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Elder Alexander B. Morrison, renowned scientist and LDS emeritus general authority, dies at age 87

BOUNTIFUL — Elder Alexander B. Morrison, a scientist who fought against hunger and disease and later served in the Quorums of the Seventy for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for more than 14 years, died quietly at home on Monday, Feb. 12, 2018, after a long and valiant battle with Parkinson’s disease.

He was 87.

A convert who joined the church in 1950, Elder Morrison served in the British Isles/Africa, North America Southeast and Utah North area presidencies. As Utah North Area president, he was a frequent visitor to stake and regional conferences along the Wasatch Front.

He was sustained to the First Quorum of the Seventy in the April 1987 general conference, to the Second Quorum two years later and to the First Quorum again two years after that. He gained emeritus status at the October 2000 conference.

He was born Alexander Baillie Morrison on Dec. 22, 1930, in Edmonton, Alberta, a son of Alexander S. Morrison and Christina Wilson Morrison. At age 16, he enrolled in the University of Alberta and became a gold medalist in biochemistry.

It was while at the university that he met his wife-to-be, Shirley Brooks, and joined the LDS Church. They were married a week after their baptism and later sealed in the Alberta Temple. They are the parents of eight children, with 24 grandchildren and 24 great-grandchildren.

Their branch president at the time of their baptism was N. Eldon Tanner, later a member of the LDS Church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and a counselor in the First Presidency. Their Sunday School teacher was Hugh B. Brown, who also later held those same general authority positions.

An internationally known scientist, Elder Morrison earned a bachelor’s degree in agriculture and a master’s degree in biochemistry from the University of Alberta, a Ph.D. at Cornell University, then a second master’s in pharmacology nine years later from the University of Michigan.

He was honored in 1984 as the first recipient of the David M. Kennedy International Service Award from the Kennedy International Center at Brigham Young University and received the Borden Award of the Nutrition Society of Canada. He also received the Queens Jubilee Award and was a fellow of the Chemical Institute of Canada and of the Royal Society of Medicine.

He also was honored by the Great Salt Lake Council of the Boy Scouts of America for service to youths in the Central City area.

In April 2004, he received the Distinguished Service to Humanity Award at the convention of the Association of Mormon Counselors and Psychotherapists.

Elder Morrison also wrote more than a half-dozen books on LDS topics, including “Valley of Sorrow: A Layman’s Guide to Mental Illness.”

He made many trips to Africa and devoted himself to finding cures to major deadly diseases.

“I remember what starvation looks like as I sit down to abundance three times a day,” he said. “Carrying this burden keeps me, on the most fundamental of all levels, human.”

Elder Morrison served 14 years in the Federal Public Service of Canada as assistant deputy minister in charge of health protection, and through that position he became affiliated with the World Health Organization. He retired from that position in 1984 and became chairman of the food sciences department at the University of Guelph, with a specialty in food and agriculture.

In the WHO, he was for six years chairman of the scientific and technical advisory committee to the special program on research and training in tropical diseases. He also was chairman of a group studying the drug treatment of malaria.

“I guess being poor makes you worry about the poor of the world,” he told the Church News in an interview after his sustaining to the Seventy. “I come from the commonest folks. My folks were farmers in Canada. When my mother’s family came from Scotland, the area was virgin country. No one had farmed the land before them. My mother and father married and settled in north central Alberta."

Elder Morrison worked on the farm as a boy and for the first eight grades went to a one-room country school. And he was the first in his family to go to a university.

Elder Morrison credits his father for instilling in him a love of learning. “In a farming community where there wasn’t really very much emphasis on books and learning, Father provided the books. There was a deliberate attempt to talk about getting an education.”

Elder Morrison spoke four times in LDS general conferences. In his last address, the day he gained emeritus status in October 2000, he admonished the congregation to come and taste the fruits of the living gospel.

He had often represented the LDS Church at events aimed at assisting the hungry and poor as well as the mentally ill. Elder Morrison had a humble nature and a great ability to reach out to the poor and needy and make them feel better.

In other church service, he was a counselor in the Ottawa Ontario Stake presidency, bishop of the Ottawa 3rd Ward, branch president in Ottawa and Evansville, Ind., and a regional representative to the Toronto, Montreal-Ottawa and Dartmouth Nova Scotia regions. He later was a general authority curriculum adviser.

Funeral services will be Saturday, Feb. 24, at 11 a.m. at the Bountiful Utah Orchard Stake Center, 3599 N. Orchard Dr., Bountiful. Friends may call Friday, Feb. 23, from 6 to 8 p.m. at Larkin Mortuary, 260 E. South Temple, Salt Lake City, and Saturday at the stake center in Bountiful from 10 to 10:45 a.m. Interment will be at the Bountiful City Cemetery.