One day in 1840, Elder Orson Pratt
of the Council of the Twelve walked through Edinburgh, Scotland, to the
hill known as “Arthur’s Seat,” where Elder Pratt dedicated the city for
missionary work. In his prayer, he asked the Lord for two hundred souls
to join the Church—a prayer the Lord answered before Elder Pratt completed
On New Year’s Day, 1976, a mission president named
Derek A. Cuthbert of the Scotland Edinburgh Mission climbed the same hill,
now known as “Pratt’s Hill” to Scottish Saints, for the same purpose. He,
together with a group of missionaries,
rededicated themselves for missionary work and asked the Lord for three
hundred men to strengthen the Church there. Again, the Lord responded;
before the end of President Cuthbert’s mission, almost exactly that many
new brethren were baptized in the Scotland Edinburgh Mission.
That mission president became Elder Derek A. Cuthbert
of the First Quorum of the Seventy, a reserved, quiet gentleman known for
his conscientious work and skill as an administrator. He is in a distinguished line of British general authorities that has included
President John Taylor, Charles
W. Penrose of the First Presidency, James E.
Talmage of the Council of the Twelve, John Longden,
assistant to the Council of the Twelve, and B. H.
Roberts of the First Council of the Seventy. Elder Cuthbert, the first
General Authority to be called while living in Britain, prized his English
heritage, but he said he feels at home wherever the Lord wants him to be.
People would ask him now where his home is and he replied: “Our home is
in heaven. Where is yours?” Elder Cuthbert added, “I hope that doesn’t sound
presumptuous, but our home is in heaven, we trust.”
Elder Cuthbert’s first earthly home was the ancient
city of Nottingham, England, where he was born 5 October 1926 in the Nottingham
suburb of Sherwood. Christened Derek Alfred, in honor of an uncle killed
in France during World War I, he was one of two sons of Harry Cuthbert,
publishing manager for a Nottingham newspaper, and Hilda May Freck. (His
brother, Dr. Norman Harry Cuthbert, served as a senior lecturer in
the School of Management at the University of Bradford, in England.)
World War II broke out when he was just thirteen,
and he remembered cycling to the Nottingham High School many times while
the air raid sirens were sounding. The school, founded in the days of King
Henry the Eighth, gave him a great foundation of academic skills and moral
values during those troubled times. His teen years were a succession of
air raid drills and preparations to defend his homeland against invasion;
at fourteen he joined the officer training corps, and, two years later,
the Home Guard.
Although Nottingham was not heavily bombed, he and
his family suffered the privations of war, including rationing of food
His rations for a week could be placed on one large
dinner plate. “Our gardens sustained us,” he recalls. “There was a national
campaign for growing gardens, called ‘Dig for Victory.’ ” Now, of course,
Elder Cuthbert takes very seriously President Spencer W. Kimball’s advice
to learn garden cultivation as a part of provident living.
The war did not eliminate the English schoolboy’s
enthusiasm for sports. Derek Cuthbert excelled in field sports such as
running and javelin and discus throwing, winning the Victor Ludorum (champion
of the games) trophy in high school. He was
also on his school’s top teams in rugby and cricket.
After marriage to his childhood sweetheart, Muriel
Olive Mason, he spent three years in the Royal Air Force. Trained in the
Japanese language at the University of London, he went overseas to Rangoon,
Burma, just in time for the Japanese surrender; he then saw service in
Hong Kong, and India. After his return to England, he worked in the Air
Ministry, tracing, sometimes through dental records, airmen missing in
action in the European war. “It was a sad business,” he remembers.
January of 1948 was momentous for the Cuthbert family:
on the second, Derek left the Air Force; on the eighth, he started his
studies at the University of Nottingham; and on the twelfth, the Cuthberts’
first child, Janis, was born. On a “Forces’ Education” scholarship, the
young father completed his studies of economics and law in just two and
one-half years, graduating with honors. Then he joined British Celanese
Limited as a management trainee in their textiles, chemicals and plastics
operations, becoming an expert on petroleum chemical economics. Eventually,
he worked his way up to financial manager for a factory with more than
ten thousand employees, with responsibilities for budgetary control, cost
reduction and labor productivity.
Derek and Muriel Cuthbert had always been religious
people. During their youth, both had studied the Bible as part of the “religious
instruction” program of English schools. In the Church of England, Derek
had grown up assisting the minister and singing in the choir. They had
no interest in changing their religion, however, and had it not been for
a curious fact about Muriel’s ancestry, they might never have listened
to Latter-day Saint missionaries.
Muriel Cuthbert’s great-grandmother had joined the
Church in the 1880s, along with a son and daughter. The son had emigrated
to Wyoming to be with the Saints, while Muriel’s grandmother remained in
England, losing contact with the Church. Eventually, Muriel met two cousins,
descendants of her grand-uncle, who had come from Utah to do genealogical
work. She later learned that another cousin was in England as a missionary.
One day in August 1950, Muriel noticed three young
men knocking on doors along her street. They were going to close their
work in the area, but decided to try one more door. It turned out to be
the Cuthberts’. Recognizing them as Mormon elders,
Muriel invited them in immediately, wondering if they might know of
her cousin. They replied that they did; but they also wasted no time in
asking her if she could believe in a modern-day prophet.
This question had occurred to her before. She had,
in fact, asked her minister about the same subject; he had replied that
it wasn’t necessary to have a prophet in our day. So the missionaries began
teaching the Cuthberts. At first, Derek said to them, “We are interested
in what you teach, but we will never join your church.” One of the elders
went home and wrote in his journal that the Cuthberts would join within
And they did. Derek found his attachment to his former
church was mostly a matter of tradition; he soon realized that he did not
really accept many of the doctrines it taught, such as the idea of a “closed
canon” of scripture. He was impressed with the sincerity of the missionaries.
When they showed him a card containing reproductions of characters Joseph
Smith had copied from the gold plates, Derek felt a spiritual certainty
that the Book of Mormon was of God—even before he read it. After
participating in a discussion about the importance of priesthood authority,
he was convinced that a change of religions was necessary. In January of
1951, Derek and Muriel Cuthbert joined the Church.
“Before we were baptized, we vowed that the Church
would be our life,” says Elder Cuthbert. “We have never had one doubt,
nor one regret.” Nevertheless, life for the Cuthberts has not been, as
Robert Browning said, “roses, roses, all the way.” (“The Patriot.”) It
was not easy to be a Latter-day Saint in England at that time. Though at
first some of their neighbors shunned them and crossed the street to avoid
meeting them after their baptism, the Cuthberts tried to keep up their
friendships. Soon the neighbors’ prejudices melted away.
No one in their little branch had a telephone or
a vehicle, and communication within the mission was difficult. Derek was
soon called to the British Mission M.I.A. board and spent most of his weekends
on a train, traveling from district to district and carrying instructional
materials with him; he usually returned on Sunday evenings. The rest of
the family took the bus to Church services.
Although Derek was advancing in his company, the
depressed economy of England during the 1950s meant low pay and few luxuries.
In order to attend the dedication of the Swiss Temple in 1955, Derek spent
his last few pounds for railway tickets, while Muriel packed enough food
for him to take along for the two and one half days.
Despite these challenges, the Cuthberts found joy
in Church service. A year after their baptism, they went to London for
a meeting in the Battersea Town Hall with President David
O. McKay. More than a thousand Saints were present, and the Cuthberts
were deeply impressed when, at the conclusion of the meeting, the president
shook hands and spoke with every person there. When President McKay returned
to England in 1958 for the dedication of the London Temple, the Cuthberts
were the first family sealed there.
Derek’s management skills helped him in assignments
of ever-increasing responsibility in the Church. As the first British stake
president he presided over the third stake created in Britain (the Leicester
Stake). Later he was set apart by President Spencer
W. Kimball as president of the Birmingham Stake, where he was serving
when called as Regional Representative of the Twelve for the British Isles.
In this capacity he helped prepare for the first area conference ever held
in the Church, at Manchester, England, in 1971.
When President Joseph Fielding
Smith arrived to conduct the conference, Elder Cuthbert drove him around
Manchester and learned that President Smith had served his entire mission
at the turn of the century in Nottingham. President Smith was
advanced in years, but, Elder Cuthbert recalls, “It was a most remarkable
thing to see him gain strength and speak so powerfully to the Saints. After
the conference ended, the twelve thousand Saints stood and sang on and
on to President Smith and the Brethren.”
The area conference came during a new era of rapid
expansion for the Church in Great Britain. Although thousands of Saints
had been baptized and emigrated from Britain to America during the nineteenth
century, the Church experienced a new beginning after the disruptions of
the two world wars. “When I joined in 1951, there was one mission with
fourteen mission districts in all of Britain,” Elder Cuthbert remembers.
“We now have forty stakes and eight missions, with beautiful chapels and
Elder Cuthbert contributed to this growth during
his three years (1975-1978) as a mission president. Under his direction,
thirty-five new units of the Church were established in Scotland and Northern
Ireland, which the Scotland Edinburgh Mission
covered. There are now several stakes in the same area.
All this was not accomplished without opposition.
“Although there is much civil strife in Northern Ireland,” Elder Cuthbert
says, “the conflict is limited and the missionary work is not suffering
at all. In fact, it is increasing in effectiveness.” However, the efforts
of the missionaries were temporarily hampered by misunderstandings with
officials and some clergymen in Inverness, Scotland. The newspapers carried
headlines: “Kirk [Church of Scotland] Declares War On Mormons.” Even the
British Broadcasting Corporation wanted to know what the controversy was
about. But many people spoke up on behalf of the Church in the special
public meeting held, and many misunderstandings were resolved. “We benefited
somewhat from the publicity, inasmuch as many became curious about our
efforts. We felt a great sustaining influence during this time of real
growth,” Elder Cuthbert says.
It was toward the end of his term as mission president,
in March 1978, that Derek Cuthbert received a telephone call from President
W. Kimball in Salt Lake City. “Is Sister Cuthbert with you?” asked
the familiar voice. The president went on to interview Brother Cuthbert
and call him to serve as a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy. “It
overwhelmed us,” Elder Cuthbert recalls. “And it was difficult to leave
our native land for America, particularly since we had been teaching the
British Saints for twenty-eight years that ‘non-emigration’ was the policy
of the Church! But we were glad to serve the Lord in any capacity.”
After he finished his mission in Scotland, Elder
Cuthbert’s initial assignment as a General Authority was to serve as Area
Supervisor for Idaho. This was his first experience with welfare production,
farms, and the challenge of managing the needs of
a large Church population. His later Area assignments included
the British Isles, Central Canada, the American Midwest, and Africa; and
presently he is a counselor in the Europe Area Presidency.
His two years in the Services in the Far East
helped Elder Cuthbert appreciate the challenges faced by Third World peoples,
so it was appropriate that he was now helping to direct the fledgling Church
missions in West and Southern Africa. “They are very receptive, spiritual
people,” he said of the approximately four thousand Latter-day Saints in
Nigeria and Ghana. Serious drought, food shortages, and political unrest
have did not stop the progress of missionary work in these two countries.
Elder Cuthbert also supervised the members in Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia)
and the Republic of South Africa, where the Johannesburg Temple is currently
Elder Cuthbert’s responsibilities never kept
him from a devotion to physical and mental improvement. He was particularly
fascinated by the study of languages and has found time to learn the rudiments
of French, German, Japanese, Latin, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Mandarin
Chinese, and Afrikaans. He has also worked with a tutor in Portuguese in
order to be able to communicate with the Brazilian saints during conference
assignments there. His goal was to be able to bear his testimony to people
all over the world in their own tongues. He continued his interest in games
as diverse as rugby and cricket; he even enjoyed judo, but only as a
spectator. His main hobby, apart from languages, was Old
English illuminated writing.
Nevertheless, Elder Cuthbert’s fondest interest in
life was his family—his wife, six daughters, and four sons. His daughter
Janis described the high-quality time he has spent with his children despite
extremely demanding Church and business responsibilities. When the children
were younger, he was seldom home in time to have dinner with the family,
but the children always stayed up to talk with him as he ate. His children
remember their father’s “mystery trips”: he would gather up the family
for a drive, and they would go for hours, winding right and left through
the beautiful Derbyshire dales to reach a favorite picnic spot. The boys
and their dad would spend time climbing rocks, while the whole family enjoyed
the streams and wildflowers of the open country around Nottingham. At night,
Elder Cuthbert entertained the children with “pushbutton stories”—bedtime
stories about a boy inventor he would make up as he went—and then he would
sing to them in a gentle monotone until they were asleep.
Elder and Sister Cuthbert always made certain, despite
their busy schedules, that the children were never alone. If one parent
had a meeting, the other would stay home. When temple excursions required
an overnight absence, Elder Cuthbert would arrange for the children to
stay with the families of other Church members. When their children were
small, the lack of a regular Primary moved the Cuthberts, along with the
missionaries, to start one of their own; they arranged to use space in
a local school building and soon were able to involve sixty or seventy
neighborhood children, all nonmembers, in an LDS Primary. The result: for
years the local families referred to the Cuthberts as “Brother and Sister
Sister Cuthbert, along with her family duties,
always loved music and the theater. She worked for many years with the
Young Women, writing pantomimes and skits and building roadshows from the
ground up. She enjoyed singing, sewing, and rearing her children and grandchildren.
Today, Elder Cuthbert is a cultivated example of
what he once called in a conference address “maturity in the Lord.” (Ensign,
Nov. 1982, p. 55.) He finds his greatest fulfillment in life through associations
with his family and with other Latter-day Saints, and through his opportunity
to teach the truths of the gospel. His friends in many lands are close
to his heart, and, though he misses the British Isles, he carries with
him the respect for learning and refinement of his English heritage. Elder
Cuthbert loves his native England, in the words of Tennyson, “with love
far-brought from out the storied past, and used within the present.” (“Love
Thou Thy Land.”)
Above all, he loves the living Christ and bears joyful
testimony on many continents of the living prophet of the Lord. For Elder
Cuthbert, home is wherever he is called, and, ultimately, as he says, “We
trust that our home is in heaven!”
Elder Cuthbert served thirteen years in the First Quorum of the Seventy before his death April 7, 1991.We will now quote from Elder Cuthbert's Eulogy.
“I’m grateful for such men as Derek Cuthbert. There’s
never any question about where they stand. Nobody can question their integrity.
No one can question their faith. No one can question their sense of duty.”
Those qualities “flowered in his tremendous work
as a General Authority,” said President Gordon B.
Hinckley, First Counselor in the First Presidency. “God be thanked
for him and his kind!”
The tribute came at the April 11 funeral for Elder
Derek Alfred Cuthbert of the First Quorum of the Seventy, who died April
President Thomas S. Monson,
Second Counselor in the First Presidency, also spoke, praising Elder Cuthbert
as one who never shunned difficult assignments and was eager to get back
into full-time Church service even as he fought the illness that took his
President Monson testified to members of Elder Cuthbert’s
family that “all you knew and loved and appreciated in your husband and
father still lives.”
President Howard W. Hunter
of the Quorum of the Twelve, members of the Twelve, and many of Elder Cuthbert’s
colleagues among the Seventy attended the funeral.
Elder George I. Cannon
of the Seventy read a message from the Quorums of the Seventy that praised
their colleague as a “man of vision, great faith, and wisdom.”
Other speakers were Bishop Charles W. Hillier of
the Murray Twenty-third Ward, Murray Utah Stake, and Elder Cuthbert’s son,
Jonathan, who said, “Dad loved the gospel. He bore his testimony at every
opportunity.” Just two weeks ago, when he could hardly lift his head from
a pillow, Elder Cuthbert bore his testimony to the two sons who prepared
and blessed the sacrament for him, then paid tribute to their mother.
The importance of Elder Cuthbert’s family in his
life was spoken of. He and his wife, Muriel, have ten children: Janis (Croft),
Maureen (Ludlow), Sheila (Young), David, Rosalind (Jamieson), Jonathan,
Hazel (Dunsmore), Andrew, Paul, and Jenny. There are twenty-nine Cuthbert
The Cuthberts were baptized in January 1951 and sealed
in the London Temple after its dedication in 1958.
Elder Cuthbert once reflected, “Before we were baptized,
we vowed that the Church would be our life. We have never had one doubt,
nor one regret.” (Ensign, Sept. 1984, p. 20.) Their vow was backed
He served as president of the Nottingham Branch and
the Leicester District. When the district was made the third stake in the
British Isles, he was called as the first British president of a stake
in his country. He later served as stake president in Birmingham and as
a counselor in the presidency of the London Stake. He served four stake
and district missions and was a counselor to four mission presidents.
He was a regional representative in 1975 when he
received a call to full-time Church service as president of the Scotland
Edinburgh Mission. In March 1978, he was called to the First Quorum of
the Seventy. Since then, he has filled assignments in the British Isles,
Africa, Europe, South America, and various areas of the United States.
His assignments at Church headquarters have included service in the general
Sunday School presidency, in the Correlation, Temple, Priesthood, and Curriculum
departments, and on the Boundary and Leadership Change Committee.
After service in so many areas of the world, Elder
Cuthbert came to feel at home wherever the Lord called him. He once said
that he hoped he did not sound presumptuous, “but our home is in heaven,
we trust.” (Ensign, Sept. 1984, p. 19.)