Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin Has Passed Away

December 2, 2008 | 30 comments
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Elder Wirthlin

Elder Wirthlin died at 11:30 p.m. last night in his home. He was the oldest living apostle at 91. We invite you to share your memories and thoughts about Elder Wirthlin as we mourn his passing.

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30 Responses to Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin Has Passed Away

  1. joe@NC on December 2, 2008 at 12:12 pm

    I will miss him. His last address on hope was inspiring for me and my family. I read it over several times.

  2. mpb on December 2, 2008 at 12:25 pm

    When I was in the MTC over Christmas, Elder Wirthlin brought his family for the Christmas Day devotional. Each shared a talent (I think someone even played the saxophone!), then he got up to share a few thoughts at the end.

    I always enjoyed his stories about running.

    And his October 2007 conference address “The Great Commandment” was and still is my favorite address in recent Conference memory.

  3. angie whit on December 2, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    I appreciated his great compassion for others. He often spoke about being aware of those who feel down or left-out. He was concerned with those that struggled. I appreciated his words so much. He was a man who had a great capacity to love and feel. With tears in my eyes, I think of him. He will be missed.

  4. Ben on December 2, 2008 at 1:14 pm

    My dad’s mission president was sent home unexpectently for several reasons while my dad was serving in the mission office. Elder Wirthlin, then an area authority, became the temporary mission president while they looked for a permanent replacement. My dad had gotten used to the previous president’s stern demeanor and tense attitude, and was taken back by Elder Withlin’s laid-back attitude and constantly cheerful approach.

    One day, Elder Wirthlin called my dad into his office and said, “Elder Park, do you know what the signal is that you have had a good day at the office?” My dad responded that he didn’t. “Well,” Elder Withlin continued, “you can tell you had a good day when your desk is completely clean and empty.” Perplexed, my dad looked at Elder Wirthlin’s desk which had several tall cluttered piles as well as various papers scattered throughout the surface. Then, Wirthlin opened up a large drawer, extended is large arm, and proceeded to sweep everything from off of the desk until it all tumbled into the drawer. “Well,” he then said, “I guess it’s time to head home.”

  5. queuno on December 2, 2008 at 1:27 pm

    I always liked him, mainly because he had a different demeanor about him than other apostles. He was perhaps a bit more casual.

    And I’m glad he won’t have to witness the beatdown Alabama will put on his beloved Utes…

  6. jjohnsen on December 2, 2008 at 4:48 pm

    Great story Ben.

  7. Craig H. on December 2, 2008 at 5:08 pm

    I always liked him because he seemed so down to earth. One of my friends was made a stake president, and Elder Wirthlin was the authority who ended up choosing him. Teasing my friend, I asked him how in the world he’d been picked. My friend was puzzled as well. He said, “I swear we didn’t talk about anything except football.” No wonder, I thought.

  8. Jacob F on December 2, 2008 at 6:09 pm

    When I served in Austria, I remember visiting Elder Wirthlin’s former (local) companion, then inactive. He had some great stories, including one about Elder Wirthlin wanting to leave the mission boundaries and visit Rome so he could “persöhnlich dem Papst Zeugnis geben.”

    He said that more than anything Elder Wirthlin was a hard-working missionary.

  9. S.L. on December 2, 2008 at 6:26 pm

    I was roommates with Elder Wirthlin’s granddaughter my freshman year at BYU (2002). She invited me to a family dinner following a session of General Conference during which Elder Wirthlin spoke. I was so excited to meet Elder Wirthlin and his wife, and also very intimidated. When we arrived at their home and I was introduced to Elder Wirthlin, I managed to stutter out a basic Hello and an “I really thought your talk today was wonderful.”

    He looked at me, grinned, and quietly said “I’m just glad it’s over.”

    I’ll always remember his powerful humility. He was a spiritual giant.

  10. anon on December 2, 2008 at 6:43 pm

    He seemed like such a sweet man.

    My great fear remains that President Monson will pass away while BKP is still alive, thus leaving us stuck with him as president. Yikes…

  11. Mr. B. on December 2, 2008 at 7:05 pm

    I like BKP. He would be a great prophet! I remember when Ezra Taft Benson became president of the Church. I still have a newspaper article talking about the fringe element that was all concerned he would take the Church on some severe right turn. It never happened. The Lord is in control.

    Meanwhile, back at the ranch… I don’t suppose I appreciated Elder Wirthlin’s talks enough. His delivery style generally wasn’t the best. But, when reading the talks I found they were full of wisdom.

  12. Adam Greenwood on December 2, 2008 at 7:23 pm

    He’s made it to the end zone.

  13. DavidH on December 2, 2008 at 7:43 pm

    He was my favorite.

  14. Ray on December 2, 2008 at 7:45 pm

    His talks were amazing to hear, but they were even more amazing to read later. I will miss him – tremendously. His “orchestra” reference” probably was my favorite GC snippet ever.

  15. anon on December 2, 2008 at 8:45 pm

    BKP would be a horrible prophet and would likely drive away a quarter of the membership.

  16. Meredith C on December 2, 2008 at 9:05 pm

    He was my favorite too. His talk on kindness a few years back was the best representation of true Christianity I have ever heard in GC. I’ll miss him.

  17. Julie M. Smith on December 2, 2008 at 9:25 pm

    anon, go away.

    Your comments are completely inappropriate on a eulogy thread. Anything further about Pres. Packer will be deleted.

  18. Ugly Mahana on December 2, 2008 at 10:21 pm

    Thanks, Julie. (and I’ll not be concerned if you edit or delete this.)

    I have only recently been coming to appreciate Elder Wirthlin’s conference addresses. Yet I have always respected his quiet approach that indicated true humility. And his football stories were wonderful.

  19. Alex Valencic on December 2, 2008 at 10:25 pm

    One of my favourite memories about Elder Wirthlin is actually a discussion that happened on my mission… My companion and I were teaching a young woman whose sister was a recent convert, and we were discussing Conference. We asked her if there were any talks she had particularly liked, and she said that there was one that she really loved. She couldn’t remember who the speaker was, and as we tried to help her recall his name, she said something like this: “Um… well, he’s really old… he looks kind of like a troll…” To which I responded, “Um… do you mean Elder Wirthlin…?”

    Ever since then, I couldn’t help but think that Elder Wirthlin was the loveable old troll of the church. I loved his talks and his conversational manner in giving talks. It always felt like he was just talking with a small group of people, instead of millions.

  20. Tatiana on December 3, 2008 at 1:08 am

    Gosh, that makes me so sad! He had some of the best talks of anyone. I will miss him. :'(

  21. Jonovitch on December 3, 2008 at 2:18 am

    I accidentally called him Elder Haight to his face once. I was a teacher in the MTC at the time. I don’t know if I mis-remember his reaction, but I think he just muttered something and kept on walking down the hall. Luckily Elder Holland was in full stride right behind him and beamed at me with a wide grin as he shook my hand.

    My dad pointed out to me a few years ago that Elder Wirthlin’s talks were some of his favorites, which I thought was silly, since his delivery wasn’t great. But he pointed out to me that if you read them, they have some of the best hidden gems in all of Conference. After that, I turned off my ears, and realized that my dad was right. Powerful stuff.

    I’ll never forget his incredible talk that he finished with the literal support of Elder Nelson. One of the most beautiful moments I’ve ever witnessed. An image of strength, by both men, unmatched by anything else I know of. What a great man.

    Jon

  22. Peter LLC on December 3, 2008 at 8:37 am

    I got to see him in action in January 1997 when he created the Salzburg stake, about the closest I’ve come to an apostle in real life.

  23. Sheldon on December 3, 2008 at 10:29 am

    I fondly remember him leading a Ute football “pep rally.” He was wearing a Ute jersey and chanting, “what do we eat? cougar meat! how do we like it? rah rah rah!”

  24. john scherer on December 3, 2008 at 10:52 am

    In 2005 Elder Wirthlin spoke at a regional Stake conference that was broadcast throughout Ohio. Among other things, he talked about having the faith to be able to make life changing decisions and the blessings that would follow. This was one of those ‘tender mercies’ for my family. We were visiting Ohio together that same weekend to determine if we should accept a job offer I had received and relocate there and had found our way to the local Stake center in time for this conference. Though my wife and I both felt it was right, moving there would involve leaving the place where we both grew up, where our families were and the ward which sheltered us as new members and we needed some sort of confirmation that this move was right. I was given a strong impression during his talk that the Lord was mindful of my family and would support us in this move. I will always remember Elder Wirthlin for serving my family as a vehicle for God’s grace at this time. Hopefully I can thank him in person one day.

  25. Marc on December 3, 2008 at 11:03 am

    The SL Trib is re-running a great story on Elder Wirthlin and former Ute coach Urban Meyer. This made me laugh:

    “Coming to Utah as University of Utah’s football coach in 2003, Urban Meyer knew his popes but nothing about Mormonism. So Meyer read all he could, and then attended the LDS Church’s April General Conference, where he posed questions to everyone. Meeting LDS apostle Joseph B. Wirthlin, Meyer thought he had finally found a real expert on the faith. ‘I wanted to talk about LDS history and those types of things,” the popular coach said this week. “All he wanted to talk about was Utah football.'”

  26. Travis on December 4, 2008 at 11:24 am

    Elder Wirthlin wasn’t one of my favorite general authorities. Maybe it was the speaking style that others have mentioned. However, after his wife died, I noticed a tenderness and faith that I’m sure was always there, but I hadn’t bothered to notice before. I’ve finally matured in the past couple of years and I’ve been able to enjoy his talks more.
    I was truly saddened to read of his passing. I’ve enjoyed the memories shared here. It makes me want to repent of my earlier foolishness and read some of his older talks with a renewed heart.

  27. WMP on December 4, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    May the Lord be with President Monson at this time of great deliberation.

  28. Sean on December 4, 2008 at 3:20 pm

    Elder Wirthling was not the best public speaker however I always looked forward to reading his words in the Ensign because they seemed to be more powerful on paper than in person. I have often wondered, because of Elder Wirthlin, how many ancient prophets fell into the same dilemma. They might not have been great speakers in front of an audience but their words on paper penetrate the hearts of men.
    In the end, Elder Wirthlin will be missed.

  29. rjamesh on December 4, 2008 at 6:24 pm

    These comments have been a pleasure to read. As a University of Florida (1977) alumnus, the comments by Urban Meyer were funny. Maybe after Urbs brings us another title, he can take some time to get his questions (regarding the faith) answered!

  30. Polly on December 7, 2008 at 12:13 am

    Brother Wirthlin’s last talk at Conference in October of 2008 has sustained me recently. “Every Life has peaks and shadows and times when it seems the birds don’t sing and the bells don’t ring. Yet in spite of discouragement and adversity, those who are happiest seem to have a way of learning from difficult times, becoming stronger, wiser and happier as a result. The first thing is to learn to laugh. It will extend your life and make the lives of all those around you more enjoyable. The second thing is seek for the eternal. “My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflections shall be but a small moment; And then, if thou endure it well, thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.” Sometimes the very moments that seem to overcome us with suffering are those that will ultimately suffer us to overcome.” He was speaking for us today. I will miss his wisdom, learned through a life of hard work and charitable service and sometimes sadness.