(Compiled by Dennis B. Horne)
[Editorial Note: Most of the below accounts are self-explanatory for Latter-day Saints. Elder Harold B. Lee was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve and President of the Church who had a wonderful righteous influence on Glen Rudd’s life. They had many adventures together while serving in the Church and Brother Rudd learned a great deal from him. One of these reminiscences teaches us that sometimes church members don’t do as well as they ought, which is simply a part of our probationary mortal testing, with repentance always possible. Those wishing to gain some precious insight into Elder Harold B. Lee during this time period may want to copy and paste the following link into their browser, and watch him speak in the April 1952 general conference. This rare 11 minute recording has Elder Lee sharing some sacred details of how he obtained his special witness of the Lord Jesus Christ.]
When I asked him about it, he told me I was going to reorganize a stake. I said, "Brother Lee, I know how to help you do that, but you have the power and authority to do it. I'm a good usher and will help bring the brethren in and out so you can interview them."
He said, ''No, you don't understand. You are going to do the interviewing. fu fact, we will do it together. But I want you to do as much as I do; and as we interview, I want you to find the man that ought to be the stake president. The Lord already has a man chosen, and that man is probably somewhat prepared. But we don't know who it is yet, and it is our job to find out.
When we arrived, we were met by the retiring stake president. He took us to the hospital to meet one of his counselors, who was recuperating. We informed them that they were being released, that it had been approved just the day before and there hadn't been time to get a letter to them. Everyone had been happy in their callings, but were definitely tired, worn out, and anxious and ready to be released.
Brother Lee and I went into a room in the church; and after having prayer, we began interviewing different brethren, I think about thirty of them. Brother Lee reminded me that everyone that we met was a candidate and when I felt impressed, I wasn't to say anything, and he wouldn't say anything to me, but that when we were through, we would discuss it. Which we did, after spending about five hours in interviews. I said, "Brother Lee, now I've helped you this much, I think you're the one who should make the decision, and I'll support and sustain you."
His reply was, "No, I told you to begin with that you have to find the stake president."
He then handed me a small piece of paper. He told me to write down the three best candidates and let him see who I had chosen. I wrote them down and handed him the paper. He looked at me, smiled, and said, "We have the same three men."
He handed the paper back and told me to cross one name out. I studied the names, crossed one out, and gave the list back to him. He said, "We still have the same two."
He passed it back to me, and I said, "Now, Brother Lee, why don't you make the final decision." But he told me to cross out one more name. So I took a deep breath, crossed one out, and handed him the last remaining name. He smiled and said, "Well, I have the same man. That's the man who should be stake president."
Brother Lee asked me if I had any idea when I came to that conclusion. I said, "I do remember. Just before noon, the impression came to me that this particular man ought to become the new stake president." He said that was exactly when the Lord told him the same thing.
Another time, I was in Colorado with President Ezra Taft Benson, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, when the first man we interviewed was the man chosen, and that was all there was to it.
President Hinckley and I spent one Saturday, from early morning until 4:00 in the afternoon before we arrived at a decision regarding a new stake president. I think that was the longest, hardest reorganization experience I have ever had with other General Authorities.
When I was on my own as a General Authority, assisted by a regional representative or someone else, it always took me considerable time. But the nice thing is, when we finally knew, we always had a good, warm feeling that confirmed our decision.
Marva and I had been married four or five years, when we met Elder Harold B. Lee in Liberty Park in Salt Lake City during an old-folks outing. I was there as a bishop and we had fifty or sixty of our ward members out for a luncheon and activity. When I was alone, Elder Lee asked, "How many children do you and Marva have?" I said, "Lee, and Matthew." Lee was named for Elder Lee and Matthew for Brother Cowley. He looked at me kind of strange and said, "Is that all?" I said: "Marva has had a bad heart since she was a young girl and now has some serious heart problems. We were told by a doctor that she could never live through another pregnancy. Two other doctors agreed with this diagnosis. We were warned that Marva should not attempt to have more children." Brother Lee just stood quietly a few moments and then he said to me: "Do you remember the day that I sealed you in the temple? If I remember correctly, I told you that the two of you could have a large family. I think that is exactly what the Lord intended. It's up to you, but I think you should have more children." He was quite definite, but very kind. As soon as I got home, I told my wife that we were going to have more children and explained why.
That night Elder Matthew Cowley was at our house and we gave Marva a blessing. He promised her that she could have as many children as she wanted. In a short while Barbara was born. Then Becky, Susie, Charles, and Glenda were born. Our last child was David. After David there were no more that came and we figured that was all that the Lord had for us. These eight children are now the parents of forty-one grandchildren and we have lived happily ever after.
Elder Harold B. Lee and I were driving around Pioneer Stake [in Salt Lake City]. We drove through my ward and stopped in front of two small homes owned by the ward. We had a housing program in the stake and the ward actually owned homes. These were lived in by people we were helping with welfare assistance.
The homes were free from a mortgage, but families paid a small monthly rent of $25. The money was used to help keep up the homes. Elder Lee said to me, "Bishop, who do you have living in those homes?" I told him we had a brother and sister from England who were living in one home and another brother and sister from Holland in the adjoining home." He said, "Do you help both families one hundred percent?" I said, "Yes we do. They are all fine workers and they give back to the program in labor all that is necessary. Brother Lee was pleased. He said, "You have a Dutchman and his wife in one home, and an Englishman and his wife in the other. Do you give each couple the same amount of fast offerings and the same amount of groceries from the storehouse?" I thought a minute and replied, "Well, truthfully we don't. One of the couples seems to have more needs than the other couple." He said, "I can tell you who needs the least amount and who needs the most. The Dutchman can live on about two thirds of what the Englishman can. Is that right?" I thought about it and replied, "Brother Lee, that is exactly right." I hadn't thought about it. In interviewing and working with them, both the Relief Society president and I had just taken care of their needs. We felt neither of them were extravagant nor was either family taking less than they needed. Brother Lee's perception, keen mind, and knowledge of people amazed me. As the years went on, and I traveled considerably more with him, I realized he had a great knowledge of people. He taught me many things about people. Yet he felt totally comfortable with what we were doing with these two couples who were considerably different because of their background and upbringing.
Elder Harold B. Lee and I were riding together within the boundaries of my ward. He asked me if I was a generous bishop. I told him I thought that I was. He said, "Remember these people we are helping, if they are working and doing their part, they should be entitled to have some of the nice things of life such as a few extra dollars to buy some candy for their grandchildren, or some ice cream. He indicated that if he were a bishop, he would give a few extra dollars each month, over and above what the people really needed, so that the people could pay their tithing and also have a few things in their home so that when their grandchildren visited, they would have the same privileges [treats] that other children have.
I was already following his advice, but what he had to say on that occasion helped me to be comfortable in giving a little extra to the fine people doing their share in the welfare program.
I will always be grateful to Brother Lee for the many good things he brought to my attention from time to time.
On February 22, 1954, I hurried home from work a little early. I got cleaned up to go to the meetinghouse to prepare for the annual ward reunion. I had been bishop then about eight and one-half years. As I was getting ready to leave the house, President Fred W. Schwendiman came to the front door. He was a stake president serving as the regional welfare chairman. I invited him in. He said that he and the other stake presidents of the executive committee of the stake presidents' council had been meeting to determine who should be the new manager and coordinator of Welfare Square. He told me that I had been selected to serve in that position. It was not a priesthood calling, it was an employment opportunity, and I was to be paid a salary. I kindly told President Schwendiman that I was not interested, and there was no way that I could leave the business I had owned and managed for the past twelve years. He said he wanted to talk more about it.
We then made an appointment to meet the following evening. I met with him and his two assistants, President Alex Dunn from the Tooele stake, and President Lewis Elgren of Liberty Stake. These three brethren spent an hour trying to convince me that I should take this assignment and that I was the selection of all the stake presidents involved. I again told them it would be impossible. We agreed to meet again the following evening, February 24. At that time, President Henry Smith of Pioneer Stake had joined with them. These four stake presidents tried to explain to me that it would be a great opportunity. I wasn't interested and did not feel inclined to change my course in life.
After about an hour, they informed me that Elder Harold B. Lee, the managing director of welfare, would like me to be in his office the next morning at 10:30 a.m. They said that he had approved of my selection to this position.
I prepared myself to explain to Brother Lee why I couldn't leave my work. The next morning at 10:30 a.m. I was in his office. I remember he came out from behind his desk and sat close by me. Before I could get a card out of my pocket with ten reasons why I shouldn't or couldn't work for the Church, he began to talk to me like a father. I had known him well over the years. He had been a close personal friend to Marva and me and our children. He was more like a father to me than anything else. He explained that I should accept the opportunity. I should not resist it. He also told me that if I wanted to keep my other business interests that I could, but my main work would be to manage the Square.
Brother Lee said that he personally wanted me there. He said he knew I could do the job and that I would be blessed if I did it. Brother Lee said that I would be the manager and could report to him whenever I needed to and he would support me in the things I tried to do. He said, "I can only make one promise to you. That is, you will never regret it." I have remembered those words over the years. Several times I got pretty close to regretting it when there were discouraging and difficult moments. I can honestly now say that I have never regretted leaving the poultry processing business and going to work for the Church.
I was assigned to a stake conference with Elder Harold B. Lee in about 1960. We drove down to northern Arizona. When we got there we met with the stake presidency. Elder Lee, a member of the Twelve, announced to the brethren that the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve had made a decision to build a meetinghouse large enough for a cultural hall with a full-size basketball court. It would mean combining three smaller wards into one large ward.
The members in that part of Arizona were somewhat scattered and none of the smaller units could qualify for a building with a large basketball floor. The stake presidency was delighted and agreed that three small units should be combined into one ward.
Word was sent out to the bishops of the three small wards to have their people to conference on Sunday morning an hour ahead of schedule so that they could vote on the proposition approved by the Brethren.
Early Sunday morning the building was filled with the membership of those three units. Brother Lee asked the members of one ward to stand and he gave to them the proposition and then asked if they would sustain the proposal. Everyone raised their hands in acceptance. The second ward stood with the same results.
Then the members of the third ward stood and as Brother Lee read the proposition for the third time, every eye seemed to be upon the bishop who was seated on the stand. When Brother Lee asked for a sustaining vote, everyone hesitated and waited for their bishop. He did not raise his hand. Only a few of the members of his ward raised their hands, but the majority voted against the proposition. The bishop had sent word to them to follow him on how to vote.
Brother Lee did not ask for a second vote. He just told the stake president to close the meeting. The stake president was reluctant to do so but Brother Lee said, "The meeting is over and we have accomplished all that we can do today." The stake president still hesitated so Brother Lee asked a counselor to please stand and close the meeting with prayer.
The stake president asked Brother Lee if he was going to release that bishop. Brother Lee said, "No, he has led them; they all know they have failed to sustain the Brethren; let him stay on as their bishop." Then he said, "But, I promise you from this day on, members of that ward will not sustain or support their bishop and in a few short months he will have to be released.
The action of the ward cast a cloud over the whole stake conference. Several people asked if another vote could be asked for because they wanted to sustain the proposal. But Brother Lee would not allow the people to have another vote. In all my travels to many stake conferences, I have never seen another time when the people refused to sustain a proposal of the First Presidency—the highest leadership of the Church.