“President Kimball—Going Strong at Eighty-Five,” Ensign, May 1980, 107–8
It was a grand night for singing—and on two separate evenings, at two mammoth celebrations, thousands of people sang birthday wishes to President Spencer W. Kimball, who turned eighty-five March 28.
On the eve of his birthday, a celebration was held at the Tabernacle on Temple Square in Salt Lake City. Thousands packed the Tabernacle to honor the president at a presentation which used film, song, dance, and tributes to reflect on President Kimball’s life of service and love.
The next night, President Kimball was honored at a birthday dinner at the Hotel Utah, where some 2,500 invited guests included leading citizens from throughout the United States.
The Tabernacle program is being distributed on video cassettes or films for viewing throughout the Church, with sound tracks in English and other languages. The multimedia presentation included filmed birthday greetings and music by the Tabernacle Choir, directed by Jerold D. Ottley and accompanied by Robert Cundick. Other entertainment was by the Lamanite Generation, a group of Indian students from Brigham Young University, and by singers from Ricks College.
Among the tributes paid to President Kimball at the Tabernacle was one from his wife, Sister Camilla E. Kimball. Sister Kimball recited lines from poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning:
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach.
And Sister Kimball was not the only one with misty eyes. Many men and women in the audience and watching on television were moved to tears as they witnessed the effect of President Kimball’s life on the millions who love and follow him.
At the Hotel Utah dinner the following night, President Kimball was equally honored by numerous friends both in and outside the Church. The keynote speaker, Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, was among 2,500 who sang “Happy Birthday” along with the Sons of the Pioneers, Roy Rogers, and Dale Evans.
(Dr. Peale’s remarks at the dinner is printed on p. 108.)
Several gifts were presented to President Kimball—a porcelain seagull sculpture, a bronze statue of President Kimball with Indian children, and a silver-and-turquoise medallion of the Navajo nation seal.
And President Kimball’s response to the outpourings of affection: “I’ve never felt worthy of such attention. I appreciate it more than I can express. Thank you, thank you, thank you. It is a joy to say I love all the people of the world.”
Less than a week later, at the press conference where President Kimball announced that seven new temples would be built, a news reporter asked the president how his health was. Within the last year President Kimball has had brain surgery twice.
Smiling, President Kimball stood and raised both arms high in a victory gesture. He is indeed going strong at 85.