Looking Back: The Touch of a Prophet’s Hand
Contributed By Gerry Avant, Church News senior contributing editor
During the 45 years I worked full-time at Church News, I reported on hundreds of speeches given by prophets, apostles, and other leaders. I don’t remember the details of all their spoken words, but I have some vivid memories of the messages they taught through their actions.
I remember particularly some messages of kindness and compassion taught by President Spencer W. Kimball when he went to Jackson, Mississippi, May 3–4, 1980, to preside over an area conference there.
President Kimball constantly reached out to members, especially to those who might get overlooked in the crowd. One of the most beautiful and moving moments I saw that weekend occurred on Saturday morning, when President Kimball and other leaders went to the Jackson Mississippi Stake Center to meet with missionaries serving in the area.
Several children peeked out of the doorway of a classroom, hoping to see President Kimball as he walked down the hallway toward the chapel. Jason Jordan, a 5-year-old boy from Biloxi, Mississippi, was among them, sitting in a tiny wheelchair. He had cerebral palsy.
As soon as President Kimball saw the children, he stopped and shook hands with each one of them. Then it was Jason’s turn to meet the prophet. President Kimball’s hands caressed the little boy’s face. The prophet touched him gently on the head and took the child’s hands in his and tenderly held them for a few moments. He spoke something to the small, red-headed youngster.
If faces had seams, Jason’s would have split right down the middle. His tiny face came as close to beaming as is humanly possible as his eyes sparkled and his mouth stretched into its biggest smile. Before moving on, President Kimball bent over and kissed the little boy several times.
The encounter was brief but undoubtedly never would be forgotten.
Children seem to have been a focal point throughout the prophet’s weekend in Mississippi. As soon as he and his wife, Sister Camilla Kimball, entered their hotel’s lobby, they were greeted by several youngsters. President and Sister Kimball shook hands with each. About 10 minutes after the Church leader had gone up to his room, one of the boys sat on a sofa, cradling his right hand with his left. Asked if he had hurt his wrist, he replied, “No. I shook hands with President Kimball. I don’t want anything to touch my hand!”
Another child was concerned about the hand that shook the prophet’s hand. “But I shook with my left hand,” said the young daughter of Brother and Sister Burl Wolfe. “I used the wrong hand,” she said as she fretted over whether the handshake still counted.
Others not close enough to reach out and shake hands still managed to get their messages of love conveyed to President Kimball.
Jeannine Lindsay of the Mobile First Ward, Mobile Alabama Stake, sent a note to President Kimball in which she related what her four-year-old daughter, Lucy, said during a prayer. The child had gone through her list of “thank yous” and then added, “And also, Heavenly Father, we thank Thee for our prophet of the Lord, Spencer Double Dependable.”
Sister Lindsay said Lucy’s mispronunciation of his name expressed well how the members felt about him.