Lesson 38: Spencer W. Kimball—Model of Forgiveness

, "Lesson 38: Spencer W. Kimball—Model of Forgiveness," The Presidents of the Church: Teacher’s Manual1996


Class members will see that we must each seek and be given forgiveness in order to reach the kingdom of God.


  1. 1.

    You may want to read selections from Spencer W. Kimball, Miracle of Forgiveness (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1969).

  2. 2.

    Prepare to show the picture of Spencer W. Kimball in the color section.

Suggested Lesson Development



Before Spencer W. Kimball received confirmation of his calling as an Apostle, he felt he needed to make a visit to his hometown.

“Spencer’s worst worry was how to live up to his call. What about people he had offended? Would they resent him? He started visiting every man he had done much business with, to explain his new situation: ‘I’ve been called to a high position in my Church. I cannot serve in good conscience unless I know my life has been honorable. You and I have had dealings. If there was any injustice … I’ve brought my checkbook.’ Most shook hands and refused to hear any more. A couple of men fancied that in fairness they should have got a few hundred dollars more on certain sales. Spencer wrote the checks.

“He visited a neighbor. The two men had had a difference over use of the irrigation ditch that ran past their home lots. Spencer knocked at his door and apologized. ‘I felt very definitely that he had been the offender largely and that he had hurt me terribly, but I knew that no quarrel was one-sided and therefore I was willing to forgive and forget. …’

“A clerk in the stake whom Spencer had once taken to task for carelessness in keeping some Church financial records had been cold toward him ever since. Now Spencer looked him up and said he could not begin his apostleship with bad feelings between them. They talked it out.

“There was a woman in his stake so bitter she would cross the street to avoid him. She had never told him why. Spencer’s stenographer remembered him fidgeting in the Kimball-Greenhalgh office one morning, a folder under his arm. … ‘I hate to go. I never did anything so hard.’ But he went. He asked the woman, ‘What have I done against you?’ She thought he had intervened with the governor to oppose her husband’s being named to a state office.

“‘Who told you that?’

“‘My friends.’

“‘They were mistaken. I wouldn’t do that. And I don’t have that kind of influence with the governor anyway.’

“Their talk patched things up between them” (Edward L. Kimball and Andrew E. Kimball, Jr., Spencer W. Kimball [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1977], pp. 197–98).

The Lord’s Servants Must Have Pure Thoughts and Pure Actions


  • Why did President Kimball make all these attempts at reconciliation before he undertook the job as an Apostle of the Lord? (Suggested response: he wanted to forgive and to be forgiven so that he could begin this tremendous undertaking with a spirit that would allow direct communication with the Lord.)

Read together Doctrine and Covenants 58:42–43.

If a person has sinned, full payment must be made in order for him to be pure and have a humble spirit. President Kimball had tried to make restitution in full, even if he felt the obligation might not be totally required by law.

Thought questions

  • Answer these questions to yourselves. Think of any person you feel has wronged you, caused you trouble or hurt. What kind of effort would it take for you to go to them and sincerely apologize for causing them any hurt? How would it make you and the other person feel?

Chalkboard and discussion

  • What are some things that are bad for the mind and spirit? (For instance: critical thoughts, feelings of hatred, pornographic and obscene thoughts, hypocrisy, ingratitude, selfishness, addiction to drugs of any type, etc. List these and other class responses on the chalkboard.)

  • How do these things poison our minds as well as our spirits? (They replace good and clean thoughts and can cause us to lose the influence of the Holy Ghost.)

President Kimball emphasized that servants of the Lord can only serve with:

Pure Thoughts


Pure Actions

A Man Can Only Be Free If He Repents


President Kimball told the following story:

A person “who attempts to escape from reality and to avoid the penalties, to avoid coping with the situation, is somewhat like that escapist who had committed serious crime and was incarcerated in the penitentiary with a life sentence. He felt he had been very clever in his manipulations and that only through some error or trick of fate had he been caught.

“In the long, merciless hours behind the bars, he planned his escape. With much organization and effort he created a tiny saw, and with this he worked almost ceaselessly in the dead of night until he eventually sawed a bar through. He waited until what he thought was a propitious moment in the stillness of the night to pull the bar aside and to squeeze his body out through the aperture, and as he cleared the bars the thought came into his mind, ‘Ah, at last I am free!’ And then he realized that he was only in the inner passageways, and he had not yet freed himself.

“He stealthily moved down the hallway to the door and stood in the darkness of the corner until the guard came along. He knocked the guard unconscious and took his keys and opened the door. As he got a breath of the cool outside air the thought came to him again, ‘I am free! I am clever. No one can hold me; no one can force me to pay the penalties.’ As he quietly stepped out he noted that he was still in the outer courts of the prison compound. He was still a prisoner.

“But he had planned well. He found a rope, threw it over the wall and got the end caught, and pulled himself up by the rope to the top of the wall. ‘At last I am free,’ he thought, ‘I do not need to pay penalties. I am clever enough to evade the pursuers.’ About this time the lights went on from the wall towers, and guns began to shoot, and the alarm was given. He dropped quickly down on the outside in the dark and ran for cover. As he got farther from the prison he heard the bloodhounds baying, but his scent was lost for the dogs as he waded a distance in the creek. He found a hiding place in the city until his pursuers had lost his tracks.

“Eventually he found his way out into the eastern part of the state and hired himself out to a stockman, herding sheep. He was far out in the hills. No one had seemed to recognize him. He changed his appearance by letting his hair and beard grow. The months passed. At first he reveled in his freedom and prided himself on his cunning—on how he had eluded all pursuers and now had no witnesses and no accusers, and he was free and did not have to answer to anyone. But the months were barren and stale, the sheep were monotonous, time was limitless; his dreams would never terminate. He came to realize that he could not get away from himself and his accusing conscience. He came to know that he was not free, that he was in fact in fetters and bondage; and there seemed to be ears that heard what he said, eyes that saw what he did, silent voices that were always accusing him of what he had done. The freedom in which he had reveled had changed to chains.

“Finally this escapist left his sheep, went into town and terminated his employment. Then he found his way back to the big city and to the officers of the law and told them he was ready to pay so that he could be free.

“This man learned the cost of sin” (Miracle of Forgiveness, pp. 143–44).

President Kimball outlined the steps for repentance and forgiveness very carefully in the Miracle of Forgiveness:

  1. 1.

    We must awake to the fact that we have committed sins. Read 2 Corinthians 7:9–10.

  2. 2.

    We must abandon sin. Read James 4:7.

  3. 3.

    We must confess our sins: (1) to persons we have offended, (2) to the Lord himself, and (3) to the Lord’s authorized representatives if the sins are of a serious nature. (See Doctrine and Covenants 58:43: “By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them.”)

  4. 4.

    We must make restitution where we can. (See Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 194: “The repentant sinner is required to make restitution insofar as it is possible.”)

  5. 5.

    We must thenceforth keep the commandments of God. (See Doctrine and Covenants 1:32: “Nevertheless, he that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven.”)

Testimony and Challenge

Bear your testimony to the healing process of repentance and forgiveness and the tremendous influence of President Spencer W. Kimball on members of the Church to obey that principle.

Challenge class members to repent and seek forgiveness from those they have offended and from the Lord.