President Howard W. Hunter, prophet and president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, died in Salt Lake City, Utah, on March 3, 1995, of natural causes, at the age of 87. He was called as the 14th president of the Church in June 1994, following the death of President Ezra Taft Benson. He had previously served as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve since October 1959.
President Hunter’s boyhood in Boise, Idaho, was filled with Scouting, school, and many part-time jobs. He moved to California as a young man, where he became a lawyer, married Clara May Jeffs, raised a family, and served as a bishop and later as a stake president.
In October of 1959, President David O. McKay called him to serve as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve. He served as acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve from November 10, 1985 to June 2, 1988, when he was called as president of the Quorum of the Twelve. During his later years in the quorum, President Hunter overcame several serious difficulties with his health. After losing his first wife to illness in 1983, President Hunter married Inis S. Egan in April 1990.
Of his calling as prophet and his commitment to serve the Lord, he said, “I pledge my life, my strength, and the full measure of my soul to serving him. May we have ears to hear and hearts to feel, and the courage to follow.”
Beginning long before his call to the presidency, and continuing during his leadership of the Church, President Hunter had a special love for the Savior and for the members of His church. While serving as president of the Quorum of the Twelve, he said, “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” (That We Might Have Joy, 1994, p. 5). He carried on this theme as president of the Church.
President Hunter urged the Church membership as a whole to then translate that love of Christ into temple worthiness. “It would please the Lord if every adult member would be worthy of—and carry—a current temple recommend,” he said (Ensign, Nov. 1994, p. 8). Temple preparation, worthiness, and attendance became a major theme of his presidency.
Despite his fragile health, President Hunter was very busy during his brief tenure as president of the Church. In addition to personal visits to ward and stake meetings throughout the Church, President Hunter also dedicated two temples (Bountiful, Utah, and Orlando, Florida), organized the 2,000th stake of the Church in Mexico City, inaugurated a new president at BYU—Hawaii, and went on a tour of Switzerland.
The commemoration of the martyrdom of Joseph Smith also took place during President Hunter’s administration. At a special program conducted in Nauvoo, Illinois, honoring Joseph Smith, President Hunter shared the following thoughts: “The gospel provides the only way the world will ever know peace. We need to be kinder with one another, more gentle and more forgiving. We need to be slower to anger and more prompt to help. We need to extend the hand of friendship and resist the hand of retribution. In short, we need to love one another” (Ensign, Sept. 1994, p. 72).
Although he was president of the Church only a short time, President Hunter will be remembered for his gentle heart, loving spirit, and Christlike virtues. These were the hallmarks of this great prophet of the Lord.