Smitten by a paralyzing accident in the prime of life and while actively serving as a General Authority, Elder Andrew W. Peterson remained faithful to the Lord and His work to the end of his life, Church leaders said at funeral services Jan. 5.
An emeritus General Authority, Elder Peterson, 56, died Dec. 31 in Salt Lake City. In 1997, while serving as the president of the Mexico North Area, he suffered paralyzing injures in a motorcycle accident in Salt Lake City.
All three members of the First Presidency spoke at the funeral in the Salt Lake Wilford Stake Center, where every available seat was filled. Also speaking were Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve, who was Elder Peterson's mission president in the North Argentine Mission, and Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Presidency of the Seventy, who served with Elder Peterson under President Scott.
Speakers remembered "Drew" Peterson as a tireless and dedicated servant of God with impeccable standards and a radiant smile that shone even in the midst of his latter afflictions.
President Gordon B. Hinckley recalled talking with Elder Peterson, then a young missionary in Argentina, some 35 years ago. "You didn't need to ask him whether he was enjoying his mission," he said. "You didn't need to ask him whether he was living right. He met every standard of missionary service in a marvelous and wonderful way, and that was carried out throughout his life."
President Hinckley said no one can understand why he suffered the accident. "We know it happened. It was a grievous, terrible thing, and the aftermath was so consuming and constant with him all the time. Now really, when all's said and done, something wonderful has happened. He has set aside that wheelchair and all of the impediments and all of the impairments which he suffered and gone on to a new life of freedom and light and joy and creative enterprise, with a smile on his face, as I believe, and gladness in his heart, gone forward to prepare for happy reunions which most certainly will follow."
President Thomas S. Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency, noted, "Andrew Peterson Drew, as we called him had a great smile. I believe he is still smiling. He could smile through the tears and the adversity. But he wanted to go the extra mile."
President Monson said that as mission president, Elder Peterson through his missionary work laid the foundation for the erection of a temple in Merida on the Yucatan Peninsula. "Some of his converts may go to that very same temple without journeying all the way to Mexico City."
Of his character, President Monson declared: "There was no chink in his armor; there was no guile in his soul. . . . His great desire in life was to always be a missionary. He was a missionary first. He was a missionary last. He was a missionary forever."
Millions in the Spirit World will now see his smile, hear his testimony and receive "that embracing love of fellowship in the kingdom of God," President Monson said. "The world was just too small, just too small to contain the spirit of this eternal missionary."
President James E. Faust, second counselor in the First Presidency, remarked: "I think we all wonder why Elder Peterson, such a good and righteous man, had an accident visited upon him as well as all of the suffering that followed. . . . Then we get to the heart of the question: Why do the good suffer just like the wicked?"
Quoting Dr. Arthur Wentworth Hewitt, President Faust said: "If on a basis of strict personal return here and now, all the good were always happy and all the bad suffered disaster, . . . this would be the most subtle damnation of the character imaginable. Men would do good, not for God's sake but for that of joy that could be achieved, until one could not even know his own motives."
President Faust added, "Regardless of the ups and downs and the happiness and sadness of this life, where do we make our stand? Without having all the answers, like Drew and Christine (his wife), we go forward with faith in the Savior. We accept the eternal plan of happiness with the Father."
Quoting from the book of Job, President Faust commented that the continual suffering is now over for Elder Peterson, and the lesson of his life reaffirms the testimony "I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:
"And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God." (Job 19:25-26.)
Elder Scott remembered Elder Peterson in the mission field as "an enthusiastic and marvelous missionary."
"Yet even there he faced challenges. I remember one occasion he came to me quietly and asked 'Why are the heavens sealed?' " He felt his prayers were not getting through to heaven. President Scott was at a loss as to how to respond. Then the impression came to tell him that the Lord wanted him to rise to a higher level, that he should trust in God, and answers to his prayers would come.
"It took some weeks of trusting. . . but he did it, just as he conquered so many challenges in his life," he said. "How beautiful it was to hear him express gratitude to the Lord for those steps he took on his own after weeks of therapy."
Elder Christofferson said he thinks of Elder Peterson, a dentist by profession, every time he has his teeth fixed. "I carry evidence of his skill," he quipped. Then he recalled that his wife, Cathy, and he sat in Elder Peterson's dentist chair as he recalled "wonderful and faith-promoting experiences with the saints in Mexico. It prepared and enthused us for our own assignment there."
Elder Peterson's example, he said, has drawn from him a renewed commitment. "He praised my efforts, but I realized as I looked at him, my efforts were inadequate. In talking with him, I determined to do more to match that service."
He said Elder Peterson incorporated the belief that "our gifts and talents vary, but as we are blessed with the ability to come and go and move and speak, we are duty bound to use that capacity in God's service, including, of course, our service to our fellow man."
During the service, the children of the Petersons Joshua, Ashley, Megan, Daniel, Jennifer, Natalie, Annie and Andrew sang the hymn "As I Have Loved You." Later, Lindsay Richards, a former bishop of the Petersons, sang "I Know That My Redeemer Lives."
Robert Cundick, former Salt Lake Tabernacle organist and a member of the Petersons' ward, played prelude and postlude music and accompaniment for congregational singing.
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