Loved by All Who Knew Him: Stories from Members

    “Loved by All Who Knew Him: Stories from Members,” Ensign, Apr. 1995, 18

    In Memoriam:
    President Howard W. Hunter, 1907–1995

    Loved by All Who Knew Him:

    Stories from Members

    After a Weary and Dusty Day

    “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” (Elder Neal A. Maxwell, “Meek and Lowly,” Brigham Young University 1986–87 Devotional and Fireside Speeches, Provo: University Publications, 1987, p. 61).

    He Walked in Faith

    “Many will remember a number of years ago President Hunter was informed that he would not walk again. However, his faith and determination was 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.

    “Months later, on a Thursday morning, I went to President Hunter’s office to discuss an agenda item for the temple meeting that morning. 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. We walked together to the elevator and then up to the fourth floor. We went down the hall to the upper room of the temple. When their president walked into that room, the Twelve stood and began to clap their hands. They tenderly watched him walk over to his chair and let his body down into the chair. Then with magnificent love, honor, and tenderness, each of the Twelve went up to him and extended to him an affectionate touch, kiss on the forehead, and a hug, showing their great love and admiration for him. They all sat down, and 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.’ President Howard W. Hunter is an example of maintaining faith and determination in the face of adversity” (Elder Rulon G. Craven, Ensign, May 1991, pp. 28–29).

    Our Trip to Nauvoo

    “When my husband first suggested the idea of going to Nauvoo for the 1994 commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, I was excited. But the day before we were to leave, it rained heavily and our basement was flooded. I was sure we would have to cancel our trip. But my husband was determined to go, so we spent most of the day getting things dry enough to leave. We packed the car and headed out knowing that we’d be camping out with our four children in record-breaking heat because there were no vacant hotel rooms within miles of Nauvoo. Arriving at the campsite, we found that the promised on-site water was up a hill and that the electricity was too far away for us to use. We stumbled around in the dark putting up our tent. Exhausted, we collapsed into bed, hitting hard ground—our air mattress had a hole in it. Needless to say, I was not a ‘happy camper.’

    “The next day we went sightseeing in Nauvoo and heard that President Hunter would be at church the next morning. We woke up early and got to church by 7:30 A.M., hoping to get in the 9:00 A.M. meeting. A line had already formed, but we got into the meeting. It was a cherished, sacred opportunity for us to sit in the same meeting with President Hunter and to partake of the sacrament in his presence.

    “My children felt of his spirit also. Our fifteen-year-old son went to a special dedication ceremony of one of the original sun stones from the Nauvoo Temple. He returned with tears in his eyes, saying, ‘I was so close I could almost touch him.’ Later that day we visited another of the restored sites. When the tour guide asked for questions or comments, my shy six-year-old raised his hand and said, ‘I saw a prophet today!’

    “At the ceremony in Carthage we listened again to the words of our prophet. My daughter was so touched that we had been able to see President Hunter three times in one day. We went back to our campsite with our hearts full of gratitude.

    “To our surprise, the next morning when we stopped at the historic Lyon drug and variety store we discovered that President Hunter also happened to be there. We were the only other people in the store, so we had the opportunity to shake hands with him. One by one we filed past him, and my nine-year-old let heartfelt tears stream down his face as he held the prophet’s hand. We all felt the intensity of the Spirit as we stood in the presence of a prophet of the Lord.

    “My petty concerns about our flooded basement and camping were replaced with awe as I considered the blessings to my family of meeting President Hunter. We had been changed by this experience. My children could now bear testimony that they knew President Howard W. Hunter was a prophet of God. They had felt it” (Launa Butler, Arlington Heights, Illinois).

    Eleven Pieces of Licorice

    “It was a beautiful December day in 1962. My wife and I had been married only three months and were enjoying a delayed honeymoon in California. We stopped and dawdled at every lookout point and tourist attraction along the California coast, enjoying the scenery, the beautiful weather, and the thrill of being together without school or work pressures.

    “Stopping at the famous Hearst Castle, near San Simeon, we just missed the tour bus and had an hour’s wait until the next tour. During the wait, I spotted Elder Howard W. Hunter and his wife, Claire.

    “‘Let’s go say hello,’ I said to my wife.

    I recognized Elder Hunter because a year earlier he and his wife had toured my mission in Chicago and I’d had a chance to travel with them for a couple of days.

    “‘Well, he won’t remember you,’ my wife said. ‘You have been home a long time now.’ I think she was a little awed at the thought of passing the time of day with a General Authority and his wife.

    “‘That doesn’t matter. They’re great,’ I said, ‘and we’ll just say hello.’ I pulled her from the car to meet the two of them.

    “We introduced ourselves, and the Hunters were gracious and kind in return. We learned that we all had the same problem: an hour’s wait until the next tour. They suggested we join them for a drive, an offer we accepted with excitement.

    “The Hunters were kind and easy to talk with, and we had a wonderful visit. Part way up the road we spotted a small rustic store. We all filed into the store to stretch our legs and look around. As we browsed, Elder Hunter went to the counter, counted out some licorice, and paid the clerk ten pennies. We headed back down the coast, timing our drive so we’d make the next castle tour. On the way Elder Hunter passed the licorice around once, and then again, and then suddenly realized he must have miscounted, for he’d ended up with eleven pieces instead of the ten he’d paid for.

    “He could have easily overlooked the small error—after all, it was just a penny, and we were in a bit of a hurry to make the tour. Who would know the difference or care? I don’t think he thought twice about it. He wheeled the car around and headed back to the store. He and I hustled in. To a different attendant, he explained the problem, apologized for the error, and paid the extra penny to the surprised clerk.

    “We arrived on time for the tour, but I feel certain that Elder Hunter would have made the effort to pay the penny even if doing so would have made us miss the tour. What a memorable lesson in integrity Elder Hunter taught us that day. We have not forgotten that sermon from more than thirty years ago, and we remembered it every time we raised our hands to sustain him as our prophet, seer, and revelator” (Doug and Geri Brinley, Provo, Utah).

    The Words from My Dream

    “My nephew Dillon was born with problems in his heart and respiratory system. Even the treatment they gave to help him created problems for him. When I heard that President Howard W. Hunter was going to be at our regional conference in Tucson, Arizona, I had a dream about President Hunter and my nephew Dillon.

    “I dreamed that my family and I were standing in line to meet President Hunter. As we approached, he said in a gentle voice, ‘Let me hold Dillon.’ As I handed the baby to the prophet, President Hunter looked into Dillon’s eyes and said, ‘Isn’t he precious? He’s going to be just fine.’ During the next few weeks, I had the same dream several times.

    “I told my family about my dream and that I felt it would come true. I felt that if we met the prophet, Dillon would be okay. My family reminded me that at the conference we might not have the chance to be near President Hunter, but I still believed my dream would come true.

    “When conference came, I got to shake President Hunter’s hand and look into his loving eyes! Our family even got to have our picture taken with him. I was holding Dillon as we all gathered around President Hunter for the picture. President Hunter turned to him and smiled, then said the words from my dream: ‘Isn’t he precious? He’s going to be just fine.’ My heart dropped to my toes.

    “Today, though Dillon still has some problems, he is doing better. I know that he is going to be all right. Maybe not right now, but he will ‘be just fine’ someday” (Danielle Maggard, age 17, Prescott, Arizona).

    Remembering a Widow’s Family

    “President Howard W. Hunter was our stake president years ago when our family lived in the Pasadena Stake. My father had died, leaving my mother to rear my older sister and me. Although we were not a prominent family in the stake, which covered a huge geographical area, President Hunter still knew us personally.

    “My most significant memory of him is one that contributed to my sense of self-worth. After each stake conference, we would wait in line to shake hands with him. He always took my mother’s hand and said, ‘How are you, Sister Sessions, and how are Betty and Carolyn?’ It gave me a thrill to hear him call us by name. I knew he knew us and cared about our well-being. The memory still warms my heart” (Carolyn Sessions Allen, Huntington Beach, California).

    President Howard W. Hunter received a warm welcome from Latter-day Saints wherever he traveled, including Mexico (top left, photo by Michael R. Morris) and Arizona (left, photo by Lew Leavitt). Love for the President came easily to those who met him, felt of his spirit, or heard him speak.

    “When conference came, I got to shake President Hunter’s hand and look into his loving eyes!” recalls one member, echoing the feelings of many who met President Hunter, Above: President Hunter shares a few moments with a young women in Arizona. (Photo by Lew Leavitt.)