Elder Richard E. Turley Sr., emeritus general authority and U. engineering professor, dies at age 90
Former mission president was father of 7, including former Assistant Church Historian Rick Turley
Elder Richard E. Turley Sr., an emeritus General Authority Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, died in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Sunday, Oct. 10, 2021, of causes related to age, according to his son, Richard E. “Rick” Turley Jr.
Elder Turley was 90.
“We’re imagining right now the joys dealing with his reunion with loved ones,” said Turley Jr., the recently retired managing director of the church’s public affairs department. “He lived a very good life and was a wonderful husband and father and grandfather, so we’re all rejoicing with him.”
Elder Turley served in the Second Quorum of the Seventy from 1997-2000, part of his long history of church service.
Much of that service was done in Mexico.
As a young man he served a full-time mission in Mexico, Guatemala and Costa Rica. He served as president of the Mexico Hermosillo Mission from 1983-85. He later served as a counselor in the church’s Mexico South Area presidency.
“He loved the Mexican people,” Turley Jr. said.
While a general authority, Elder Turley presided at the groundbreaking for the Villahermosa Mexico Temple in January 1999, when he dedicated the site for construction.
“Temples are, along with the Atonement, the greatest gift to mankind, as well as the greatest tool to prepare the earth for the Second Coming of the Savior,” he said then.
Elder Turley later became the assistant executive director of the Family History Department.
“To me it was sweet because during the one year he spent in the Family History Department, I was the managing director, so we had a chance to serve together for a year,” Turley Jr. said.
His son said Elder Turley was a man of science and faith. He wrote a textbook on engineering and statistics and published articles in scientific and engineering journals.
Elder Turley was born Dec. 29, 1930, in El Paso, Texas. He attended Texas A&M University before his mission, then earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Utah in 1955.
He married Betty Jean Nickle in the Salt Lake Temple on April 1, 1954. They had seven children and 36 grandchildren. After she died in 2009, he married Ana-Maria Garces.
He worked for aerospace and natural gas companies, earned a master’s degree at the U. and a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering at Iowa State University.
He was an associate professor at the University of Utah from 1972-89 and contributed to the launch of Utah’s Advisory Council on Science and Technology.
While in Iowa for graduate school, Elder Turley served in the church’s Central Iowa District presidency, which Turley Jr. said required an enormous amount of travel.
Turley Jr. shared a story from that time to illustrate his father’s faith:
He was working full time, going to school full time, had a large, young family and was serving in a very demanding church position. At the same time, we didn’t have a lot of money and we were living in an old home that had the usual maintenance challenges of an older home. On one occasion, our water heater stopped working. As a mechanical engineer, he did everything he could to try to fix it, without success. So one day, full of faith, he knelt on the basement floor next to the water heater, and he prayed to the Lord and basically said, ‘We’re doing the very best we can with the inspiration we feel we’ve received from you. I’m going to school back here, trying to get my education, trying to support our family, serving in a church calling. We don’t have a lot of money. We can’t afford to buy a new water heater. Would you please bless this water heater that it will work?’ He said amen, flipped on the switch and the water heater worked and continued working during the entire time that we lived there.
Elder Turley spoke once in a general conference of the church, a year after he was called as a general authority. He spoke about science and faith in an address titled, “Bridging the Gap Between Uncertainty and Certainty.”
“I have come to realize over the years that it is only through the power of the Holy Ghost that we can bridge the gap between uncertainty and certainty,” he said, pointing out that while Peter knew Jesus Christ personally, he knew Christ was the Son of God because it had been revealed to him.
“The details of the Creation are undoubtedly interesting,” Elder Turley added, “but much higher on the list of priorities is the need to learn more about our Creator and to accept his invitation to follow him so that we too may achieve our full potential.”
Funeral arrangements are pending.