President Harold B. Lee was born March 28, 1899 on a small farm in Clifton, Idaho. He began a teaching career when he was 17 years old, and became the principal of a small school when he was 18. Later, following his graduation from the University of Utah, he served as the principal of two schools in Salt Lake County, Utah.
His love of learning developed as he was introduced to books by his mother who encouraged him to read.
“The first book I ever owned came to me on the heels of tragedy” he recalled. “It was at a community Christmas party that came to a sudden and abrupt end when the candles on the Christmas tree set fire to Santa Claus’ coat and he ran from the room.
“I returned home … disconsolate and dejected because there was no gift for me. But the next day from out of the ruins of the fire a book, half-burned, was found with my name on it.”
It was a book that told the story of a young boy who, through hard work and honesty, went on to be a success in life.
“Biographies and the stories of the lives of people who achieved success always made interesting reading and aided me in my imagination, to soar beyond the close confines of a routine rural life to satisfy the longing for adventure that I suppose every normal boy has.
“Living as a boy at the foot of a great mountain in a valley surrounded by mountains, it was probably to be expected that stories of the outdoors and of animals also were of particular appeal to me.”
President Lee remembered his mother also as being influential in teaching him to listen to the promptings of the spirit.
“Once I was standing in the doorway of our little house watching a great thunderstorm raging in the nearby mountains. The thunder grew closer and closer. Suddenly, and without warning, my mother gave me a vigorous push that sent me sprawling out of the doorway. At that instant, a bolt of lightning came down the chimney of the kitchen stove, out through the open doorway, and split a huge gash from top to bottom in a large tree immediately in front of the house.
“My mother never could explain her split-second decision that saved my life, but it was one of many occasions when my mother followed the promptings of the Spirit.”
President Lee said that within every child born into the world there is a heavenly gift.
“The Lord has revealed that this is the light of Christ or the Light of Truth. Even in early childhood, this gift gives everyone the ability to tell the difference between what is right and of the Lord and what is wrong and of the world. We all need to do that which is right and of the Lord.”