Looking Back: A Prophet’s Wife, Camilla Eyring Kimball

Contributed By Gerry Avant, senior contributing editor

  • 17 November 2017

Sister Camila Eyring Kimball gives one of four addresses she delivered during a three-day visit in Tennessee July 25–27, 1975.  Photo by Gerry Avant.

“You know, I didn’t marry a prophet. I married a man who was an honorable bearer of the priesthood. It was many years before he became a prophet.” —Camilla Eyring Kimball, wife of President Spencer W. Kimball

President Spencer W. Kimball seldom traveled without his wife, Sister Camilla Eyring Kimball. Members enjoyed being in her presence. She was warm, personable, and a bit shy. She seemed like any child’s grandmother or great-grandmother who was always willing to listen and, if asked, give some counsel. She had a delightful sense of humor.

Sister Camila Eyring Kimball gives one of four addresses she delivered during a three-day visit in Tennessee July 25–27, 1975. Photo by Gerry Avant.

As she had done in many places, she captured hearts as she accompanied President Kimball on a whirlwind 1975 trip to Tennessee. They visited four cities—Chattanooga, Nashville, Murfreesboro, and Cookeville—in three days, July 25–27.

President Spencer W. Kimball and Sister Camilla Eyring Kimball enter Middle Tennessee State University's Fieldhouse on Saturday, July 26, 1975, where she delivered one of four addresses over a three-day period. Photo by Gerry Avant.

Southern women, proverbially known for their grace and charm, had an ideal they could look up to during Sister Kimball’s visit. The pace was quick during the trip and the temperature and humidity were in the 90s, but Sister Kimball maintained an appearance of calmness, serenity, and peace as she addressed four meetings in three days, talked privately with dozens of members, and shook hands with uncounted numbers in reception lines and hallways.

One moment during the trip stands out in my mind. We were in a backstage area of Middle Tennessee State University’s arena in Murfreesboro. Sister Kimball was sitting on a sofa, next to two teenagers. One of the young women, Carol Sirrine, said to her friend, “She must be a special person to be the prophet’s wife.”

Sister Kimball leaned forward, turned, and looked at the young women. Then she said, “You know, I didn’t marry a prophet. I married a man who was an honorable bearer of the priesthood. It was many years before he became a prophet.”

That quote, which was part of my Church News coverage of the trip, has been used either directly or paraphrased in various Church publications in the years since. I feel confident that Sister Kimball’s statement has guided many young women.

In her busy schedule while in Tennessee, Sister Kimball found time to notice the little things that added dimension to the visit. She complimented the young people on their grooming and dress standards and their manners. She thanked those who prepared and served the food at a banquet in Nashville. She had time to admire two tiny bouquets of flowers that two little girls, Beverly and Kelly Thomas, had picked for her in Chattanooga.

From the expressions I saw wherever she went, I concluded this: There was one thing better than having the prophet visit. It was having President Kimball and his wife come.

Sister Camila Eyring Kimball gives one of four addresses she delivered during a three-day visit in Tennessee July 25–27, 1975. Photo by Gerry Avant.

During a visit to Tennessee, Sister Camilla Eyring Kimball told two young women, “You know, I didn't marry a prophet. I married a man who was an honorable bearer of the priesthood.” Photo by Gerry Avant.

Sister Camilla Eyring Kimball and President Spencer W. Kimball take their places at a banquet table on Saturday evening, July 26, 1975, during their three-day visit to Tennessee. Photo by Gerry Avant.

President Spencer W. Kimball and Sister Camilla Eyring Kimball, with his back to the camera, turn in their chairs to speak with members at a banquet during their visit to Tennessee in 1975. Photo by Gerry Avant.