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From plumbing to pipe organs: How one man restored President Packer's beloved instrument

Boyd Young was a master plumber for most of his working years before he began playing with a different kind of pipe.

While helping a ward member fix their boiler four years ago, the Brigham City resident came across a 1956 Hammond organ that the ward member was trying to give away. Young took the organ for his daughter-in-law and spent the next five to six months re-building the tone generator.

While restoring the Hammond organ, he read online about a man who had built a pipe organ in his wood shed, so he began building several styles of pipe organ pipes himself.

He restored several more organs before hearing about two and a half years ago that President Boyd K. Packer had donated his organ to the Brigham City seminary, where President Packer taught from 1949 to 1955, according to the Standard Examiner.

Young contacted the seminary about restoring the organ, but they didn’t have the budget at that time; earlier this year, however, the seminary contacted Young and asked if he was still interested in restoring the organ.

“I’ve taken it apart, cleaned, repaired, replaced, re-finished the entire organ, near every square inch inside and out,” Young said. The organ returned to the seminary on June 15.

Restoring the organ

Brigham City Seminary President James Peterson said the organ was in the original seminary where President Packer taught, and it was also in President Packer’s classroom when he was leaving the seminary. The seminary was upgrading to pianos at the time, and President Packer was given the opportunity to buy the organ, which he did. The organ was then in President Packer’s home from the 1950s until 2015, when it was donated back to the seminary.

Peterson said the faculty was split on if they should renovate the organ “because we figured that the scratches and the scuffs and the character marks on it happened in the Packer home or in his classroom. So we didn’t know how we felt about erasing all that.”

However, when Sister Packer was contacted for her opinion, she said she’d be “delighted” to see the organ restored.

Young, who’s largely self-trained, said a typical restoration takes him two to three months working 8-10 hours a day, 5-6 days a week.

“It depends on how much needs to be re-done, how many parts are missing, broken or otherwise need to be replaced,” he said. For President Packer’s organ, he also went beyond his contract by building a stool out of the same kinds of wood.

“That was kind of my gift,” he said.

Restoring President Packer’s organ was special, he said, but the work process was also not that different from other projects he’s worked on.

“The physical part of it was the same as the others, but just the fact that who had previously owned it and who owns it now was just kind of fun,” he said.

Young also said he hopes the organ gets used when it’s returned to the seminary.

“It’s kind of an old bygone era of music making, but it still sounds beautiful, and if it becomes a wall ornament, I’m going to be sorely disappointed,” he said.

Peterson said they have one teacher who plays and students sometimes sit down to play it. Currently they plan on returning the organ to its original place in the foyer, though some of the teachers want to rotate it through their classrooms.

Instrument in the Lord’s hands

Peterson said he hopes students learn the organ’s history and recognize it possibly provided accompaniment to some of their grandparents. It could also be useful in lessons about being an instrument in the Lord’s hands.

He added that the organ is a reminder of the seminary’s past teachers, particularly because in a few years, there may be students who don’t know who President Packer was or what he gave to the Church throughout his life.

“[The organ] gives a touchstone to teach us some of those important lessons,” he said.

He also said they’re glad to have a piece of history at their seminary.

“We’re honored to have taught in the same place that President Packer and so many others have, to learn more about the Savior and His plan and those things here,” he said.