“Ninety Years, and Many Good Wishes, for President Kimball,” Ensign, May 1985, 100–101
General Authorities, family members, and friends helped President Spencer W. Kimball celebrate his ninetieth birthday with a day of work and festivities on March 28.
During the morning, he attended the weekly meeting of the First Presidency and Council of the Twelve in the Salt Lake Temple. Then he lunched in his Westin Hotel Utah apartment, next to the Church Administration Building, with a small group of family and staff members. During the afternoon, he attended a reception held in his honor in the Church Administration Building. And in the evening he went to his daughter’s home for a dinner with his children and grandchildren.
“It all turned out beautifully. He was very pleased to get back to the office and see all those people,” said D. Arthur Haycock, President Kimball’s personal secretary. The next morning, the President spoke of how much he had enjoyed the outings with family and friends, Brother Haycock said.
While President Kimball traveled extensively and kept a rigorous office schedule earlier in his administration, health problems have forced a curtailment of most of his activities in recent years. But he still keeps close contact with Church matters through the daily visits—often several times a day—of Brother Haycock, and through First Presidency and General Authority meetings.
Most of the General Authorities were able to be present for the 1:00 P.M. reception in the First Presidency council room of the Church Administration Building. They serenaded him with the traditional “Happy Birthday” as he came to the reception. Later, they sang “We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet.” As the event ended, the General Authorities sang “God Be With You.”
They brought him greetings from Church leaders and Saints in the areas of their worldwide assignments. President Kimball also received “dozens” of floral pieces, and “hundreds and hundreds” of cards and greetings, many lovingly made by “Primary children all over the world,” Brother Haycock said. Many of these were on display at the reception.
His birthday was not forgotten elsewhere, either. Forty-five miles south at Brigham Young University, for example, ninety balloons fluttered in the breeze above the upper deck of the Spencer W. Kimball Tower, and a banner hanging from the top of the building proclaimed, “Happy 90th, Pres. Kimball.” BYU students also sent him four twelve-foot birthday cards filled with greetings from campus well-wishers.
President Kimball enjoyed a visit with President Marion G. Romney, First Counselor in the First Presidency, who was able to attend the reception despite his own health problems. Many of the General Authorities had brief personal chats with the prophet.
President Gordon B. Hinckley, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, asked President Kimball at the end of the reception if his friends might plan another such event in ten more years, when he would be one hundred. “Yes,” the President replied.
President Hinckley drew a laugh from President Kimball when he referred to those removing the President’s wheelchair from the room as “charioteers.”
At one point, President Hinckley commented to President Kimball, “It’s good to be ninety years old.”
“That’s right,” President Kimball replied. “But a hundred years of service would be better.”
His leadership has been evident in many milestones of the Church since he began serving as President on 30 December 1973. His ordination followed thirty years of service as a member of the Council of the Twelve.
During President Kimball’s years as President, the number of missionaries serving in the field has grown greatly in response to his pleas that we “lengthen our stride” in service. The number of stakes in the Church has more than doubled, and Church membership has increased by more than two million. The revelation came giving the priesthood to all worthy male members, and two additional revelations have been added to modern scriptures.
Thirty-one new temples have been announced since 1974, and eighty new missions have been created. The First Quorum of the Seventy was reorganized, with both lifetime and non-lifetime members. In 1984, Area Presidencies were called from among the General Authorities to preside over Church affairs in geographical areas throughout the world.
As he enters his ninety-first year, President Kimball’s leadership and spirit of love continue to give guidance and strength to the Church.