Lesson 35: Harold B. Lee: From Boy to Man, Close to God

, "Lesson 35: Harold B. Lee: From Boy to Man, Close to God," The Presidents of the Church: Teacher’s Manual1996


The class will realize that the strength of President Harold B. Lee’s life came from his attention to the Spirit of God.


  1. 1.

    If the videocassette Testimonies of the Presidents of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (53242) is available, show the section “Harold B. Lee.”

  2. 2.

    Prepare to show the picture of Harold B. Lee in the color section.

  3. 3.

    Have a returned missionary that the class members know either come to class to relate a short, spiritual message about the Holy Ghost or have the missionary put the message on an audiocassette. Ask him to tell briefly how the Spirit has helped him accomplish what he has up to this point in his life. (Be sure to get permission from the bishop or branch president for this activity and for this returned missionary to speak.)

Suggested Lesson Development



Have one of the class members stand before the class and answer the following questions:

  • How would you feel if your mother had just given you a vigorous push?

  • How would you feel if the push had just saved your life?

Relate the following example from President Lee’s youth:

“‘There was a severe thunderstorm raging near the mountain where our home was located. Our family, consisting of my grandmother, my mother, and two or three of the younger children, were seated in the kitchen before an open door, watching the great display of nature’s fireworks. A flash of chain lightning followed by an immediate loud clap of thunder indicated that the lightning had struck very close.

“‘I was playing back and forth in the doorway when suddenly and without warning, my mother gave me a vigorous push that sent me sprawling backwards out of the doorway. At that instant, a bolt of lightning came down the chimney of the kitchen stove, out through the kitchen’s open doorway, and split a huge gash from top to bottom in a large tree immediately in front of the house. Had it not been for Mother’s intuitive action, and if I had remained in the door opening, I wouldn’t be writing this story today.

“‘My mother could never explain her split-second decision. All I know is that my life was spared because of her impulsive, intuitive nature.

“‘Years later, when I saw the deep scar on that large tree at the old family home, I could only say from a grateful heart, “Thank the Lord for that precious gift possessed in abundant measure by my own mother and by many of the faithful mothers, through whom heaven can be very near in time of need”’” (L. Brent Goates, Harold B. Lee, Prophet and Seer [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1985], p. 41).

Ask the class the following questions, keeping in mind the objective of teaching about the guiding influence and strength from the Holy Ghost:

  • If you are away from home beyond the time your parents expect you, why do you think they are anxious until you come home?

  • Do young people usually appreciate how parents guide them in the early part of their life?

Many times parents guide under inspiration, yet young people sometimes resist, even when the parents are inspired. (As the teacher, you may wish to relate a personal example.)

Scripture discussion

  • Have any of you ever felt the promptings of the Spirit? Describe how you felt. (Allow varied responses from those who wish to share these.)

Read the following scriptures: Galatians 5:22–23; Doctrine and Covenants 6:14.

  • What special opportunities are received by following the Spirit in one’s youth? (Allow varied responses.)


Display the picture of Harold B. Lee.

Today we will study carefully the life of President Harold B. Lee, the eleventh President of the Church. One of his outstanding characteristics was how closely he listened to the Spirit.

President Lee’s Early Life


He was a teacher in a public school at seventeen; a teacher and principal in another public school at age eighteen; a missionary at age twenty-one; a husband at age twenty-four; a high councilor at age twenty-eight; a stake president at age thirty-one; and a seminary teacher, a Salt Lake City commissioner, a manager of the Churchwide welfare system, and an Apostle, all before age forty-two.

  • Do you think these blessings and opportunities that came to Harold B. Lee could have been obtained without his constant communication with the Spirit? (Allow comments.)


If you obtained the bishop or branch president’s permission, have the invited returned missionary speak briefly on the Spirit.

President Lee Used His Closeness to the Spirit to Influence Youth


Read the following experience from the life of President Lee:

“On December 5, 1969, a large body of young people and their leaders gathered expectantly for a most unique meeting in the Institute of Religion building on the University of Utah campus. [Elder Lee] had been urged to bear testimony of personal experiences [to let these young people know the reality of God]. Elder Lee responded to these suggestions with a powerful sermon in a defense of the kingdom, taking his text from Doctrine and Covenants 115:4–5, ‘Shine forth, that thy light may be a standard for the nations.’ He related personal experiences of true modern miracles which had occurred to him, attesting to the power of the priesthood; illustrating inspired callings, relevant practices, and eternal principles; and exemplifying the effectiveness of prayer in the lives of the Saints. He supported this with scriptural references throughout. …

“Then, considerably more than midway in his sermon of one hour and fifteen minutes, the mood changed. Elder Lee paused. His voice became quiet. He bowed his head over the pulpit, grasping it tightly with both hands. He took a step back and then looked up.

“Then it happened! The spirit of the meeting suddenly changed as Elder Lee concluded his sermon with considerable emotion, firmly and fervently witnessing to the truth of his convictions, … and bearing personal, heartfelt testimony that God lives. He told of how he had come to know this truth as one of His special witnesses on the earth. Everyone there knew that he knew! The windows of heaven seemed to open, and the Savior’s spirit flowed over the entire congregation. …

“No one moved after the prayer. Elder [Marion D.] Hanks [who had been conducting the meeting] went back to the pulpit and stood there in silence as waves of spiritual power swept through the audience. Still no one stirred to leave. There was no sound or movement of any kind. …

“Elder Hanks [recalled] what happened next:

“‘After a long period of utter motionless silence, I nodded to the audience, turned and invited Elder and Sister Lee to walk with me, and led them to the front foyer area of the institute building, where Elder and Sister Lee shook hands with an absolutely mute and generally tearful group of young people as they filed by. Interestingly, during the long silence, which lasted about twenty minutes or even longer, … someone started to sing “The Spirit of God Like a Fire Is Burning.” Only a few joined in. After one verse they quit, and the silence continued. Even that sacred song was an intrusion on the sublime Spirit’” (L. Brent Goates, Harold B. Lee, Prophet and Seer, pp. 392–96).


Have a class member who reads well read the following incident:

Just before his death, President Lee was attending his home ward fast and testimony meeting. “Just prior to the close of the meeting, President Lee’s familiar voice came from the back of the chapel, asking permission … [to address his ward].

“‘Brothers and Sisters, beloved friends and neighbors, members of my ward family, and those in my own little flock over whom I have stewardship: I’m sorry to disturb you, but I know that it would be disturbing to my Father in Heaven if I don’t say something to you at this time.

“‘By way of testimony I want you to know that I know that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ and our Redeemer, and he is at the head of this Church; I am not. I know that he operates in all the affairs of this church and I say this by way of testimony that you may know that I know he lives.’ … After a long pause. …

“‘I say this to you by way of a serious warning, that I also know that the adversary lives and operates in the affairs of man. And he is determined to cause a downfall of men. If he can’t get to us, he will try to get to those closest to us, for he is in a mighty battle with the work of the Savior. And I must tell you these words of warning. So keep close to the Lord. Don’t be discouraged. The Lord will take care of his own. If you are prepared, you need not fear, if you are on the Lord’s side’” (L. Brent Goates, Harold B. Lee, Prophet and Seer, p. 564).

Scripture discussion

President Harold B. Lee evidently saw these days as perilous times. He knew the gospel was true, and he knew Satan would do all in his power to fight against it.

Read and discuss 2 Nephi 28:20–21.

President Lee knew it would take living close to the Spirit of our Father in Heaven to resist the evils of the present day and to live happy lives.

Videocassette testimony

If it is available, show the videocassette, part 7 (1 minute, 39 seconds), of Harold B. Lee’s testimony. If the videocassette is unavailable, conclude the lesson with the testimony and challenge.

“Harold B. Lee’s primary virtue was his spirituality, his intimacy with the God who directed his thoughts and footsteps, his totally uncommon ability to obtain flashes of inspiration and illuminating light in answer to his ponderings and prayers” (L. Brent Goates, Harold B. Lee, Prophet and Seer, p. 462).

Testimony and Challenge

Challenge class members to look for examples in their own lives where the Holy Spirit is working. Then challenge them to enlarge that relationship through prayer and fasting and scripture study.

Bear your own testimony of how the Holy Spirit has helped you in your life.