Elder Sterling W. Sill, who died at his home in Salt Lake City on May 25 at age 91, was remembered in funeral addresses May 31 as a faithful servant of the Lord, a righteous husband and father, a prolific writer and a successful businessman.
Elder Sill was a General Authority since April 6, 1954, and an emeritus member of the Seventy since Dec. 31, 1978. For 17 years, he was the speaker over KSL Radio's Sunday Evening on Temple Square. He was the author of 47 books. (See Church News, May 28, 1994, for further obituary information.)Four General Authorities addressed the service held in the Salt Lake Bonneville Stake Center: President Howard W. Hunter, president of the Council of the Twelve; President Gordon B. Hinckley, President Thomas S. Monson, and Elder Russell M. Nelson.
Also speaking were Elder Sill's bishop, Edmund C. Evans; daughter-in-law, Diane Sill, and a business colleague, Gerald R. Ericksen.
President Hunter quoted several passages from scripture that speak of mortality's transitory nature. He cited comments from Job on the brevity of life: ``Seeing his days are determined, the number of his months are with thee, thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass.'' (Job 14:5.)
``Peter, in his letters to the Christians of Asia Minor, wrote about life being as perishable as the grass and the flowers of the field. He said, `For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away.' (1 Pet. 1:24.)
``So it is with each of us,'' President Hunter said. ``Each in our turn
will pass awayT, the only difference being the unknown day and hour.
``If it could be said as a fact that death is the end of consciousness, this would be a sad occasion, indeed. But it is not so. As Christians it is our firm belief that we shall live again. Scripture is replete with assurance of the resurrection, that all shall live again. In one instance these words are used: `Behold, there is a time appointed that all shall come forth from the dead. Now when this time cometh no one knows; but God knoweth the time which is appointed.' (Alma 40:4.)
``It is as natural to die as it is to be born, and death becomes a part of living,'' President Hunter continued. ``This we well understand, and it is that point in living that this good plan has arrived in the life of Sterling Sill, husband, father, brother, grandfather.''
President Hunter spoke of Elder Sill's many accomplishments, and said many others could list ``things of greatness about our friend. His life has been full. His joy has been complete. We gather here today with sadness in our hearts, and with gladness in many respects. He was faithful, devoted to truth.
``On our bookshelves are many books written by our friend, who has given us the zest for life and an objective to fulfill. How grateful we are for the heritage that he has left. And how grateful we are for the things which have meant so much as we have known him and have been receptive to his thoughts and his teachings.
``I think that today we can be glad to replace in our hearts the sadness that comes when we leave mortality and commence the great journey which each us must contemplate and carry forward to complete this phase of life's existence.''
President Hinckley mentioned that when he was a young man, Elder Sill, who was an executive with New York Life, gave one of his ``recruitment speeches'' to him, offering to give him a job in the insurance business. President Hinckley said he did not accept the job, but he came to know Elder Sill very well. He said he loved, honored, respected and admired him.
``He was a man who did things in a different kind of way,'' President Hinckley said. ``His talks were unique and different.''
He quoted from one of Elder Sill's talks that he said was characteristic of him:
`` `My brothers and sisters, what a lot of thrilling experiences we haven't yet had. May God help us to be prepared for them when they arrive.' ''
President Hinckley said: ``I think he is today experiencing some of those thrilling things of which he dreamed, and I'm confident that he is enjoying in a way he hasn't been able to enjoy things for a good while now.
``He was `Sterling.' That means without alloy. God bless his example to our good, I pray as I leave my testimony of the virtues and strength of his life and of the depths of his faith.''
President Monson noted that he met Elder Sill 46 years ago. He spoke of one of his early experiences when Elder Sill spoke to a class he was teaching in sales management as an instructor at the University of Utah. President Monson said: ``He walked to the chalkboard . . . and wrote four letters: K A S H - `cash,' spelled his own way. Then he said:
`` `K stands for knowledge. You must have knowledge. A stands for attitude. Attitude determines altitude. S stands for skills. H stands for habits.
`` `Control those four words and your future is assured.' ''
President Monson said three scriptures remind him of Elder Sill:
``Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only.'' (James 1:22.)
``Be thou an example of the believers.'' (1 Tim. 4:12.)
``Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you.'' (D&C 88:78.)
``I don't know any who has given more sermons to more people with everlasting impact than Sterling W. Sill.'' President Monson said. ``Now he has left our company. I think he can say, with Timothy of old, `The time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness.' '' (2 Tim. 4:6-8.)
Elder Nelson, who, as a young man, was a member of the Garden Park Ward in Salt Lake City when Elder Sill was a bishop, spoke of some lessons Elder Sill taught in word and example.
``Bishop Sill taught us the joy of work well done,'' Elder Nelson said of a project on which he and other members of the priests quorum worked under his supervision.
Regarding Elder Sill's service as chairman of the Board of Regents at the University of Utah, Elder Nelson said, ``Elder Sill's encouragement and example taught us leadership, the importance of education.''
``Elder Sill taught us determination and endurance,'' he said of Elder Sill's determination to walk to his office at Church headquarters, even when the streets were slippery and his eyesight was failing.
``Elder Sill taught us how to turn adversity to advantage,'' he said of Elder Sill's determination to memorize hymns so he could sing after he lost his eyesight.
``Elder Sill taught us that there is no place for mediocrity or irreverence in the Church,'' Elder Nelson said of the counsel he received as a stake president from Elder Sill regarding reverence in meetings and about worship services.
``Elder Sill taught us self-discipline,'' he said as he described how Elder Sill memorized scriptures, factual information, poetry and motivational messages as his vision waned.
``Elder Sill taught us courage,'' Elder Nelson said in relating the cardiac surgery Elder Sill underwent despite high risks.
``Elder Sill taught us that death is part of life and essential to eternal progression,'' Elder Nelson said of his teachings as a bishop and General Authority.
``Elder Sill taught us that ordinances made and covenants obeyed qualify us for eternal life,'' Elder Nelson said of Elder Sill's life and service as one of `the faithful elders of this dispensation.' ''
Bishop Evans said Elder Sill, even after decades of service in the Church, ``demonstrated his commitment by being a faithful, contributing member of his ward. As age diminished his strength, took his vision and his hearing, he never used this as an excuse for failure to attend ward functions or meetings. . . . He set a marvelous example to all of us about keeping the commandments.''
Elder Sill's daughter-in-law, Diane Sill, spoke of his influence on members throughout the Church. She said nearly every week Elder Sill received letters from people expressing their appreciation for his inspiring talks and books. She explained that Elder Sill was bedridden the past eight months, after a fall that fractured eight ribs.
Gerald L. Ericksen, who succeeded Elder Sill as an executive in New York Life Insurance Co., observed that Elder Sill was interested not only in building the company and giving ``unquestioned loyalty,'' but also was dedicated to building people.
He spoke of an event in Elder Sill's life that has been greatly unknown: he was a recipient of the Carnegie Medal for Herosim, after saving the life of a young man who was drowning in the ocean.
Former Broadway singing star Robert Peterson sang two numbers; another musical selection was performed by a quartet from the Garden Park Ward: Ben Hathaway, Grant Taylor and Vernie and Shirley Swenson.
Survivors include Elder Sill's widow, Doris Thornley Sill; a son, John Michael Sill, a daughter, Mary Carolyn Knepper of Mesa, Ariz.; 17 grandchildren; many great-grandchildren; a sister, Marguerite Bourne, Farmington, Utah; and a brother, Claude W. Sill, Idaho Falls, Idaho.
A son, David Sterling Sill, died in July 1993.