As we took our seats my thoughts turned to the history of the building and how much it represents for Utah and the Church. It was host to jubilees commemorating Utah statehood and other anniversaries and celebrations. Many prominent non Latter-day Saints have spoken at its pulpit including several U.S. Presidents, Susan B. Anthony, Charles Lindbergh, and others. I then thought of how many funerals have been held there to honor great leaders of the church like Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, Karl G. Maeser, Ezra Taft Benson, Howard W. Hunter, James E. Faust, and now Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin. It was great to sit in a historic building and take part in a tradition that dates back to the days of Brigham Young.
Funeral of Pres. Wilford Woodruff (1898)
Funeral of Karl G. Maeser (1901)
Funeral of Pres. Ezra Taft Benson (1994)
Funeral of Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin (5 December 2008)
The funeral services were very nice. Elder Wirthlin's son, Joseph B. Wirthlin Jr., Russell M. Nelson, Boyd K. Packer, and Pres. Monson were the speakers. Each gave a fitting tribute to a wonderful man and servant of the Lord. But two things stuck out to me more than the rest.
First, most of the speakers talked about Elder Wirthlin's love of sports and his days as a star University of Utah running back. They used to call him "speedy" Joe Wirthlin. Awesome. I also thought it was touching when Pres. Monson related that earlier that week he had received a call from U football coach, Kyle Whittingham who expressed his condolences and then said that for the bowl game in January every player would have the initials "JBW" on the back of their helmets. It was also funny that apparently in recent years Elder Wirthlin acted as a kind of self appointed chaplain for the U team, following them to games and such. Gotta love it.
But what struck me the most was when Pres. Monson was talking essentially to the Wirthlin children and grand children. He talked about Elder Wirthlin's love for his wife Elisa (who passed away 2 years ago) and how they didn't want to be separated at Christmas time. Then he said, "They are together. You remember that if you forget everything else. And live so that you can be with them eternally."
I know this advice applies to all of us. If we think of our righteous loved ones who have passed on it can serve as motivation to live our lives in such a way that when our time comes, we will be worthy to live with them eternally.