Delbert Leon Stapley

Lawrence R. Flake, Prophets and Apostles of the Last Dispensation (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2001), 485–87.

Delbert stapley portrait

Born: 11 December 1896, Mesa, Arizona

Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: 5 October 1950 (age 53)

Died: 19 August 1978 (age 81), Salt Lake City, Utah

The profound respect that others had for Delbert L. Stapley is reflected in a description of Elder Stapley’s prayers by a fellow apostle, Spencer W. Kimball: “His voice softens, there is pleading in his tones. He is talking to someone with whom he seems to be well acquainted.” [1]

Elder Stapley’s call to the Quorum of the Twelve at the age of fifty-three was not a surprise to the people of his home stake in Mesa, Arizona, for they knew him to be a man of great spiritual influence and outstanding leadership. He had served the youth for seventeen years as superintendent of the stake Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Association; he had been on the high council, a counselor in the stake presidency for ten years, and stake president for three. He had exercised his gift of healing in his family and for others outside his family. One writer commented, “The sincerity and intensity and personality and faith of his prayers undoubtedly account for the numerous people who have been healed by the Lord through [his] hands.” [2]

His brother Thyrle had been subjected on several occasions to serious emergency operations. Each time it seemed that, without being notified, Elder Stapley would be there to bless him. Thyrle’s wife described one of these occasions:

I shall never forget one afternoon during a very trying painful ordeal . . . the surgeons had reported that the operation was not a successful one, and there was nothing more they could do. Looking out of the window I saw Del walking up the steps of the hospital. What a surprise! . . . As I watched him enter the hospital, the feeling came over me that this wonderful man was much like Peter, who hastened to Joppa, laid his big, healing hands on the head of Dorcas, and raised her from the dead. As I listened to the fervent prayer of our present-day apostle, all worry and doubt and fear left me. The blessed relief and assurance that my husband would recover came over me. I was not the least bit surprised several days later when the doctor said, “Mr. Stapley, you have had a miraculous recovery.” [3]

Delbert was born into a family of nine children and was reared in Mesa, Arizona, where he learned early the hard work of farming and cattle raising. He loved sports and excelled in baseball, and he turned down an offer to enter the major leagues because he knew he would be required to play on Sunday. He went on a mission to the southern states at the early age of eighteen and served in the Marine Corps during World War I.

In 1918 he married Ethel Davis, his childhood sweetheart, whom he had courted in the best buggies he could borrow from his father’s wagon, hardware, and farm implement shop. This hardware store, which grew to a large enterprise, provided a business career for Elder Stapley. He served his community in many capacities, such as city councilman, president of the Phoenix Lions Club, and member of the Better Business Bureau. He was active in the Boy Scouts of America for thirty years being awarded the highest honor. He was also chair of the welfare program for nine stakes in Arizona.

While attending the October general conference in 1950, Brother Stapley stepped out of an elevator in the lobby of Hotel Utah and met President George Albert Smith, who said, “You are just the man I’m looking for.” [4] Without even retiring to the privacy of an office, the prophet called him to be an apostle.

As a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, Elder Stapley had charge of the missions in the eastern United States and Canada. He was diligent in his labors and valiant in his testimony of the Savior. In this poem, Spencer W. Kimball, a fellow apostle and Arizonan, described the strength of Delbert L. Stapley’s convictions: “Unwavering faith in things divine, his testimony’s sure. He knows that through God’s prophets now come revelations pure. He follows with a loyal heart the leaders of our day; he knows as sure as Peter did the kingdom’s here to stay.” [5]

Elder Stapley died at age eighty-one of heart failure while on a walk near his Salt Lake home.


[1] Spencer W. Kimball, “Delbert L. Stapley,” Improvement Era, February 1962, 91–95, 112; see also 90–95, 112–14.

[2] Kimball, “Delbert L. Stapley,” 91–95, 112.

[3] Kimball, “Delbert L. Stapley,” 91–95, 112.

[4] “Delbert L. Stapley,” Improvement Era, November 1966, 998.

[5] Kimball, “Delbert L. Stapley,” 114.