ST. GEORGE, Utah — Elder Robert L. Simpson, emeritus General Authority, longtime member of the Presiding Bishopric, and later, of the Seventy, died April 15, 2003, at his home in St. George, Utah.
Born Robert Leatham Simpson in Salt Lake City in 1915, he was raised from early childhood in Southern California. During World War II, he was a captain in the United States Air Force serving in North Africa and the Middle East. He served two missions for the Church in New Zealand, the first time as a young missionary and the second as a mission president.
His service as a General Authority began in October 1961 as first counselor to Presiding Bishop John H. Vandenberg. For 10 1/2 years, he fulfilled that calling. Many Church members recall his service during their formative years, as his primary responsibility was supervising youth programs of the Church. In a 1999 Church News interview, he recollected that Church leaders tried to provide a refuge for youth in a time of societal turbulence and shifting values.
"It took some doing, of course," he said, "but the curriculum for our youth was restructured [under priesthood correlation]. And . . . the age at which a young man could serve a mission was reduced from 20 to 19, which gave us a whole new view on the number of missionaries we could furnish the world. The numbers went up by the thousands almost immediately." (Church News, July 10, 1999, p. 4.)
In 1972, Elder Simpson became an Assistant to the Council of the Twelve Apostles and during three years in that position served as managing director of the Church Social Services Department and associate managing director of the Melchizedek Priesthood MIA.
He presided over the East London Mission beginning in 1975, and six months later became area supervisor for the Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific Area of the Church, with residence in Auckland, New Zealand. He was sustained to the First Quorum of the Seventy Oct. 1, 1976, and in 1978 he was called to serve as managing director of the Church Correlation Department, as area supervisor for the Salt Lake City Area and as managing director of the Missionary Department.
Elder Simpson was called as president of the Los Angeles Temple in 1980, where he served with his wife, Jelaire, as matron until 1982, when he was called to be the executive administrator for the Southeast Asia / Philippines Area of the Church.
His service also included general president of the Sunday School, 1986-89, and an assistant executive director of the Temple Department.
On Oct. 1, 1989, he was named an emeritus General Authority.
Funeral services will be Saturday, April 19 at noon in the Green Valley Stake Center, 511 South Valley View Street in St. George.