President Howard W. Hunter: A Man Possessing Christlike Love

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Student Study Guide, (2005), 216

President Howard W. Hunter taught: “Please remember this one thing. If our lives and our faith are centered upon Jesus Christ and his restored gospel, nothing can ever go permanently wrong” (“‘Fear Not, Little Flock,’”Brigham Young University 1988–89 Devotional and Fireside Speeches[1989], 112). President Hunter not only taught this important principle, but he also lived it. Elder James E. Faust, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said: “Perhaps the most remarkable occurrence during his short time as President of the Church has been that the members of the Church all over the world have become bonded to him in a special way as their prophet, r, and revelator. They have n in him the personification of the attributes of the Savior himself. They have responded in a remarkable way to his prophetic messages of making our lives more Christlike and of making our temples the center of our worship” (“Howard W. Hunter: Man of God,”Ensign,Apr. 1995, 26).One example of his Christlike nature was illustrated by Elder Neal A. Maxwell, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. He said that President Hunter “is a meek man. He once refused a job he needed as a young man because it would have meant another individual would have lost his job. This is the same lowly man, when I awakened after a weary and dusty day together with him on assignment in Egypt, who was quietly shining my shoes, a task he had hoped to complete unn” (“‘Meek and Lowly,’”Brigham Young University 1986–87 Devotional and Fireside Speeches[1987], 61).

His Life (1907–95)


Born November 14, in Boise, Idaho, to John William and Nellie Marie Rasmussen Hunter


Age 12, baptized on April 4 (waited for his father’s permission); ordained a deacon by his bishop on June 21


Age 23, married Clara (Claire) May Jeffs on June 10


Age 42, chairman of the committee introducing early-morning seminary in California


Age 51, ordained an Apostle by President David O. McKay


Age 56–64, president of the Church’s Genealogical Society


Age 62–64, Church Historian


Age 67–85, traveled many times to Israel; dedicated the BYU Jerusalem Center


Age 75, first wife died


Age 80, sustained as President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles


Age 82, married Inis Bernice Egan on April 12


Age 86, sustained as President of the Church


Age 87, died March 3 in Salt Lake City; served for nine months as President of the Church

His Presidency (1994–95)



Dedicated the Orlando Florida Temple and organized the Church’s 2,000th stake


Dedicated the Bountiful Utah Temple; Church membership was 9,338,859

The Life of President Howard W. Hunter

1. “In his first news conference on 6 June 1994, President Howard W. Hunter established some of the important themes of his administration. He said: ‘I would invite all members of the Church 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.

2. “‘I pray that we might treat each other with more kindness, more courtesy, more humility and patience and forgiveness.’

3. “He also asked members of the Church to ‘establish the temple of the Lord as the great symbol of their membership and the supernal setting for their most sacred covenants. It would be the deepest desire of my heart to have every member of the Church temple worthy’ [Church News,June 11, 1994, 14]. Many thousands of Church members took these messages into their lives and were blessed with a greater depth of spirituality.

4. “President Hunter had a keenly developed mind that was of great value to the Church. In the late 1970s he received an assignment that required all his skills. He played an important role in negotiating the acquisition of land and in overing the construction of the Church’s major building in the Holy Land—Brigham Young University’s Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies. This center is located on Mount Scopus, an extension of the Mount of Olives. It houses the residences and study activities of students studying in depth about this choice land, its people (Jews and Arabs alike), and the places where Jesus and his ancient prophets walked. This center has been a blessing to those who have studied within it, and its beauty has inspired many who have visited there. …

5. “During his lifetime, President Hunter faced many adversities. With faith and fortitude, he dealt with serious and painful health problems, the long-term debilitating illness and death of his first wife, and other difficulties. In spite of these obstacles, he actively served the Lord, traveling much and working hard in administering the affairs of the Church. His example was consistent with his message: ‘If you have troubles at home with children who stray, if you suffer financial reverses and emotional strain that threaten your homes and your happiness, if you must face the loss of life or health, may peace be unto your soul. We will not be tempted beyond our ability to withstand. Our detours and disappointments are the straight and narrow path to Him’ [in Conference Report, Oct 1987, 71; orEnsign,Nov. 1987, 60].

6. “President Hunter presided in Mexico City, Mexico, on 11 December 1994 as the Church’s 2,000th stake was created, an important milestone in Church history. To those assembled he said: ‘The Lord, through His servants, has brought this miracle to pass. This work will continue to go forward in strength and vitality. The promises made to Father Lehi and his children about their posterity have been and are continuing to be fulfilled in Mexico’ [Church News,Dec. 17, 1994, 3]. During the time President Hunter served as a General Authority, the Church in Latin America grew dramatically. At the time he became President of the Church, there were over 1.5 million Latter-day Saints in just the countries of Mexico, Brazil, and Chile, more Church members than lived in Utah at that time.

7. “Although President Hunter served as President of the Church for only nine months, he had a powerful effect upon the Saints, who remember him for his compassion, long-suffering, and profound example of Christlike living” (Our Heritage,136, 138–39).

8. Elder James E. Faust, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, shared the following story about President Hunter as a youth: “His sister, Dorothy Hunter Rasmussen, … remembered this tender incident when they were children together. ‘Howard always wanted to do good and to be good. A wonderful brother, he looked out for me. He was kind to our mother and father. Howard loved animals and regularly brought home strays.’ There was an irrigation ditch by their house, and one day several boys in the neighborhood … were throwing a kitten in the ditch. It would get out, then they would throw it in again. They did this over and over until they got tired of their game. ‘Howard came by and picked [the kitten] up; it was lying there almost dead, and he brought it home. Mother was afraid it was dead, but they wrapped it in a blanket and put it near the warm oven and nursed it.’ It lived, and they had the cat for years. ‘He was also so kind,’ Dorothy said. ‘I have never known my brother to do a wrong thing in my life’” (“The Way of an Eagle,”Ensign,Aug. 1994, 4, 6).

Howard W. Hunter walking

9. Elder Rulon G. Craven, who was a member of the Seventy, shared the following story: “Many will remember a number of years ago President Hunter was informed that he would not walk again. However, his faith and determination were greater than that message. Daily, without fanfare and the knowledge of others, he went through some very strenuous physical therapy exercises with determination, faith, and the vision that he would walk again. During those difficult months, his Brethren of the Twelve were praying for him daily in their quorum meetings and in their private prayers.

10. “Months later, on a Thursday morning, I went to President Hunter’s office. … I found he left early and was informed that he was walking to the temple. I questioned that information and then hurried to catch up with him. When I caught up with him, he was walking with the help of a walker. … When their president walked into [the meeting] room, the Twelve stood and began to clap their hands. … President Hunter thanked them and said, ‘I was not supposed to walk again, but with the Lord’s help and my determination and, most important, the faith of my Brethren of the Twelve, I am walking again’” (in Conference Report, Apr 1991, 35–36; orEnsign,May 1991, 28–29).

Understanding the Reading

The Life of President Howard W. Hunter

Supernal(par. 3)Heavenly 
Keenly(par. 4)Sharply, precisely 
Acquisition(par. 4)Purchase 
Fortitude(par. 5)Determination, bravery 
Debilitating(par. 5)Crippling, weakening 
Fanfare(par. 9)Public display 

The Teachings and Testimony of Howard W. Hunter

11. “Never did the Savior give in expectation of receiving. He gave freely and lovingly, and His gifts were of inestimable value. He gave eyes to the blind, ears to the deaf and legs to the lame; cleanliness to the unclean, wholeness to the infirm and breath to the lifeless.

12. “His gifts were opportunity to the downtrodden, freedom to the oppressed, forgiveness to the repentant, hope to the despairing and light in the darkness. He gave us His love, His service and His life. And most important, He gave us and all mortals resurrection, salvation and eternal life.

13. “We should strive to give as He gave. … To give of oneself is a holy gift. We give as a remembrance of all the Savior has given. …

14. “… This Christmas, mend a quarrel. k out a forgotten friend. Dismiss suspicion and replace it with trust. Write a letter. Give a soft answer. Encourage youth. Manifest your loyalty in word and deed. Keep a promise. Forgo a grudge. Forgive an enemy. Apologize. Try to understand. Examine your demands on others. Think first of someone else. Be kind. Be gentle. Laugh a little more. Express your gratitude. Welcome a stranger. Gladden the heart of a child. Take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the earth. Speak your love and then speak it again. [Adapted from an unknown author.]” (in “‘To Give of Oneself Is a Holy Gift,’ Prophet Tells Christmas Gathering,”Church News,Dec. 10, 1994, 4).

Jesus walks on water

15. “It is my firm belief that if as individual people, as families, communities, and nations, we could, like Peter, fix our eyes on Jesus, we too might walk triumphantly over the swelling waves of disbelief and remain unterrified amid the rising winds of doubt. But if we turn away our eyes from him in whom we must believe, as it is so easy to do and the world is so much tempted to do, if we look to the power and fury of those terrible and destructive elements around us rather than to him who can help and save us, then we shall inevitably sink in a sea of conflict and sorrow and despair.

16. “At such times when we feel the floods are threatening to drown us and the deep is going to swallow up the tossed vessel of our faith, I pray we may always hear amid the storm and the darkness that sweet utterance of the Savior of the world: ‘Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid’ (Matthew 14:27)” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1992, 24; orEnsign,Nov. 1992, 19; adapted from Frederic W. Farrar,The Life of Christ[1964], 313).

17. “Every generation since time began has had things to overcome and problems to work out. Furthermore, every individual person has a set of challenges which sometimes m to be earmarked for him individually. We understood that in our premortal existence.

18. “When these experiences humble, refine, and teach us, they make us better people, more grateful, loving, and considerate of other people in their own times of difficulty.

19. “Even in the most severe of times, problems and prophecies were never intended to do anything but bless the righteous and help those who are less righteous move toward repentance” (“Why Try?”New Era,Jan. 1994, 6).

20. “Whatever Jesus lays his hands upon lives. If Jesus lays his hands upon a marriage, it lives. If he is allowed to lay his hands on the family, it lives” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1979, 93; orEnsign,Nov. 1979, 65).

21. “I testify that Jesus is the only true source of lasting joy, that our only lasting peace is in him. I do wish him to be ‘our glory now,’ the glory each of us yearns for individually and the only prize men and nations can permanently hold dear. He is our prize in time and in eternity. Every other prize is finally fruitless. Every other grandeur fades with time and dissolves with the elements. In the end, … we will know no true joy save it be in Christ” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1993, 80–81; orEnsign,May 1993, 65).

22. “As one called and ordained to bear witness of the name of Jesus Christ to all the world, I testify at this Easter season that he lives. He has a glorified, immortal body of flesh and bones. He is the Only Begotten Son of the Father in the flesh. He is the Savior, the Light and Life of the world. Following his crucifixion and death, he appeared as a resurrected being to Mary, to Peter, to Paul, and to many others. He showed himself to the Nephites. He has shown himself to Joseph Smith, the boy prophet, and to many others in our dispensation. This is his church” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1988, 19; orEnsign,May 1988, 17).

Jesus with Apostles
Jesus with Mary

Understanding the Reading

The Teachings and Testimony of Howard W. Hunter

Inestimable(par. 11)Unmeasurable 
Downtrodden(par. 12)Discouraged 
Forgo a grudge(par. 14)Forgive a hurt feeling 
Yearns(par. 21)Intensely desires 
Grandeur(par. 21)Beauty, glory 

Studying the Reading

Do activity A or B and activity C or D as you study “President Howard W. Hunter.”

Activity A iconGetting to Know President Hunter

Study the chart on the life and presidency of President Howard W. Hunter (p. 216), along with paragraphs 1–10 of the reading, and find answers to the following questions:

    Howard W. Hunter
  1. 1.

    How old was President Hunter when he was baptized a member of the Church?

  2. 2.

    How old was he when ordained an Apostle?

  3. 3.

    How old was he when he married for a second time?

  4. 4.

    Which temples did he dedicate?

  5. 5.

    What are at least two types of adversity he faced?

  6. 6.

    In what country was the 2,000th stake located?

  7. 7.

    In 1994, which three Latin American countries had more Church members than Utah?

  8. 8.

    How long did President Hunter serve as President of the Church?

Activity B iconA Search for Achievements

  1. 1.

    List five achievements that impressed you from President Hunter’s life. Following each achievement, write a different character trait you think a person would especially need in order to accomplish that task.

  2. 2.

    Briefly explain which character trait on your list you would like to develop more fully and how you plan on accomplishing it.

Activity C iconMake Corrections

  1. 1.

    Each of the following statements is an incorrect version of one of President Hunter’s teachings. Rewrite the statement so that it is correct.

    1. a.

      “I would invite all people everywhere to live with ever-more attention to the life and example of their friends” ( par. 1).

    2. b.

      “I pray that we might treat each other with more kindness, more courtesy, more joy and patience and forgiveness” ( par. 2).

    3. c.

      “It would be the deepest desire of my heart to have every member of the Church be a missionary” ( par. 3).

    4. d.

      “Our detours and disappointments are but bumps along the road to our Savior” ( par. 5).

    5. e.

      “Rarely did the Savior give in expectation of receiving. He gave freely and without judgment, and His gifts were of little worldly value” ( par. 11).

  2. 2.

    Choose one of those statements and explain why the correct version is better than the incorrect version.

Activity D iconA Survey about the Savior

  1. 1.

    How many of the statements in “The Teachings and Testimony of Howard W. Hunter” ( par. 11–22) speak of the Savior?

  2. 2.

    List what President Hunter taught about Jesus Christ. Circle those ideas on your list that most impressed you.

  3. 3.

    Briefly explain what you think President Hunter wanted us to know and feel about the Savior.