Sunshine in his soul: Elder Robert L. Simpson remembered for his optimism

ST. GEORGE, Utah — Elder Robert L. Simpson was remembered during funeral services April 19 as a man without guile whose cheerful countenance reflected a Christlike soul.

"We gather today to remember his infectious smile," said Lisa Simpson Dickman, a granddaughter of Elder Simpson, who died April 15 at his home in St. George at the age of 87. "When I came to visit him, he would open the door, reach out his arms, and say, 'Come here!' Then he'd give me a big squeeze."

Elder Simpson served in several capacities during his 28 years as a General Authority. In 1961 he was called as first counselor to Presiding Bishop John H. Vandenberg. During his more than 10 years in the Presiding Bishopric, Elder Simpson's prime responsibility was supervising the Church's youth programs.

Elder Simpson was sustained as an Assistant to the Twelve in April 1972 and to the First Quorum of Seventy in 1976. In 1989 Elder Simpson was named an emeritus General Authority. In 1995 he was called to serve as director of the St. George Temple Visitors Center. (Additional biographical information about Elder Simpson was published in the Church News April 19.)

Christine Simpson Lemmon read her father's eulogy and shared her feelings with those who gathered in the Green Valley Stake Center.

"My father was very kind and loving. He was very family oriented and family always came first," she said. "I will miss him greatly."

Those who knew Elder Simpson from his years as a missionary in New Zealand, and later as a mission president in the region, also came. Deanna Edwards sang "Koutou Katou Ra," or "Come to the Savior" in Maori, prompting many in the back pews to hum along.

Elder F. Arthur Kay, a close friend and emeritus General Authority, said his friend's life was impressive, particularly when it came to the way he treated his wife, Jelaire, and his family.

"They had a tender and personal relationship. He'd often say, with some emotion, 'And she's all mine!' when he talked about Jelaire," said Elder Kay.

Elder Simpson made friends easily wherever he went. "It is God's gift. It is the power of leaving ourselves and appreciating what is great and good in others," said Elder Kay.

One of Elder Simpson's sons, Robert M. Simpson, shared some lighthearted thoughts.

"He would always wear a white shirt and tie to a Los Angeles Dodger's game," said his son. "He always felt he might meet a member of the Church and he wanted to be in uniform. He took a lot of abuse for that."

Elder Simpson often said, "The gospel is beautifully simple and simply beautiful," his son reminded the congregation.

"He didn't seem to have any inner conflict with doing the right thing at the right time," said Brother Simpson.

Optimism was a constant character trait of Elder Simpson, said his brother-in-law, Elder Dale E. Miller of the Seventy.

"If there's one thing I learned from him it's to always love the gospel and be optimistic about the hereafter and this life," said Elder Miller. "He was truly a man without guile and he did have sunshine in his soul."

Elder Earl C. Tingey, senior president of the Seventy, read a letter from the First Presidency that expressed love and concern for Elder Simpson's widow and other family members.

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