Church News: Deaths

Ruffin Bridgeforth, 74, one of the first black men to receive the priesthood, died March 21, 1997, in Salt Lake City. He was ordained by Elder Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve in June 1978, shortly after the priesthood was extended to all worthy male Church members over age 12.

At the time, he was serving as the first president of the Genesis Group, an organization of black Church members offering support to one another. He later served as high councilor, bishop's counselor in a branch serving inmates at the Utah State Prison, and as high priests group leader.When the Genesis group observed its 25th anniversary in October 1996, Brother Ridgeforth and his wife, Betty, helped organize the event. At the event, he was presented an award of appreciation by President Thomas S. Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency.

President Packer, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve, said Brother Bridgeforth was a "soldier all through those very difficult days" when blacks could not have the priesthood conferred upon them. "After they received the priesthood, then he continued to be the focal point. So if there's one man in that whole episode that stood out as a Latter-day Saint and a stalwart, it was Ruffin Bridgeforth."

Elder David B. Haight of the Quorum of the Twelve, said, "I'll always remember him for the strength of his convictions. He was a giant to black members throughout the Church and an example to everyone who came in contact with him."

Marjorie Isabelle Ball, 90, one of the first Golden Gleaners and a member of the Mutual Improvement Association General Board, died March 20, 1997, in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Verda Fox Burton, 96, a member of the Relief Society General Board for eight years, died March 20, 1997, in Salt Lake City. She served as Stake YWMIA and Primary president, and ward Relief Society president.

Clara Elizabeth W. McMaster, 92, a member of the Primary General Board for 14 years and a composer of a number of well-known Primary hymns, died March 18, 1997, in Salt Lake County.

Among the hymns for which she wrote lyrics and music are "Teach Me to Walk in the Light," "Reverently, Quietly" and "My Heavenly Father Loves Me."

Other hymns she wrote included, "Kindness Begins with Me," "Choose the Right Way" and "Remember the Sabbath Day."

She was a member of the Tabernacle Choir for 23 years.

Alfred R.I. Garry, the first New Zealander to be called as president of the New Zealand Temple, died March 19, 1997, at Hamilton, New Zealand. He served as temple president from April 1974-78.

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