SALT LAKE CITY — One of the pleasures of going through the photo archives of the Deseret News is that it occasionally brings back personal memories of some of the people I have met — and one that I made bleed. A few months ago, around the 116th anniversary of the birth of Spencer Woolley Kimball, the 12th President of the LDS Church, I went through several photographs of his life. He was born in Salt Lake City and was the grandson of President Heber C. Kimball, one of the early members of the Mormon Quorum of the Twelve and First Counselor to LDS Church President Brigham Young.
Great men come in all sizes. President Kimball was a small man with a great appetite for work in general and missionary work specifically.
At the age of 3, his family left Salt Lake for Thatcher, Ariz. where he later attended Gilla Academy (an LDS High School) graduating in 1911.
In 1914 he was called to the German-Swiss Mission, but because of World War I he was reassigned to the Central States Mission until 1916, returning to Arizona in 1917. In November of that year he married Camilla Eyring, sister to the noted scientist and teacher Henry Eyring.
Over the next several years they had four children. They were married for 68 years until his death in 1985.
Kimball engaged in a career in banking, real estate and insurance while also holding several ward and stake church assignments. On October 7, 1943 he and Ezra Taft Benson (who also later became president of the LDS Church) were called to the Quorum of the Twelve at General Conference where he started decades of full time church service.
President Kimball was dedicated in his service and was very involved in missionary work and the Indian placement programs. In 1978 he issued an official declaration that all worthy men could hold the priesthood. He was also the author of a well-known book "The Miracle of Forgiveness."
In the past 35 years I have had the privilege to assist in the logistics of visits to our country by the Pope, the Dalai Lama and the head of the Greek Orthodox Church. I have also escorted several U.S. Presidents and presidential candidates to meet with a number of LDS Church Presidents.
I recall a day in the mid 1970s in Southern California, when I accidently drew the blood of this good man Spencer Kimball. He was attending a Stake Conference in Placentia California. He gave a string of talks on the history of America and the Founding Fathers and told us to become involved in government. That was music to my ears, since I was already involved.
After the talk, I came up to him, and without his permission, I took a little American flag off my suit lapel and placed it on his as a spontaneous gift.
When he reached up to find out what I was doing, he pricked his thumb on the back of the pin before I was able to put the back on it.
I would learn later that the leaders of the LDS Church seldom, if ever, wear any kind of insignia on their clothing. From that time onward I noticed President Kimball always wore a single white pearl as a tie tack.