Joseph B. Wirthlin

Joseph Bitner Wirthlin (June 11, 1917 December 1, 2008) was an American businessman, religious leader and member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). He was sustained to the Twelve on October 4, 1986, and ordained an apostle on October 9, 1986, by Thomas S. Monson. He became an apostle following the death of church president Spencer W. Kimball. As a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, Wirthlin was accepted by the church membership as a prophet, seer, and revelator.

Joseph B. Wirthlin
Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
October 4, 1986 (1986-10-04)  December 1, 2008 (2008-12-01)
LDS Church Apostle
October 9, 1986 (1986-10-09)  December 1, 2008 (2008-12-01)
ReasonDeath of Spencer W. Kimball and reorganization of First Presidency
at end of term
Neil L. Andersen ordained
Presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy
August 28, 1986 (1986-08-28)  October 4, 1986 (1986-10-04)
End reasonCalled to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
First Quorum of the Seventy
October 1, 1976 (1976-10-01)  October 4, 1986 (1986-10-04)
End reasonCalled to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
April 4, 1975 (1975-04-04)  October 1, 1976 (1976-10-01)
End reasonPosition abolished
Personal details
BornJoseph Bitner Wirthlin
(1917-06-11)June 11, 1917
Salt Lake City, Utah, United States
DiedDecember 1, 2008(2008-12-01) (aged 91)
Salt Lake City, Utah, United States
Resting placeSalt Lake City Cemetery
40.777°N 111.858°W / 40.777; -111.858 (Salt Lake City Cemetery)


Born in Salt Lake City, Utah, Wirthlin was the son of Madeline Bitner and Joseph L. Wirthlin, who was also a general authority of the LDS Church, serving as Presiding Bishop from 1952 to 1961. Wirthlin was a half-first cousin of Gordon B. Hinckley, who became president of the LDS Church; the two cousins attended the same congregation as children.

As a young man, Wirthlin earned the rank of Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America. As a standout high school quarterback, Wirthlin was offered a football scholarship at the University of Utah, but deferred it and served as a missionary in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland from 1936 to 1939, returning to Utah just before the outbreak of World War II. Wirthlin played football as a running back for the University of Utah following his mission. Wirthlin's career was spent as a prominent business leader in Salt Lake City. He was also president of a trade association in Utah.

Wirthlin served in the LDS Church as bishop of the Bonneville Ward in Salt Lake City from 1955 to 1964. The day he was released as bishop he was called to serve in the stake high council and was set apart by Joseph Fielding Smith. On December 6, 1964, Wirthlin was set apart by LeGrand Richards as second counselor to Russell M. Nelson in the presidency of the Salt Lake Bonneville Stake; Wirthlin served in that capacity until Nelson's release in 1971. Wirthlin became a general authority of the church in 1975, when he was called to serve as an Assistant to the Twelve. He was the last individual called to this position before it was discontinued in 1976. In 1984, when the LDS Church first organized areas with area presidencies, Wirthlin was the first president of the Europe Area. The area was headquartered in Frankfurt, Germany and covered all of Europe and Africa.[1] Wirthlin's call to the Quorum of the Twelve came shortly after his call to serve in the church's Presidency of the Seventy.

Wirthlin married Elisa Young Rogers on May 26, 1941, in the Salt Lake Temple; they had eight children. She died in August 2006 of causes incident to age.

On December 1, 2008, Wirthlin "had gone to bed at his Salt Lake City home, and died peacefully at about 11:30 pm of causes incident to age." At the time of his death, Wirthlin was the oldest apostle among the ranks of the church.[2][3] He was buried at Salt Lake City Cemetery.

Shortly after his death, the University of Utah announced that the Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin Family Scholarship, an endowed scholarship which will benefit the Utah football program, would be named in his honor.[4][5] On January 2, 2009, when the Utes won the Sugar Bowl, all of the Utah players wore a commemorative sticker on their helmets with the initials JBW in his honor.[4][5]


  1. Ensign, Aug 1984,
  2. Moore, Carrie A. (3 December 2008), "Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, oldest apostle, 91, dies at home", Deseret News, retrieved 2011-09-02
  3. "Joseph B. Wirthlin, Oldest Apostle, Dies, Age 91", Newsroom, LDS Church, 2 December 2008, retrieved 2011-09-02
  4. U. Athletics Establishes Joseph B. Wirthlin Scholarship, University of Utah, 18 December 2008, archived from the original on 8 March 2009, retrieved 2011-09-01
  5. Benson, Lee (16 January 2009), "Elder Wirthlin's goodness now a legacy at U.", Deseret News, retrieved 2011-09-02


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