Elder Theodore M. Burton Dies


Elder Theodore M. Burton

Elder Theodore M. Burton, an emeritus member of the First Quorum of the Seventy, was memorialized at funeral services on 27 December 1989.

President Thomas S. Monson, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, conducted the services and read from a First Presidency letter that stated, “[Elder Burton’s] courtly manner and his patience endeared him to all who knew him. … The burdens of age and illness have been lifted—he has gone on to a great reward.”

Elder Burton died of a stroke in a Salt Lake City hospital on 22 December 1989. He was eighty-two years old. Born 27 March 1907 in Salt Lake City to Theodore Taylor and Florence Moyle Burton, Theodore Moyle Burton became a professor of organic chemistry at Utah State University in 1943. On 8 October 1960, he was called as an Assistant to the Council of the Twelve. In October 1976, he became a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy. He was given emeritus status on 30 September 1989.

President Gordon B. Hinckley, First Counselor in the First Presidency, spoke at the funeral, recalling his friendship with Elder Burton. He called Elder Burton “a scientist who knew that you couldn’t cheat on nature” and a man who blended many qualities.

President Howard W. Hunter of the Quorum of the Twelve also spoke, pointing out that Elder Burton’s life had been one of service, and that all who knew Elder Burton “knew that he loved the Lord.” President Hunter called Elder Burton a “doer of the word” whose life demonstrated more than mere belief, but “doing the will of his Father in Heaven.”

Elder Burton’s son, Robert P. Burton, a professor of computer science at Brigham Young University, described his father as a faithful Church member who “would have preferred to stay a chemistry professor and a Gospel Doctrine teacher” but who had accepted every call with willingness and humility. He called Elder Burton a dedicated family man who “absolutely adored my mother.”

As a youth, Elder Burton became the first Eagle Scout in the Pioneer Stake. From 1927 to 1930, he served a mission in the Swiss-German Mission. He earned B.A. and M.A. degrees at the University of Utah in 1932 and 1934 and worked as an assistant bacteriologist with the Salt Lake Health Department. In 1934, he became technical assistant to the U.S. Treasury Attaché in Vienna, Austria. He held the same post in Berlin in 1937–38.

Elder Burton began his teaching career in 1941 at Carbon College, then joined the faculty of Utah State University in 1943. He completed a Ph.D. at Purdue University in 1951.

In 1957, Elder Burton returned to Europe to preside over the West German Mission. From 1962 to 1964, he served as president of the European Mission. He then served as president of the Genealogical Society of Utah and as managing director of the Church Genealogical Department until April 1978, when he returned to Europe to serve as Area Supervisor for two years.

Theodore M. Burton is survived by his wife, Minnie Susan Preece Burton, whom he married in the Salt Lake Temple on 23 February 1933; a son; four granddaughters; four grandsons; and a brother.