Monday, July 28, 2008

From the life of President Kimball

While attending a recent activity at the Stake center, my wife came across a pile of old church books that someone had left for the taking. She thoughtfully snatched a tattered copy of President Spencer W. Kimball’s biography, written by his son Edward Kimball and grandson Andrew Kimball, Jr.

Spencer W. Kimball served as President of the Mormon church from 1973 – 1985. Mormons often refer to their current church President as “the Prophet”, believing that he is the only one authorized to receive prophetic guidance from God for the church as a whole. I’ve always felt a special attachment to President Kimball, maybe because he was “the Prophet” at the time when I first learned what a prophet was. When I was a teenager, long after he had passed away, I remember discovering some of President Kimball’s books and referring to them often.

I like President Kimball’s plain, no-nonsense explanations of many doctrines and practices. He was a champion of kindness, reverence, and rectitude, and his life was an example of what he taught. One thing that has struck me from skimming this biography is that no part of his life was easy. His church service as a stake president was so demanding that it seems a miracle that he could still run a business and provide for his family (Mormon stake presidents and bishops receive no salary and must keep regular “day jobs” to provide for their families).

This passage is particularly revealing of the burdens Spencer felt as a stake president:

“To visit each ward and return home would take 1,750 miles. Spencer and his counselors did that repeatedly. He initiated a stake bulletin which kept missionaries and members of the scattered wards informed of Church-related news.

“Responsibilities as a new stake president sometimes seemed overwhelming. Spencer wrote to Camilla, who was in California again with Eddie: ‘Tomorrow is a heavy day—I dread it and will be glad when it is over. I find I am weak and too small and too lazy and too inefficient. Maybe they will release me after a year or two. I really hope so. I could step out today with the best of feelings and no misgivings, but I guess I’ll have to go on at least until an Apostle comes down to see how poor it is.’”

This humble passage may seem foreign to Church members who saw a strong and steady leader in President Kimball. It's reassuring to read this and know that it is okay to feel tired and inadequate sometimes while giving Church service; it happens to the best of them.

Despite his feelings of inefficiency, Spencer was an effective stake president and one of the most well-known and respected men in his community. He ran a prosperous business and sat on numerous local boards and committees in addition to his Church service. When called to serve full-time as an apostle of the church, Spencer and his family left their dream home they had completed several years earlier, in which they had planned to retire. Although this was also a challenge, they made the sacrifice and gave decades of service for which members like myself are very grateful.

I may be posting more excerpts from this biography in the future. It is a very worthwhile read.

1 comment:

gregg + camille said...

I am named after his wife, Camilla Kimball. Her biography is great as well! Love your blog!