President Spencer W. Kimball: The Arizona Years


“O God, thou hast taught me from my youth: and hitherto have I declared thy wondrous works.” (Ps. 71:17)
President Spencer W. Kimball

President Spencer W. Kimball

Spencer Woolley Kimball, the 12th president of the Church, was born March 28, 1895, in Salt Lake City to Andrew and Olive Woolley Kimball. Andrew Kimball was then serving as president of the Indian Territory Mission. When Spencer was three, his father was called to be president of the Arizona Stake and so moved his family to Thatcher, Arizona. It was here that young Spencer Kimball gained experiences and wisdom that would guide him throughout his life.

The Arizona years were happy, growing years for President Spencer W. Kimball and provided a solid foundation for a future of even greater service to the Church and all mankind. In this month of his birth we gratefully share some warm memories of his youth.

Happy Birthday!

Boyhood days in Thatcher

Raising a family in Safford

Twenty-Five Years Together

[photos] Above, Spencer Kimball, age two, with his mother, Olive Woolley Kimball, and father, Andrew Kimball. The Kimball home in Thatcher (B) was comfortable and roomy, complete with gables (A) and a large front porch (C).

[photos] (H) The Kimball home in Thatcher was a large farmhouse having many windows. (B) Young Spencer Kimball, left, with a neighborhood pal, Clarence Naylor. (C) A poem written in grammar school. (E, G) Spencer was baptized by his father in the Union Canal. (F) Spencer at age 12. (D) When Spencer was 15, he decided to read the entire Bible. For the next year, until he had completed the book, he read by the light of the kerosene lamp in the unfinished attic.

[photos] (A) As a class gift, the graduating students of the LDS Academy in Thatcher, class of 1914, erected a pillar in front of the school with their names on it. Spencer Kimball was listed first because he was president of the class. (I) Following high school graduation, Elder Kimball was called on a Swiss-German mission, but was sent to the Central States Mission instead because of World War I. A letter from his father counseled him: “You will make good, my boy. Your hard experiences will enable you to know just a little of what it costs to be a Latter-day Saint. Keep up your good courageous spirit, but don’t get to think it is too much for you to bear. It will come out well.” During the last six months of his mission, while serving as president of the East Missouri Conference, he personally contacted 3,844 nonmembers, about 150 a week.

[photos] (E, G) After returning home from his mission, Elder Kimball was attracted to and began seeing Camilla Eyring, the young home economics teacher at Gila Academy. Their courting was interrupted when Spencer went to Provo to attend Brigham Young University. After one month he returned to Thatcher to await his draft notice, and he and Camilla were married on November 16, 1917.

[photos] (F) When Spencer W. Kimball was promoted to assistant cashier of a new bank in Safford, he and Camilla began making payments on their first home. It was a small, frame house with three rooms, a bath, and a sleeping porch, with pecan and fruit trees and grape vines growing in the backyard. (H) Spencer built a cow corral and a storage shed behind the garage and planted two palm trees in front. (I) Spencer W. Kimball at home with his two oldest children, Spencer LeVan and Olive Beth. (A–D) In 1938, President Kimball was sustained as president of the newly organized Mt. Graham Stake, a position he held until his call to the Council of the Twelve in 1943. Visiting each ward in the stake and returning home again meant traveling 1,750 miles, a task President Kimball and his two counselors frequently undertook.

[photos] (A–F) In June 1940, Brother and Sister Kimball moved into the newly completed, pueblo-style home they had dreamed of for years. They planted an orchard behind the new house and planned to watch the trees blossom and bear fruit year after year. (K) Spencer W. Kimball and his sons built barns and tended livestock. Remembers Camilla: “We loved the feeling of permanence and security our new home gave us. In fact, we felt we had established an estate where we would end our days.” (G) On their 25th wedding anniversary they invited guests to visit with them and share in their memories. (I, J) Spencer W. Kimball looked forward to snowshoeing on Mt. Graham every winter. (H) A family portrait in 1943, shortly after Elder Kimball was called as an apostle. In front, Sister and Elder Kimball and Olive Beth. Back, Edward, Spencer L., and Andrew.

[illustrations] Art by Ralph Reynolds