No chink in armor: Elder Wirthlin lauded for character

Church president pays homage to his loyal friend, fellow servant

President Thomas S. Monson called it a privilege to speak at the funeral of Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin — a man the Church president counted as a "brother" and a "beloved friend."

Often moved with emotion, the Church president praised his fellow apostle's work ethic, tenacious faith and big, generous heart.

"We have had in our midst all these years Joseph B. Wirthlin, an honorable man — even a man of God," President Monson said. "There was no chink in his armor; there was no guile in his soul; there was no flaw in his character. Elder Wirthlin loved the Lord with all his heart and soul and served Him with all his might to the very end of his mortal life."

Elder Wirthlin, he added, became "part of the family" to all who heard his sermons or read his writings. "Joseph knew the Lord, and the Lord knew Joseph."

President Monson said it was Elder Wirthlin's mother, Madeline B. Wirthlin, who insisted her son enroll at the University of Utah. There he excelled on the college gridiron.

"When Joseph played football for the University of Utah, he was known as Speedy Wirthlin — I like that," he said. "He never lost his love for the game. His university jersey was #4. When it was retired, it was placed in a lovely frame and, for a time, hung in Joseph's office in the Church Administration Building."

Elder Wirthlin remained connected to his alma mater. In recent years, he was something of a "self-appointed chaplain" for the Ute football team. "He was respected by coaches, players and fans alike."

President Monson noted a conversation he had with University of Utah football coach Kyle Whittingham following Elder Wirthlin's death. "[Coach Whittingham] indicated to me that, out of love and respect for Elder Wirthlin, his initials — JBW — are printed on the back of each teammate's helmet."

As a General Authority, Elder Wirthlin once supervised the work in Europe. His wife, Sister Elisa Rogers Wirthlin, accompanied him. On one occasion, President Monson and his wife, Sister Frances Monson, fulfilled an assignment to visit Europe.

There President Monson was again reminded of his friend's commitment to his Church duties. While traveling together via automobile, Elder Wirthlin pulled from his briefcase a legal pad filled with pages and pages of numbered questions for President Monson.

"Although our question-and-answer session that day only served to strengthen our friendship and our commitment to the missionary endeavors of the Church, I don't remember seeing many sites," said President Monson with a smile.

The Church president declared that he had never had a more loyal, trusting and dedicated friend and colleague than Joseph B. Wirthlin.

"He not only followed through on every assignment given him, he always went the extra mile. His integrity could never be questioned. He qualified for the Savior's description of Nathanael, spoken as Nathanael approached the Lord from afar: 'Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!' " (John 1:47).

Elder and Sister Wirthlin, added President Monson, were true partners in life. He missed his beloved wife deeply after she passed away. Now, because of the eternal covenants the Wirthlins made at a sacred temple altar, they are together for eternity.

"Joseph B. Wirthlin is no foreigner nor stranger where he has gone, but a fellow citizen with the noble brethren with whom he served. At last his eternal spirit is free from a body worn by work and impaired by age. He has gone to that paradise for which he is so well qualified. He leaves to his family and to all of us who knew him a legacy of love."

All that anyone knew and loved about Elder Wirthlin continues, said President Monson. His spirit has simply returned home to that God who gave him life.

"Goodbye, Joseph. Goodbye, Jose — until we meet again," concluded President Monson, misty-eyed. "Until then, wherever I go in this beautiful world, a part of Joseph Wirthlin goes with me. He was a man for all seasons. He was a teacher of truth. He was a true and faithful friend.

"I shall miss him."

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