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Elisa Wirthlin succumbs at age 87

Apostle's wife loved gospel, offered comfort, reassurance

Elisa Young Rogers Wirthlin, wife of Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve, died Wednesday night, Aug. 16, 2006, at LDS Hospital in Salt Lake City of causes incident to age. She was 87.

Sister Wirthlin was known for her quick, warm smile and words of comfort and assurance to members and missionaries throughout the world as she accompanied Elder Wirthlin on many assignments.

Her love for the gospel and for her family was apparent in an address she offered just last year. During a satellite conference on May 15, 2005, to 133,000 members living in 41 stakes in the Ohio Valley, she spoke about the family, the most basic unit in the Church.

"The pattern for families was to get children to know God so that we can all come back into His presence together," she said during the conference. "As parents, grandparents and uncles and aunts we can each help our posterity to return to our Father in Heaven."

Parents, she said, should instill in their children principles of the gospel, including faith and prayer. "We have to set good examples," she said.

Born June 22, 1919, to Orson Madsen and Bernice Young Rogers, Sister Wirthlin is a direct descendant of Utah pioneers. Her great-grandmother, Aurelia Spencer Rogers, was the first president of the Primary association, organized in Utah in 1878. Her mother was the granddaughter of Joseph Young, brother of President Brigham Young.

The youngest of four children, she attended East High School in Salt Lake City, where she often heard of a high school football player by the name of Joseph Wirthlin. A few years later, she met the returned missionary while at the University of Utah, where both were students and where her future husband played halfback for the Utah football team. They were married on May 26, 1941, in the Salt Lake Temple by President David O. McKay, a member of the First Presidency at the time.

Sister Wirthlin was a graduate of the University of Utah with a degree in business education. While a student, she was a member of Lambda Delta Sigma, the Church's sorority for women. Years later, she served as an international officer for the sorority, which honored her as its Woman of the Year. After her marriage and graduation, she worked as a secretary in the administration office of the university until the first of the Wirthlins' eight children — seven daughters and one son — was born. She later helped her husband with secretarial work in their home while he managed the family business.

Elder and Sister Wirthlin reared their family in a home where they have lived for more than 50 years. Sister Wirthlin was active in the Parent Teacher Association at her children's schools. An opera club member, she taught an opera appreciation class for children. She also enjoyed tennis, knitting and walking.

Her greatest delight was the association of her husband and children. While rearing her young family, she did not travel often; she was in her 50s before she went on her first airplane flight. But later, during her husband's years as a General Authority, she traveled to many countries. At the time of his call to the Quorum of the Twelve in October 1986, Elder Wirthlin was serving as president of the Europe Area, requiring them to live in Frankfurt, Germany. They lived in Germany for a total of five years, during which time Sister Wirthlin developed a great love for the country and for the German people.

While living in Germany, Sister Wirthlin was among nine women whose General Authority husbands were serving in area presidencies who were called as area general board representatives to assist general auxiliary leaders. Each sister served as a general board representative for the Primary, Young Women and Relief Society.

Sister Wirthlin was a former Relief Society president, Primary counselor and Young Women teacher. She was known for her desire to assist families suffering with sickness or other trials. With the philosophy that where you are is the best place to serve, she enjoyed every opportunity to give of herself.

In the Wirthlin home is a special place for an antique chair given Sister Wirthlin by her mother. Sitting in her chair, she read the scriptures for comfort and encouragement and enjoyed other worthwhile reading materials.

Sister Wirthlin is survived by Elder Wirthlin, their eight children, 46 grandchildren and 49 great-grandchildren. Funeral arrangements were pending as of press time.

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