President Spencer W. Kimball: "Lengthen Your Stride"

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Student Study Guide, (2005), 207

Speaking of President Spencer W. Kimball, President Gordon B. Hinckley, then a counselor in the First Presidency, said: “What a magnificent example he has been for all of us. He has given impetus [encouragement to progress] to this work in a remarkable way. The whole Church has quickenedits pace and lengthened its stride in response to his clarion [clear] call. He has been a prophet to us, a prophet whose vision and revelation have reached out to the people of the entire earth, regardless of nation, or color, or station in life, freely offering the matchless blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ to all who will accept” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1983, 3–4; orEnsign,May 1983, 5). As you consider President Kimball’s life, look for evidence of his “vision and revelation” that still influence the Church today.

His Life (1895–1985)


Born March 28 in Salt Lake City to Andrew and Olive Woolley Kimball


Age 8, baptized on his birthday by his father


Age 11, his mother died


Age 19–21, served a mission in the central United States


Age 22, married Camilla Eyring on November 16


Age 48, ordained an Apostle by President Heber J. Grant


Age 51, assigned to work with the American Indians


Age 69–72, supervised missionary work in South America


Age 77, sustained as President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles


Age 78, sustained as President of the Church after the death of President Harold B. Lee


Age 90, died November 5 in Salt Lake City

His Presidency (1973–85)



Twenty-one temples were dedicated throughout the world


Revelations given to the Prophet Joseph Smith and President Joseph F. Smith were added to the scriptures (D&C 137–38); the First Quorum of the Seventy was reorganized


Received revelation on the priesthood (Official Declaration 2)


Dedicated the Orson Hyde Memorial Gardens, built in Jerusalem, Israel; the 1,000th stake of the Church was organized; publication of the King James Version of the Bible with additional scripture helps


Publication of the new edition of the triple combination with additional study helps


“Another Testament of Jesus Christ” was added as a subtitle to the Book of Mormon


Area Presidencies were first called; 5,641,054 members of the Church

The Life of President Spencer W. Kimball

1. “A man who knew much about pain and suffering, Spencer W. Kimball, the senior member of the Twelve, was sustained as President of the Church after President Lee died. Most of his vocal cords had been removed because of cancer, and he spoke in a quiet, husky voice that Latter-day Saints came to love. Known for his humility, his commitment, his ability to work, and his personal slogan, ‘Do It,’ President Kimball thrust in his sickle with all his might. …

President and sister Kimball walking

2. “President Kimball showed the leaders ‘how the Church was not fully living in the faithfulness that the Lord expects of His people, and that, to a certain degree, we had settled into a spirit of complacency and satisfaction with things as they were. It was at that moment that he sounded the now famous slogan, “We must lengthen our stride.”’ He admonished his audience to increase their commitment to proclaiming the gospel to the nations of the earth. He also called for a large increase in the number of missionaries who could serve in their own countries. At the conclusion of the sermon, President Ezra Taft Benson declared, ‘Truly, there is a prophet in Israel.’ [ W. Grant Bangerter, in Conference Report, Oct. 1977, 38–39; orEnsign,Nov. 1977, 26–27.]

3. “Under President Kimball’s dynamic leadership, many more members served full-time missions, and the Church moved forward throughout the world. In August 1977, President Kimball traveled to Warsaw, where he dedicated the land of Poland and blessed its people that the work of the Lord might go forward. Missionary training centers were established in Brazil, Chile, Mexico, New Zealand, and Japan. In June 1978 he announced a revelation from God that was to have a tremendous effect on missionary work worldwide. For many years the priesthood had been denied to persons of African descent, but now priesthood and temple blessings would be granted to all worthy male members. …

4. “For many months before the June 1978 revelation, President Kimball discussed with his Counselors and the Twelve Apostles the denial of priesthood authority to persons of African descent. Church leaders were reluctant to open missions in areas of the world where the full blessings of the gospel could not be conferred upon worthy Church members. In an area conference in South Africa, President Kimball declared: ‘I prayed with much fervency. I knew that something was before us that was extremely important to many of the children of God. I knew that we could receive the revelations of the Lord only by being worthy and ready for them and ready to accept them and put them into place. Day after day I went alone and with great solemnity and seriousness in the upper rooms of the temple, and there I offered my soul and offered my efforts to go forward with the program. I wanted to do what he wanted. I talked about it to him and said, “Lord, I want only what is right”’ [Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball,451].

5. “In a special meeting in the temple with his Counselors and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, President Kimball asked that they all freely express their views about giving the priesthood to black males. Then they prayed around the altar with President Kimball as voice. Elder Bruce R. McConkie, who was there, later said, ‘On this occasion, because of the importuning and the faith, and because the hour and the time had arrived, the Lord in his providences poured out the Holy Ghost upon the First Presidency and the Twelve in a miraculous and marvelous manner, beyond anything that any then present had ever experienced’ [“All Are Alike unto God,”Charge to Religious Educators,2nd ed. (1981), 153]. It was made clear to theleaders of the Church that the time had come for all worthy men to receive the full blessings of the priesthood.

6. “The First Presidency sent a letter dated 8 June 1978 to priesthood leaders, explaining that the Lord had revealed that ‘all worthy male members of the Church may be ordained to the priesthood without regard for race or color.’ On 30 September 1978, the Saints in general conference voted unanimously to support the action of their leaders. This letter is now found in the Doctrine and Covenants asOfficial Declaration 2. …

7. “During President Kimball’s administration, the First Quorum of the Seventy was reorganized, the three-hour consolidated Sunday meeting schedule was put into place, and temples were built at a rapid pace. In 1982, 22 temples throughout the world were either in the planning stages or under construction, by far the most in the Church’s history to that time. Also, President Kimball established a demanding travel schedule that took him to many countries to hold area conferences. At these meetings, he ignored his own needs and scheduled every possible opportunity to meet with and strengthen and bless the local Saints.

8. “In many countries, Church members yearned to receive the sacred ordinances of salvation offered in temples. Among these was a Latter-day Saint from Sweden who served many missions and labored in the mission presidency. When he died, he left a substantial part of his property to the Swedish temple fund, long before the Church announced that a temple would be constructed in that country. When President Kimball announced the temple, this man’s contribution had accrued interest and become a large sum. Soon after the temple’s dedication, this faithful brother, who was endowed while he lived, was sealed to his parents in the very temple his money had helped to build.

9. “A father and mother in Singapore determined to take their family to the temple to be sealed and receive their temple blessings. They sacrificed many things to raise the necessary funds and were finally able to make the trip and attend the temple. They stayed in the home of the missionary who had taught them years earlier. While visiting a grocery store, this sister became separated from her husband and the missionary. When they found her, she was holding a bottle of shampoo and weeping. She explained that one of the sacrifices she had made in order to attend the temple was to go without shampoo, which she had not used for seven years. Her sacrifices, while difficult to make, now med small, for she knew that her family was eternally bound together by the ordinances of the house of the Lord.

10. “Another major development during President Kimball’s administration occurred in 1979 when the Church published a new English-language edition of the King James Bible. The text was unchanged, but footnotes were added that cross-referenced the Bible with the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price. A large Topical Guide and Bible Dictionary provided insights unique to modern-day scriptures. This edition had new headings for all chapters and also included excerpts from Joseph Smith’s inspired revisions of the King James Bible.

11. “In 1981 new editions of the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price were also published. These included the new system of footnotes, new chapter and section headings, maps, and an index. At about this time, the Church also began to place increased emphasis on translating the latter-day scriptures into many other languages. …

Service in airport

12. “An incident that was typical of his concern for all people occurred in a crowded airport where a young mother, stranded by bad weather, stood in line after line with her two-year-old daughter, trying to get a flight to her destination. She was two months pregnant and under doctor’s orders not to carry her young child, who was exhausted and hungry. No one offered to help, although several people made critical comments about her crying child. Then, the woman later reported:

13. “‘Someone came towards us and with a kindly smile said, “Is there something I could do to help you?” With a grateful sigh I accepted his offer. He lifted my sobbing little daughter from the cold floor and lovingly held her to him while he patted her gently on the back. He asked if she could chew a piece of gum. When she was settled down, he carried her with him and said something kindly to the others in the line ahead of me, about how I needed their help. They med to agree and then he went up to the ticket counter [at the front of the line] and made arrangements with the clerk for me to be put on a flight leaving shortly. He walked with us to a bench, where we chatted a moment, until he was assured that I would be fine. He went on his way. About a week later I saw a picture of Apostle Spencer W. Kimball and recognized him as the stranger in the airport’ [inSpencer W. Kimball,ed. Edward L. Kimball and Andrew Kimball Jr. (1977), 334].

14. “For some months before his death, President Kimball suffered with severe health problems, but he was always an example of patience, long-suffering, and diligence in the face of trial. He diedon 5 November 1985, after serving as President of the Church for 12 years” (Our Heritage,124–29, 131).

Understanding the Reading

The Life of President Spencer W. Kimball

Thrust in his sickle(par. 1)Did the Lord’s work, worked hard 
Complacency(par. 2)Contentment, feeling secure 
Dynamic(par. 3)Energetic 
Conferred upon(par. 4)Given to 
Fervency(par. 4)Energy and desire 
Solemnity(par. 4)Soberness 
Importuning(par. 5)Pleading 
Providences(par. 5)Great goodness 
Administration(par. 7)Presidency 
Consolidated(par. 7)Unified 
Yearned(par. 8)Longed, greatly desired 
Accrued(par. 8)Increased because of 

The Teachings and Testimony of Spencer W. Kimball

15. “The question is asked: Should every young man fill a mission? And the answer of the Church is yes, and the answer of the Lord is yes. Enlarging this answer we say: Certainly every male member of the Churchshouldfill a mission, like heshouldpay his tithing, like heshouldattend his meetings, like heshouldkeep his life clean and free from the ugliness of the world and plan a celestial marriage in the temple of the Lord” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1974, 125; orEnsign,May 1974, 87).

Spencer Kimball reading scriptures

16. “I am convinced that each of us, at some time in our lives, must discover the scriptures for ourselves—and not just discover them once, but rediscover them again and again” (“How Rare a Possession—the Scriptures!”Ensign,Sept. 1976, 4).

17. “I find that when I get casual in my relationships with divinity and when it ms that no divine ear is listening and no divine voice is speaking, that I am far, far away. If I immerse myself in the scriptures the distance narrows and the spirituality returns” (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball,135).

18. “Being human, we would expel from our lives physical pain and mental anguish and assure ourselves of continual ease and comfort, but if we were to close the doors upon sorrow and distress, we might be excluding our greatest friends and benefactors. Suffering can make saints of people as they learn patience, long-suffering, and self-mastery” (Faith Precedes the Miracle,98).

19. “God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs. Therefore, it is vital that we serve each other in the kingdom” (“Small Acts of Service,”Ensign,Dec. 1974, 5).

20. Elder Gordon B. Hinckley, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, spoke of an occasion when he tried to slow down President Kimball. President Kimball told him: “My life is like my shoes—to be worn out in service” (“He Is at Peace,”Ensign,Dec. 1985, 41).

21. “The Sabbath is a holy day in which to do worthy and holy things. Abstinence from work and recreation is important but insufficient. The Sabbath calls for constructive thoughts and acts, and if one merely lounges about doing nothing on the Sabbath, he is breaking it. To observe it, one will be on his knees in prayer, preparing lessons, studying the gospel, meditating, visiting the ill and distressed, sleeping, reading wholesome material, and attending all the meetings of that day to which he is expected. To fail to do these proper things is a transgression” (Miracle of Forgiveness,96–97).

22. “To the testimonies of these mighty men and apostles of old—our brethren in the ministry of the same Master—I add my own testimony. I know that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God and that he was crucified for the sins of the world.

23. “He is my friend, my Savior, my Lord, my God.

Spencer W. Kimball

24. “With all my heart I pray that the Saints may keep his commandments, have his Spirit, and gain an eternal inheritance with him in celestial glory” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1978, 110; orEnsign,Nov. 1978, 73).

25. “‘I know that God lives. I know that Jesus Christ lives,’ said John Taylor, my predecessor, ‘for I have n him.’ I bear this testimony to you brethren in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1978, 72; orEnsign,May 1978, 48).

Understanding the Reading

The Teachings and Testimony of Spencer W. Kimball

Divinity(par. 17)God 
Expel(par. 18)Throw out 
Anguish(par. 18)Torment, suffering 
Benefactors(par. 18)Those who help us 
Abstinence from(par. 21)Not doing, avoiding 
Insufficient(par. 21)Not enough 
Inheritance(par. 24)Dwelling place, reward 

Studying the Reading

Do activity A and two of the other activities (B–D) as you study “President Spencer W. Kimball.”

Activity A iconMake a List

  1. 1.

    Read paragraphs 1–2 and identify two slogans that President Kimball used.

  2. 2.

    Review paragraphs 7–9 and list examples of how President Kimball and other Saints fulfilled these slogans.

  3. 3.

    Read paragraphs 15 and 21 and list ways President Kimball taught the Saints to fulfill these slogans.

  4. 4.

    List what you can do to make these slogans part of your life.

Activity B iconWrite a Newspaper Article

Imagine you are a reporter for your local newspaper. Review paragraphs 10–11, 16–17 as if you were interviewing President Kimball and write an article about the new LDS edition of the scriptures. Answer the following questions as part of the interview:

  1. 1.

    “Why are the scriptures so important to you?”

  2. 2.

    “What unique features will the LDS edition of the scriptures provide for your members?”

  3. 3.

    “In what ways might the LDS scriptures help and bless Latter-day Saints?”

Activity C iconDraw a Picture

  1. 1.

    Read paragraph 20. What did President Kimball compare his life to?

  2. 2.

    Draw a picture that represents President Kimball’s statement about his life of service.

  3. 3.

    Review paragraphs 12–14 and write a brief paragraph that describes President Kimball’s teachings on service.

Activity D iconGive an Explanation

  1. 1.

    Review paragraphs 22–24 and write in your notebook the sentence that describes what Jesus Christ meant to President Kimball.

  2. 2.

    Give an example from your life and list a scripture reference that explains how Jesus Christ is each of the following to you:

    1. a.


    2. b.


    3. c.


    4. d.