Counseling Experiences from President Kimball’s Journal: 1966 – 1970

Journal text selected by Dennis B. Horne.

Much of Spencer W. Kimball’s Apostolic ministry was devoted to working with and counseling members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that had committed “moral” sins.

This is part of a longer series of Excerpts from The Journal of President Spencer W. Kimball.

For those wishing to delve deeper and read the actual diary entries, I have included the date of the journal entry. President Kimball’s journal is simply not polished writing but is excellent as both a first and final draft. Please forgive any typos. A church email account is needed to access the material on the Church Archives website (the call number is MS 21541):




January 14, 1966 [Portland]: I was met by former President Ray Kirkham who took me to the meetinghouse where I met one young man who drove me around to see three others, all four of whom were perverts, deeply entrenched in homosexuality. There are four, trained, educated young men—three of them returned missionaries; two of them with their masters’ degrees, teaching in the colleges, and I talked to each one about thirty minutes doing my utmost with all the power I possessed and could garner from my Heavenly Father to whom I was praying almost constantly to see if I could convince them against their apparent will to change their lives and return to sanity and to truth and righteousness. They are deeply embedded in their new theories which they have convinced themselves are proper. They have accepted this as a way of life. They almost shamelessly admit their sexual associations. They claim they see no sin in the matter, but that it is merely a new way of life. When I went to catch my plane to Seattle, I was weary. I had worked so hard and put so much of myself into it trying to persuade them in the very few moments they gave me. I hope and pray that some of my efforts may have been meritorious and that some of the seeds I have tried to plant might have found good soil.


January 15, 1966: I had an hour’s interview with a very prominent business man whose wife was guilty of infidelity and had gone off in adultery with another member of the Church who is subsequently disfellowshipped by the stake president in another stake and the woman had not been handled in this stake. He was very critical of the President of the other stake for having only disfellowshipped the man instead of excommunicating him, and was practically demanding that the man be excommunicated, feeling that he had (this husband) been injured and damaged. I quoted many scriptures on how he should forgive and leave judgment to the Lord and to his leaders, and how that no society could exist if all people were the judges and determined what penalties should be, that both in the Church and in the laws of the land we have elected or appointed or called judges, and in the Church we had the bishops and stake presidents who gave judgment in the matter of transgressions. Without this system, everything would be chaotic. I am not sure that he was listening until I said, “Yes, maybe the male adulterer should have been excommunicated and perhaps the female adulteress should also be excommunicated.” He began to sit up and take notice and soon smiled and put out his hand and said goodbye.


January 18, 1966: There were interviews throughout the noon hour and until two. One man with his wife came and he had been guilty of incest and had been excommunicated two and one half years ago. He is begging to get back into the Church. A young couple came in, his wife having been six times an adulteress. They were trying to reconcile and get back to proper living, and such the day was . . . and other interviews, one of which was the parents of one of the boys that I had met at Portland on Friday. They re broken hearted and eager to do anything in the world to help their son to regain his sanity.


February 11, 1966: We had . . . several interviews including a very difficult one where a man and his wife were in marital difficulties and the woman had already filed for divorce and there was bitterness.


March 4, 1966: I had an appointment at 10:00 which lasted until about 2:00. A marital case—a very difficult marital case.


April 23, 1966: I had an appointment  . . . with a young man by the name of Reynolds who is not a member of the Church but seems to be playing havoc with some of the girls. He is attractive and personable and he is destroying the faith of some of our students. He seems to be a disciple of the Tanners who have written a large book of anti-Mormon propaganda. I do not know if we helped him or not; we hope we may have helped to save the girl, who sat in on the interview. Brother Yost, Institute Director, also sat with me in the interview. I felt what we said to the young man should have cleared his thinking, but he seems to be pretty well set [in his mind].


April 24, 1966: I had interviews with two young men for missions, each had committed [fornication] himself so had to be interviewed by a General Authority; both were repentant and since there has been a considerable lapse of time, I felt perhaps they might go on their missions.


April 29, 1966: I interviewed some of the leading men there and some of the couples. I was inspired by them, their devotion, their sweet lives, their love of the Church and each other. The transformation the Gospel and the Church makes is wonderful. Only a few of the men say they never were immoral but with glistening eyes and happy pride, they look us in the eye and say they have never been indiscrete since their baptism. What a glorious program that will so change man’s life!


June 3, 1966: The other day, I had a visit from a Lt. Colonel and his wife—very sophisticated, fine looking people. He told me that years ago he came to me with a serious morals problem and that from that day forward, fully repented but did not see how he could tell his wife of his infidelity, and that he had dragged it on now for several years, but when he heard my talk in General Conference on the destructiveness of wedges, he went to his wife, told her of his infidelities; she forgave him and that they had experienced great happiness since that time. She was with him and verified the fact that she had forgiven him and that they were very happy and all was well.


July 10, 1966: Had an interview at my home with [name redacted] and his wife. [redacted] was recently disfellowshipped because of immorality and he was a bit haughty and belligerent for a while but is now very humble and docile. And he was in tears and tremendously humble. He came to my home at his own request and asked for a blessing.


July 27, 1966: Late in the evening, I restored the blessings for [name redacted] who was excommunicated in Australia some years ago. He is a fine boy and has made wonderful progress and has a fine attitude and is anticipating an early marriage.


Undated missionary problems [no date]: Elder Kimball reported for the information of the brethren some problems that had been encountered during the past week pertaining to the missionaries. He said that about twenty missionaries had given them great concern, that one boy was excommunicated for immorality and sent home.


August 13, 1966: I had a visit with Brother [name redacted] who was excommunicated many years ago and he and his wife have a fine sweet spirit, and I think I shall recommend that he have his restoration of his blessings.


September 8, 1966 [orange paper strip]: Elder Robarge told me of a dream he had had. He saw a book with his name written on the page, then he saw a hand in which was an eraser and the voice was saying “I can easily erase your name.” It scared him and there came to him speedily the realization that it was not the Lord’s hand but his own hand which would do the erasing. He had had the hepatitis and some other problems and had been embittered even at the Lord for his misfortunes.


September 17, 1966: I had interviews . . . with a young man who had been excommunicated for sin in the mission field. He is very anxious now to return. His name is [redacted] and I believe that he is about ready to receive his blessings back. He is a fine young man.


September 20, 1966: I then had a couple from the Phoenix area whose seventeen year old son, under their direction and pressure, was now spurning a sixteen year old girl who is to have a baby in the next two or three weeks, he being the father. I counseled with them to have the boy marry the girl. They insisted that he did not love her and that he hadn’t gotten into school yet and his life would be interrupted. I reminded them that there was a girl who not only was having her school interrupted and who didn’t love him but who had a child without a name and a girl with a baby and she had no name to protect. They were somewhat enraged against their stake president who had taken a firm stand. I counseled them strongly. The father seemed to understand. The mother went out bitter and weeping and castigating me.


October 12, 1966: In the afternoon, I restored the priesthood and temple blessings to [name redacted] of [redacted] Nevada who was excommunicated in Australia on his mission. The whole family was present—the father and mother, [redacted] and his twin brother and their wives. It was a time of rejoicing. I had several young men from the mission home who had problems and I worked until late in the evening with them.


October 13, 1966: There were many interviews and difficult problems—two young men whom I have been working with two days who had been unworthy to go on their missions had developed a great repentance and I finally permitted them to go on their way.


October 15, 1968: I had an interview with one missionary who returned in August who confessed immorality. He involved 20 other boys that he could name immediately who were dating and flirting in the mission field—this made me ill.


October 19, 1966: I had several young men from the mission home who needed special attention who had had serious morals problems just before coming into the mission home. I got some of the other brethren to help me with them and I distributed them around. It was 7:00 when I got rid of my final problems and sent the boys back to the mission home—their problems to be considered further tomorrow.


October 20, 1966: We had about 15 missionary problem cases and I spread them around among the members of the [Missionary] Committee. Some of them were very serious. One boy from Driggs, Idaho, I permitted to go into the mission field after I was satisfied that everything considered, it was best for him and all. Another boy from Idaho I held up for about a month at least for situations to settle and to test his repentance and to see my feelings at that time. He was happy that he had revealed his problems and was willing to go back home and face the situation.


October 31, 1966: I had an interview with a returning missionary from Scotland who had had many problems before his mission and who confessed them to me when I saw him in Scotland. He seems to have made a great change in his life and I believe he is repentant and fortified.




February 8, 1967: It was a usual Wednesday with many meetings and many interviews. One interview was a sad one with a man who has been excommunicated about 10 years for apostasy and he is begging now for reinstatement, but I found him to be still unrepentant and unchanged. He still says he will accept President McKay as a Prophet of the Lord and will accept any revelations and instruction that come from him providing that they agree with his own thinking. His poor old father was in tears, in the realization that his son was not yet ready for restoration.


March 4, 1967: I had a long interview with [name redacted] and his wife. [name redacted] was excommunicated in the Andean Mission [redacted] for transgression. He is very anxious to come back into the Church now.


March 9, 1967: Ten of the Twelve of us were present at the 10:30 meeting. President McKay came in in his wheel chair, as usual. President Brown and President Tanner accompanied him. During this meeting, a long discussion was held concerning the practice of homosexuality which seems to be increasing in our midst and in the Church and in the world.


March 18, 1967: I had a long visit with [name redacted] with whom I had had an interview two or three years ago regarding his marital and morals problems. He is begging for reinstatement.


March 19, 1967: In the morning session, when we spoke about parents properly training their children, I noted on the second row a sister who was weeping. After the meeting, she came up to tell me that her son had just been excommunicated from the Church in Japan and had just returned home and her heart was broken.


April 9, 1967: With Brother Stapley helping me, I restored the blessings to Sister [name redacted]. Sister [redacted] was the wife of the man who went by the name of [redacted]. He may have had some Indian blood but he was not the Indian that he had claimed. He had perpetrated a real fraud upon the Church in being baptized and so he had to be excommunicated and he had been grossly immoral. Sister [redacted] had been an apostate along with him and was finally excommunicated along with him. Her daughter [redacted] was present with her.


May 14, 1967: I also restored the blessings for [name redacted] who was excommunicated about five years ago in the California Mission for immorality. He is now in the military, has married civilly and brought his wife with him. They had a good spirit and I felt good about restoring the blessings. They were deeply grateful.


May 16, 1967: I had an interview at my home with a bishop and one of his ward members who was involved in homosexuality, but who is beginning to repent.


May 17, 1967: I talked to the missionaries this morning. . . . I had four or five of them who came to confess serious sins. I distributed them among the brethren. I took two of them myself. They were very distressing, sad cases. One young married couple came to ask if they should bring charges against the young woman’s father who had molested her from the time she was a little child until she was fourteen when she rebelled against him and he apparently continues with his evil deeds.




January 2, 1968: Then, I had a series of very difficult interviews. A young couple with four children had been inactive and bitter for eighteen months. I talked to them frankly, told them some stories of people who had saved themselves from such situations by realizing their own responsibility, and told them stories of those who had kicked themselves completely out of the Church and into a world of continual unhappiness. Finally, the husband said, “Let’s go, Mother, we have our answer. We know what we must do.”


January 3, 1968: I went to the office at 9:30 for a 10:00 appointment with a young woman who has a history of homosexuality. Several years ago, President McKay appointed Brother Petersen and myself to work with these kinds of cases and see what we could do toward saving the people and clearing up the problems.


January 10, 1968: At 9:30, [name redacted] and his wife of three years came in. They had decided to be divorced; they said they did not love each other. However, there seems to have been no sin, no infidelity. When they left my office, I felt that they might forego the divorce and change their lives and make their marriage happy.


January 18, 1968: I had one very sad case today of a little girl, 18, who seems to have no affection or interest in her little illegitimate child of seven months and she seems very hard and cold and determined to go on her way. She has run away from home several times and is associating with a low element. . . . I pled with her and argued with her and worked with her for about two hours with her parents. I thought I made a little dent.




January 23, 1969: In the [temple] meeting, as we were discussing the evils which we have to cope with and the much immorality in our country but especially in the European and Scandinavian countries, Brother Lee mentioned to the brethren that I had a manuscript which Brother Stapley had read and which he had already read about half of and that it was excellent, and treated the whole program of immorality and transgression and warning against the sins, and indicating how people could be relieved of their sins. He said it was factual and heavily documented and adequate and covered the field beautifully. He continued on and on to my embarrassment, but I was delighted to know that after nine years of struggling with the subject, principally in my vacation times, that perhaps my effort might prove valuable to the world and the Church and to the people. Brother Stapley confirmed all that Brother Lee had said for he had also read it. We hope it will be in print before the April Conference. This was highly gratifying.


December 5, 1969: Finally reached home about 3:30 in time for an interview with a woman who 45 years ago had been untrue to her marriage vows on one occasion and she has been most repentant and very much in distress ever since, though she has been living the commandments quite fully. Some months ago, she told her son and he asked for this appointment. He had been in the book store and saw my newly published book, The Miracle of Forgiveness, and had purchased it on the title only, thinking it might bring peace to his mother. She had read the book, practically through, and then asked for an appointment. She is very sincere and very repentant and she left my home feeling a great sense of peace.

Last night, I had a man 65 years of age who came, bringing his book that was nearly worn out. He was nearly through it for the third time. He had committed adultery 23 years ago—about six different times and it has been weighing on his conscience. Recently, his wife died and he has been unable to sleep or adjust with himself since then. He went away much comforted as I explained to hm it was necessary for him to finish his repentance and read some of the promises that the Lord has made to those who did fully repent.

I had an interview with the wife of a homosexual boy and she told me of his many friends which he seemed to prefer to his wife, some of them being in the Tabernacle Choir. I shall need to work on them immediately.

A few days ago, I restored the blessings for a man who had been out of the Church for seven years because of adultery. I restored his blessings according to an authorization from the Presidency. After the ordinance was completed, he asked for five minutes alone. After his people had left, he pointed to my new book, The Miracle of Forgiveness, and said, “That’s what brought me in. You called me a culprit and a sinner and transgressor and that brought me to my senses and I began to really repent and prepare myself for this restoration—that book did it!”, he said.

And so, I am very grateful if it is bringing forgiveness to many people and peace to their souls. . . .

A few days ago, I received a letter from a young man in the military who had come to see me some many weeks ago and had come in response to having read my new book.

Today, I received a letter from him in which he expressed great thanks and appreciation and said he had never been so happy and at peace and free in his life since our first visit.


December 8, 1969: I had an interview with a young man returning from his mission who had been accused of some irregularities. But, apparently, the accusation was false. I had an interview also with [name redacted] about his excommunication. He is doing well, looking toward a restoration.


December 12, 1969: At 3:30, Brother Petersen and I had an interview with Brother and Sister Rulon Hinckley, looking toward their working with us in the homosexual problems, and at 4:00, we had a meeting with James Paramore to represent us in this specialized work at Provo.


December 16, 1969: I had many interviews, one of which was a young boy 18 who came in with his father last Friday and admitted homosexual experiences with other boys. He had come in like a fugitive and frightened criminal and went out with confidence and tonight when he came, he was a different boy—his eyes were shining and he had confidence in himself and he knew that he could clear up the matter. When we prayed, his prayer showed that he was used to praying and that he was a good boy and here was the dividend. I felt very happy indeed at the apparent recovery or beginning of recovery for this boy.




January 8, 1970: I had an interview with an old man who had been grossly immoral for numerous years yet active in the Church; a young woman also had a problem; several others had had problems. This was a very hectic day. Most of these problem cases arise out of reading my book, The Miracle of Forgiveness which lays it on the line pretty strongly.


[Editorial note:

Elder Thomas S. Monson shared this incident in his autobiography:

President Spencer W. Kimball has always been a prolific worker. He spent several summers working on a book which he later entitled The Miracle of Forgiveness. As one reads the book, particularly the first portion, one wonders if anyone will make it to the Celestial Kingdom. However, in reading the final portion, it is apparent that, with effort, all can qualify.

One day, soon after the publication of the book, Elder Kimball came to my office and said, “Tom, I don’t know if I should have printed that book or not. I have people coming in to confess mistakes which they made long years ago. Could you help me talk to some of them?”

I said, “Yes, Brother Kimball, I will.”

He said, “Fine. I’ll send several people in to see you.”

I asked “What would you like me to tell them?”

He answered, “Forgive them, Brother; forgive them.”

(Thomas S. Monson, On the Lord’s Errand [Salt Lake City: privately printed, 1985], 342.)]

January 18, 1970: I spoke to two of the student wards over at the Institute Building and the chapel and the recreation hall were filled with bright looking young people. The bishop reported that some anonymous corporation in the city had given to him 180 copies of my book, The Miracle of Forgiveness to give to all the members of his ward—that they were delighted and were interested and it was suggested that I discuss the subject of the book. . . . I spoke for about 30 minutes—possibly 35 on the contents of the book, selecting special items and emphasizing especially the coed living on the campus and the morality of the times, the matter of homosexuality—that it was curable and forgivable. I discussed fornication and told of its evil, and repeated quotes from the brethren that it was better to die fighting for one’s virtue than to lose it. I quoted several scriptures along this line.

I spoke of the cowardice of boys who fathered a child and then left the girl to carry all the blame and the embarrassment and the pain and the problems while he himself went free. I talked very strongly on this matter. I emphasized the fact that while sin was most destructive that repentance could bring forgiveness and that the Church and the Lord would forgive.

I had a perfect audience and there were many who came up after the meeting to thank me for my frankness in ‘laying it on the line.’


February 15, 1970: After the [stake] meetings were over, one of the leading brethren and his wife held me up—the brother had been flirting with a young woman who worked where he did and they had been kissing and embracing, but he said no sex, but he was thinking a good deal of her and studying the scriptures with her and seemed to have in his mind the terminating of his marriage with his sweet wife and children, and had nearly lost himself. I felt at first that he was resisting what I said but after near an hour, he began to melt and said he would do whatever I said. He wept and threw his arms around my neck—wept copious tears and promised that he would terminate this illicit affair and return to his wife and children with all his heart, might, mind and strength. He will write me in three or four days what he has done and how he has adjusted to the demands made upon him. Had I known this before the conference, I would have released him and am determined yet to have him released if he does not immediately make tremendous progress in his repentance and transformation.


February 24, 1970: Bishop Wilson Anderson of BYU phoned concerning two girls who are deviates. . . . Today, Wednesday, I had many interviews—with Brother [redacted; probably Evans] who will be helping us with deviates; . . .


March 5, 1970: Yesterday, Brother Petersen and I gave a blessing and a setting apart to Brother M. O. Evans who is working with us in the homosexual program. Brother Petersen was mouth [voice] in giving the blessing. We feel happy about the attitude of Brother Evans in assuming this rather unpleasant responsibility.


April 30, 1970: Today I had a visit from Dr. Cook, regarding certain homosexuals that both of us know—two or three homosexual boys came in and I worked with them. President Denny called regarding a very serious case of immorality—of molestation, etc.


Editorial note: When President Russell M. Nelson served as a stake president, he had this experience with Elder Kimball, as related by himself in his autobiography:

Frequently during my seven years as stake president I sought his counsel whenever there was a matter that was particularly troubling to me. I remember well one problem that I had concerning a couple whose marriage was being brought to an end because of the husband’s homosexuality. The husband was so deranged that he was almost maniacal. Seeking advice from me, the wife began by saying, “You are in danger by virtue of my being here, for if he finds out that I am revealing the nature of his problem by coming to you for help, he will kill you.”

I really had not had any experience with this kind of difficulty before, so I thought that counsel from Elder Kimball might be helpful to me in handling the problem. As I presented the matter to him, his concern was not immediately for the problem itself, but for my own welfare. He said: “President Nelson, if you would like me to handle this case, I’d be glad to, because I‘m an old man and my life is largely spent and of little value. But your life is ahead of you and is a very valuable life. We can’t take any chances with you.” [Talk about being prophetic.]

Tears came to my eyes, for he sincerely and genuinely wanted to take the risks that were involved with this problem. I assured him that I was not there for that purpose, but that I earnestly solicited his guidance as to what might be done to save this couple’s marriage. Needless to say, the threats were not borne out, and the husband and wife went their separate  ways without the calamities that had been predicted. I mention this example only to show the selflessness and the deep character of this man who was willing to put my welfare ahead of his. (Russel M. Nelson, From Heart to Heart [Salt Lake City;  Quality Press, 1979], 161-62.)


May 22, 1970: I had interviews with [redacted], [redacted], and [redacted] and [redacted] and [redacted], and [redacted] and [redacted] and one other lady—and nearly all of them were involved in problems. . . . I also had an interview with [redacted]. She was an unusual person—very unhappy, never smiled in the three quarters of an hour that she talked to me. I had little chance to say anything. She claimed that she could read people’s minds and apparently, she feels superior to her husband and to everyone else. It was a very unsatisfactory interview.


June 4, 1970: I had several interviews after the temple meeting—several of which were very ugly indeed. One couple who had been married nine years, three children ago, and I believe I saw more hatred, animosity, bitterness in that hour and a half between two people who supposedly had given themselves totally to each other and had pledged in sacred places in a sacred way to be loyal and true to each other and cherish each other.


June 7, 1970: I went to the office for an interview with a father and two sons. One of his sons and another son had been involved for some years back in homosexual practice. The one son and the father had been involved in some very close approaches to it. The one son was free from sin and a delightful, stalwart young man so far as I could tell.


June 9, 1970: I restored the priesthood and temple blessings to [name redacted], a young man who was excommunicated in the mission field for transgression; he was almost overjoyed.


July 30, 1970: One couple who had read my book, “The Miracle of Forgiveness”, had driven all the way from Los Angeles to tell me their sordid story. Both had been married before, both had been in sin and then sinned together, but they seemed genuinely repentant and I sent them back to their Bishop to complete their confession. Two different homosexual boys came in, both of them have made much progress and I feel very hopeful for them.


November 8, 1970: Today is the funeral for Sister Emma Rae McKay, widow of the late President David O. McKay. . . . There came to me thought of the contrast inasmuch as in the same paper announcing the death of Sister McKay and her sweetheart, David, with her one husband, was the picture of Ingrid Bergman with a long public life of license and immorality and many husbands. The contrast is quite extreme; one living the laws of the kingdom and the other breaking them. I well remember the announcement in the papers long years ago of the pregnancy of this girl and an illegitimate child sired by an Italian. This came out in the papers while we were in Los Angeles and seemingly, even at that time, the people generally had begun to be very permissive and they did not seem to condemn the act of the woman.