General Authorities, family members, and friends from his wide circle of associates bade a mortal farewell to Elder G. Homer Durham of the Presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy at funeral services on Temple Square in Salt Lake City January 14.
Eulogies for Elder Durham, who died January 10 after suffering a heart attack, were marked by a theme of reunion—reunion with a loving Heavenly Father and loving ancestors, and a future reunion with earthly family members for whom he will be preparing a welcome.
President Gordon B. Hinckley, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, conducted the funeral. He noted that President Spencer W. Kimball and President Marion G. Romney, First Counselor in the First Presidency, could not be present but were listening to the services.
President Hinckley spoke of long association with Elder Durham, through youth, through their missionary years in Great Britain, and through Church service. G. Homer Durham, he said, had grown to be “one of the ablest educational leaders of the nation, certainly of the West.” President Hinckley described him as a man of great faith and understanding of the things of God.
After paying tribute to Elder Durham’s faith and integrity, President Hinckley bore his testimony. “I give my witness of the immortality of the soul,” he said, “of the certainty of life beyond the grave, of the living reality of God our Eternal Father who loves his children and who has provided for them, of the Savior of mankind through whose atonement has come the blessing of eternal life.”
President Hinckley also read from a tribute prepared by George H. Durham, Elder Durham’s son.
Elder Boyd K. Packer of the Council of the Twelve recalled Elder Durham’s great capacity for service and love, illustrating with the example of a man who might prepare to share his wealth with his posterity by converting it all to cash. Unable to decide how to apportion it among those he loved, he might determine to will it all to his beloved wife—and then will the entire amount also to each child, and again, all of it to each of his posterity in turn.
Of course, lawyers and accountants would tell him that is impossible.
“But should we repeat that illustration and change only one word, all at once it would become very logical. Substitute the word love for the word money. Now it makes sense,” Elder Packer said.
There are other words that could be substituted for money, he said—care, concern, conviction, and testimony. All of those could be shared equally and in full by a loving parent and grandparent.
Elder M. Russell Ballard, also a member of the Presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy, recalled Elder Durham as a longtime friend and role model who had ordained him an elder before young Russell Ballard went on a mission. “He spoke at my farewell, and I’m grateful to have the opportunity to speak at his today.”
Elder Ballard quoted testimonials of other General Authorities and of professional associates who had been touched by Elder Durham, along with warm remembrances by Elder Durham’s children of his wisdom and love.
“Every one of the family that I have visited with have confirmed that memories of their father would be incomplete without the memories of his love for music. What the First Quorum of the Seventy will do now that Elder Durham cannot lead us [in singing] every Thursday morning I do not know.”
Elder Durham served for nearly eight years as a General Authority. In addition to his position in the Presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy, he was Church historian and recorder and managing director of its Historical Department at his death.
“I pledge to the Lord, to these brethren of the General Authorities, and to you, my life, labors, and whatever talent I possess,” Elder Durham said in the priesthood session of general conference on 2 April 1977, shortly after being sustained as a General Authority. “There is no greater privilege, no greater joy, no greater opportunity than service to our fellowmen in the name of our Lord and Savior.”
He had served as a high councilor in both Utah and Arizona, and as a stake president in Salt Lake City. He served also on the Sunday School General Board. He was called as a regional representative on 31 March 1976, just one year prior to his calling as a General Authority. He had been serving as a member of the Presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy since 3 October 1981.
Elder Durham had a long career as an educator before being called to full-time Church service in 1977. He served as a faculty member at Utah State University, Swarthmore College, and the University of Utah, and as a visiting faculty member at UCLA.
He was more widely known for his administrative service. He had been chairman of the Department of Political Science at the University of Utah, director of its Institute of Government, and a university vice-president before being named president of Arizona State University, at Tempe, in 1960. He served for nine years in that position while the school grew from 10,640 students to 26,000. Then he returned to Utah to serve as the first commissioner and executive officer of the Utah System of Higher Education. He retired from that position in 1976 to return to the University of Utah as a research professor.
For twenty-four years, Elder Durham was a contributing editor to the Improvement Era, forerunner of the Ensign. Among his publications are five books concerning Presidents of the Church and a biography of President N. Eldon Tanner. Elder Durham also wrote numerous Church lesson manuals.
He had served as a consultant in public administration to the states of Utah, Montana, and Nevada, and was the author of numerous works on public administration, government, and taxation. He had received numerous awards and several honorary degrees from educational institutions.
A son of George Henry and Mary Ellen (“Nellie M.”) Marsden Durham, he is survived by his widow, Eudora, and by two daughters and a son—Carolyn, Doralee, and George—and by twenty grandchildren and one great-grandchild.