Harold B. Lee

From Academic Kids


Harold Bingham Lee (March 28, 1899-December 26, 1973) was born in Clifton, Idaho but spent the great bulk of his life in Utah where he rose to head The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

In 1930 he became president of the unemployment-riddled Pioneer Stake, and established a welfare program to aid members in distress that became a model emulated by the entire church. In 1936 he became managing director of the new Church Welfare Department. Although he also pursued a political career, at one time being mayor of Salt Lake City, he permanently became a full-time Church hierarch when named to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1941.

From the time he became an Apostle his eventual succession to the Church Presidency was seen as largely inevitable, as he was almost twenty years younger than any other apostle and succession to the presidency relies strictly on length of service among the Twelve. Spencer W. Kimball and Ezra Taft Benson soon became Apostles as well, followed by Mark E. Petersen (1900-1984) in 1944, but Lee was the senior member of the new generation.

Under President David O. McKay Lee became the intellectual leader of the Church to some extent, as McKay was ailing and First Counselor Henry D. Moyle lacked the confidence of the Apostles and died in 1963 effectively exiled to Florida. In this time Lee headed the Correlation Committee which pioneered the worldwide coordination of church activities on a standard schedule. When McKay died in 1970 Joseph Fielding Smith became Church President, with Lee taking on the dual role of top deputy as First Counselor in the First Presidency and heir apparent as President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. He continued to gain practical experience for what was expected to be a long presidency of his own, he being decades younger than President Smith.

However, Lee's presidency proved one of the briefest in the history of the Church, lasting from Smith's death in July 1972 to Lee's sudden fatal heart attack in December 1973. It was Spencer Kimball, exactly four years his senior and seen as in worse health, who would lead the Church for the next dozen years and admit blacks to the priesthood.

After his death, a statue of him was dedicated in his birthplace. The Harold B. Lee Library at Brigham Young University is named for him, and is one of the largest libraries in the western United States.

Preceded by:
Joseph Fielding Smith
President of the LDS Church
July 7, 1972December 26, 1973
Succeeded by:
Spencer W. Kimball
Preceded by:
Joseph Fielding Smith
President of the
Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

January 23, 1970July 7, 1972
Succeeded by:
Spencer W. Kimball

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