The Gospel of Love

“The Gospel of Love,” Ensign, Dec. 1985, 20

In Memoriam: Spencer W. Kimball, 1895–1985

The Gospel of Love

Stories about President Spencer W. Kimball

“I’ve Got to Go to Primary”

From childhood [Spencer Kimball] has been most conscientious in his work—nothing short of the best was good enough. For years he had a record of perfect attendance at Sunday School and Primary. One Monday he was in the field tramping hay for his older brothers when the meetinghouse bell rang for Primary.

“‘I’ve got to go to Primary,’ he timidly suggested. “‘You can’t go today; we need you,’ they said.

“‘Well, Father would let me go, if he were here,’ the boy countered.

“‘Father isn’t here,’ they said, ‘and you are not going.’

“The piles of hay came pouring up, literally covering Spencer, but finally he had caught up; sliding noiselessly from the back of the wagon, he was halfway to the meetinghouse before his absence was noticed, and his perfect record remained unbroken.” (Jesse A. Udall, Improvement Era, Oct. 1943, p. 591.)

“May I Sing and Play for You?”

“The following experience illustrates his tact and ability as a missionary. While tracting in St. Louis one day he saw through the partly opened door a new piano and said to the woman who was in the act of closing the door in his face, ‘I see that you have a new piano.’

“‘Yes, we’ve just bought it,’ she replied with pride.

“‘It is a Kimball isn’t it? That is my name, also.’ he said, as the door opened wider. ‘Would you like me to sing and play for you?’

“‘Surely, come in,’ she answered.

“Walking to the piano he played and sang ‘O, My Father.’ This pleasant introduction led to many subsequent gospel conversations.” (Jesse A. Udall, Improvement Era, Oct. 1943, p. 591.)

“If the Lord Can Use a Worker, I’m Available”

“The mere contemplation of forty-four [area] conference sessions in seventeen days at nine different locations [in the Pacific, New Zealand, and Australia] staggers the imagination; and if that doesn’t do it, just add the thought of approximately 28,000 miles of air travel while changing your clock eighteen times to accommodate the different time zones.

“Such is the schedule of a man who has challenged a people to ‘lengthen their stride.’ Such is the schedule of a man who declares not only, ‘Do as I say,’ but more importantly, ‘Do as I do.’ It is so much easier to respond when the trump gives us that certain sound of example.

“Prominently displayed on President Kimball’s desk is a slogan which reads simply, ‘DO IT.’ With this inspired leader, personal convenience comes second. Everything is done to meet the Lord’s convenience. His example for work has become legend and establishes an example for us all to follow.

“While I was stationed at an air base in Wyoming during World War II, it was announced in our branch sacrament meeting that the following week a branch conference would be held and that there was a good possibility that the mission president would bring a visiting authority from Salt Lake City with him. As we came to branch conference the following Sunday morning, we were introduced to that visiting authority, a man that none of us had ever seen before. It was Elder Spencer W. Kimball, the newest member of the Twelve out on one of his very first assignments. His manner was kindly, his testimony so sure, but he expressed concern that such a high calling should come to one such as he. Then with renewed confidence, he said in effect: ‘Brothers and Sisters: I don’t know exactly why the Lord has called me, but I do have one talent to offer. My father taught me how to work; and if the Lord can use a worker, I’m available.’ Yes, the Lord could use a worker! In fact, he needed a hard worker that might possibly be ready to assume prime responsibility at a most significant time.” (Robert L. Simpson, Ensign, Nov. 1975, p. 13.)

“I Wonder How He Knew …”

Many people, in and out of the Church, can tell of his Christlike love and concern. For Dr. Arturo de Hoyos, now a faculty member at Brigham Young University, President Kimball is a very special man.

“In the winter of 1947, I was a freshman at BYU and had come to school from Mexico after I finished a fulltime mission. My roommate, Alfonso Rodriguez, also from Mexico, was also a returned missionary. We had found a room on the back of a house which had no heat other than a gas stove and no refrigerator. The snow was a new experience to us. Apart from a few small problems like not having winter clothing, not knowing English, and other such minor details, we were full of enthusiasm and were enjoying being at BYU. We were making adjustments. To save money for books we had decided to eat only when absolutely necessary.

“This particular Sunday we had gotten up early. Among other things, we had been discussing the best way to go about defrosting some chocolate milk in a carton which we had left outside on the window sill. It had frozen during the night. As it was the only food we had, all the alternatives had to include saving the milk. As we considered the matter, we even thought of fasting again and perhaps leaving the milk for Monday, which would get us one day closer to our next parttime paycheck late in the week.

“But we were not discouraged. True, we were getting kind of thin, but we were still very happy to be alive and at BYU. We also reasoned that there were spiritual compensations. We figured that we had fasted enough that semester to cast off any type of bad spirit we might encounter.

“As we were considering what to do with our frozen milk, we heard a knock on the door. I opened the door and the visitor said, ‘Hi, boys. I am on my way to stake conference in Sanpete County and I thought I would stop and say hello and see how you were getting along.’ As he spoke, a thousand thoughts went running through my mind, most of them in Spanish: ‘Shall I ask him to come in? … No, the room isn’t very nice … Buenos Dias. … I wonder why he is here? … How do you do? … Perhaps we should invite him to have breakfast with us … Frozen chocolate milk for three? … How did he know we were here? … An apostle of the Lord in our room! … Finally I said, ‘Come in, Brother Kimball.’

“He came in and shook hands, and somehow we never felt embarrassed. Alfonso said something like, ‘We are fine and happy.’ We just looked at him and said little and, as I remember, we did not even invite him to sit down. But from the beginning he had made us feel at ease. As he talked he looked at us with that marvelous look of his that always conveys peace, concern, care, joy of life, complete knowledge of suffering, unselfishness, a deep desire to do good, and plain, simple love.

“‘Your mission president told me you were in Provo,’ he said, ‘and the other day I called the University to find out where you lived.’

“The previous June, during mission conference in Mexico City when Alfonso and I had been released from our two years of service, he, Spencer W. Kimball, had been the visiting authority. And he had remembered us, had called to find our address, and had stopped to see us; and now he was here in our room visiting us!

“He did not stay long. But it was long enough to lift our spirits up in a way that would be impossible to forget. And not only our spirits. For as he left and shook hands with us I found a $20 bill in mine! ‘God bless you,’ he said. ‘Let me know how you get along.’

“Alfonso and I stood there in the middle of our room. We did not say much for a long time. I opened my hand and showed him the $20.

“‘I wonder how he knew,’ I said, just to say something.

“‘He is a prophet of the Lord,’ Alfonso said, ‘and he knows.’” (Ensign, Mar. 1975, p. 12.)

I Knew He Loved Me

“My father was always very affectionate. I knew he loved me,” Brother [Edward L.] Kimball said. “There is no self-consciousness in his display of affection. Two-and-a-half years ago, I attended a solemn assembly in the Salt Lake Temple. There were thousands of men there. As the meeting ended, he spotted me where I was singing in a chorus. On his way out, he came over, embraced and kissed me.” (Church News, June 11, 1977.)

The Gift

“President Kimball’s concern for the [Eugene] Flake family was exemplified in [many ways. On one occasion] President Kimball and Brother Flake were in a store and President Kimball asked him to help select a picture to give to a very special friend. ‘Get a nice one; don’t be cheap,’ he was instructed.

“‘I knew he was paying for it himself’ said Brother Flake. ‘I didn’t want to get one that was too expensive, but I didn’t dare get a cheap one. I picked a beautiful picture of a horse.

“‘I told him it was the best picture in the store. He seemed satisfied and bought the picture. Later, he gave me a gift. It was that picture of a horse. I told him he was kinder to us than we knew how to be.’” (Church News, Feb. 3, 1979.)

“I Just Wanted to Spend the Day with Him”

In May of 1948, Elder Spencer W. Kimball and mission president Golden R. Buchanan toured the Southwest Indian Mission. During the tour, Elder Kimball experienced the first of several painful and debilitating heart seizures. He valiantly fought the pain for weeks but was finally confined to bed at his home in Salt Lake City.

“In his seventh week in pajamas,” writes his son, “Spencer began looking for an escape from his monotonous house confinement. He arranged with Golden Buchanan to shift his convalescence to the Navajo Reservation. On July 8, Brother Buchanan picked him up in Salt Lake, and they reached New Mexico in easy stages. With food and supplies, chlorine tablets for contaminated water, and a case of root beer and orange pop for variety, they pitched camp in a borrowed trailer-tent under some pines a hundred yards downhill from the large hogan of Howela Polacca.” (Spencer W. Kimball, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1977, p. 252.)

One morning during this recuperative period, Elder Kimball’s bed was discovered empty. Thinking that he had taken a morning stroll and would be back in time for breakfast, his attendants went about their duties. But when he hadn’t returned by 10:00 A.M., they began to worry. A search began.

He was finally discovered several miles away under a pine tree. His Bible lay next to him, opened to the last chapter of St. John. His eyes were closed, and when the search party came up to him he remained as still as when they first caught sight of him.

Their frightened voices aroused him, however, and when he lifted his head they could see traces of tears on his cheeks. To their questions, he answered, “Six years ago today I was called to be an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, and I just wanted to spend the day with Him whose witness I am.”

Not one among the search party doubted that his wish had been granted.

They Personally Served Us

Joyce Larsen of Salt Lake City relates the following experience.

“During my senior year at the University of Utah, I served as ASUU Student Body President. As we tried to revise the student constitution, I became acquainted with many of the law students. It was Christmastime, and one of the handsome students asked me to join him and his friends for a festive holiday progressive dinner. Most of these law students were returned missionaries; their priorities were right; their goals were set; their course was marked.

“The progressive dinner commenced with juice and crackers at the first home; a soup course at the second; salad at the third. Without exception, in each of these homes a note had been left by the students’ parents that read something like this: ‘Dad and I had another engagement tonight, so we’ve left the fixings for you. Have a great evening!’

“Now, all of us didn’t mind getting out the ‘fixings’ left by thoughtful parents. But when we pulled up to the home where the main course was to be served, what a contrast! The lights were blazing; soft Christmas music floated through the chilly air; and standing at the door with outstretched arms to greet each of us personally and give a royal welcome were Elder Spencer W. Kimball and Sister Camilla E. Kimball. Their law student son hung up our coats. Then we were invited to be seated at a beautifully appointed table, whereupon Elder and Sister Kimball personally served us the most delicious Mexican food I think I have ever enjoyed. None of our offers to assist with the ‘fixings’ or ‘clean-up’ were accepted.

“It was then and there I decided that when I became a parent I would plan to be home when my children entertained friends. The feelings of welcome, warmth, and hospitality were made so much more evident by the Kimballs’ presence.”

“I Love People”

The following story about President Kimball and a guest book is from Brother John Cooper. Brother Cooper’s father, Henry R. Cooper, was a stake president in Logan, Utah, who had a guest book for visitors to sign.

On 24 February 1952, Elder Kimball visited President Cooper’s stake. The columns in the guest book read:




Spencer W. Kimball

2228 Laird Drive
Salt Lake City

I love people

On 17 February 1957, Elder Kimball again visited the stake. He again signed the guestbook:




Spencer W. Kimball


Above this last entry was this from his wife:




Camilla E. Kimball

2228 Laird Drive
Salt Lake City

Trying to keep up with my husband

“It Appears to Me that You Need Help”

“In that remarkable biography [Spencer W. Kimball, by Edward L. and Andrew E. Kimball, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1977] is a story about a woman who was in O’Hare Airport in Chicago during a big snowstorm. Planes had been confused in their schedules and thousands of people were stranded. Her money had run out, she had a two-year-old child, and the child was hungry and dirty. The woman was two or three months pregnant and had been told not to hold this child because it might have an adverse effect on her physically. So the child was on the floor of the airport. The woman was in one line after another trying to buy a ticket to a Michigan point. People were criticizing her because she would reach forward with her foot to push the child up in the line as the line moved along, because she couldn’t pick the child up.

“She was in anguish when a man approached her with a kindly smile on his face. He said, ‘Young lady, it appears to me that you need help.’ He took the dirty little two-year-old child in his arms and loved it, patted it on the back, gave it a stick of chewing gum. Then he went to the people in the line and he told them about the woman—how she had to get a flight out to Michigan. They agreed, under the influence of his spirit, to let her go ahead of them. He took her to the flight and got her started on her way. As she boarded the plane, the woman thought to herself, ‘What a wonderful man, and I don’t even know his name.’ But a few days later, in a newspaper, she saw a picture of President Spencer W. Kimball.” (Norman Vincent Peale, Ensign, May 1980, p. 109.)

“Life Is Eternal”

John Warnick of Salt Lake City tells the following experience he had with President Kimball.

“In the fall of 1979, my wife of thirty-three years was in the hospital in Salt Lake City. By coincidence, President Spencer W. Kimball was also at the same hospital, having recently undergone surgery. One day as I walked down the corridor approaching my wife’s room, I noticed one of President Kimball’s associates standing near the nurses’ station. I inquired about the Prophet and was told that he was very weak but that the doctors were optimistic about his return to health.

“I thanked the man for the information, then turned to see the Prophet himself approaching us. He was assisted on one side by a nurse and on the other side by a strong young man. President Kimball was moving very slowly, hardly walking, but making some progress toward the nurses’ station. He saw me, asked in greeting how I was, and then asked, ‘Do you love the Lord?’

“A question like that from the prophet of God was electrifying! I responded that I did love the Lord and that, furthermore, I loved him as the President of our Church. With that familiar twinkle in his eyes, President Kimball said, ‘But I only asked, “Do you love the Lord?”’

“In the course of our conversation, President Kimball discovered that my wife was in the hospital, in room 16, suffering from cancer. He then took both of my hands in his, kissed them, expressed his concern, and continued his slow walk down the hall.

“I went the opposite way, away from my wife’s room, in pursuit of some ice water for her. I turned just in time to see President Kimball entering room 16. The cancer had affected my wife’s eyesight, so she did not know who had entered her room. I rushed back and said to my wife, ‘Sweetheart, President Kimball is here to see you.’ She smiled tenderly.

“President Kimball talked with us about the love of our Heavenly Father for His children, and of faith and courage, and of his own love for wonderful people in and out of the Church. President Kimball then asked if he might give my wife a blessing of comfort. Of course we both quickly said yes.

“I cannot remember specifically what President Kimball said as he talked with our Father in Heaven, but I do remember the spirit that was in the room and the encompassing feeling I had of love and warmth and communication. At the conclusion of the blessing, I walked around the bed to thank the President. He reached for me, pulled my head to his lips, and whispered in my ear, ‘Life is eternal, Brother John. Life is eternal.’

“With tears streaming from our eyes, we bade the prophet good-bye. We sat with each other for a long time and talked about loving God and serving. This man who himself was so weak he could hardly walk had taken the time, had given of himself, to comfort a daughter of God—someone he had not known personally. It was a remarkable and tender thing.

“That night, for the first time in two weeks, the doctors found it unnecessary to perform the intricate and painful task of extracting fluid from my wife’s interior. President Kimball’s blessing was fulfilled; my wife was comforted. She emerged from her semiconscious state completely coherent, and during the next four days was able to spend time with our children and myself before she was finally released from this life to pass through the veil into eternity.”

With (from left) Brother D. Arthur Haycock, Elder Gene R. Cook, and Elder Boyd K. Packer, President Kimball meets with Church members at the dedication of the São Paulo Temple, October 1978.

In April 1979, President Kimball finds time to shake the hands of young conference visitors.

Left: Greeting Church members in Korea. Middle: At Mesa, Arizona, President Kimball greets members of the Church from Guatemala and other Central American countries, November 1975. Right: President Kimball became known as much for his love as for his faith.

Waving a fond greeting to the congregation at general conference.