I WAS DELIGHTED a couple of years ago when the LDS Church brought out a manual for men and women based on the teachings of President Spencer W. Kimball.

I was delighted again last year when Covenant Communications brought out a collection of quotes by President Kimball.

I'm glad the man's wisdom and work are constantly being churned back to the surface.

The Covenant publication is called "A Prophet's Voice" (as in "Come and Listen to a Prophet's Voice"). And seeing the word "voice" printed in large letters on the cover made me smile. Was there anything more distinctive about President Kimball than his voice? It was both raspy, yet gentle — like sandpaper wrapped in velvet.

I met President Kimball just once. I'd just started working for the newspaper when our paths crossed near Temple Square.

"President Kimball," I announced. "I'm Jerry Johnston. I work for the Deseret News."

He looked me up and down.

"Good for you," he said.

In the mouth of anyone else, the comment would have sounded snide — as in "Goody for you." But there wasn't an ounce of snide or a tablespoon of guilt in Spencer Kimball. Like Horton, he always meant what he said and said what he meant. And he meant, good for me.

Many remember the man as the LDS president who gave us the "every worthy male" revelation, where the priesthood was extended to black members of the church. And without a doubt, that was monumental.

Still, I often think of him as the leader who tried to make the church more "user-friendly."

He took the two sets of scriptures people were toting around and gave us the "quad," the four-in-one.

Under his watch, meetings were tugged into a "block" to make them more convenient for Saints who had to travel.

And under his direction, unwieldy sacred attire was snipped in half to make it more manageable.

President Kimball seemed to feel that life was anxious enough without the church adding to the frustrations.

For many years here, my desk was near the former editor of the LDS Church News, Dell Van Orden. And Dell used to share stories about his sojourns with President Kimball — the way he'd wade into a crowd and all but disappear, the way he'd go room-to-room on a trip to make sure everyone else was OK. Security concerns now hamper the swashbuckling style that President Kimball enjoyed. Dell said at one stop a scruffy and disoriented young man came up to President Kimball and began jabbering. President Kimball looked him softly in the eyes, spoke in a hushed, tender voice and sent the boy away in tears. (A Kimball quote from the Covenant book declares, "Jesus was a listening leader.")

A thought from the back cover of that book sums the man up pretty well. It reads, "No short man ever had a longer stride."

In the end, LDS leaders, readers and publishers are not letting President Kimball's marvelous ministry fade. They are keeping the words of this "diminutive giant" alive and available to all.

I say, good for them.


Jerry Johnston is a Deseret News staff writer. "New Harmony" appears weekly in the Mormon Times section.


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