Harold B. Lee

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Harold B. Lee, prophet of the Mormon Church 1972-1973

Harold B. Lee was the eleventh President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was known for overseeing the growth of the Church internationally, increasing the Church's welfare services, and correlating the curriculum of the Church.

Harold B. Lee was born on March 28, 1899, in Clifton, Idaho. He was baptized into the Church at eight years old in a pond near his home. As a child he developed a love for music and learned to play the piano. At seventeen years old Harold B. Lee earned his teaching license and obtained a job as a teacher. The next year he was appointed as a principal.

Harold B. Lee was called to serve a mission to Denver, Colorado, in 1920. While there he met a young woman named Fern Lucinda Tanner, who he married after his mission in 1923. They had two daughters, Helen and Maurine. Harold B. Lee was offered another job as a principal. When he was 31 years old he was called to be a Stake President. He was the youngest stake president in the Church. Just after his call to stake president, the Great Depression hit. President Lee was desperate to find a way to help the many who were in need. He came up with an idea for a storehouse. Families in need were put to work on projects to build up the community in return for items from the storehouse.

The President of the Church at the time was Heber J. Grant. He learned of Harold B. Lee’s success in the area of welfare, and called him to get a welfare program running for the Church. His efforts became the basis of the Church’s welfare program today, which has been the source of help for millions in need.

On April 6, 1941, Harold B. Lee was ordained as an Apostle. He labored diligently in his service for the Church and traveled all over the world bearing testimony of the gospel. He was then appointed to coordinate the curriculum of the Church. He then became first councilor to President Joseph Fielding Smith.

On July 7, 1972, Harold B. Lee was ordained as the President of the Church. He was known for his zeal in bringing the light of the gospel to all he could. Marjorie Pay Hinckley, wife of President Gordon B. Hinckley, remembers an occasion when she and her husband were with President and Sister Lee in England:

It had been a full day: two sessions of a conference and a fireside at night. When we got back to the hotel about 9:30, we were bone-weary and hungry. We went into the hotel dining room to get a little something to eat. The day was over—we could relax. At least, that is what I thought. The next thing I knew, the waitress had her pencil poised to write down our order. President Lee looked up at her and said, ‘What church do you belong to?’ The day was not over for him. He had embarked on a proselyting exercise. Before the meal was over he had learned all about this young woman. She had lost her husband and was lonely and afraid. She had promised to see the missionaries and learn more. It was a beautiful thing to see the president of the Church practice what he had been preaching all that day (Virginia H. Pearce, Glimpses into the Life and Heart of Marjorie Pay Hinckley, pp .21-22).

Lee's wife, Fern died on September 24, 1962, as a result of a cerebral hemorrhage. She had been suffering ill health for several months. On June 17, 1963, he married Freda Jensen. She was a former girlfriend of one of his former mission companions.

President Lee served as prophet for 17 months and 19 days until his death on December 26, 1973.

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Quotes from President Harold B. Lee

  • “To some it may seem old-fashioned to speak of virtue and chastity, honesty, morality, faith, character, but these are the qualities which have built great men and women and point the way by which one may find happiness in the living of today and eternal joy in the world to come. These are the qualities which are the anchors to our lives, in spite of the trials, the tragedies, the pestilences, and the cruelties of war which bring in their wake appalling destruction, hunger, and bloodshed.”
“Understanding Who We Are Brings Self-Respect,” Ensign, Jan. 1974
  • “The trouble with us today, there are too many of us who put question marks instead of periods after what the Lord says. I want you to think about that. We shouldn't be concerned about why He said something, or whether or not it can be made so. Just trust the Lord. We don't try to find the answers or explanations. We shouldn't try to spend time explaining what the Lord didn't see fit to explain. We spend useless time.”
“Admonitions for the Priesthood of God,” Ensign, Jan. 1973
  • “If it were not for the assurance that I have that the Lord is near to us, guiding, directing, the burden would be almost beyond my strength, but because I know that He is there, and that He can be appealed to, and if we have ears to hear attuned to Him, we will never be left alone.”
"President Harold B. Lee's Closing Remarks,” Ensign, Jan. 1974

See also Quotes from the Prophets


Presidents of the Mormon Church
Joseph Smith | Brigham Young | John Taylor | Wilford Woodruff | Lorenzo Snow | Joseph F. Smith | Heber J. Grant | George Albert Smith | David O. McKay | Joseph Fielding Smith | Harold B. Lee | Spencer W. Kimball | Ezra Taft Benson | Howard W. Hunter | Gordon B. Hinckley | Thomas S. Monson | Russell M. Nelson