Howard William Hunter was born November 14, 1907, in Boise, Idaho, the first child of John William Hunter and Nellie Marie Rasmussen. Though his father was not a member of the Church at that time (he was not baptized until Howard was 19 years old), Howard’s mother served in the Primary and taught him to love the Savior and the Church.
When Howard was 12, he and his younger sister, Dorothy, persuaded their father to allow them to be baptized. Howard was soon ordained a deacon and took the responsibility of starting a fire to warm the chapel early on cold Sunday mornings.
Howard met Claire Jeffs at a Church dance in the Los Angeles area in 1928. They married in the Salt Lake Temple on June 10, 1931, and returned to Southern California, where they raised their family and lived for almost 30 years.
In 1939, after four years of hard work and sacrifice, Howard graduated with a law degree from Southwestern Law School. He went on to establish a successful law practice. During his time in Southern California, Howard also served as the bishop of the El Sereno Ward and later became the president of the Pasadena Stake.
Before the completion of the Los Angeles California Temple, Howard and Claire traveled to Mesa, Arizona, to do temple work. During a 1953 visit, Howard’s parents gave him a birthday surprise by entering the waiting chapel dressed in white. His father received his endowment and was sealed to his wife. Howard was then sealed to his parents.
On October 9, 1959, President David O. McKay called Howard W. Hunter to be an Apostle. He was sustained the next day in general conference and ordained on October 15. He was 51 years old at the time of his call and served as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve for 35 years.
During his tenure as an Apostle, Elder Hunter fulfilled a wide variety of assignments, including serving as president of the Utah Genealogical Society, Church Historian, and president of the Polynesian Cultural Center. He also played a key role in establishing the BYU Jerusalem Center.
Howard W. Hunter served as President of the Quorum of the Twelve from 1988 until the death of President Ezra Taft Benson on May 30, 1994. On June 5, he was set apart as President of the Church. At a press conference the next day, he said, “I have shed many tears and have sought my Father in Heaven in earnest prayer with a desire to be equal to the high and holy calling which is now mine.”
President Hunter served as President of the Church for only 10 months. During that brief ministry, he emphasized temple worship, organized the Church’s 2,000th stake, and taught the importance of Christlike living through word and example. “Members of the Church all over the world have become bonded to him in a special way,” said President James E. Faust.
“Please remember this one thing. If our lives and our faith are centered upon Jesus Christ and his restored gospel, nothing can ever go permanently wrong. On the other hand, if our lives are not centered on the Savior and his teachings, no other success can ever be permanently right.”
“A worried society now begins to see that the disintegration of the family brings upon the world the calamities foretold by the prophets. The world's councils and deliberations will succeed only when they define the family as the Lord has revealed it to be. ‘Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it’ (Ps. 127:1).”
“To those who have transgressed or been offended, we say, come back. The path of repentance, though hard at times, lifts one ever upward and leads to a perfect forgiveness.”
"I invite the Latter-day Saints to look to the temple of the Lord as the great symbol of your membership. It is the deepest desire of my heart to have every member of the Church worthy to enter the temple. It would please the Lord if every adult member would be worthy of—and carry—a current temple recommend. . . . Let us be a temple-attending people. Attend the temple as frequently as personal circumstances allow. Keep a picture of a temple in your home that your children may see it. Teach them about the purposes of the house of the Lord. Have them plan from their earliest years to go there and to remain worthy of that blessing."
“Howard W. Hunter: Fourteenth President of the Church,” Presidents of the Church Student Manual (2013), 238–58.
Howard W. Hunter, “Exceeding Great and Precious Promises,” Ensign, Nov. 1994, 7–9.
Howard W. Hunter, “What Manner of Men Ought Ye to Be?” Ensign, May 1994, 64.