“Chapter 12: Spencer W. Kimball: Twelfth President of the Church,” Presidents of the Church Student Manual (2004), 194–211
“Chapter 12,” Presidents of the Church Student Manual, 194–211
He was born 28 March 1895 in Salt Lake City, Utah, to Andrew and Olive Woolley Kimball.
A patriarch stated that he would work among the Lamanites.
His mother died (1906).
He graduated with highest honors from Gila Academy (1914).
He served a mission to the central United States (1914–16).
He married Camilla Eyring (16 Nov. 1917).
He was president of the Mount Graham Stake (1938–43).
He was ordained an Apostle by President Heber J. Grant (7 Oct. 1943).
He was chairman of the Church Indian Committee (1946).
He suffered cancer of the throat; one and a half vocal cords were removed (1957).
He supervised missionary work in South America (1964–67).
His book The Miracle of Forgiveness was published (1969); he became Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (23 Jan. 1970).
He was set apart as President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (7 July 1972).
He became President of the Church (30 Dec. 1973).
He addressed the regional representatives of the Twelve, initiating expanded missionary work (4 Apr. 1974); he dedicated the Washington D.C. Temple (19 Nov. 1974).
He dedicated the Church Office Building (24 July 1975); fifteen stakes were created from five in Mexico City, Mexico (9 Nov. 1975); the building of temples in Brazil, Japan, Mexico, and Washington state was announced (1975).
Two revelations were added to the Pearl of Great Price (now D&C 137–38; 3 Apr. 1976); Assistants to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles became members of the First Quorum of the Seventy (1976).
The First Presidency announced the revelation that every faithful man in the Church may receive the holy priesthood (8 June 1978).
New editions of the scriptures, cross-referenced to each other, were printed (1979, 1981).
He dedicated the Orson Hyde Memorial Garden in Jerusalem (24 Oct. 1979).
Area Presidencies were first called (1984).
A new edition of the hymnbook, with additional hymns of the Restoration, was printed; he died in Salt Lake City, Utah (5 Nov. 1985).
Spencer Woolley Kimball was born 28 March 1895 in Salt Lake City, Utah, to Andrew and Olive Wooley Kimball. The next January, Utah was granted statehood. The Manifesto was five years old, the economy was going into an upswing, and the Saints were entering an era of relative calm.
When Spencer W. Kimball was three years old, his family moved to Thatcher, Arizona. There he had cows to milk, gardens to weed, and buildings to paint. He demanded much of himself. In school, in church, and at play, he sought excellence. He abstained totally from whatever would pollute the body. He was president of his deacons quorum and continued in leadership positions, serving in each position with steadfastness and devotion.
“Like Nephi of old, [Spencer W. Kimball] may thank the Lord that he came of goodly parentage. His two grandfathers were outstanding colonizers and peers among men. Heber C. Kimball was an apostle of the Lord, friend and disciple of the Prophet Joseph, counselor to President Young, and missionary extraordinary for his church; Edwin D. Woolley was a colorful Salt Lake leader, business manager for President Young, and a great bishop of the Thirteenth Ward for a period of forty years. His own father, Andrew Kimball, was likewise a most remarkable man. Energetic and zealous always, as an advocate of the restored gospel, he presided over the mission in the Indian Territory for ten years and at intervals returned to Salt Lake to earn a living for his family. For twenty-six and a half years, from 1898 to the day of his death, he was president of the St. Joseph Stake of Zion, the stake which had been named at the suggestion of President John Taylor in honor of the Prophet Joseph. His ability as a builder and organizer did much toward the development of a great agricultural empire in eastern Arizona, and in the years of his administration the stake developed from a few wards on the Gila River to some seventeen wards and branches of the church, extending from Miami, Arizona, to El Paso, Texas” (Jesse A. Udall, “Spencer W. Kimball, the Apostle from Arizona,” Improvement Era, Oct. 1943, 590).
Spencer W. Kimball had many close calls with death—near drowning, accidents, extremely serious illnesses, and operations. His daughter Olive Beth Kimball Mack said:
“Dad has had a great deal of sorrow and sickness and many difficulties to overcome. These have only served to make him a stronger person, and have given him much empathy for others. … He lost his mother when he was eleven, and soon after, a little sister was taken. This is what he writes of this time:
“‘There came a rushing back through my memory an old picture of anguish, terror, fear, hopelessness. There we were, eight of my mother’s eleven in our parent’s bedroom. Our mother was dead, our father away, our older brother Gordon sat in the chair holding our littlest sister while she died, with all of us youngsters around the chair, frightened, and praying, and weeping. The doctor was miles away. His horse and buggy could not possibly have brought him there soon enough, and what could he do if he arrived? It seemed to be a combination of diptheria and membraneous croup, and little Rachel was literally choking to death. In terror we watched the little body fight valiantly for air and life, then suddenly relax completely. The hard fought battle was over. She had lost’” (How a Daughter Sees Her Father, the Prophet [devotional address at the Salt Lake institute of religion, 9 Apr. 1976], 3–4).
Writing about the life of this extraordinary man, Elder Boyd K. Packer used Spencer W. Kimball’s own words to describe him:
“President Kimball once said, ‘What mother, looking down with tenderness upon her chubby infant does not envision her child as the president of the Church or the leader of her nation! As he is nestled in her arms, she sees him a statesman, a leader, a prophet. Some dreams do come true! One mother gives us a Shakespeare, another a Michelangelo, and another an Abraham Lincoln, and still another a Joseph Smith.
“‘When theologians are reeling and stumbling, when lips are pretending and hearts are wandering, and people are “running to and fro, seeking the word of the Lord and cannot find it”—when clouds of error need dissipating and spiritual darkness needs penetrating and heavens need opening, a little infant is born.’ (Conference address, April 4, 1960.)
“And so came Spencer Woolley Kimball. The Lord had managed those humble beginnings. He was not just preparing a businessman, nor a civic leader, nor a speaker, nor a poet, nor a musician, nor a teacher—though he would be all of these. He was preparing a father, a patriarch for his family, an apostle and prophet, and a president for His church” (“President Spencer W. Kimball: No Ordinary Man,” Ensign, Mar. 1974, 3).
“From childhood he 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. …
“… Like Daniel, Spencer has never defiled himself. If you were to ask him point-blank if he had always observed the Word of Wisdom, he would modestly tell you that he had never tasted tea, coffee, liquor nor tobacco” (Udall, Improvement Era, Oct. 1943, 591).
“Ten-year-old Spencer Woolley Kimball liked to help his father with the chores. Perched on a stool, the lad sang happily as he milked one of the cows. He was completely oblivious at the moment to his father standing in the barn doorway talking to a neighbor who had just delivered a load of pumpkins for the pigs.
“‘That boy, Spencer, is an exceptional boy,’ President Kimball [Spencer’s father, a stake president] was saying. ‘He always tries to mind me, whatever I ask him to do. I have dedicated him to be one of the mouthpieces of the Lord—the Lord willing. You will see him some day as a great leader. I have dedicated him to the service of God, and he will become a mighty man in the Church.’
“Even while milking the cows, Spencer was justifying the faith and confidence of his father, for he was vocalizing with a purpose. On a piece of paper lying on the floor by the milk bucket, he had the words of the hymn he was singing. He practiced thus every day so that he could learn the words of the Church hymns by heart. He often did the same thing with verses of scripture, memorizing them for future use” (“Early Prophecies Made about Mission of Elder Kimball,” Church News, 18 Nov. 1961, 16).
In a 1974 general conference address, President Spencer W. Kimball spoke of the satisfaction he felt after reaching a goal he set as a youth:
“Let me tell you of one of the goals that I made when I was still but a lad. When I heard a Church leader from Salt Lake City tell us at conference that we should read the scriptures, and I recognized that I had never read the Bible, that very night at the conclusion of that very sermon I walked to my home a block away and climbed up in my little attic room in the top of the house and lighted a little coal-oil lamp that was on the little table, and I read the first chapters of Genesis. A year later I closed the Bible, having read every chapter in that big and glorious book.
“I found that this Bible that I was reading had in it 66 books, and then I was nearly dissuaded when I found that it had in it 1,189 chapters, and then I also found that it had 1,519 pages. It was formidable, but I knew if others did it that I could do it.
“I found that there were certain parts that were hard for a 14-year-old boy to understand. There were some pages that were not especially interesting to me, but when I had read the 66 books and 1,189 chapters and 1,519 pages, I had a glowing satisfaction that I had made a goal and that I had achieved it.
“Now I am not telling you this story to boast; I am merely using this as an example to say that if I could do it by coal-oil light, you can do it by electric light. I have always been glad I read the Bible from cover to cover” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1974, 126–27; or Ensign, May 1974, 88).
“The young Spencer grew to maturity at Thatcher. Having completed the public schools he entered the Gila Academy, the institution which had been established by the church early in the colonization of the valley. Later, its name was changed to the Gila Junior College. In 1914 he was graduated with highest honors and as president of his class. In addition to his scholastic achievements he was a star forward on the basketball team, and many a game was won by his accurate goal-throwing from every angle on the floor” (Udall, Improvement Era, Oct. 1943, 591).
Many years later, as he lay sleepless on a hospital bed, President Spencer W. Kimball reflected upon one of his early basketball experiences:
“I am on the basketball court. We play in our overalls and shirts with cheap rubber shoes and with basketballs of our own buying. We have beaten Globe High School on our dirt court, and we have defeated Safford and other high schools. Now, tonight, we Academy boys are playing the University of Arizona team.
“It is a great occasion. Many people come tonight who have never been before. Some of the townsmen say basketball is a girl’s game, but nevertheless they come in large numbers tonight. Our court is not quite regulation. We are used to it, our opponents are not. I have special luck with my shots tonight, the ball goes through the hoop again and again, and the game ends with our high school team the victors against the college team. I am the smallest player and the youngest on the team. I have piled up the most points through the efforts of the whole team in protecting me and feeding the ball to me. I am on the shoulders of the big fellows of the Academy. They are parading me around the hall to my consternation and embarrassment” (One Silent Sleepless Night , 57).
Years later, President Spencer W. Kimball told about more of his respon-sibilities growing up:
“There is the harness shed. Pa is very meticulous with the harnesses. They must always be hanging up when not on the horses. The collars must be smooth and clean, the bridles fitting just right, the blinds in place. The harness must be washed with Ivory soap frequently and then oiled, and I learn another important lesson: the leather equipment must never be dry and hard and curled.
“There is the buggy shed. The surrey and the one-seated buggy must always be in shelter from storm and sun, and they must be clean. I learn to wash vehicles and grease them. In a little pocket on the right side of the building is the axle-grease can and dauber. I lift one side at a time to the wooden horse, remove the wheel, grease the axle carefully, replace the nut, and screw it on to keep it in place. The wagons must be similarly treated as often as needed. And they must be painted too. I learn while yet a very small boy how to buy and mix paint and apply it to body and wheels and framework. The hairline of trim paint must be applied with precision. The fences must all be whitewashed and the trellis painted green. The house, the big house, needs paint too, and I climb the high ladders and paint the gable ends of the house and the trim. Pa does most of it at first, then I gradually come into the program until it is my task almost exclusively. And the barn and granary and harness shed—all must be painted at intervals. Even the mangers” (One Silent Sleepless Night, 20).
“While milking cows back in May 1914, … Spencer had received his letter from Box B, Salt Lake City, calling him to proselyte in the Swiss-German Mission. The letter, signed by Joseph F. Smith, sixth President of the Church, stated he should leave in October. Europe was an exotic, exciting prospect. The German that Spencer had studied at the Academy would give him a head start on learning the language.
“Then in July the situation in Europe changed drastically. A Serbian student assassinated Archduke Francis Ferdinand, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary. On July 28 Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. The conflict quickly spread to Germany, Russia, France, Belgium and Britain.
“Because of the European war Spencer’s missionary assignment was switched to the Central States Mission, whose headquarters were in Independence, Missouri. He felt disappointed. But he reconciled himself to the change; this had been his father’s mission area and his stepmother’s and his brother Gordon’s. As the train crossed the Arizona and California deserts into Nevada and Utah, Spencer, a newly ordained elder, looked ahead with apprehension at the pending changes in his life, but with curiosity and excitement as well.
“Since missionaries or their families paid their mission expenses, Spencer had sold his spirited young black horse for $175, enough money to keep him for six months. To that he added his wages at the dairy. What money he still lacked, his father added. But these arrangements didn’t make for luxurious living” (Edward L. Kimball and Andrew E. Kimball Jr., Spencer W. Kimball , 72–73).
Elder Kimball faced sorrow and discouragement while serving as a missionary. In May 1915 he received word from his father that his twenty-one-year-old sister, Ruth, had died. Many people were not receptive to his message and the responsibilities placed upon him were great. Yet he continued to work diligently.
After fourteen months in the mission field, he was made conference president in the Saint Louis area. This was an intimidating assignment for him. He was younger than most of the thirty-five missionaries for whom he was responsible. Yet his hard work and dependence on the Lord brought success.
Tracting and street meetings were a regular part of a missionary’s work, and Elder Kimball became creative with some of his door approaches. “He would tell missionaries a story years later about using ingenuity in making contacts. While tracting in St. Louis he noticed a piano through the partly opened door, and he said to the woman, who was in the act of shutting the door in his face, ‘You have a nice-looking piano.’
“‘We just bought it,’ said the woman, hesitating.
“‘It’s a Kimball, isn’t it? That’s my name, too. I could play a song on it for you that you might like to hear.’
“Surprised, she answered, ‘Surely, come in.’
“Sitting on the bench, Spencer played and sang, ‘O, My Father.’
“So far as Spencer knew, she never joined the Church, but it was not because he had not tried” (Kimball and Kimball, Spencer W. Kimball, 79–80).
Elder Kimball enjoyed street meetings. “A favorite place for them was at the corner of Twentieth and Franklin. While some questioned the value of these meetings, Elder Kimball never did. They gave him a sense of exhilaration unmatched by any other kind of proselyting. They also provided memorable moments such as the time when, at the end of a meeting, with not a soul in sight except the missionaries, the elder conducting solemnly announced, ‘If you’ll all give your attention, we’ll dismiss,’ or when Elder Kimball ended his talk in midsentence when the only people he could see were his three companions” (Francis M. Gibbons, Spencer W. Kimball: Resolute Disciple, Prophet of God , 51).
Spencer W. Kimball returned home from his mission in January 1917. That August he reported on his mission in a stake conference. At that stake conference was Camilla Eyring, a young woman to whom Spencer had been casually introduced before his mission. Four days later they met at a bus stop. Spencer reintroduced himself and they had their first personal conversation sitting together on the bus. He inquired, during the conversation, if he could call on Camilla. She responded in the affirmative.
“But she did not expect him to call unannounced. When he arrived at her home one evening soon after their bus ride she was dressed in a kimono, hair up in curlers, preparing to go dancing with a boyfriend and some other friends. Camilla did not know what to do. So she sat with young Mr. Kimball on the porch and talked, expecting his visit to end at any moment, until it became obvious he had no intention of leaving.
“‘I was in a pickle,’ Camilla later said. Though she wanted to favor Spencer, she already had a date, so she fudged. She told Spencer that a crowd was going dancing. Did he want to come? Spencer, delighted with his good luck, said yes, so when Alvin drove up in his car with the others, Camilla asked if a friend could come along. The two piled in the car and Alvin let his rage out through his foot. He drove, said Camilla, ‘like the devil was after him.’ By the time the car pulled up to the dance hall in Layton, Alvin was through with Camilla. He wouldn’t dance with her again for fifteen years. ‘I played a shabby trick,’ Camilla admitted” (Kimball and Kimball, Spencer W. Kimball, 84; see also Gibbons, Spencer W. Kimball, 63–64).
Their relationship blossomed, and Spencer and Camilla were married on 16 November 1917. The following tribute was later paid to Camilla:
“How much a man’s success depends upon his wife! Elder Kimball has been favored with a charming helpmate who has been constant, patient, full of understanding and encouragement. Her training in, and teaching of, home economics has enabled her to feed and clothe her family well, even though the income sometimes was small. Camilla is the daughter of Edward Christian Eyring and Caroline Romney. They had come to Arizona from Mexico in 1912 as a result of the Mexican revolution. It was in 1917 when she was teaching at the Gila Academy at Thatcher that she met Spencer, and it was not many months before their courtship ripened into marriage. It is said that ‘transplanted flowers are usually the fairest’ and so it was in her case; the blue-eyed, golden-haired girl with the Spanish name, transplanted from Mexico, blossomed into glorious womanhood as an intelligent, well-trained woman, prominent in her own right” (Udall, Improvement Era, Oct. 1943, 591).
One year after his release from his mission, at the age of twenty-three, Spencer W. Kimball was called as stake clerk of the St. Joseph Stake in Safford, Arizona. Six years later, in 1924, he was also sustained as a counselor in the stake presidency. At times he served in both callings. When the stake was divided in 1938, he was called to be president of the new Mount Graham Stake. Five and a half years later, on 7 October 1943, after over a quarter of a century in stake leadership, he was ordained an Apostle and became a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
“[Elder] Kimball possesses so many qualities which fit him for church leadership that it is difficult to point out particular traits and say therein lies his success. Two of his outstanding characteristics are, first, his love for people, a love which begets love; people warm to his teachings; his dealings instil confidence; the well-to-do farmer or the humble laborer, the housewife or the adolescent boy or girl, all have confidence in his integrity; and second, his relentless attention to the duties of the day. … The new apostle has lived his life in such a manner that it would appear that he is in the presence of God at all times, and that not for one moment of his busy life has he forgotten his responsibility to his creator” (Udall, Improvement Era, Oct. 1943, 639).
Spencer W. Kimball had also spent twenty-five successful years in banking, insurance, and real estate. He helped organize the Gila Broadcasting Company and the Gila Valley Irrigation Company and served in important leadership assignments in these ventures. He was a district governor of Rotary International, president of the Safford Rotary Club, a member of the Gila Junior College Board of Trustees, a member of the Arizona Teachers Retirement Board, vice-president of the Roosevelt Council of Boy Scouts, chairman of the local USO (United Services Organization), chairman of the United War Fund campaign in Graham County, and master of ceremonies at endless Church and civic functions. As a pianist and singer he was in constant demand. For many years he was a member of a popular quartet called the Conquistadores.
In the October 1943 general conference, on the day he was sustained as an Apostle, Elder Spencer W. Kimball addressed the congregation, recalling his earlier appointment to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“I believe the brethren were very kind to me in announcing my appointment when they did so that I might make the necessary adjustments in my business affairs, but perhaps they were more inspired to give me the time that I needed of a long period of purification, for in those long days and weeks I did a great deal of thinking and praying, and fasting and praying. There were conflicting thoughts that surged through my mind—seeming voices saying: ‘You can’t do the work. You are not worthy. You have not the ability’—and always finally came the triumphant thought: ‘You must do the work assigned—you must make yourself able, worthy and qualified.’ And the battle raged on.
“I remember reading that Jacob wrestled all night, ‘until the breaking of the day,’ for a blessing; and I want to tell you that for eighty-five nights I have gone through that experience, wrestling for a blessing. Eighty-five times, the breaking of the day has found me on my knees praying to the Lord to help me and strengthen me and make me equal to this great responsibility that has come to me” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1943, 15–16).
Elder Spencer W. Kimball explained:
“I do not know when I began to love the children of Lehi. It may have come to me at birth, because those years preceding and after I was born, were spent by my father on missions among the Indians in Indian territory. He was president of the mission. This love may have come in those first years of my childhood, when my father used to sing the Indian chants to us children and show us souvenirs from and pictures of his Indian friends. It may have come from my patriarchal blessing which was given to me by Patriarch Samuel Claridge, when I was nine years of age. One line of the blessing reads:
“‘You will preach the gospel to many people, but more especially to the Lamanites, for the Lord will bless you with the gift of language and power to portray before that people, the gospel in great plainness. You will see them organized and be prepared to stand as the bulwark “round this people.”’ …
“… We have about a half-million children of Lehi in the islands of the sea, and about sixty million of them in North and South America, about a third of them perhaps, being pure-blood Indians, and about two-thirds are mixtures, but they have the blood of Jacob in their veins.
“‘If my pen might have the gift of tears I would write a book and call it “The Indian,” and I would make the whole world weep.’
“I hope I may help to make the whole world weep for the children of Lehi. Can one refrain from tears as he contemplates the fall of these people who have been brought down from culture and achievement to illiteracy and degradation: from kings and emperors, to slavery and serfdom; from landowners of vast continents, to indigent wards of governments and peons—from sons of God with a knowledge of God, to rude savages, victims of superstition, and from builders of temples to dwellers in dirt hogans. …
“How I wish you could go with me through the Indian reservations and particularly Navajo Land and see the poverty, want, and wretchedness, and realize again that these are sons and daughters of God; that their miserable state is the result, not only of their centuries of wars and sins and godlessness, but is also attributable to us, their conquerors, who placed them on reservations with such limited resources and facilities, to starve and die of malnutrition and unsanitary conditions, while we become fat in the prosperity from the assets we took from them. Think of these things, my people, and then weep for the Indian, and with your tears, pray; then work for him. Only through us, the ‘nursing fathers and mothers,’ may they eventually enjoy a fulfilment of the many promises made to them. Assuming that we do our duty to them, the Indians and other sons of Lehi will yet rise in power and strength. The Lord will remember his covenant to them; his Church will be established among them; the Bible and other scriptures will be made available to them; they will enter into the holy temples for their endowments and do vicarious work; they will come to a knowledge of their fathers and to a perfect knowledge of their Redeemer Jesus Christ; they shall prosper in the land and will, with our help, build up a holy city, even the New Jerusalem, unto their God” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1947, 144–45, 151–52).
“After his call to the Twelve [Elder Spencer W. Kimball] suffered a series of heart attacks. The doctors said that he must rest. He wanted to be with his beloved Indians. Brother Golden R. Buchanan took him to the camp of Brother and Sister Polacca, high in the pines of Arizona, and there he stayed during the weeks until his heart mended and his strength returned.
“One morning he was missing from camp. When he did not return for breakfast, Brother Polacca and other Indian friends began to search. They found him several miles from camp, sitting beneath a large pine tree with his Bible open to the last chapter of the Gospel of John. In answer to their worried looks, he said, ‘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.’
“His heart problems recurred, but did not slow him down for long” (Packer, Ensign, Mar. 1974, 4).
In 1957, after several years of problems with hoarseness, Elder Spencer W. Kimball was diagnosed with cancer of the throat and vocal cords. The doctors said he would lose his voice, the very focal point of his life and service as an Apostle. Elder Boyd K. Packer wrote:
“This, perhaps, was to be his Gethsemane.
“He went East for the operation. Elder Harold B. Lee was there. As he was prepared for surgery he agonized over the ominous possibilities, telling the Lord that he did not see how he could live without a voice, for his voice to preach and to speak was his ministry.
“‘This is no ordinary man you’re operating on,’ Elder Lee told the surgeon. From the blessings and the prayers, an operation a bit less radical than the doctor recommended was performed.
“There was a long period of recuperation and preparation. The voice was all but gone, but a new one took its place. A quiet, persuasive, mellow voice, an acquired voice, an appealing voice, a voice that is loved by the Latter-day Saints.
“In the intervening time he could work. During interviews he tapped out on the typewriter answers to questions and spent his time at the office.
“Then came the test. Could he speak? Could he preach?
“He went back home for his maiden speech. He went back to the valley. Anyone close to him knows it is not a valley, it is the valley. There, in a conference of the St. Joseph Stake, accompanied by his beloved associate from Arizona, Elder Delbert L. Stapley, he stood at the pulpit.
“‘I have come back here,’ he said, ‘to be among my own people. In this valley I presided as stake president.’ Perhaps he thought that should he fail, here he would be among those who loved him most and would understand.
“There was a great outpouring of love. The tension of this dramatic moment was broken when he continued, ‘I must tell you what has happened to me. I went away to the East, and while there I fell among cutthroats. …’ After that it didn’t matter what he said. Elder Kimball was back!” (Ensign, Mar. 1974, 4).
Among his friends, he said good-bye to the past and a new voice began to be heard—no singing, but a beloved, familiar voice with a gravity of sound to match the gravity of his message.
The frailties of the flesh threatened again to stop Elder Kimball short of the calling for which he was being prepared. His heart condition resurfaced and required open-heart surgery to save him. Again President Lee pronounced blessings: life for the patient and divine guidance for the surgeon. Both blessings were fulfilled. A speedy recovery occurred; a prophet was saved. Two years later he became President of the Lord’s church, demonstrating remarkably vigorous health.
Elder Spencer W. Kimball taught the following perspective on wealth and ownership:
“One day, a friend took me to his ranch. He unlocked the door of a large new automobile, slid under the wheel, and said proudly, ‘How do you like my new car?’ We rode in luxurious comfort into the rural areas to a beautiful new landscaped home, and he said with no little pride, ‘This is my home.’
“He drove to a grassy knoll. The sun was retiring behind the distant hills. He surveyed his vast domain. …
“… We turned about to scan the distance. He identified barns, silos, the ranch house to the west. With a wide sweeping gesture, he boasted, ‘From the clump of trees, to the lake, to the bluff, and to the ranch buildings and all between—all this is mine. And the dark specks in the meadow—those cattle also are mine.’
“And then I asked from whom he obtained it. The chain of title of his abstract went back to land grants from governments. His attorney had assured him he had an unencumbered title.
“‘From whom did the government get it?’ I asked. ‘What was paid for it?’
“There came into my mind the bold statement of Paul: ‘For the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof.’ (1 Cor. 10:26.) …
“And then I asked, ‘Did title come from God, Creator of the earth and the owner thereof? Did he get paid? Was it sold or leased or given to you? If gift, from whom? If sale, with what exchange or currency? If lease, do you make proper accounting?’
“And then I asked, ‘What was the price? With what treasures did you buy this farm?’
“‘Where did you get the money?’
“‘My toil, my sweat, my labor, and my strength.’
“And then I asked, ‘Where did you get your strength to toil, your power to labor, your glands to sweat?’
“He spoke of food.
“‘Where did the food originate?’
“‘From sun and atmosphere and soil and water.’
“‘And who brought those elements here?’ …
“But my friend continued to mumble, ‘Mine—mine,’ as if to convince himself against the surer knowledge that he was at best a recreant renter.
“That was long years ago. I saw him lying in his death among luxurious furnishings in a palatial home. His had been a vast estate. And I folded his arms upon his breast, and drew down the little curtains over his eyes. I spoke at his funeral, and I followed the cortege from the good piece of earth he had claimed to his grave, a tiny, oblong area the length of a tall man, the width of a heavy one.
“Yesterday I saw that same estate, yellow in grain, green in lucerne, white in cotton, seemingly unmindful of him who had claimed it. Oh, puny man, see the busy ant moving the sands of the sea” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1968, 73–74).
In 1971, President Spencer W. Kimball, then Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, taught that “on this earth the Lord provided everything that man might need to make him happy. …
“How disturbed He must be as He looks down from His heavens, having given to man his free agency, notes how unwisely he has used it; when He sees the hundreds of millions in want, the hundreds of millions barely provided for; then the numerous who roll in wealth they cannot use.
“Certainly it is not the intent of the Lord to reverse the process and make the rich poor and the poor rich. He would like to have a nice balance, where all will work, where all will enjoy the fruits of all the earth. …
“Man would limit the poor by birth control and abortion. The Gospel would limit the poor by better distribution of the wealth of the world which the Lord says is plenty, and that there is ‘enough and to spare.’ ‘Man’s ways are not always God’s ways.’ …
“The Lord Jesus Christ came not with a sword, or jail keys, or legal powers. He came not with power of arms or ammunition, but with the law of persuasion. While he preached righteousness the world fought and sinned and died in their stench. The Gospel is to all but it is also to each. The big frustrated, corrupt and dying world can be cured but the only cure for it is applying the Gospel in our lives. Human nature must be changed and controlled. …
“I was in Lima. A number of men of the press from the big newspapers circled me in the mission home. … And when most of them had made their notes and departed seemingly satisfied, one young upstart remained to question me. His questions now centered around polygamy, racism, poverty, and war. I tried to answer meaningfully and respectfully his insinuating questions. … He disdainfully asked why the ‘Mormon’ Church had not cured this world of poverty. Then I turned on him and said something like this:
“Sir! What is this you ask? Do you know where poverty is born, where it resides, where it is nourished? I have traveled over your country considerably from coastline to highest mountain tops. … I have seen your mountain folk barely existing on primitive fare in squalid shacks, with limited food, with an absence from luxury. In your big city I see your mansions and palaces, but I also see your numerous homes of pasteboard, and tin cans, and store cartons and the emaciated bodies of your Indians from inland and upland. I have seen your cathedrals with altars of gold and silver and your beggars on the cold floors of such edifices, with their skinny arms extended and their bony hands cupped and raised to those who come to see or to worship. And you ask me about poverty. I have been through the Andes Mountains and wept for the Indians who are still persecuted and deprived and burdened and ignored. They are carrying their burdens on their backs, their commodities to market on their backs, their purchases on their backs. And when they come to your cities, I see them snubbed and ignored and unaccepted. Four hundred years you have had them. Four centuries they have been just poor deprived Indians. For many generations they have been humans merely subsisting. For four hundred years, as the Children of Israel were, they have been in veritable slavery. With their unrelenting poverty are many generations of ignorance and superstition, hunger and pestilence and convulsions of nature. And you talk to me of poverty and deprivation and suffering and want.
“Four hundred years you have had them. Have their morals improved, their superstitions decreased, their culture richened? Have their ideals heightened? Their ambitions stirred? Their production increased? Their faith enlarged? What have you done for them? How much better off are they today, in the Andes, than when you came four centuries ago?’ …
“He gathered up his papers and pencils.
“We have Indians, too—Indians who came from a desert hogan from near-starving conditions—and they are now, in one single generation, well-dressed, well-educated, filling missions, getting degrees and drawing coveted salaries, filling important responsibilities in community and nation” (The Gospel Solves Problems of the World [fireside address at Brigham Young University, 26 Sept. 1971], 2–3, 7–8).
Spencer W. Kimball was set apart as President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles on 7 July 1972. On 30 December 1973, after the death of President Harold B. Lee, he became President of the Church, giving him the right to exercise all of the keys of Christ’s earthly kingdom.
In April 1974, in an address to regional representatives of the Church, President Kimball powerfully expressed his convictions about our missionary responsibilities to move forward with the Lord’s charge to “go ye therefore, and teach all nations” (Matthew 28:19):
“Did he mean all the nations then extant? …
“Do you think he included all the nations that would be organized up until that time? And as he commanded them to go forth, do you think he wondered if it could be done? He reassured us. He had the power. He said, ‘All power is given me in heaven and in earth … and I am with you alway.’ …
“… [The] prophets visualized the numerous spirits and all the creations. It seems to me that the Lord chose his words when he said ‘every nation,’ ‘every land,’ ‘uttermost bounds of the earth,’ ‘every tongue,’ ‘every people,’ ‘every soul,’ ‘all the world,’ ‘many lands.’
“Surely there is significance in these words!
“Certainly his sheep were not limited to the thousands about him and with whom he rubbed shoulders each day. A universal family! A universal command!
“My brethren, I wonder if we are doing all we can. Are we complacent in our approach to teaching all the world? We have been proselyting now 144 years. Are we prepared to lengthen our stride? To enlarge our vision?
“Remember, our ally is our God. He is our commander. He made the plans. He gave the commandment” (“‘When the World Will Be Converted,’” Ensign, Oct. 1974, 4–5).
Israel must be gathered, the children of Lehi raised up, the kingdom of God expanded, the world warned. Little wonder that the prophet called on us to lengthen our stride, to lift our vision. President Kimball saw the outcome through the eyes of faith.
President Spencer W. Kimball declared that every worthy and able young man should prepare to serve a mission:
“When I ask for more missionaries, I am not asking for more testimony-barren or unworthy missionaries. I am asking that we start earlier and train our missionaries better in every branch and every ward in the world. That is another challenge—that the young people will understand that it is a great privilege to go on a mission and that they must be physically well, mentally well, spiritually well, and that ‘the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance.’
“I am asking for missionaries who have been carefully indoctrinated [taught] and trained through the family and the organizations of the Church, and who come to the mission with a great desire. I am asking … that we train prospective missionaries much better, much earlier, much longer, so that each anticipates his mission with great joy. …
“The question is frequently asked: Should every young man fill a mission? And the answer has been given by the Lord. It is ‘Yes.’ Every young man should fill a mission. [See D&C 133:8; see also D&C 63:37.] …
“He did not limit it.
“The answer is ‘yes.’ Every man should also pay his tithing. Every man should observe the Sabbath. Every man should attend his meetings. Every man should marry in the temple and properly train his children, and do many other mighty works. Of course he should. He does not always do it.
“We realize that while all men definitely should, all men are not prepared to teach the gospel abroad. Far too many young men arrive at the missionary age quite unprepared to go on a mission, and of course they should not be sent. But they should all be prepared. There are a few physically unfit to do missionary service, but Paul also had a thorn in his side. There are far too many unfit emotionally and mentally and morally, because they have not kept their lives clean and in harmony with the spirit of missionary work. They should have been prepared. Should! But since they have broken the laws, they may have to be deprived, and thereon hangs one of our greatest challenges: to keep these young boys worthy. Yes, we would say, every able worthy man should shoulder the cross. What an army we should have teaching Christ and him crucified! Yes, they should be prepared, usually with saved funds for their missions, and always with a happy heart to serve” (Ensign, Oct. 1974, 7–8).
Elder Rex D. Pinegar, who was a member of the Seventy, shared the following teaching of President Spencer W. Kimball:
“While in Argentina in 1975 at the area conference, President Kimball spoke to a large gathering of youth. Shortly after he began, he set aside his prepared text and shared a personal experience with them. He asked them, ‘Who gave you your voice?’ He then told them about his experience with surgery to save his voice. He explained that the Lord had spared his voice. He said it wasn’t the same voice he had once had. He couldn’t sing as he had previously enjoyed doing, but he did have a voice. He said his voice wasn’t a pretty one, but I tell you it was beautiful in what it taught that night. As he spoke the youth responded even before the translator could interpret his words. He told those present, ‘Serving a mission is like paying tithing; you’re not compelled—you do it because it’s right. We want to go on missions because it’s the Lord’s way. The Savior didn’t say, “If it’s convenient, go,” he said, “Go ye into all the world.”’ (Mark 16:15.) President Kimball explained that it was a responsibility of young women to help young men remain worthy and to encourage them to go on missions.
“As the President concluded his remarks he asked, ‘Didn’t the Lord give you your voice so you could teach the gospel?’ He then testified that he had come to know that his voice and our voices are for the declaring of the gospel of Jesus Christ and for testifying of the truths revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith. President Kimball teaches us the correct perspective of life” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1976, 103; or Ensign, Nov. 1976, 67).
President Spencer W. Kimball’s love of missionary work was readily apparent. He spoke of the work often: “If there were no converts, the Church would shrivel and die on the vine. But perhaps the greatest reason for missionary work is to give the world its chance to hear and accept the gospel. The scriptures are replete with commands and promises and calls and rewards for teaching the gospel. I use the word command deliberately for it seems to be an insistent directive from which we, singly and collectively, cannot escape” (Ensign, Oct. 1974, 4).
President Spencer W. Kimball said:
“The immensity of the work before us is emphasized as we consider the population of the world as it approaches the four billion mark.
“I am under no delusion, brethren, to think that this will be an easy matter without strain or that it can be done overnight, but I do have this faith that we can move forward and expand much faster than we now are. …
“When we have increased the missionaries from the organized areas of the Church to a number close to their potential, that is, every able and worthy boy in the Church on a mission; when every stake and mission abroad is furnishing enough missionaries for that country; when we have used our qualified men to help the apostles to open these new fields of labor; when we have used the satellite and related discoveries to their greatest potential and all of the media—the papers, magazines, television, radio—all in their greatest power; when we have organized numerous other stakes which will be springboards; when we have recovered from inactivity the numerous young men who are now unordained and unmissioned and unmarried; then, and not until then, shall we approach the insistence of our Lord and Master to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Ensign, Oct. 1974, 13–14).
President Spencer W. Kimball said:
“If we do all we can, and I accept my own part of that responsibility, I am sure the Lord will bring more discoveries to our use. He will bring a change of heart into kings and magistrates and emperors, or he will divert rivers or open seas or find ways to touch hearts. He will open the gates and make possible the proselyting. Of that, I have great faith.
“Now, we have the promise from the Lord that the evil one will never be able to frustrate totally the work that He has commanded us to do.
“‘This kingdom will continue to increase and to grow, to spread and to prosper more and more. Every time its enemies undertake to overthrow it, it will become more extensive and powerful; instead of decreasing it will continue to increase; it will spread the more, become more wonderful and conspicuous to the nations, until it fills the whole earth.’ (President Brigham Young, April conference, 1852.)” (Ensign, Oct. 1974, 13).
President Kimball taught extensively the principle of repentance. His teachings have positively influenced many. Elder Boyd K. Packer recognized this great influence and wrote the following: “President Kimball himself is an experienced surgeon of sorts. Not a doctor of medicine, but a doctor of spiritual well-being. Many a moral cancer has been excised, many a blemish of character has been removed, many a spiritual illness of one kind or another has been cured through his efforts. Some on the verge of spiritual oblivion have been rescued by him. He has written a book—literally years in preparation—The Miracle of Forgiveness. Many have been protected by the counsel he has written. Countless others have been inspired to set their lives in order and have experienced that miracle” (Ensign, Mar. 1974, 5).
President Kimball explained:
“Sometimes it is easier to define what something is by telling what it is not.
“Repentance is not repetition of sin. It is not laughing at sin. It is not justification for sin. Repentance is not the hardening of the spiritual arteries. It is not the minimizing of the seriousness of the error. Repentance is not retirement from activity. It is not the closeting of sin to corrode and overburden the sinner. …
“True repentance is composed of many elements, each one related to the others.
“President Joseph F. Smith covered the matter well:
“‘True repentance is not only sorrow for sins and humble penitence and contrition before God, but it involves the necessity of turning away from them, a discontinuance of all evil practices and deeds, a thorough reformation of life, a vital change from evil to good, from vice to virtue, from darkness to light. Not only so, but to make restitution so far as is possible for all the wrongs that we have done, to pay our debts and restore to God and man their rights, that which is due them from us. This is true repentance and the exercise of the will and all the powers of body and mind is demanded to complete this glorious work of repentance.’
“True repentance must come to each individual. It cannot be accomplished by proxy. One can neither buy nor borrow nor traffic in it. There is no royal road to repentance: whether he be a president’s son or a king’s daughter, an emperor’s prince or a lowly peasant, he must himself repent and his repentance must be personal and individual and humble.
“Whether he be lean or fat, handsome or ugly, tall or short, intellectual or less trained, he must change his own life in a real and humble repentance.
“There must be a consciousness of guilt. It cannot be brushed aside. It must be acknowledged and not rationalized away. It must be given its full importance. If it is 10,000 talents, it must not be rated at 100 pence; if it is a mile long, it must not be rated a rod or a yard; if it is a ton transgression, it must not be rated a pound. …
“True repentance is to forgive all others. One cannot be forgiven so long as he holds grudges against others. He must be ‘merciful unto [his] brethren; deal justly, judge righteously, and do good continually. …’ (Al. 41:14.)
“There must be an abandonment of the transgression. It must be genuine and consistent and continuing. The Lord said in 1832: ‘… go your ways and sin no more; but unto that soul who sinneth shall the former sins return, saith the Lord your God.’ (D&C 82:7.)
“And a temporary, momentary change of life is not sufficient. …
“The true confession is not only a matter of making known certain developments but it is a matter of getting peace, which seemingly can come in no other way.
“Frequently people talk about time: How long before they can be forgiven? How soon may they go to the temple?
“Repentance is timeless. The evidence of repentance is transformation. We certainly must keep our values straight and our evaluations intact.
“Certainly we must realize that penalties for sin are not a sadistic desire on the part of the Lord, and that is why when people get deep in immorality or other comparable sins, there must be action by courts with proper jurisdiction. Many people cannot repent until they have suffered much. They cannot direct their thoughts into new clean channels. They cannot control their acts. They cannot plan their future properly until they have lost values that they did not seem to fully appreciate. Therefore, the Lord has prescribed excommunication, disfellowshipment, or probation, and this is in line with Alma’s statement that there could be no repentance without suffering, and many people cannot suffer, having not come to a realization of their sin and a consciousness of their guilt.
“One form of punishment is deprivation, and so if one is not permitted to partake of the sacrament or to use his priesthood or to go to the temple or to preach or pray in any of the meetings, it constitutes a degree of embarrassment and deprivation and punishment. In fact, the principal punishment that the Church can deal is deprivation from privileges. …
“True repentance must include restitution. There are sins for which restitution can be made, such as a theft, but then there are other sins that cannot yield to restitution, such as murder or adultery or incest. One of the requisites for repentance is the living of the commandments of the Lord. Perhaps few people realize that as an important element; though one may have abandoned a particular sin and even confessed it to his bishop, yet he is not repentant if he has not developed a life of action and service and righteousness, which the Lord has indicated to be very necessary: ‘… He that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven’” (“What Is True Repentance,” New Era, May 1974, 4–5, 7).
“Perhaps few events have had a greater impact on the worldwide spread of the gospel than did the 1978 revelation received through President Spencer W. Kimball extending the priesthood to worthy males of all races. For some time, the General Authorities had discussed this topic at length in their regular temple meetings. In addition, President Kimball went frequently to the temple, especially on Saturdays and Sundays when he could be there alone, to plead for guidance. ‘I wanted to be sure,’ he explained [see “‘News’ Interviews Prophet,” Church News, 6 Jan. 1979, 4].
“On 1 June 1978 President Kimball met with his counselors and the Twelve and again brought up the possibility of conferring the priesthood upon worthy brethren of all races. He expressed the hope that there might be a clear answer received one way or the other. Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve recalled, ‘At this point President Kimball asked the brethren if any of them desired to express their feelings and views as to the matter in hand. We all did so, freely and fluently and at considerable length, each person stating his views and manifesting the feelings of his heart. There was a marvelous outpouring of unity, oneness, and agreement in the council’ [Bruce R. McConkie, “The New Revelation on Priesthood,” Priesthood (1981), 27].
“After a two-hour discussion, President Kimball asked the group to unite in formal prayer and modestly suggested that he act as voice. He recalled:
“‘I told the Lord if it wasn’t right, if He didn’t want this change to come in the Church that I would be true to it all the rest of my life, and I’d fight the world against it if that’s what He wanted.
“‘… But this revelation and assurance came to me so clearly that there was no question about it’ [“‘News’ Interviews Prophet,” 4].
“President Gordon B. Hinckley was at the historic meeting. He remembered: ‘There was a hallowed and sanctified atmosphere in the room. For me, it felt as if a conduit opened between the heavenly throne and the kneeling, pleading prophet of God who was joined by his Brethren. …
“‘Every man in that circle, by the power of the Holy Ghost, knew the same thing. …
“‘… Not one of us who was present on that occasion was ever quite the same after that. Nor has the Church been quite the same. …
“‘Tremendous, eternal consequences for millions over the earth are flowing from that manifestation. …
“‘… This has opened great areas of the world to the teaching of the everlasting gospel. This has made it possible that “every man might speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world.”
“‘We have cause to rejoice and to praise the God of our salvation that we have seen this glorious day’ [“Priesthood Restoration,” Ensign, Oct. 1988, 70–71]” (Church History in the Fulness of Times, 584).
President Spencer W. Kimball died on 5 November 1985. Under his leadership the members of the Church accepted the challenge to “lengthen their stride” by increasing their efforts in missionary work, temple building, and all aspects of the gospel. He had served for thirty years as an Apostle before becoming President of the Church. Those who worked with him could barely match his pace and admired him for his many abilities. He set high standards for himself and for the Church. His declaration to “Do it” motivated everyone to do their best and not procrastinate away time that could be used to build the kingdom of the Lord.
His life was a testimony to his counsel, “Remember that those who climb to high places did not always have it easy” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1974, 113).