Donna spent 30 years of continuous service in the Primary organization. Her oldest son, Elder Allan Packer, observed, “Her deep spirituality, skills as a teacher of both children and adults and ability to plan and organize motivated and inspired all she taught.”
A faithful support to her husband, Donna stood by President Packer throughout his many years of dedicated Church service. Ordained an apostle on April 9, 1970, President Packer was the longest-serving member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles at the time of his passing on July 3, 2015, at age 90.
Equally yoked, the Packers supported each other in public and at home. She sought to establish an environment of peace and harmony in the home, and they often counseled together as he prepared for assignments. Donna traveled frequently with her husband, meeting many members of the Church throughout the world. From 1994 to 2014, she was also responsible for the meetings with the wives of General Authorities, inspiring and lifting the women as they served with their husbands throughout the world.
Donna Edith Smith Packer will be remembered for her focus on relationships, traditions and the importance of keeping covenants to follow Jesus Christ. She penned and lived by the following words: “Faith in daily living and in the future, courage in times of trial, power in family unity, service to God and mankind, vision of eternities together, we are covenant keepers.”
The greatest reward we have received in this life, and the life to come, is our children and our grandchildren. Toward the end of our mortal days together, I am grateful for each moment I am with her side by side and for the promise the Lord has given that there will be no end.”