Friend to Friend

From a personal interview by Joleen Meredith with Elder Howard W. Hunter of the Quorum of the Twelve

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    Elder Howard W. Hunter

    “I was not a member of the Church until I was past Primary age. My father was not a member either (although he joined the Church later), but my mother was Primary president, and later Mutual president, in our little branch in Boise, Idaho, which was then in the Northwestern States Mission. Our meetinghouse was a single room. Curtains were hung from cross wires to divide the room into sections. Besides passing the sacrament, it was the deacon’s job to pull the curtains when we separated for classes. Since I wasn’t a member of the Church, I wasn’t able to perform these duties. I did attend meetings, however, and I joined the Scout troop. I became the first Eagle Scout of that troop and the second Eagle Scout in Boise, Idaho.

    “When I was thirteen, I decided I didn’t want to be different from the rest of the boys, so I asked my father if I could be baptized. My sister and I were baptized the same day.”

    By the time Elder Hunter was twelve years old, a stake had been organized and the Boise Ward wanted to build a new chapel. The members were asked to pledge what they could afford toward construction of the new building. The first person to pledge was Howard Hunter! He pledged twenty-five dollars. “That was a lot of money to a boy in 1919,” reflected Elder Hunter.

    Elder Hunter related many experiences about growing up in the rural area of Boise. His father was a railroad worker and was often away from home on weekends. But the family did many things together. Elder Hunter remembers especially having good times with his sister, Dorothy, to whom he is still very close.

    “We didn’t have many modern conveniences. We had kerosene lamps, and rest room facilities were about fifty paces from the back door. In back of the house was a cellar where Mother stored all her canned fruits and vegetables. We had a vegetable garden, a berry patch, and fruit trees.

    “I remember that my father once said to me, ‘You know, it would help if you weeded the garden.’ I thought I would surprise him and do it, but I hoed down all of the potatoes he had planted, thinking they were weeds! That was about the extent of that.”

    As a child, Elder Hunter loved pets. “We had chickens that I took care of. And my dad built me some pens for my rabbits. I also had a little fox terrier by the name of Daisy. Daisy was my pal and followed me everywhere I went.

    “I was a great collector of almost everything. I had a stamp collection, a coin collection, and a collection of birds’ eggs. Not far from where we lived, there were swamps, cattails, and a variety of trees. Every bird you could imagine lived there. I knew where all the birds and their nests were, so my egg collection was large.”

    Elder Hunter became interested in music. He learned to play the piano, saxophone, clarinet, trumpet, drums, and marimba. He organized a dance band, and when he graduated from high school, the band toured the Orient aboard the SS President Jackson. The band played in China, Japan, and the Philippines.

    Elder Hunter has served as president of the Polynesian Cultural Center in Hawaii, as president of the Church Genealogical Society, as a bishop, and as a stake president. He is now a General Authority. Recalling his service in the Church, he said, “One of my prized assignments was adviser to the Primary, where I served for about ten years. I visited Primaries all over the world and never missed an opportunity to visit a Primary group.”

    Elder Hunter related an experience he had during the time he served as president of the Genealogical Society: “I went to see President McKay one day after a computer representative told me that his company had developed a drum that would hold a billion bits of information. I was excited! This was a breakthrough for genealogical record keeping. As I told President McKay about it, I said, ‘Isn’t that marvelous?’ He replied, ‘What’s marvelous about that? You haven’t had use for it before, have you?’ I replied, ‘No, we are just at that point now.’ And he said, ‘Well, that’s the reason the Lord has provided it now.’”

    Because Elder Hunter kept diaries as a boy and has continued to do so throughout his life, he urges all the children of the world to do the same. “Even if you don’t think you do anything important, write down what you do every day. Nothing is too unimportant to go into your daily journal. Encourage your family to keep a journal also. They are treasured records.”

    Illustrated by Richard Hull