I was four years old when he passed away, but Spencer W. Kimball’s role as prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (commonly called the Mormon Church) has always been the predominant role of his life in my mind. President Kimball’s biography, which was written by two of his sons, Edward and Andrew Kimball, opened my eyes to the sincere, gentle, and kind man he strived to be.
Because his biography was written by his two sons, they provided a personal view of the man who was to be called as prophet. They had access to his many decades of journals, but they also provided insights in the man they grew up with. Obviously, they wrote with love but they wrote with themselves at a distance: I never felt the book was overly sentimental in terms of the authors’ narration. Rather, I think they provided interesting insights from their memory that gave the book depth and interest. Further, they addressed Spencer Kimball’s failings and problems throughout the book: it was not a perfect rosy picture of a perfect man. Instead, as I read, I came to know much better a human who happened to be called to serve his God and who I revere as a prophet in this latter-day age of the world.
As a child at the turn of the century, Spencer was a hard worker in a difficult desert Arizona environment. He was willing and able to serve when he was drafted into the army, dropping out of school where he’d never be able to return, despite the fact that he never ended up serving in the army. When he married, he was a fun husband and father, such as, for example, when he and his wife would drag friends out of their homes on New Year’s Eve for genuine clean fun late into the night. And then I loved reading of Brother Kimball’s humility as he received his call to serve in the church, as he strived the do his part. I really appreciated the passages from his letters and journals that gave me further insight into his struggles at those times.
When Elder Kimball began suffering heart attacks, he was forced to take life a little easier, and it was difficult for him to stop working and relax. His insights into his own mortality (again, as revealed through his journals and letters) were engaging and sweet.1 He went through serious health complications, from his heart to his throat. His struggles to deal with these health issues were so sincere. He wanted so much to be a spokesman for the Lord; throat cancer made this goal far more difficult for him.
Although I don’t remember President Kimball from my childhood, reading this book helped me fall in love with the man. I know he had some strong opinions that I greatly disagree with, but I still revere the man who lived a life dedicated to service and peace. I’m so glad I got to know him better through this biography.
Spencer W. Kimball ends with President Kimball’s call to be the prophet and president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have the next volume, which covers his presidency, on my shelf as well. That volume is titled Lengthen Your Stride and is again by his son Edward Kimball. I look forward to reading more about the service he gave and the work he accomplished throughout his life.
- I also have Kimball’s volume about his sleepless night when he thought he was to die. I hope to read that in the coming months as well. ↩