President Spencer W. Kimball’s life bears marvelous measure of the fruit of goodness harvested in loving service to his fellowmen. His love for others is reflected in the tributes that follow from friends and strangers who have at one time or another been touched by President Kimball’s gentle kindness and deep compassion.
The Tambuli joins with them, and with millions of others to wish President Kimball an especially happy eighty-eighth birthday.
Always Teaching …
While touring the New England Mission in May 1960 accompanied by his wife Camilla, Elder Spencer W. Kimball taught much to many. One day is particularly memorable.
Elder Kimball had requested and been permitted to take time to do some genealogical research on the actual location of the birthplace of his grandfather, Heber C. Kimball. While it had generally been concluded that Heber C. Kimball was born in Sheldon, Vermont, Elder Kimball wanted conclusive proof. He also wanted to check for other genealogical information.
Searching stores on the main street of St. Albans for helpful maps and checking records in the city halls of St. Albans and Sheldon, he received mainly general information that confirmed what he already knew. And so, early the next morning, he visited the cemetery. The dew was heavy, but presented no obstacle to his moving about among the headstones looking for Kimball names. When finding any, he would sparkle with joy and record the information in his notebook.
Imagine his influence on me as I watched him and Sister Kimball poring over record books and relating any information they found to that which they already had. I sensed a feeling of fulfillment in the Kimballs in their being able to spend this time in the area from which Elder Kimball’s illustrious grandfather had come.
In order not to lose the chance to teach and train, Elder and Sister Kimball ended this most unusual day in meeting with the Saints in Barre, not far from Sharon. Sister Kimball instructed ninety sisters and Elder Kimball provided over forty brethren with priesthood leadership training. Concluding the visit with a district meeting of the Saints from all parts of Vermont, Elder Kimball issued the Saints the challenge to double their membership by the end of the year.
Teaching. Always teaching!
Singing with Elder Kimball
It happened in the days when stake conferences consisted of two sessions during the day and a stake fireside in the evening. The visiting general authority always attended the 10 A.M. and the 2 P.M. sessions and occasionally remained as the speaker for the evening fireside. On one particular day it was our good fortune in the Wasatch Stake (Heber City, Utah) to have Elder Spencer W. Kimball as the guest for the day. Our family had been somewhat acquainted with Elder Kimball and were overjoyed when he accepted our parents’ invitation to have dinner with us and remain at our home until time for the evening meeting.
My eight sisters and I did a great deal of singing during the time we grew up and were accustomed to invitations that didn’t give us a great deal of time for preparation. However, on that conference afternoon, the telephone rang and I heard the voice of our stake president, H. Clay Cummings, on the other end. He told me that the person previously asked to sing the musical number for the evening fireside couldn’t perform and wondered if our family would provide some music. I placed my hand over the phone while I relayed the message and asked the others for their opinion. I mentioned to them that it was extremely short notice and that perhaps we should tell him no. While a short discussion ensued, our guest taught us all a great lesson: “Tell President Cummings we’d love to,” Elder Kimball remarked. “Your father and I will do the men’s parts and two of you girls can do the others, and we’ll sing them one of the beautiful hymns.”
I sheepishly gave the message to President Cummings and hung up the phone. Immediately, we gathered around the piano and prepared our presentation for that evening.
Can you imagine the thrill of singing that number with a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, the future President of the Church? It was an experience I shall never forget.
A Haircut with the President
I had seen a picture of President Kimball hanging on the wall of the barbershop, and so I said: “I assume that you cut his hair.” The barber, Ross Pyper, replied: “Yes, I do.” I said: “Does he have to make an appointment also?” He replied: “No, not any more, but he used to. Often when Brother Arthur Haycock, his personal secretary, calls, the person who had an appointment has either called and cancelled the appointment or is late. So I tell Brother Haycock to tell President Kimball to come right over and I will arrange to cut his hair immediately upon his arrival.”
In a few minutes, the telephone rang, and I heard the barber say: “Yes, Brother Haycock, I can take him right now. Send him right over.”
The barber completed my haircut and I stepped out of the barber chair and sat down. I was determined that Melissa and I would not leave until President Kimball came and we could meet him. Melissa, my little daughter, who was spending the day with me, was so excited at the thought of meeting the prophet that she could hardly contain herself.
Soon President Kimball walked in, accompanied by a security man. The president shook hands with the barber, and then walked over and shook hands with us and was very congenial. He then got in the barber chair and the barber proceeded to cut his hair. During this time he conversed very warmly with those in the room. Melissa was so excited and spiritually touched that tears came to her eyes on several occasions. As I looked into his countenance, I knew that he truly is a prophet of God.
“Daddy, do you think we could get a picture of President Kimball?” Melissa whispered to me. I said, “I think it would be all right. Why don’t you rush out to our car and get your camera before he leaves.” I could see that the president was almost ready. In what seemed like five seconds, Melissa rushed in the front door with her camera at the same time President Kimball stepped down from the barber chair.
“President Kimball, I hope you don’t mind, but would you allow me to take a picture of you and my little daughter, Melissa?” I asked. “Not at all,” he said. I then adjusted the camera as President Kimball, with his arm around Melissa, and Melissa, with her arm around President Kimball, posed for the picture. He was then very gracious in allowing her to take a picture of him and me together, with my arm around him and his arm around me.
After this President Kimball bid all of us good-bye and shook our hands again. When he shook Melissa’s hand, she reached up and kissed him on the cheek and he responded by kissing her on the cheek. He then left, and Melissa and I were left marveling at the experience we had been so fortunate to have.
Kind Words Softly Spoken
In the spring of 1955, when I was fifteen, my family moved to Anchorage, Alaska. This was an exciting adventure for a young boy who loved the outdoors, and it was made all the more so when I obtained a rifle and began to look forward to hunting large game.
One day, when visiting my father’s office, I saw a beautiful new gun case on his desk. I had previously asked him to get a new case for my rifle, and assumed that this was it. Therefore, when he stated that it was not necessarily mine, that he had many men under his supervision for whom he had to purchase rifles and gun cases, I was extremely disappointed and angry, and expressed my discontent.
Later that evening, my mother came into my bedroom where I was sulking and explained that the gun case was really mine, but that my father had not wanted to say so in the office lest those persons under his supervision get the idea that he could order such items for their own personal use. Mother suggested that I owed dad an apology. I decided that I would do so the next morning when I saw him at breakfast.
But I did not see my father at breakfast—I did not seem him ever again. He left the house early that morning to supervise an air drop. The airplane he was in crashed into a mountain and he was killed. My last hours on earth with my father had been spent in my tantrum over a simple and unimportant matter. The guilt I felt over my behavior rested heavily upon my conscience.
Three years later I joined the Church, and two years after that I went on a mission to the Central States Mission. Halfway through my mission, Elder Spencer W. Kimball came to visit and it was our privilege to hear from him at a missionary conference in St. Louis, Missouri. Toward the end of his talk he spoke to us upon the subject of love—love between parents and children—and exhorted us young missionaries to be sure to write our parents and tell them how much we loved and appreciated them.
The guilt of my last hours with my father swept over me, and as the closing song was sung and the benediction offered, I began to cry. As the people began to leave the room, my crying grew into bitter tears and uncontrollable sobbings. My hands and feet grew numb and I became oblivious to everything around me. My companion, my district leader, the mission president—each came back into the room and tried to comfort me, but to no avail.
Then I became aware of someone’s arms around me, of a gentle cheek pressed against my own, of kind words softly spoken. Elder Kimball was embracing me with the same love and affection with which I now embrace my own small children. As I began to regain control of myself, he spoke words of comfort and reassurance. Later, upon his return to Salt Lake City, he would send me a copy of a talk he had given that would give me further comfort. I do not remember what was said that afternoon as I sat alone with Elder Kimball. His words have long since escaped my memory. But I will always remember his sincere show of love and deep concern for a young missionary whom he had never before seen, his cheek against my own, and his warm, loving embrace.