Following tradition, the casket bearing the body of the Apostle was brought into the tabernacle past a line of church leaders. Included in that line were members of the First Presidency and The Twelve who paid their respects to a beloved associate and his family.
LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson called him a “true and faithful friend.” He recalled Elder Wirthlin’s college days, “When Joseph played football at the University of Utah he was known as ‘speedy’ Wirthlin.” And he never lost his love for the game or the Utes. “Joseph was something of a self-appointed chaplain for the U of U team. He traveled with them to many of their games and was respected by coaches, players and fans alike.” President Monson then announced to the tabernacle audience that when the Utes take the field in their upcoming bowl game, they will wear a tribute to his friend, “His initials: JBW are printed on the back of each teammate’s helmet.”
But Elder Wirthlin was more than a football player and fan. Several mourners commented, “He really reached out to us.” They enjoyed his sense of humor and looked up to him as a grandfather. “The kind of person you wanted to go to for advice.”
And many did go to him for comfort and advice. Among the mourners was a woman who worked closely with Elder Wirthlin for more than 20 years. Ann Pickrell was his personal secretary. She welcomed an almost constant stream of people into his office. “They were coming in feeling sad or burdened and you could see the weight in their faces. If they had to wait, I would talk to them and say, ‘I promise, when you leave his office you will have a smile and you will feel better.’ And that’s what he could do for them.”
His last summon given at LDS General Conference this past October was entitled, “Come What May, and Love It.” Pickrell said that pretty well summed up his attitude about life.
Elder Wirthlin was laid to rest in City Cemetery in a private, graveside service. He is preceded in death by his wife, Elisa, and is survived by a son, 7 daughters, 54 grandchildren and 87 great-grandchildren.