Elder David B. Haight, an Assistant to the Council of the Twelve for the past six years, has been called to the Council of the Twelve by President Spencer W. Kimball to fill the vacancy created by the recent death of Elder Hugh B. Brown.
The ordination of Elder Haight to the holy apostleship occurred Thursday, January 8, in the Salt Lake Temple, and came a little over five weeks following the death of Elder Brown on December 2, 1975.
Although born and raised in Idaho, the new member of the Twelve has spent the bulk of his adult life in California, where he became known in business, civic, and Church circles for his impressive understanding and leadership of people, and for his expertise in management.
Since his call on April 6, 1970, to serve as an Assistant to the Council of the Twelve, Elder Haight has traveled throughout the Church in his weekly conference assignments and has become respected and loved for his skill in teaching priesthood leaders how to fulfill their callings.
“I’ve been what you call an organizational man. I’ve become concerned that our people—all of our people—understand their important roles in building the kingdom of God. When I go to a stake conference, my first major objective has been to try to help leaders understand their important leadership roles. I’m the kind of person who enjoys using a chalkboard from the time I start holding meetings with the stake presidencies, the high councils, and the bishops to the time I finish. We talk a lot together. I try to let them see how reasonable and effective the organization of the Church really is—and how it will affect the lives of their people if they will do what the First Presidency has asked and organize the way the Church suggests. I enjoy helping others see how everything falls into place—how beautifully it falls into place—and how it will work for the blessing of their people when they organize properly and then carry out their assignments.”
When these stimulating conferences are over, Elder Haight returns again to Church headquarters and his family, to whom he is unstintingly devoted. He and his wife, Sister Ruby Haight, will celebrate their forty-sixth wedding anniversary this year and are the parents of three married children: Mrs. Jon M. (Karen) Huntsman of Salt Lake City, David B. Haight, Jr., of Menlo Park, California, and Robert P. Haight of Sandy, Utah. “I have a son who is a bishop,” Elder Haight says, “and I like to call Robert and say, ‘How are you spending your time, Bishop?’ Then he might say, ‘Well, I have these things at the ward to do,’ and I say, ‘Well, the Church expects you to have your family come first.’
“I have often said to our leaders, ‘You may turn out to be a great bishop or stake president and lose some member of your family through neglect. We even had a prophet speak about that, you know: “No success can compensate for failure in the home.” That’s just as true as it can be. So, as leaders and members, all of us need to learn what our roles and responsibilities are—in our families and in the Church—and see how they fall together to bless ourselves and others.’
“That raises the second thing I try to do when I meet and work with people. I love to try to help people see what comes into their lives when they take the spotlight off themselves and put it on someone else, when they give service to others. I have always cherished a statement from Emerson’s essays: ‘Rings and jewels are not gifts, but only apologies for gifts.’ The only real gift is a portion of oneself. Service to others is an inherent part of the gospel. For me it was beautifully taught by the Savior when he answered the question about what was the greatest law. Some scholars say that the Jews had 613 laws and regulations that governed their lives—how they planted their crops, harvested them, cleaned the vegetables, washed, and so forth. And in the midst of all this, they ask the Savior, ‘Which is the greatest commandment?’ And He cut through all their small talk and said, ‘The first and greatest commandment is to love the Lord, and the second is like unto it, to love your neighbor.’ (See Matt. 22:35–40.) Well, that whole approach builds service. If you love the Lord, you are going to worry about his work and about the success of it. If you love your neighbor, you are going to worry about your neighbor, about your friends, about your associates, your husband, your wife, your children—and if you worry about them, that brings service into the picture. Why? Because you’re going to do something for them. So the Lord just built service into the entire plan!”
One of the most captivating personality traits of the new member of the Council of the Twelve is that these sentiments and ideas, so easily and naturally expressed by him, are at this point in his life far more than just ideas to him. He is now sixty-nine and comes to this new calling after a lifetime of nurturing and testing the principles of the gospel in many diverse settings and environments. When he says in his warm, straightforward manner, “The gospel works; I tell you it works,” the listener knows that he speaks from experience.
This experience has been most varied. He was born in Oakley, Idaho, September 9, 1906, and grew up in that small country town. His grandfather was the first stake president of the Cassia Idaho Stake, and his father (who died when Elder Haight was nine years old) was the town’s banker, an Idaho state senator, and a bishop. In his teens young David Haight obtained a teaching certificate so that he could earn enough money to attend a university. He graduated in business administration at twenty-two from Utah State University. Two years later he married Ruby Olson, and they drove to California where he was to manage a new branch of a department store.
He has spent most of his professional life in management within the merchandising industry returning to the Rockies four years later to be general merchandising manager of Salt Lake City’s ZCMI; then moving on to Montgomery Ward, where he supervised 25 stores in the San Diego, California, area; then going to Oakland in northern California to serve as district manager. All this was interrupted by World War II, however. During the war he rose to the rank of commander in the U.S. Navy, overseeing the logistics and tactical operations of getting supplies to the right places at the right time in the Pacific. His performance earned him great personal and official military commendation. Following the war he was reassigned by Montgomery Ward to Chicago, where he supervised 165 stores and thousands of employees, and then in 1951, at the age of 45, he decided to try out his merchandising ideas on his own and acquired several hardware stores in Palo Alto, California.
While in Palo Alto, he was called from his assignment as a junior high councilor to serve as stake president—and while he was stake president was asked to run for the city council. This led to two terms as mayor of Palo Alto and to appointments as director of the Stanford University–Palo Alto Hospital, Channing House Retirement Center, and to much civic service amongst business, professional, and university leaders.
Having tested gospel ideas in many applications, Elder Haight was now ready to help others be similarly successful: President David O. McKay called him to serve as president of the Scottish Mission. Following this experience he served as a member of the Priesthood Missionary Committee and then as a Regional Representative of the Twelve prior to his 1970 call to serve as an Assistant to the Twelve. During this time he moved to Provo, Utah, where he served three years as assistant to President Ernest L. Wilkinson at Brigham Young University, principally in building the school’s successful endowment program.
His call to the apostleship came at about 2 P.M. Thursday, January 8. “I was in a meeting and my secretary received a call that President Kimball wanted to see me. Of course, those telephone calls get attention, so I left the room and dialed the number given me. I didn’t know where the extension was, and President Kimball answered and said, ‘David, I am over in the temple, and I would like to talk to you about an important matter. Can you come right over?’ I want to say that that walk over was a walk I’ll always remember. I wondered if I had said something at a stake conference that I needed straightening up on. I wondered if I was not doing my assignments well as director of the Melchizedek Priesthood Department [where Elder Haight has overseen priesthood quorum instruction and training, Melchizedek Priesthood MIA, leadership training, teacher development, military relations, home teaching, family home evening, and the Lamanite Committee]. A lot of things went through my mind, but I never had any thought about filling that vacancy in the Twelve. I have regarded myself as being at the bottom of the totem pole of the list of great men in the Church who could have been called. I never even imagined it, really. I’ve never coveted an office in this Church. Never. When I arrived, President Kimball took me into a room and told me of the call. It was an experience I will never forget.
“When I was young, just a lad in Idaho, I used to worry about how the great theologians and thinkers of the world might make the Church and Latter-day Saints look. I was aware of their great, broad concepts of man and their humanity. But, over the years, I have worked with, met, conversed with, and observed many significant persons—in business, in the military, in university settings. I have learned that the little worry I had as a youth was without foundation. I have learned that the great concepts I thought others might have that might outshine our concepts are not there. With my own eyes and ears, and with my own experience, I tell you that the Lord has it. He has it all—the great concepts, the truths, the joys, the organization, the plan, the vision for all of our happiness. I am happy to be able to bear this witness. I want people to know how I feel about the gospel, how I feel about the great and glorious role that it has in saving people and helping them develop a vision of the eternities. There is nothing on earth to compare with it. Nothing else! The Lord and his plan are our answer.”