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It was sweet to reflect on President Packer’s life as we celebrated and mourned the lives of our service men and women this Independence Day. President Packer, an Air Force veteran, was an amazing example of putting God, country, and family above the value of his own life, just like many other veterans.

President Packer dedicated his life to teaching and spreading the gospel, but it was during his time in the Air Force that he received his personal testimony. He was stationed in Japan and on islands in the Pacific Ocean for nearly a year after the war ended.

More than once he told the story of gaining his own personal witness of the truth of the gospel in an isolated bunker one night on a tiny island in the Pacific Ocean. He walked away from that bunker a different man because he knew. What had been a belief and a hope had crystalized into certainty. He knew.

That personal witness carried him to become a beloved apostle of the Lord and President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Personally, my favorite address by President Packer is when he shared with us a poem he had written, titled “Unfinished Composition.” This was a poem he wrote on his 68th birthday, then added to when he turned 78, and finally finished when he was 88. Beautifully written, the poem has some funny lines…

Those things will not get better.
The only thing that grows in strength
With me is my forgetter.
But mostly it is about the strength that comes with aging.
If that were mine to choose,
I would not barter age for youth,
I’d have too much to lose.
I am quite content to move ahead,
To yield my youth, however grand.
The thing I’d lose if I went back
Is what I understand.
However, my favorite part is his final testimony. It’s humbling when you pause to think this final stanza is the reflection of a man with 88 years of experience, one who lived through many poignant moments in history and was heavily involved in all the affairs of the church. He has traveled the world, met with many great leaders, raised ten children, and counseled regularly with the prophet. With so much experience and wisdom, it’s beautiful to see that his testimony is still the same foundation that he gained as a young man serving in the military. The last stanza in his poem reads:
I’ll kneel before His wounded feet;
I’ll feel His Spirit glow.
My whispering, quivering voice will say,
“My Lord, my God, I know.”