President Howard W. Hunter: The Lord’s ‘Good and Faithful Servant’
April 1995

“President Howard W. Hunter: The Lord’s ‘Good and Faithful Servant’” Ensign, Apr. 1995, 8

In Memoriam:
President Howard W. Hunter, 1907–1995

President Howard W. Hunter:

The Lord’s “Good and Faithful Servant”

President Howard W. Hunter, whose nine months as President of the Church were marked by calls for members to be more Christlike and temple worthy, was released from his earthly ministry when he died the morning of Friday, March 3. He was eighty-seven years old.

President Hunter passed away at 8:35 A.M. in his apartment one block east of the Salt Lake Temple. With him were his wife, Inis; his nurse; and his personal secretary.

He had struggled with serious medical problems for many years. Recently it had been announced that the prostate cancer from which he suffered had spread to his bones.

Through those years of struggle, he refused to let his health problems keep him from carrying on the labor in the kingdom that he loved so much. To Latter-day Saints, he was an example of sacrifice and endurance in serving God.

President Howard W. Hunter

Photo by Welden Andersen.

He was born into ordinary circumstances in a western United States town, yet books, adventures, and ultimately work as the Lord’s special witness took him all over the world and to many remote locales—from Shanghai to Beirut to Chiapa de Corzo, Mexico. His life spanned the twentieth century, including the Great Depression’s hardships and the space age’s advances. From humble beginnings, he rose to high positions in law and business, then willingly accepted a sacred call to dedicate the remainder of his life to full-time service in the Lord’s vineyard.

President Howard W. Hunter led a remarkable life. But while the world might honor him for his important leadership positions, he knew that true greatness lies not in the world’s definition of success. It lies, he said, in “the things God has ordained to be the common lot of all mankind, … the thousands of little deeds and tasks of service and sacrifice that constitute the giving or losing of one’s life for others and for the Lord.”1

Though deep-seated modesty would prevent him from ever making the comparison, President Hunter met his own definition of greatness. His greatness emerged in periods of his life far from the spotlight as he made pivotal choices to work hard, to try again after failing, and to help his fellowman. Those attributes were reflected in his remarkable ability to succeed in endeavors as diverse as music, law, business, international relations, carpentry, and, above all, being a “good and faithful servant” of the Lord.2

Despite life-threatening illnesses, Howard W. Hunter showed great faith and fortitude during repeated recoveries and eventually became the fourteenth President of the Church on 5 June 1994. In that responsibility he called on all Saints to “live with ever more attention to the life and example of the Lord Jesus Christ, especially the love and hope and compassion He displayed,” and urged them to “establish the temple of the Lord as the great symbol of their membership.”3 Traveling as President, he met with members from Switzerland to Mexico and took time to personally greet them, display an understanding of their culture, and reveal the dedication and humility that marked his true greatness.

Hard Work and Early Obstacles

Born to John William (Will) and Nellie Marie Rasmussen Hunter in Boise, Idaho, on 14 November 1907, Howard, along with his only sibling, Dorothy, enjoyed a comfortable, nurturing home, but one with few luxuries. Will worked as a motorman for the Boise Valley Traction Company, and to help him provide for necessities, Nellie took odd jobs.

As a child Howard cleaned corn, picked beans and apples, and carted heavy milk bottles from the local dairy to his home. His many job experiences included caddying, serving ice cream sodas, writing advertising copy for a newspaper, and working as a bellboy and porter and doing maintenance at a local hotel. The jobs obviously developed in him a capacity for hard work that later enabled him to accomplish myriad responsibilities—both at work and for the Church.4

While Nellie actively involved herself and her children in Church service, Will affiliated with no church. Occasionally he would accompany his wife and children to church on Sunday—one of Howard’s favorite childhood memories was of returning home from church by streetcar while being held in his father’s arms—but when it came time for Howard to be baptized at age eight, Will forbade it. He wanted Howard and Dorothy to be old enough to decide for themselves. This postponement became painful for Howard when, upon turning twelve, he could not become a deacon and pass the sacrament with the other boys. But Will later gave in to his son’s strong desire, and on 4 April 1920, in an indoor swimming complex in Boise, Howard, then twelve, and Dorothy, ten, were baptized.

Young Howard’s Church service began soon after his baptism: cutting kindling and lighting fires for the chapel on cold Sunday mornings. He also joined the new Scouting program and went on to become the second Eagle Scout in Boise. And when Boise Saints met to discuss building a tabernacle in 1923, fifteen-year-old Howard Hunter was the first to pledge a donation: twenty-five dollars, a hefty sum for which he worked hard to earn and contribute.

Academics, Music, and Adventure

Although Nellie and Will Hunter had not received much formal education, they offered an intellectually enriching home environment to Howard and Dorothy. An educational activity Will began in his home—taking the children on imaginary journeys to different countries via the family atlas and encyclopedia—gave his son a thirst for travel he never seemed to quench.

Though color-blind and not given to organized athletics, Howard succeeded academically and socially at Boise High School in the 1920s. He took a diverse array of course work and cultivated his interest in music by going dateless to dances in order to better listen to the bands. That interest in music, which had begun in childhood with piano and violin lessons, took on more serious inclinations after Howard won a marimba from a music store. He quickly taught himself to play it, then the drums, saxophone, clarinet, and, later, trumpet. Howard’s popular regional dance band, Hunter’s Croonaders, began in 1924. Thus his high school agenda, already laden with jobs and studies, became even more hectic with weekend band performances.

Howard graduated from Boise High School on 3 June 1926 with plans to enroll at the University of Washington in Seattle. But the young man whose actual travels had extended no farther than the states of Idaho, Utah, and California decided to embark upon a more exotic adventure. Later that year the Admiral Oriental Line offered Hunter’s Croonaders a contract to provide music for a two-month cruise to the Orient aboard the passenger liner SS President Jackson. So, instruments in hand, the five band members set sail in January 1927. In Tokyo Howard saw the body of Emperor Yoshihito lying in state. In embattled Shanghai he accompanied a friend to the border between warring parts of a city on the brink of revolution. In Hong Kong, during a chaotic Chinese New Year, a British bobby led Howard and another band member away from the potential dangers of a pursuer and a poorly lit area. And in the Philippines, Howard played tunes on the “Voice of Manila” radio station with one of his band members.

Looking back on the sightseeing and traveling he had done during the course of the cruise that ended in February 1927, he reasoned that “the education has been well worth what we have spent.”

A New State

Upon returning to Boise, Howard learned that his father had been baptized in his absence, a joyful way for Howard to begin this new phase of his life. Yet, though Howard was busy selling shoes and rehearsing and performing with his band, his newfound sense of adventure urged him to move on. After failing at a business venture marketing transportation and postal schedules, he traveled to Los Angeles, where his aunt and uncle lived, as well as two friends from the Croonaders. There he began a succession of jobs that included sorting lemons according to tip color—a difficult task, Howard discovered, for one who was color-blind.

Finally a job at the Bank of Italy, California’s largest bank at the time, offered Howard a measure of stability, and he soon enrolled in banking classes at night. He also became the drummer for a local dance band, socialized with other Latter-day Saint young adults in the area, and in 1928 moved in with his parents and sister who, along with two million others, had migrated to California during the 1920s.

The move to his parents’ apartment proved a significant one. Howard’s membership records were transferred to the Adams Ward, where under the influence of a Sunday School teacher he began a serious study of the gospel. “I think of this period of my life as the time the truths of the gospel commenced to unfold,” he wrote later.

In March 1930 Howard asked his stake patriarch, George T. Wride, for a patriarchal blessing. In that blessing young Howard was informed that he was one “whom the Lord foreknew” and had been ordained “to perform an important work in mortality.”

At the time, Howard was dating a young woman, Clara May (Claire) Jeffs, whom he had met at a Church dance in 1928. She lived with her family in Los Angeles and worked as the assistant manager in the personnel department of a large department store. By spring 1931, the two had managed to spend enough time together to know they loved each other. At that time Howard had a good banking position, and the Great Depression that afflicted the rest of the United States seemed to have overlooked them for the time being. They decided to get married.

Commitments and Setbacks

The decision to marry prompted Howard to new resolutions about the gospel and family life. When, in a temple recommend interview, Howard’s bishop asked if he would be able to support a wife on the meager income his tithing receipts reflected, Howard “suddenly … became conscious of the seriousness of not being a full tithe payer.” With characteristic resolve, Howard decided with Claire that “we would live this law throughout our marriage and tithing would come first.” They also decided before marrying to follow counsel from Elder Richard R. Lyman of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to stay out of debt.

Before his marriage, Howard reached a significant conclusion: his musical career, though mildly glamorous and lucrative, conflicted with the family life he envisioned for Claire and his children. So, on 6 June 1931, he returned home from a performance and packed up his instruments. He never played professionally again, taking out his instruments in the future only for an occasional family sing-along. Of this choice, Howard later said, “Although [giving up music] left a void of something I had enjoyed, the decision has never been regretted.”

Four days later, on 10 June 1931, Howard and Claire were married for time and eternity in the Salt Lake Temple. Almost immediately the newlyweds endured a series of setbacks. In January 1932 the bank Howard worked for was forced to close. Fortunately out of debt, the couple was “saved from starvation,” in Howard’s words, through a succession of jobs. Unable to live on their own anymore, the couple moved in with Claire’s parents in 1933, and Howard painted steel bridges for his father-in-law, often camping out on the job with Claire.

Howard finally landed a permanent job with the Los Angeles County Flood Control District in 1934, a job involving enough legal work that he was soon motivated to seek admission to law school. From 1935 to 1939 Howard’s daily schedule consisted of working full time by day, attending Southwestern University’s School of Law at night, eating a late dinner with Claire, and then studying until midnight or later. He graduated cum laude in 1939, third in his class, and passed the California bar later that year.

Amid the difficulties of accomplishing that feat, tragedy struck Howard and Claire’s young family. Three sons had been born while he attended law school: Howard William Jr. (Billy) in 1934, John Jacob in 1936, and Richard Allen in 1938. But at age six months, little Billy, then their only child, became sick and, after surgery to stop internal bleeding, died. Howard recalled that he and Claire left the hospital “grief-stricken and numb.” They buried their little boy in a grave next to that of Claire’s father.

His Hand to the Plow

In early 1940, after being sworn in and admitted to practice law, Howard set up what would become a flourishing law practice. But August of that year brought a stunning surprise. The Alhambra Ward was divided, and at thirty-two, having recently served as instructor of the junior genealogy class, Howard was called to be bishop of the newly created El Sereno Ward. Of his complete surprise at this calling, Howard remembered, “I had always thought of a bishop as being an older man.” But Bishop Hunter met the challenges of his new calling with characteristic determination.

During Howard’s service as bishop, the 7 December 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor hastened United States involvement in World War II. Because of the resulting shortage of adult male leadership in the ward, Bishop Hunter also served as Scoutmaster. Fellow ward members remember the new El Sereno Ward as a happy family working together, particularly to earn money for a building to call their own.

Bishop Hunter proved himself to be a loving yet firm leader. One Sunday, upon seeing some youth slip off to the drugstore next door after passing the sacrament, Bishop Hunter left the stand, walked to the store, and announced to the sheepish group of boys at the counter, “Brethren, when you have finished your malts, we will continue the meeting.”

Two years after Bishop Hunter’s release in 1946, the Hunters moved to nearby Arcadia. There they were members of the Las Flores Ward but still in the burgeoning Pasadena Stake. When Elders Stephen L Richards and Harold B. Lee of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles divided the stake in 1950, they sent for Howard W. Hunter one Saturday night and called him to be president of the Pasadena Stake. For the next nine and a half years, he rallied stake members to numerous work projects for building funds for a new stake center and, starting in 1951, for the building of the Los Angeles Temple.

During his tenure as stake president, President Hunter also served as chairman of the southern California regional council of stake presidents, encouraged family home evening for stake members fifteen years before its formal designation as a Church program, and pioneered the early-morning seminary program in southern California. Many of these accomplishments were noted at the stake’s fifty-eighth anniversary celebration, where President Hunter returned in October 1994 “to the place and the people I learned to love with all of my heart and soul. … How thankful I have been for the years of training and apprenticeship which the Lord provided in this favored place.”5

Sons, Trips, and Business

During the busy years of Howard’s service to the ward and the stake, the Hunter boys still enjoyed their father’s company. They particularly loved to hear tales of the Oriental sea cruise or to work on model trains with a meticulous dad who sometimes took them to the railroad yard for new layout ideas.

The family also benefited from his desire to show them the world in a way that his own father could not: when both sons completed missions to South Australia, Howard and Claire took John, and later Richard, around the world. Destinations on these two-month tours included the Philippines, Cambodia, Pakistan, and Egypt on the first trip and Bombay, Istanbul, Beirut, and Amsterdam on the second trip.

Howard also stayed close to his parents. Will and Nellie, in turn, gave their son the birthday surprise of his life when Howard turned forty-six during a 1953 Pasadena Stake excursion to the Arizona Temple. As Howard spoke to stake members in the temple’s chapel, his parents entered dressed in white, ready to be sealed to each other and then to their son.

Meanwhile, Howard had become a corporate attorney in Los Angeles and had been asked to serve on the boards of more than two dozen companies. When clients were unable to pay him for his services, he made a habit of offering them free legal advice. When the chance came for Howard to be considered for the position of judge in one of the state courts, he declined the opportunity. His independent law practice and the freedom it entailed to serve in the Church and pursue other interests meant more to him than the prestige of a judgeship.

“I Am Willing to Devote My Life and All That I Have in This Service”

The scenario of a more leisurely life, and possible retirement among the family, friends, and palm trees of southern California, disappeared forever for Howard and Claire in October 1959. On one of his typical trips to general conference in Salt Lake City, Howard received a message to meet President David O. McKay in his office. There President McKay informed him that “the Lord has spoken. You are called to be one of his special witnesses, and tomorrow you will be sustained as a member of the Council of the Twelve.” Completely overwhelmed, Howard returned to his hotel to call Claire, who was in Provo with their new grandson; Howard could hardly speak.

Sustained to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles the next day, 10 October 1959, Elder Howard W. Hunter vowed, “I am willing to devote my life and all that I have in this service.” President David O. McKay ordained him an Apostle and set him apart as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve on 15 October 1959. Elder Hunter became the seventy-fourth Apostle to be called in this dispensation.

From the beginning of his apostleship, Elder Hunter traveled constantly to help meet the demands of dramatic Church membership increases in all corners of the world. Ever the consummate student of geography and culture, Elder Hunter liked to plan his own itinerary, study his destination’s history, and avoid special treatment upon arrival. Along with the more regular work of organizing stakes and counseling leaders, he endured a tropical storm while traveling by boat in Tonga, escaped a mugging attempt in Panama, pushed a car through a blizzard in Norway, and shared living quarters in Poland with “flies, dogs, cats, chickens, and geese,” as he recalled.

One particularly memorable trip took place in Mexico City in 1975 when Elder Hunter established a record unequaled in the Church by reorganizing five stakes into fifteen. Howard W. Hunter visited Mexico many times, but his trip there in December 1994, this time as President of the Church, will stand out in the minds of thousands of Mexican Saints who came to catch a glimpse of a living prophet and hear him speak. Presiding over the creation of the Church’s two thousandth stake, in Mexico City, President Hunter encouraged the enormous crowds gathered there to pattern their lives “after the example of the one sinless person to walk the earth, even the Lord Jesus Christ.”6

As president of the Genealogical Society of Utah (now the Family History Department of the Church) from 1964 to 1972, Elder Hunter guided the implementation of computers to tackle the slow and inadequate methods of processing names for temple work.

Service as Church Historian from 1970 to 1972 was particularly gratifying to Elder Hunter, who had read a twenty-volume work on the history of civilization. He also took great interest in his twenty-four-year affiliation with the New World Archaeological Foundation, a Mesoamerican research organization based at Brigham Young University. Traveling two or three times a year to Mexico and Guatemala, Elder Hunter encountered everything from deadly snakes to ungraded paths, greatly enjoying the adventure and education these trips represented.

From 1965 to 1976, Elder Hunter’s organizational talents enabled the Polynesian Cultural Center, affiliated with the Church College of Hawaii (now Brigham Young University—Hawaii), to go from an unprofitable and unknown entity to one of the most popular tourist attractions in all of Hawaii. On 18 November 1994, he presided over the inauguration of BYU—Hawaii’s eighth president and again shared his interest that the campus “find ever better ways to allow the diversity of cultures from which students come and to which they will go to be an effective and important part of the educational resources of this campus.”7

Perhaps the assignment that required the most of Elder Hunter’s negotiating ability, sensitivity to other cultures, and adept legal mind took place in the Holy Land. Having helped oversee the building of the Orson Hyde Memorial Garden in the mid-1970s, Elder Hunter again traveled to Jerusalem on a far more complicated assignment. Beginning in 1979, Elder Hunter played an important role in negotiating the acquisition of land and in overseeing the construction of the Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies—Brigham Young University. Yet when the final lease agreement papers were signed in 1984, rapidly escalating local opposition almost derailed the project. At that critical time, Elder Hunter’s crucial negotiations, along with a letter supporting the center from the United States Congress, helped resolve concerns. In May 1989 Elder Hunter, then in a wheelchair following back surgery, offered the Jerusalem Center’s dedicatory prayer.

Sickness and Health

During Howard’s busy years as an Apostle of the Lord, he and Claire still relished their time home alone together as grandparents to John and Louine’s ten and Richard and Nan’s eight children in California. Both sons had become attorneys there. Elder Hunter visited his sons’ families so often in the Los Angeles airport that one grandchild called him the “grandpa who lives at the airport.”

Bad health began plaguing the Hunter household in the early seventies. Claire suffered from memory loss and worsening headaches that led to surgery in 1976, with negligible results. Afterward Claire needed full-time nursing care that her husband and a housekeeper provided. A cerebral hemorrhage in 1981 robbed Claire of her ability to walk or even communicate, but her husband insisted on keeping her at home so he could continue to give her loving care and personal attention. When another cerebral hemorrhage in 1982 absolutely required that Claire enter a professional nursing center, Elder Hunter visited her daily and went straight to her side from the airport after his trips. When Claire died in October 1983, Elder James E. Faust of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke at her funeral, commenting that the “tenderness which was evident in their communication was heartrending and touching. I have never seen such an example of devotion of a husband to his wife.”

Elder Hunter’s own health declined before Claire’s death. In 1980 he underwent surgery to remove a benign tumor. The decade brought little relief, with a heart attack, coronary bypass surgery, and lower-back pain all taking their tolls. A close brush with death occurred in 1987, when President Hunter, then Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve, required nine pints of blood during surgery for a bleeding ulcer and then suffered kidney failure. After President Hunter’s slow recovery, his back problems required more surgery, leaving him with an improved back but also constant, severe pain in his legs.

Throughout his painful ordeals, friends and associates never recall having heard President Hunter complain. Good humor and compassion were his trademarks, typified by his opening remark given from a wheelchair at October 1987 general conference: “Forgive me if I remain seated. … I notice that the rest of you seem to enjoy the conference sitting down, so I will follow your example.”8 At April 1989 general conference, President Hunter displayed typical composure and resilience while speaking on barely mobile legs with the help of a walker. Losing his balance, he fell backwards into a flower arrangement but was immediately helped up and continued his talk. Tests later showed he had broken three ribs in the fall.

Memorable occasions marked the end of the decade for President Hunter. On 2 June 1988, he was set apart and sustained as President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles after President Marion G. Romney’s death. Then, in 1990, President Hunter casually announced at the conclusion of a meeting of the Twelve that “I’m going to be married this afternoon. Inis Stanton is an old acquaintance from California. I’ve been visiting with her for some time, and I’ve decided to be married.” After a private sealing that afternoon, the Hunters began a close, busy companionship.

But other challenges afflicted President Hunter. Hospitalized for internal bleeding in 1992, he made a slow recovery. Then, in February 1993, he was about to address a nineteen-stake fireside at Brigham Young University when a man carrying what he declared to be a bomb rushed onstage and ordered everyone off but President Hunter, whom he commanded to read a prepared statement. President Hunter calmly refused. Then, the enormous audience in the Marriott Center distracted the intruder’s attention by singing “We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet” (Hymns, 1985, no. 19), allowing police to subdue the man. President Hunter rested only a few moments before giving his prepared talk. “Life has a fair number of challenges,” he began, adding, spontaneously, “as demonstrated.”

Three months later, President Hunter underwent gall bladder surgery but could not be roused afterward. Some days later, he surprised his doctors by awaking, coherent and fully recovered.

Fourteenth President of the Church

On 30 May 1994 President Ezra Taft Benson passed away. Howard William Hunter was sustained and set apart by fellow Apostles on June 5 as prophet, seer, and revelator of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. On the following Monday, President Hunter spoke to the press: “I have shed many tears and have sought my Father in Heaven in earnest prayer with a desire to be equal to the high and holy calling which is now mine.”9 He went on to introduce two themes he would emphasize throughout his presidency—the need for all Church members to become more Christlike and to become a temple-worthy, temple-attending people.

President Hunter quickly took those admonitions, and others, to as many Saints as he could. In June he greeted 2,200 missionaries at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, noting that missionary efforts had helped increase Church membership from three million a few years ago to nearly nine million at that time.10 In June President Hunter’s first major public appearance took place in Nauvoo, Illinois, where he spoke at three services commemorating the 150th anniversary of the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith. “The pillars of their faith are still resident with us as a people today,” he told the fifteen hundred people crowded into the Nauvoo Ward meetinghouse and visitors’ center for sacrament meeting.11

One month later President Hunter took his first trip outside the United States as President of the Church. Speaking at a fireside in Lausanne, he commended Switzerland’s “fiercely independent people” and the country’s cohesiveness despite three official languages.12

“Be more fully converted,” he urged thirteen thousand Tucson, Arizona, Saints at a biregional conference in September, again emphasizing the themes that have become the hallmarks of his presidency and which he reiterated at the 164th general conference in October.13 “Live with ever more attention to the life and example of the Lord Jesus Christ,” he admonished. “Look to the temple of the Lord as the great symbol of your membership.”14 Members worldwide eagerly listened as President Hunter shared his thoughts: “I have wondered on occasion why my life has been spared. But now I have set that question aside and ask only for the faith and prayers of the members of the Church so we can work together, I laboring with you, to fulfill God’s purpose in this season of our lives.”15

President Hunter labored vigorously to the year’s end. A new year, however, brought with it new health complications. During the January 1995 dedication of the Bountiful Utah Temple, President Hunter presided over six sessions before becoming fatigued. Doctors later said that prostate cancer, for which President Hunter had undergone surgery in 1980, had spread to his bones.

For the fourteenth President of the Church, fulfilling the Lord’s purposes came as selflessly and naturally as had his labors as a schoolboy, a young father, a devoted bishop, and a tireless Apostle. The Lord’s vineyard, as Howard W. Hunter saw it, requires constant upkeep, and all that his Master required of him was to be a “good and faithful servant.” This President Hunter fulfilled with true greatness, with constant attention to the example of the Savior, whom he served until the end.

Milestones in a Life of Service: President Howard W. Hunter


November 14: Born to John William (Will) and Nellie Marie Rasmussen Hunter in Boise, Idaho.


April 5: Blessed at age five months by Boise Branch president Heber Q. Hale.


November 1: Only sibling, Dorothy Elaine, born.


Contracts polio and recovers (but will suffer from back pains the rest of his life).


January: Enters first grade at Lowell School in Boise.


April 4: Baptized in indoor swimming pool in Boise.

June 21: Ordained a deacon by Bishop Alfred Hogensen.


January: Enters Boise High School.


February 26: Ordained a teacher.

May 11: Earns rank of Eagle Scout.


Fall: Organizes Hunter’s Croonaders dance band after learning several instruments and performs throughout Boise and in nearby towns.


Spring: Commissioned as a high school Reserve Officers Training Corps major, highest ROTC rank attainable at school.

June 3: Graduates from Boise High School.


January 5: Sets sail aboard SS President Jackson, with Hunter’s Croonaders as ship’s orchestra, for a two-month Oriental cruise.

February 6: Father, Will Hunter, is baptized.


January: Tries, and fails, at entrepreneurial venture marketing transportation and postal schedules.

March 13: Arrives in Los Angeles, California.

April 23: Hired as a bookkeeper at the Bank of Italy.

June 8: Meets Clara May (Claire) Jeffs.


October: Great Depression begins.


March: Receives patriarchal blessing.

Winter: Takes job as a junior officer at First Exchange State Bank in Inglewood, California.


June 6: Performs professionally for last time, giving up music for family life.

June 10: Marries Claire Jeffs in Salt Lake Temple.


January: Loses banking job due to bank closures brought on by the Depression. Begins working a series of odd jobs.


January: Obtains steady work in title department of Los Angeles County Flood Control District.

March 20: Son Howard William (Billy) Hunter Jr. born.

Summer: Enrolls at Southwestern University, taking prerequisite courses for law school.

October 11: Son Billy dies at age six months.


Called as stake Scout leader and appointed assistant district commissioner of Los Angeles Metropolitan Area Scout Council.

Asked to serve with Claire on ward building-fund finance committee.

September: Enters Southwestern University School of Law.


May 4: Son John Jacob Hunter born.

Fall: Buys first home in Alhambra; family become members of Alhambra Ward, Pasadena Stake.


June 29: Son Richard Allen Hunter born.


June 8: Graduates cum laude, third in his class, from law school.

October 23–25: Takes California Bar Exam; passes.

Fall: Teaches ward genealogy class.


January–April: Admitted to California bar, bar of U.S. District Court for southern California, and bar of U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

April: Begins own law practice.

August 27: Called as bishop of newly organized El Sereno Ward, Pasadena Stake.

September: Ordained a high priest and a bishop by Elder Joseph F. Merrill of the Quorum of the Twelve.

Fall: Family moves to larger home in El Sereno, staying in El Sereno Ward, Pasadena Stake.


Serves concurrently as Scoutmaster and bishop during wartime shortage of male leadership.


Teaches LDS students at Woodbury College on his lunch hour once each week.


November 10: Released after six and a half years as bishop; called as high priests quorum leader of Pasadena Stake.


Called as a high councilor.

Moves with family to new home in Arcadia; they become members of Las Flores Ward, Pasadena Stake.


February 25: Called as president of the Pasadena Stake.

Designates Monday night as family home evening for Pasadena Stake members.

Chairs committee that introduces early-morning seminary to Los Angeles area high school students, the beginning of early-morning seminary Churchwide.


October: Asked to help raise money for building of Los Angeles Temple.


Called as chairman of southern California regional council of stake presidents.

Begins implementing budget plan that eventually makes Pasadena Stake units free of debt, financially solvent.

October 11: Presides over ground-breaking ceremony for Pasadena Stake Center.


November 14: Sealed to parents on his forty-sixth birthday in Arizona Temple.


Called as chairman of Los Angeles regional council of stake presidents.


Summer: Takes two-month world tour with Claire and John, visiting more than twenty countries.


October 9: Called to the Quorum of the Twelve by President David O. McKay.

October 15: Ordained an Apostle and set apart as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve by President McKay.


Organizes stakes in Nevada and California, including his first in his role as Apostle: North Las Vegas Nevada.

Summer: World tour with Claire and Richard.


Organizes stakes in California and Nevada.

January: Appointed as chairman of the advisory board for New World Archaeological Foundation, based at BYU.

April: Moves to Salt Lake City with Claire.

Christmas: Visits Holy Land with Claire and Elder Spencer W. Kimball and wife, Camilla.


Organizes stakes in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and North Carolina.


Organizes stakes in Montana, Illinois, Utah, Arizona, and Oregon.

February: His father dies.


Organizes stakes in California.

January: Assigned as president of Church’s Genealogical Society.


Organizes stakes in California, Tennessee, and Mississippi.

January: Appointed as president and chairman of the board of Polynesian Cultural Center in Hawaii.


June: Oversees dedication of Granite Mountain Record Vault, where Church genealogical microfilms are stored.


Organizes stakes in Washington and California.


Organizes stakes in California, Hawaii, and Tonga.


Organizes stakes in New Zealand, Samoa, and California.

August: Coordinates first Church-sponsored World Conference on Records and the concurrent World Convention and Seminar on Genealogy in Salt Lake City.


Organizes stakes in Nevada, California, Idaho, Samoa, and Tonga, including the Church’s 500th stake, in Fallon, Nevada.

Called as Church Historian and recorder.

Attends International Congress on Archives in Moscow and the tenth International Congress of Genealogical and Heraldic Sciences in Vienna.


Organizes stakes in Samoa and Tonga.

Assists in negotiations for Church to microfilm records in Italy.

November 11: His mother dies.


Organizes stakes in Argentina.

Claire’s health begins deteriorating.


Organizes stakes in Texas and Brazil.


Organizes stakes in Samoa, Mexico, Canada, and Maryland.

Assigned to help oversee funding and building of the Orson Hyde Memorial Garden in Jerusalem.


Organizes fifteen stakes from five stakes in Mexico City on one weekend; organizes a stake in Alabama.

May: Accompanies BYU International Folk Dancers on seventeen-day tour of China.

July: Claire hospitalized with collapsed lung.


Organizes stakes in California, Florida, Mexico, and Oregon.

January: Claire undergoes surgery to relieve brain pressure.


Organizes stakes in Mexico, Costa Rica, California, and Michigan.

February: LDS law students at Southwestern University name their student organization after him.

August: Dedicates Panama for preaching of the gospel.


Organizes stakes in Kentucky, Mexico, California, Texas, and Utah.


Organizes stakes in Washington, Korea, and Japan.

April: Authorized by First Presidency to negotiate purchase of property for BYU’s Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies. Oversees a decade of complex negotiations before center’s completion in 1989.

October 24: Attends Mount of Olives dedication of Orson Hyde Memorial Garden; receives Medal of the City of Jerusalem from Mayor Teddy Kollek.


Organizes stake in Peru.

June 4: Hospitalized for removal of benign tumor.

July 23: Suffers heart attack.


Organizes stakes in Arizona and Taiwan.

May: Claire suffers cerebral hemorrhage.


Organizes stakes in Canada, Spain, and Washington.

Visits Sinai Peninsula with BYU students.

April 7: Claire suffers another cerebral hemorrhage.


Organizes stakes in Colorado, Idaho, Fiji, and Tonga.

October 9: Claire dies.


Organizes stake in California.

Elected chairman of the board of Beneficial Life Insurance Company.


Organizes stakes in Peru and California.

February: Visits Jerusalem to defuse opposition to construction of BYU Jerusalem Center.

November 10: Set apart as Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve due to President Marion G. Romney’s ill health.


October 12: Undergoes coronary bypass surgery.


March: Seeks treatment for back and leg pain related to spinal bone deterioration.

April 8: Undergoes surgery for bleeding ulcer.

June 4: Undergoes back surgery, limiting use of his legs.

October 4: Addresses general conference in a wheelchair.

December 15: Able to attend temple meeting using a walker.


June 2: Set apart as President of the Quorum of the Twelve after death of President Romney.


May: Dedicates BYU Jerusalem Center.


April 10: Marries Inis Bernice Egan in Salt Lake Temple.

October: Stands up, while meeting with General Authorities, with minimal assistance for first time since April 1987.

November: Honored by U.S. Court of Appeals in Los Angeles for fifty years of dedicated service.

December: Hospitalized with pneumonia.


Organizes stake in Utah.

Summer: Hospitalized in Salt Lake City after aspirating food into lung.


September 12: Dedicates Austria for preaching of the gospel.

October: Attends rededication of London Temple.

November: Hospitalized for internal bleeding.


February 7: Endures a threatening intruder while speaking at BYU Marriott Center; unharmed.

April: Attends San Diego California Temple dedication.

May: Undergoes gall bladder surgery and suffers near-fatal reaction to medications; recovers some days later.


May 30: President Ezra Taft Benson dies.

June 5: Ordained the fourteenth President of the Church.

June 26: Speaks in Nauvoo, Illinois, marking next day’s 150th anniversary of Joseph, Hyrum Smith martyrdom.

August 8–16: Travels to Switzerland, first trip outside U.S. as Church President.

September 13: Speaks at Provo MTC during missionary training satellite broadcast to be seen by missionaries worldwide.

September 18: Presides over and speaks at Tucson, Arizona, biregional conference.

September 23: Speaks at General Relief Society Meeting.

October 1: Sustained as prophet, seer, revelator, and President of the Church in a solemn assembly opening the 164th Semiannual General Conference.

October 9: Dedicates Orlando Florida Temple.

October 15–16: Attends 58th anniversary of the Pasadena California Stake and speaks at stake conference.

November 13: Addresses Salt Lake Tabernacle congregation gathered for 100th anniversary of Genealogical Society of Utah.

November 14: Eighty-seventh birthday.

November 18: Presides over inauguration of Eric B. Shumway as president of BYU—Hawaii.

December 4: Speaks during annual First Presidency Christmas devotional.

December 11: Presides over creation of the Church’s 2,000th stake: the Mexico City Mexico Contreras Stake.


January 8–14: Dedicates Bountiful Utah Temple and presides over six of its dedicatory sessions.

January 12: Hospitalized for exhaustion; prostate cancer had recurred and spread to the bones.

January 16: Released from the hospital; returns home.

Mid-January–February: Continues in work of the Presidency, receiving his Counselors, General Authorities, and others to process items requiring his attention.

March 3: Passes away at home.


  1. Ensign, May 1982, p. 19.

  2. See Matt. 25:21.

  3. Ensign, July 1994, pp. 4–5.

  4. Eleanor Knowles, Howard W. Hunter (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1994), p. 45. Unless noted otherwise, this book is the key source for quotations and information used in this article.

  5. Quoted in Mike Cannon, “Homecoming Is Sweet for Prophet,” Church News, 22 Oct. 1994, p. 3.

  6. Ensign, Feb. 1995, p. 75.

  7. Ibid., p. 79.

  8. Ibid., Nov. 1987, p. 54.

  9. Ibid., July 1994, p. 4.

  10. “President Hunter Greets 2,200 Missionaries, Praises Their Devotion,” Church News, 25 June 1994, p. 4.

  11. Quoted in Dell Van Orden, “A Time to Remember, Honor, Respect,” Church News, 2 July 1994, p. 10.

  12. “President Hunter Visits Switzerland on 8-Day Journey,” Church News, 20 Aug. 1994, p. 11.

  13. Quoted in Mike Cannon, “‘Be More Fully Converted,’ Prophet Says,” Church News, 24 Sept. 1994, pp. 3–4.

  14. Ensign, Nov. 1994, p. 8.

  15. Ibid., p. 7.

Hard work, dedication, and love—traits cultivated as a youth in Idaho, upper left, and as a young man in California, right—were hallmarks of President Howard W. Hunter’s life and service as an Apostle of the Lord and as President of the Church.

As a young father, Howard W. Hunter was devoted to his wife, Claire, left, and their two sons, John Jacob and Richard Allen, far left. President Hunter kept close to his family, though callings as a bishop in 1940, stake president in 1950, and member of the Quorum of the Twelve (below) in 1959 demanded much of his time and attention.

Whether addressing Church members, left, serving as Church Historian, above, or doing any of the myriad assignments he received as an Apostle of the Lord, President Hunter gave his all. Below, Elder David B. Haight of the Quorum of the Twelve greets President Hunter during October 1987 general conference. (Photo by Ravell Call, Deseret News.)

President Hunter, below (photo by Merrett T. Smith), did not let physical limitations limit his ability to reach out to members of the Church, above (photo by Kurt Cramer). He traveled vigorously during the months he served as President of the Church, making trips to Switzerland, Mexico, Illinois, Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, and Los Angeles and Pasadena, California, right, where he attended the 58th anniversary of the Pasadena California Stake.

Photo by Lew Leavitt.

With help and support from his wife, Inis, above (photo by Ernie Reed), President Hunter continued to honor his vow “to devote my life and all that I have in this service,” which included dedication of the Orlando Florida Temple ([photo] by Gerry Avant, Church News), with his Counselors, President Gordon B. Hinckley, First Counselor, left; and President Thomas S. Monson, Second Counselor, right. (Photo by Gerry Avant, Church News.)