My Month in England with Sister Camilla Kimball


In 1955 I was living in London, England, the nineteen-year-old daughter of Elder A. Hamer Reiser, president of the British Mission. My mother had been called home to Salt Lake City in March to help care for my sister who was ill. We decided that I should stay with my father to serve as his personal secretary.

During that summer one of my assignments was to accompany Elder Spencer W. Kimball and Sister Camilla Kimball for a month to serve as secretary as they toured the British Mission. The four of us traveled together in the mission car, my father serving as driver.

I was awed by the task ahead of me. Sister Kimball was about sixty years old, and I was to be her companion during the long hours that her husband and my father were in meetings. We spent time in missionary meetings, shopping, visiting, touring, reading, and eating together, as well as attending meetings of every description.

I learned early in the trip that Sister Kimball would be a delightful companion. She was unpretentious, made no demands, and adapted cheerfully to every situation. She had dignity, but didn’t flaunt either her position or her education.

As a daughter in the prominent Eyring family, she demonstrated that she was a woman whose mind was constantly engaged. My father, well-versed in British literature, history, and geography, found a fine colleague in Sister Kimball as they conversed for mile after mile along the winding country roads.

Sister Kimball knew that the first order of business on our tour was to meet the Saints and do what Elder Kimball was assigned. But her natural curiosity made her also want to stop at places of interest, and that was rewarding for us all. She relished the castles, cathedrals, historical sites, and scenery of the British Isles.

She spoke in every meeting held for the women, and often in the general meetings. She wasn’t flowery or showy, rather, she bore a firm testimony of the gospel. While reserved and quiet, she nevertheless was willing to step out and shake hands with all who wanted to meet her. She especially noticed little children and showed a loving interest in young mothers, teenagers, and the elderly.

Often we had the choice of going without meals or eating from a sack of groceries in the car. Some days we attended six or seven meetings, in addition to traveling from one city to another. My father asked Elder and Sister Kimball if they would mind our making lunches in the car, and they readily accepted the offer. Sister Kimball and I learned quickly how to put together a credible meal while driving through the British countryside.

During these times together, Sister Kimball and I talked of courtship and marriage. I asked her once, “How do you manage to keep up with Elder Kimball’s pace without getting worried about him?” She replied, “I long ago learned that when he is doing what makes him happiest, it is useless for me to worry. Yes, I do fear for his health; but my worrying about it will not help either of us. So I stand by him in every way, and that way we are both able to function.”

She has not let Elder Kimball do all the running, however. Fully committed to the Church, she has accepted numerous callings and served until just a few years ago as the Spiritual Living leader in her ward Relief Society. She is also one who believes in continuing her education, and took one class each quarter for many years at the University of Utah. She simply could not ignore such resources when they were so close at hand.

After she completed the British Mission assignment, Sister Kimball left for the Mediterranean where she met a Brigham Young University study tour. Her sister was also a member of the tour, and they shared a room together. Later, she rejoined her husband for the remainder of their six-months’ European assignment. She gave one hundred percent of her support to Elder Kimball; but when the circumstance arose for her to pursue a special interest, they mutually agreed that she should go. He seemed pleased that she took the opportunity, and both benefited from things learned on that tour.

Sister Camilla Kimball has taught me that I can be a good mother, a devoted wife, an educated woman, a deeply committed Latter-day Saint, a community servant, and a fine human being of value to myself and others. I am grateful for these insights into a beautiful life—insights gained nearly thirty years ago, but still of immeasurable value to me as I strive to emulate them.

Photography by Peter Van Dyck

Elaine Reiser Alder, mother of four, lives in the Logan Twenty-second Ward, Logan Utah East Stake.