Lesson 42: Howard W. Hunter: In the Footsteps of the Savior

, "Lesson 42: Howard W. Hunter: In the Footsteps of the Savior," The Presidents of the Church: Teacher’s Manual1996


To study the life of President Howard W. Hunter and help class members follow President Hunter’s counsel to be more Christlike.


  1. 1.

    Prepare to display the following pictures: President Howard W. Hunter in the color section; Childhood of Jesus Christ (62124; Gospel Art Picture Kit, 206); Jesus Stilling the Storm (62139; Gospel Art Picture Kit, 214); Jesus the Christ (62572; Gospel Art Picture Kit, 240); and Go Ye Therefore (62494; Gospel Art Picture Kit, 235).

  2. 2.

    Make the following two wordstrips. (The quotations are from Howard W. Hunter, That We Might Have Joy, [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1994], p. 9; see also Ensign, May 1993, p. 65.)

    “Gentleness is better than brutality.” Howard W. Hunter

    “Kindness is greater than coercion.” Howard W. Hunter

  3. 3.

    Write the following scriptures and statement on the chalkboard or on a poster:

    “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Matthew 7:7).

    “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you” (Matthew 5:44).

    “We must know Christ better than we know him; we must remember him more often than we remember him; we must serve him more valiantly than we serve him” (Howard W. Hunter, That We Might Have Joy, p. 5; or Conference Report, Apr. 1994, p. 84; or Ensign, May 1994, p. 64).

  4. 4.

    If possible, make copies of President Hunter’s statement about knowing Christ for each class member.

  5. 5.

    Bring chalk for the chalkboard or a crayon or marking pen if you have made a poster.

  6. 6.

    If it is available in your area, you may want to show selected portions of the videocassette Howard W. Hunter, Prophet of God (53946).

Suggested Lesson Development



Display the picture of President Howard W. Hunter.

  • Who is this? (If no one knows, tell them that this is President Howard W. Hunter, the fourteenth President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.)

Howard W. Hunter was born 14 November 1907 in Boise, Idaho. Howard’s father was not a member of the Church when Howard was young. When Howard was twelve years old, he wanted to receive the Aaronic Priesthood so that he could become a deacon and pass the sacrament. However, he had to ask his father for permission to be baptized.

Explain that many class members may have done some of the same things President Hunter did as a child and teenager.


When he was young, he was always busy doing something. He sold papers, fixed broken alarm clocks, learned to frame pictures, became an excellent mechanic, and learned to play several musical instruments.


Show the picture of Jesus Christ helping in Joseph’s carpentry shop. Explain how President Hunter was a good worker in his youth, as Jesus undoubtedly was.


In his teenage years, when plans for building a new chapel were announced, Howard was the first to stand and pledge money toward its cost. His pledge of twenty-five dollars represented years of his savings and was quite a lot of money at that time.

When Howard was in high school, he put together his own orchestra, called “Hunter’s Croonaders,” which played at most high school socials in his hometown of Boise, Idaho. After graduation from high school, he and his orchestra played on a cruise ship that sailed to Japan, China, and the Philippines in 1927.


Explain that President Hunter loved good music. Read Doctrine and Covenants 25:12 to the class.


When Howard Hunter became engaged to marry Clara Jeffs, he gave up professional music so he could better follow his new goals of marriage and a family. He felt marriage and family were the highest Christian goals. Later, he would say, “There is no more powerful principle of life to promote love, forbearance, and devotion in the home than that of eternal marriage” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1972, p. 67; or Ensign, Jan. 1973, p. 65).

In 1934, during the economic depression in the United States, Howard Hunter had a full-time job and also went back to school for a law degree. He graduated with honors and began practicing law in California in January of 1940. He worked hard to support his family (see Conference Report, Oct. 1994, pp. 66–70; or Ensign, Nov. 1994, pp. 49–51).

As an adult, Howard Hunter accepted many calls to serve, including service as a bishop and then as a stake president. He always worked to fulfill his callings in the Church.

Elder Alma Sonne, an Assistant to the Council of the Twelve Apostles, said the following when Howard W. Hunter was called to the Quorum of the Twelve: “I was delighted to hear that President Hunter [referring to his position as stake president] had been called to fill the vacancy in the Quorum of the Twelve. President Hunter has been for many years a leader in Zion. He has been proved, and I say that a Church is very fortunate indeed that can call upon men of his caliber” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1959, p. 55).

President Hunter Loved the Savior and Tried to Follow His Example

From his very earliest years President Hunter recognized the goodness he found in the life of Jesus Christ, and he sought to live a life like the Savior’s. His sister, Dorothy, said of him: “‘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, not members of the Church, 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 the 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 so kind,’ Dorothy said. ‘I have never known my brother to do a wrong thing in my life’” (James E. Faust, “The Way of an Eagle,” Ensign, Aug. 1994, pp. 4, 6).


Post the wordstrips:

“Gentleness is better than brutality.” Howard W. Hunter

“Kindness is greater than coercion.” Howard W. Hunter

Explain to class members that President Hunter demonstrated gentleness and kindness throughout his life.

President Hunter Loved to Tell the Stories of Jesus

President Hunter loved to tell stories about Jesus from the Bible. One of these was about the time Jesus stilled the storm on the Sea of Galilee.


Show the picture of Jesus stilling the storm. Review briefly the story depicted in the picture. (See Matthew 8:23–27.)

President Hunter taught us that if we “fix our eyes on Jesus, we too might … remain ‘unterrified amid the rising winds of doubt’” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1992, p. 24; or Ensign, Nov. 1992, p. 19).


  • What things can we do daily to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus Christ?

President Hunter Believed That Christianity Is a Plan for Action

President Hunter said: “Real Christians must understand that the gospel of Jesus Christ is not just a gospel of belief; it is a plan of action. His gospel is a gospel of imperatives … a call to action” (That We Might Have Joy, p. 131; or Conference Report, Apr. 1967, p. 115; or Improvement Era, June 1967, p. 101).

An imperative is more than a request. It is sometimes even a command, something you should not try to avoid doing.

The Lord has prepared some wonderful experiences for us with his gospel plan, but he expects us to act, not just to look on as bystanders.

President Hunter counseled: “Merely saying, accepting, and believing are not enough. They are incomplete until that which they imply is translated into dynamic action of daily living. … This, then, is the finest source of personal testimony. We know because we have experienced. We do not have to say, ‘Brother Jones says it is true, and I believe him.’ We can say, ‘I have lived this principle in my own life, and I know through personal experience that it works’” (That We Might Have Joy, p. 133; or Conference Report, Apr. 1967, p. 116; or Improvement Era, June 1967, p. 101).

Chalkboard exercise

Add the following words to the chalkboard: Observe, Procrastinate, Go, Sit, Hate, Notice, Do, See, Ignore, Feel, Give, Believe, Predict, Pray, Repent, Love.

Have class members come forward and circle the words they think are gospel action words; these words are printed in bold type.

Chalkboard scripture exercise

Refer to the two scriptures you have written on the chalkboard. Have class members come forward and circle the gospel action words in these scriptures. (These words are printed here in bold type.)

“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Matthew 7:7).

“Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you” (Matthew 5:44).

President Hunter Followed the Example of Jesus Christ When Faced with a Situation That Threatened His Life


President Hunter followed the example of Jesus Christ when faced with a life-threatening situation.

“On 7 February 1993, he was on the Brigham Young University campus to speak at a nineteen-stake fireside and [video satellite] broadcast. As President Hunter rose to address the nearly twenty thousand young adults assembled in the Marriott Center, an assailant threatened him, shouting, ‘Stop right there!’ The man claimed to have a bomb and a detonator and ordered everyone to leave the stand except President Hunter. Many people did leave, yet President Hunter resolutely stayed at the pulpit, with two security guards. Although threatened by what looked like a gun, President Hunter firmly declined to read the written statement the man handed to him. When students spontaneously began to sing ‘We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet,’ the assailant was momentarily distracted. [Some people] rushed him and took him into custody. … Security guards lowered President Hunter to the floor for safety.

“There was, of course, a considerable commotion in the audience, but soon a reasonable calm returned. After a few moments to collect himself, President Hunter made a second approach to the microphone and read the opening line of his prepared text: ‘Life has a fair number of challenges in it.’ He stopped, looked over the audience, and added, ‘As demonstrated.’ Then he went on with his message as though nothing had happened” (Ensign, Aug. 1994, pp. 11–12).

President Hunter Willingly Left His Profession and Home to Follow the Savior as an Apostle

All of President Hunter’s abilities were brought to serve the Savior when he was called to be an Apostle in October of 1959, and he gave full-time service to the Lord from then until his death. Elder Neal A. Maxwell, who served with President Hunter in the Quorum of the Twelve, said of him:


“President Howard W. 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 unseen. Meekness can be present in the daily and ordinary things” (“Meek and Lowly,” Brigham Young University 1986–87 Devotional and Fireside Speeches [1987], p. 61; see also Ensign, Aug. 1994, p. 9).

Pictures and chalkboard

Display the pictures Jesus the Christ and Go Ye Therefore. President Hunter challenged us all to follow more closely in the footsteps of the Savior. Read or have a class member read President Hunter’s words on the chalkboard or poster.

“We must know Christ better than we know him; we must remember him more often than we remember him; we must serve him more valiantly than we serve him” (Howard W. Hunter, That We Might Have Joy, p. 5; or Conference Report, Apr. 1994, p. 84; or Ensign, May 1994, p. 64).

Read the following tribute to President Hunter given by Elder James E. Faust, of the Quorum of the Twelve:

“President Hunter is one of the most loving, Christlike men we have ever known. His spiritual depth is so profound as to be unfathomable. Having been under the guiding influence of the Lord Jesus Christ as His special witness for so many years, President Hunter’s spirituality has been honed in a remarkable way. It is the wellspring of his whole being. He is quiet about sacred things, humble about sacred things, careful when he speaks about sacred things. He has an inner peace, tranquillity, and nobility of soul that is unique among the children of God. His intense suffering on so many occasions has been as a ‘refiner’s fire,’ permitting him to become God’s pure vessel and prophet on the earth in this day and time” (Ensign, Aug. 1994, p. 13).


Assign two class members to prepare to read and explain to the class the following scriptures during next week’s lesson: Doctrine and Covenants 131:1–4 and Doctrine and Covenants 132:15–17.

Testimony and Challenge

Give class members a copy of President Hunter’s statement listed in the preparation section in number three and challenge them to memorize it as a guide for their own lives.

Bear personal witness of the prophetic calling of President Howard W. Hunter. Challenge class members to study the life and teachings of President Hunter so that they can increase their own faith and testimony of his calling.