Sacrament meeting, Charlotte 3rd Ward
Date unknown, but probably given in late 1995 or early 1996, after President Hunter’s passing on 3 March 1995, when I was in eighth grade. The original was written and edited by hand.
Good morning, brothers and sisters. For those of you who do not know me, my name is Dustin Joyce. Just a little over a week ago, Brother Watterson, the second counselor in the bishopric, asked me to speak in church today about a prophet. As you can see I accepted. I chose to speak today on the childhood of Howard W. Hunter, because he was the prophet for so short a time and we didn’t have an opportunity to get to know him well. I hope that you can learn some about him through my talk today.
Howard W. Hunter was born to Will and Nellie Hunter on 14 November 1907 in Boise, Idaho. On 5 April 1908, when Howard was five months old, his mother took him to fast and testimony meeting at the Boise Branch of the Northwestern Mission. There the branch president, Heber Q. Hale, gave him a blessing.
Soon after Howard’s sister, Dorothy, was born, his mother was sterilizing some water by boiling it in a pan on the living room stove that the family used for heat. She had taken the water off the stove and set it on the floor because it was too hot to hold. Then Howard came running through the house. He fell headlong into the pan, throwing his left hand in front of himself, and it was badly scalded. Many years later he described what happened next.
A call was made to the doctor and he recommended that my arm be packed in mashed potatoes and bandaged. Some of the neighbor ladies came in to help. I can remember sitting on the drain board in the kitchen while boiled potatoes were mashed and packed around my arm and cloths were torn to make a bandage. Fortunately the serious burn did not hinder the growth of my arm, but I have carried the scar all my life.
Howard’s lifelong interest in woodworking was foreshadowed when he was just two years old. His father, along with the help of the brother-in-law of his mother’s aunt, Christie Moore, built the family a three-room frame house on a quarter-acre lot in a subdivision just outside the west city limits of Boise. Howard’s father purchased for him a small hammer and let him pound nails into the living room floor.
As a boy, Howard loved animals. He had a pet dog, pet rabbits, and, he said, “every stray cat could find a haven at our house, even against family objections.”
As a boy, Howard read many books such as Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, and the Tom Swift series, and took piano lessons.
Howard was liked by adults for his good manners. He would tip his hat to people on the street and give up his seat on the streetcar if anyone was standing.
Howard once had polio, which he got from his friend Buster Grimm. Buster was crippled for life because of the disease, while the only lasting effect of the disease on Howard was a lifelong stiff back: he was never able to bend forward and touch the floor.
For the most part Howard did well in school. However, he claims he did have 2 handicaps: “I was not good in sports and I had a problem telling colors—not all colors, but shades of red, green, and brown.”
He devised an ingenious way to solve his color-blindness problem. He would put his crayons on the top of his desk, and when the art teacher asked the students to pick up a crayon of a certain color, he would run his finger over the crayons on his desk and Beatrice Beach, who sat behind him, would tap him on the shoulder when he came to the right one. He was embarrassed to admit to the teacher that he couldn’t distinguish the colors.
He enjoyed reading, writing, and most other academic subjects, but he didn’t always work hard to master them. He had many other interests as well, such as a succession of afterschool and summer jobs.
Adults seemed to sense that Howard was conscientious and dependable. As a young boy he helped around the neighborhood, mowing, doing yard work, bringing milk from the dairy to the widows, picking fruit, or any other work. Sometimes he was paid for such work; other times he did it just because he liked helping others.
These experiences and other that Howard W. Hunter had in his childhood as a young boy helped prepare him to become the 14th president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and a true and righteous prophet of the Lord.
This article appeared on page 22 of Issue 14 | April 2014.