Lesson 36: Harold B. Lee—Dynamic Leader

, "Lesson 36: Harold B. Lee—Dynamic Leader," The Presidents of the Church: Teacher’s Manual1996


Class members will desire to follow President Harold B. Lee’s inspired leadership example in preparing themselves and helping prepare their friends and family to meet the Savior.


  1. 1.

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

  2. 2.

    Gather pictures from local newspapers that illustrate the following problems: war, famine, natural disasters, unemployment, wickedness, disease, and poverty. Or assign the class members to bring examples from newspapers or magazines. (Caution class members not to bring inappropriate material to class.) Ask several class members to discuss what measures could reduce the effects of these problems or help eliminate the problems themselves.

  3. 3.

    Have a class member who is in a youth presidency prepare a report on his or her role in the bishopric youth committee and what that group does.

  4. 4.

    Assign a class member to tell or read President Marion G. Romney’s comments about President Harold B. Lee. (Provide a hand copy or photocopy for the class member.)

Suggested Lesson Development



List the following problems on the chalkboard: War, Famine, Natural Disasters (floods, earthquakes, volcanoes), Auto Accidents, Unemployment, Wickedness, Disease, Poverty. Place each newspaper or magazine picture under the appropriate heading.

  • Have any of you been hurt by problems like these? (Allow brief discussion.)

Imagine that your home has been destroyed by a flood.

  • What are some of the things with which you would need help? How would you go about getting the help you need? To whom would you turn for help? (Allow brief discussion.)

Harold B. Lee Was a Great Leader

Scripture discussion

Many great world leaders have such qualities as ambition, strength, organizational ability, charisma, and intellectual power. These qualities are helpful in solving problems created by a disaster, but the scriptures tell us something else is necessary for great leadership.

First, a leader needs to be always doing good, even before a disaster.

Read Doctrine and Covenants 64:33–34.

Second, a leader needs to remember that he serves not for his own glory, but for the good of the people and for the glory of Father in Heaven.

Read and discuss Galatians 5:26.

Finally, a leader needs to understand that he can only lead through humility, compassion, obedience, love, and the power of the priesthood.

Read Doctrine and Covenants 121:36, 41–43.

  • What skills (remember the scriptures just read) does a good leader need? (Responses might include: humility, compassion, obedience, love, and the power of the priesthood.) Harold B. Lee was such a leader.


Display the picture of Harold B. Lee.


Relate the following incident in Harold B. Lee’s life.

At the time, in the 1930s, President Lee was president of the Pioneer Stake in Salt Lake City. There were four thousand eight hundred people dependent on fathers who were either unemployed or who needed special help. He said, “At that time I was one of the city commissioners. The night before Christmas Eve, we had had a heavy snowstorm, and I had been out all night with the crews getting the streets cleared, knowing that I would be blamed if any of my men fell down on the job. I had then gone home to change my clothes to go to the office.

“As I started back to town, I saw a little boy on the roadside, hitchhiking. He stood in the biting cold with no coat, no gloves, no overshoes. I stopped and asked where he was going.

“‘I’m going uptown to a free picture show,’ he said.

“I told him I was also going uptown and that he could ride with me.

“‘Son,’ I said, ‘are you ready for Christmas?’

“‘Oh, golly, mister,’ he replied, ‘we aren’t going to have any Christmas at our home. Daddy died three months ago and left Mama and me and a little brother and sister.’

“Three children, all under twelve!

“I turned up the heat in my car and said, ‘Now, son, give me your name and address. Somebody will come to your home—you won’t be forgotten. And you have a good time; it’s Christmas Eve!’

“That night I asked each bishop to go with his delivery men and see that each family was cared for, and to report back to me. While waiting for the last bishop to report, I suddenly, painfully, remembered something. In my haste to see that all my duties at work and my responsibilities in the Church had been taken care of, I had forgotten the little boy and the promise I had made.

“When the last bishop reported, I asked, ‘Bishop, have you enough left to visit one more family?’

“‘Yes, we have,’ he replied.

“I told him the story about the little boy and gave him the address. Later he called to say that that family too had received some well-filled baskets. Christmas Eve was over at last, and I went to bed.

“As I awoke that Christmas morning, I said in my heart, ‘God grant that I will never let another year pass but that I, as a leader, will truly know my people. I will know their needs. I will be conscious of those who need my leadership most’” (Harold B. Lee, Ye Are the Light of the World [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1974], pp. 346–47).


  • What qualities of leadership did President Lee show here? (Lead the class back to the qualities of leadership previously discussed in the lesson.)


Have the assigned class member tell or read the following comments made by President Marion G. Romney, who served as Second Counselor to President Lee in the First Presidency of the Church.

“Taking the Lord at his word that man should earn his bread in the sweat of his face and convinced that all things are possible to him that believeth, [Harold B. Lee] struck out boldly with the fearless ingenuity and courage of a Brigham Young to pioneer a way whereby his people could, by their own efforts and the help of their brethren, be supplied the necessities of life.

“Directed by the light of heaven, through building projects, production projects, and a variety of other rehabilitation activities, he gave a demonstration of love for his fellowmen seldom equalled in any generation. …

“With all his heart he loved and served his fellowmen. He loved the poor, for he had been one of them. …

“Harold B. Lee’s experience in caring for the people of his stake was in preparation for greater things to come. That was his call to the wider service in the general Church welfare program. ‘On April 20, 1935,’ [President Lee] said, ‘I was called to [a meeting at] the office of the First Presidency. … My humble place in this [welfare] program at that time was described. I left there … and drove … to the head of City Creek Canyon. I got out, after I had driven as far as I could, and I walked up through the trees. I sought my Heavenly Father. As I sat down to pour over this matter, wondering about an organization to be perfected to carry this work, I received a testimony, on that beautiful spring afternoon, that God had already revealed the greatest organization that ever could be given to mankind and that all that was needed now was that the organization be set to work and the temporal welfare of the Latter-day Saints would be safeguarded.’

“The organization here referred to was the Holy Priesthood of God” (“In the Shadow of the Almighty,” Ensign, Feb. 1974, p. 96).

  • What is an essential ingredient for any successful Church leader? (The priesthood and its power.)

President Lee Was a Major Instrument in the Lord’s Plan for Correlating All Church Programs

The Church’s correlation program as it is today was begun while Elder Harold B. Lee served as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. The First Presidency under the direction of President David O. McKay established a Correlation Executive Committee to direct the correlation program, and Elder Lee was called to be its chairman. Under correlation, all Church organizations and programs have priesthood direction and all lessons and materials are planned so that concepts and ideas are not repeated unnecessarily in auxiliaries and quorums. Materials are planned so that important concepts are taught and reviewed in appropriate classes systematically. President Lee’s influence on the correlation program has had great impact on the lives of Church members.

Chalkboard and report

  • What is the bishopric youth committee? (Have the previously assigned class member tell about the role of the bishopric youth committee and about his or her role on it. Diagram the bishopric youth committee on the chalkboard.)

Bishopric Youth Committee


First assistant to priests quorum president

Laural president

Teachers quorum president

Mia Maid

Deacons quorum president

Beehive president

Advisers who attend

Young Women president

Young Men president

Activities committee

Elder Robert P. Backman, of the Seventy, recounts this experience: “When I was called by President Harold B. Lee to be president of the Aaronic Priesthood-MIA, I had a most interesting conversation with him. He talked about the young people of the Church and about the challenges they face in growing up in this world in which we live. He expressed his deep concern about the fact that some of them could go through Primary, Sunday School, Mutual, priesthood quorums, and seminary and come out the other end without testimonies.

“He said: ‘Do you know why I think it is? Because our young people have grown up spectators.’ Then he gave me a challenge that I’ve never forgotten and one which I have passed on to the youth of the Church on many occasions. He said, ‘Bob, I challenge you to provide a program that will prepare this generation to meet the Savior when he comes’” (L. Brent Goates, Harold B. Lee, Prophet and Seer [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1985], pp. 504–5).


How does the bishopric youth committee help fulfill President Lee’s challenge to Elder Backman? (Allow varied responses.)

  • How does it fit under the correlation program of the Church? (All activities are directed by the priesthood quorums of the Church.)

  • How does it fit in the program to help prepare members of the Church to meet the Savior? (The Church needs young people with testimonies who can lead the Church in the future. The youth committee involves youth now and provides them with valuable leadership training for the future.)

  • What are some of the major contributions of President Harold B. Lee to the Church? (Suggest they think of both lessons on President Lee. Answers could include: [1] spirituality, [2] leadership, [3] welfare contributions, and [4] correlation contributions.)

Testimony and Challenge

Bear your testimony that these principles are important to the growth of the Lord’s Church and that President Lee indeed played an important role in helping us prepare to meet the Savior. Challenge class members to do the same.