Harold B. Lee: Prophet & Seer

By L. Brent Goates

Synopsis: A biography of Harold B. Lee, eleventh President of the Church, who served the shortest presidential term of any President of the Church up to that time (18 months), written by his son-in-law in 1985, some twelve years after the death of President Lee.

Strong Points: This is a great biography that really helps the reader grow in appreciation for Harold B. Lee. Written by a close family member, it provides valuable insight into the man by illuminating his unquestioning faith, his remarkable aptitude for divine communication, some of his personality traits and blemishes, his paramount role as the architect of the Church welfare system, his organizational genius, and his major role in reinventing the Church hierarchy and programs in ways that would sustain it as it grew into its worldwide status. This biography is a fine tribute to this dynamic and talented Church leader.

Weak Points: The book glossed over a few points that were strange or disappointing omissions: the birth of his daughters and his role in the Church hierarchy during the blacks and the priesthood decisions (particularly the nature of the conflict with Hugh B. Brown), could have used more detail. Also, it took some time for the author to flesh out the character of Harold B. Lee, but summed it all up concisely in the Epilogue at the end of the book. I wonder if that portion would have been better placed at the beginning to set the reader up for a good introduction to the man.

Interesting: 4/5

Must Read: 3.9/5

Overall: 4.5/5

Selected Quotes: “Elder Harold B. Lee was an avowed conservative in his political and social programming and organizational perspectives, which probably derived from the molding influence of his tutor, President J. Reuben Clark, Jr.” (p. 381).

“Elder Lee had one standard rule in meeting the onslaught of questions from these eager minds [i.e. of outgoing missionaries]. He went to the temple with only the standard works under his arm and told his attentive audience that if their questions could not be answered from the approved scriptures of the Church, he would give no answer. His personal copies of the scriptures, however, were slightly augmented with choice quotations from the Presidents of the Church which he had inserted into the binding of his standard works. Many of his General Authority colleagues came to the temple to monitor what this master teacher was giving in these unusual teaching moments under such sublime spiritual conditions.” (p. 391). 

 
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