As a youth, David B. Haight came close to death on two occasions: once when he was thrown from a runaway buggy and a second time when he hit his head while diving into a swimming hole. “I think the Lord was preserving his life in his early years” for a great purpose, said his son Robert (quoted in Ronald E. Poelman, ‘’Elder David B. Haight: Joy in Lifting Others,” Tambuli, Sept. 1987, 20; Ensign, Sept. 1986, 12).
Indeed, the Lord had plans for young David. He would later be called to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, eventually becoming, at age 97, the oldest Apostle in the history of the Church. His service in the apostleship ended on 31 July 2004 when he passed away in Salt Lake City of causes incident to age. He was remembered as a devoted disciple during a funeral service held on 5 August in the Tabernacle on Temple Square.
Elder Haight “stirred the hearts of people across the earth with his declaration of faith and his testimony of the living reality of the Lord Jesus Christ,” said the First Presidency in a media statement. “He has borne that witness on many continents and has been influential in the Church he loved. … At his departure, our hearts reach out to his beloved companion, Ruby, and their children.”
Elder Haight was known for his extemporaneous talks at general conference, which were filled with down-to-earth anecdotes and expressions of his deep and abiding testimony of the gospel’s truthfulness. In his most recent conference address, given last April, he declared: “God lives. … [He] loves us, as we should love Him. … The gospel is true. I know it; I’m a witness of it” (“How Great the Wisdom and the Love,” Liahona and Ensign, May 2004, 6).
David Bruce Haight was born on 2 September 1906 in Oakley, Idaho, to Hector C. Haight and Clara Tuttle Haight. In his early life he experienced the deaths of his father and four of his siblings due to illness. These painful losses gave him compassion and understanding for those who faced adversity in their own lives. Despite such difficult experiences, he described himself as a “typical boy growing up in a country town” (quoted in Gerry Avant, “Elder Haight Recognized What Really Is ‘Great Moment’ in Life,” Church News, 24 Nov. 1985, 5).
The Church was an important influence throughout his life, but a turning point in his commitment to the gospel occurred during World War II, when he was serving as a lieutenant commander in the United States Navy. After leaving his family behind in California to fly to Honolulu, Hawaii, he spent a sleepless night in the back of an airplane reappraising his life and pouring out his heart in prayer. Although he had served in many Church callings and had been serving in a bishopric, he decided he wasn’t as dedicated as he should have been. “I’ve often thought maybe that was my road to Damascus as I thought about my family that I left back on that landing dock out in the bay,” he later said. “I made a total commitment that I would never question a call from the Lord. I would use whatever few talents I had to build the kingdom if I might survive my involvement in that conflict” (quoted in Church News, 24 Nov. 1985, 5).
He kept that promise, later serving as president of the Palo Alto California Stake, as president of the Scottish Mission, and as a regional representative prior to his call in April 1970 as an Assistant to the Twelve. On 8 January 1976 he was ordained an Apostle.
Elder Haight knew that regardless of the callings he was given, the essence of gospel living is charity, the pure love of Christ. As he told one of his grandsons, “The Lord isn’t going to be concerned about whether you were a bishop, or stake president, or Apostle. He’s going to be concerned about how you treated people” (quoted in Tambuli, Sept. 1987, 22; Ensign, Sept. 1986, 14).
Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has remarked upon Elder Haight’s awareness of the needs of others, offering this example: “Elder Haight read the newspaper account of a young man, an experienced swimmer, who drowned trying to save others whose canoe had capsized. David did not know the family, but his heart went out to them.” He attended the viewing at the mortuary, where he extended his sympathy to the widow and the parents of the young man. Elder Haight’s concern for them opened the way for the parents to become active in the Church. Elder Haight later performed the temple sealing of the parents to their three sons, including the young man who had passed away (see Lucile C. Tate, David B. Haight: The Life Story of a Disciple , 288).
Many of Elder Haight’s talks were sprinkled with references to his beloved wife, Ruby. Young David first saw Ruby Olson at a dance he was attending with another young woman. As he and his date observed the other dancers, “the cutest girl [he] had seen in [his] life” came dancing by with her date. David watched the high-spirited young woman in the red dress dance by several times and then asked his date if she knew that girl. His date responded that they were sorority sisters. “Now, this is not the way to win friends and influence people, but I asked my date if she would introduce me to Ruby sometime,” Elder Haight recalled.
That introduction never occurred, but a short time later Ruby applied for a position at the store David managed. She was hired. When he asked her for a date, she told him she already had a date that evening. He remembered: “I asked what time her date was coming. She said at 8 o’clock. I said, ‘How about my coming at 6?’” (quoted in Church News, 24 Nov. 1985, 5).
The relationship soon became exclusive, and later the couple married in the Salt Lake Temple on 4 September 1930. Their courtship continued throughout their almost 74 years of marriage. Elder Haight’s secretary, Linda Dalley, recalls an experience she had when visiting the Haights earlier this year: “Their housekeeper let me in, and she motioned to me to not make any noise. She said, ‘Look in the living room,’ and there were Elder and Sister Haight, as ill as Elder Haight had been, and the two of them were in the living room dancing together. I thought that was one of the sweetest things I had ever seen. Ninety-seven years old, and at that time Sister Haight was 93, in the living room dancing without music. They didn’t need music. They had the music in their hearts.”
Elder and Sister Haight have 3 children, 18 grandchildren, and 78 great-grandchildren.
Elder Haight had a long and successful professional career. He completed his schooling at Utah State University and served in managerial and executive positions for department stores in Utah, California, and Illinois, finally owning a group of retail stores in the 1950s. From 1959 to 1963 he was mayor of Palo Alto, California. He was in his second term when he was called to serve as president of the Scottish Mission.
After his service as mission president, Elder Haight worked as an assistant to the president of Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, prior to being called as an Assistant to the Twelve.
Elder Haight’s legacy benefits not only his posterity but all members of the Church who have been inspired by his testimony and his faith in Jesus Christ. In a general conference address he urged members to “have that testimony, that desire in our hearts, to teach others, to explain what we believe, and to live lives of righteousness, … to be an example to mankind, and to be able to spread this work not only by what we say but by the way we act” (“Faith, Devotion, and Gratitude,” Liahona, July 2000, 42; Ensign, May 2000, 35). Elder Haight was a living example of what he taught.
At his funeral, speakers offered the following tributes to Elder David B. Haight:
President Gordon B. Hinckley: “He recognized that each of the human family was a child of God and that we are all, therefore, brothers and sisters. He carried in his heart an appreciation of all whom he came to know, regardless of their religious affiliation. … He knew his place and his unique responsibility as one who testifies of the living reality of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
President Thomas S. Monson, First Counselor in the First Presidency: “There was no chink in his armor. There was no guile in his soul. There was no flaw in his character. Elder Haight loved the Lord with all his heart and soul and served Him with all his might to the very end of his mortal life.”
President James E. Faust, Second Counselor in the First Presidency: “His greatest work was among people as a devoted disciple of Christ. … Thousands and thousands of lives have been directly touched by his unique caring to many. He was uncompromising in doing what was right.”
President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: “Death is an essential part of life. … [Elder Haight] is now in paradise. … We know something about what paradise is like and what David B. Haight will be doing. … God bless the memory of David B. Haight.”