At 97, Haight Becomes Oldest LDS Church Leader

At 97, Haight Becomes Oldest LDS Church Leader

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- David B. Haight became the oldest Mormon apostle or prophet Monday when he turned 97.

He's the oldest apostle since The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was founded in 1830, outliving former LDS President David O. McKay and Apostle LeGrand Richards, who tied at 96. In third place was President Joseph Fielding Smith at 95, then came President Ezra Taft Benson at 94.

Haight is four years older than the current president, Gordon B. Hinckley, who is 93. Haight became an apostle at age 69.

"He has lived a balanced and full life, reaching out to all segments of society," says son-in-law Jon Huntsman. "He has written the ground rules for the church on graciousness and warmth and goodness to all people."

He was born Sept. 2, 1906, in Oakley, Idaho. He married Ruby Olson in 1930 and Thursday they'll celebrate their 73rd wedding anniversary -- the longest marriage in the history of the LDS hierarchy.

Before becoming a full-time church leader, Elder Haight was mayor of Palo Alto, Calif. and worked as the regional manager of a large retail store chain. He also served as a commander in the U.S. Navy during World War II.

Haight is nearly blind and quite hard of hearing, says his daughter, Karen Haight Huntsman, but still has major responsibilities with the LDS Church. Until recently, he oversaw its global missionary effort, which places more than 60,000 volunteers in more than 100 countries, teaching them the language and sending them out to knock on doors.

He has long been a member of the church's Public Affairs Board, helping the church in its outreach to other faiths.

Yet, the Huntsmans attest, Haight always had time for his growing family.

For at least a few decades, the dutiful father has phoned his daughter every day, saying, "Hello, Karen? Life is beautiful and the gospel is true. Do all the good you can do today. Bye."

Haight's colleagues in the church hierarchy planned to commemorate his birthday at the LDS Church Office Building Monday morning, leaving the larger celebration for the extended Haight family -- three children, 18 grandchildren and 75 great-grandchildren -- at their home later.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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