Meeting Church Leaders: Inspirational Excerpts from The Journal of President Spencer W. Kimball

Compiled by Dennis B. Horne

Editorial note: the below excerpts from President Kimball’s journal were selected because I find them to be extra uplifting and edifying, or otherwise special in some way. I did not include a date with them because when I encountered and chose them I was interested in precious spiritual experience and insight, not scholarship.

Some of these items can be found by using the index and links previously posted as “Precious highlights in President Spencer W. Kimball’s Journal.” Below is what I judge to be some of the cream of the cream in his diary. These tidbits make my soul sing and reinforce within me how grateful I am to be a member of the Restored Church of Jesus Christ. This apostle and prophet became celestial material indeed. I include a little introduction of a few words to each excerpt to give some context.


This is the third of a multi-part series highlighting the journals of Spencer W. Kimball.

Boyd K. Packer

“Boyd told me this story. My close friend Boyd K. Packer. Peru:”

“In a western South American nation in a Sacrament meeting, the sacrament was in preparation. He was a little ragamuffin. His two shirts would hardly make one, so ragged they were and torn and dirty. Unlikely that those shirts had ever been off that little body since they were donned. The little feet which brought him in the open door up the aisle and to the sacrament table were calloused, bearing dark and dirty testimony of deprivation, want, unsatisfied hungers—spiritual as well as physical. Almost unobserved, he came to the sacrament table and with a seeming spiritual hunger, he leaned against the table and lovingly rubbed his unwashed face against the cool, smooth, white linen.

“A woman in the front seats outraged by the seeming intrusion caught his eye and with her motion and frown, sent the little ragamuffin scampering down the aisle and out into his world, the street.

“The little ragamuffin came stealthily, cautiously down the aisle again, wondering, ready to run and escape if necessary.

“Elder Packer caught his eye and beckoned him and opening big, welcoming arms, they were quickly filled as the little ragamuffin nestled comfortably, his head against a great warm heart—a heart sympathetic to waifs, and especially to Lamanite little ones.

“Month later, Elder Packer sat in my office and in tender terms, rehearsed this incident as he sat forward on his chair, his eyes glistening, and he said ‘in my mind, this was not a single little Lamanite in my arms. It was a nation, a multitude of nations of deprived, hungering souls, wanting something they knew not what—a humble people yearning to revive a seeming memory of ancestors standing wide-eyed, open mouthed, expectant and excited, looking up and seeing a holy, glorified being descend from celestial areas and hearing a voice say: “Behold, I am Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I created the heavens and the earth and all things that in them are. . . . And in me, hath the Father glorified his name. . . . I am the light and the life of the world. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.’”


About Boyd K. Packer:

“Also, approval was given for the call of Boyd K. Packer, one of our Committee, to be the President of the New England Mission. The President asked some questions; asked each one of us pointedly if we knew Brother Packer as a man and our reports were all favorable. He then approved.”


Interactions with Other Church Leaders

Pres. J. Reuben Clark confides in Elder Kimball:

“I spent an hour with Pres. Clark who became very confidential with me. He told me of his call to the First Presidency by Pres. Grant who had not seen him more than a half dozen times and had heard him speak only once. Pres. Clark was Ambassador to Mexico. When the letter came from Box B, Salt Lake City, he knew what it would be (he said). He was awed but could not tell anyone. Bro. Melvin J. Ballard was later visiting the Mexican Mission in Mexico City and became acquainted with Bro. Clark and when he made his report in the Council meeting in the temple he remarked that he had met a young man in Mexico City who because of his integrity, testimony, power and ability, could someday be used in the higher councils. This brought a smile from the Apostles for in his absence this very man had been called to be a Counselor to Pres. Grant.

“He confided to me some of the difficult situations which had presented themselves when Pres. Grant died and especially when Pres. Smith died and when President McKay chose Stephen L. Richards of the Council of the Twelve for first Counselor and himself (JRCJr) as second and many situations that had arisen since. He spoke to me of some of the problems facing us in the leadership positions of the Church. He became a bit emotional when he recalled and lived again the awesome memories of those days in Mexico when he was called from Government work to Church work. This was a priceless hour with him.”


Elder Kimball blesses George F. Richards [Pres. of Twelve]:

“Brother Cowley and I went to the apartment of Pres. George F. Richards and administered to him at his request. He was dressed, lying on the lounge but feeling miserable. Had not been able to sleep all night nor today but had been up and around. In the blessing I told him of our great love for him and asked the Lord, consistent with His will, to relieve him of his pain and heal him for as long as was His desire. About 11 pm Pres. Richards died, with only a few minutes of severe distress.”


GFR’s Funeral:

“In Elder Lee’s address he told of the manifestation of Pres. Richards when in dream or vision he saw the Lord Jesus Christ. Pres. Richards had told us of some of his very sacred manifestations when we had been in our Quarterly meetings of the Council of the Twelve. Truly he was a great and good man and about as nearly perfect as a man gets on the earth.”


Elder Kimball on Elder Albert E. Bowen of Twelve:

“What a great man he was! How just! I should like Bro. Bowen to plead my case if I were being tried, he is so fair and just. When he finally spoke, words of wisdom and good judgment flowed out.”


Elder Matthew Cowley’s death:

“There was a knock on the [hotel room] door and Sister Cowley, who with her husband Elder Matthew Cowley, had been occupying the room adjoining, knocked at our door and said: ‘I think Matthew is dead’ Camilla and I both rushed in, in our night clothes and found him dead, lying peacefully on his bed. Sister Cowley was hysterical. I tried to revive him—rubbed his arms and then called to the operator to get a house doctor quickly. There was none, …”


Bro. Kimball on Hugh Nibley:

“At Tremonton we were so much interested in the discussion with Brother Nibley regarding the recent finds of important documents in the caves in Palestine that I took the wrong road and went clear to Malad before I realized that we were diverted. I turned around and went back…”


On Pres. Moyle:

“He spoke about 20 mins to the people with great power, and especially on the missionary program. I have never heard Brother Moyle speak like this before. I am sure the mantle of his calling is falling on his shoulders.”


On Dr. (now President) Nelson:

“Russell Nelson, my beloved doctor who gave me the open heart surgery, came in to see me and to check my pulse and my blood pressure and to check with me.”


Pres. Kimball on Dr. Russell M. Nelson:

“Dr. Russell M. Nelson who performed surgery on me two or three times, especially the open heart surgery, called and asked if he could come and be of help to me, worrying for fear it would be too great a shock for me. I told him I thought I was all right but he insisted on coming anyway and found me feeling secure. He has been a real friend as well as my surgeon. I am making a part of this journal his handwritten letter to me of December 30, 1973, which he brought to my home.”


Help writing Conference talks:

“Jeff Holland and Bruce McConkie and [Neal] Maxwell asked for [gave some] help in preparing conference talks. It is a great help to get their thoughts and suggestions on some of the subjects I plan to talk about.”


Meets Dallin H. Oaks:

“This morning . . . we held a meeting with the Board of Education, Board of Trustees of BYU, and met the new President Dallin Oaks who will succeed Brother Ernest L. Wilkinson of the Brigham Young University. He is a very personable young man and has every promise of being a great president for the University.”


A new secretary:

“Brother James Paramore came in to consider further the possibility of his being employed [as my secretary] and he accepted the call, or rather, the employment. We talked about the demands upon him and the services that he would render. He seemed very happy to accept this work and indicated that he had had a dream or presentiment that he would be working with me. He will be an excellent help.”


Regarding Mathias F. Cowley:

“In one of our meetings recently Brother Bruce R. McConkie indicated that Brother Mathias F. Cowley, former apostle [and father of Elder Matthew Cowley], was the bailiff in his father’s court (Oscar W. McConkie) when he would have been the President of the Council of the Twelve Apostles had he remained totally in line.”


Meetings of the Quorum of the Twelve


Sweet spiritual meeting:

“The Quarterly meeting was from 8:00 until 12:00. It was an unusually sweet spirited meeting—all the brethren being present but Brother Benson who is ill, and the testimonies and the experiences and the discussions were intensely interesting and very spiritual. . . . [Jan. 13 remembering Jan. 12]: We spent from 8:00 until 12:00 in our Quarterly meeting bearing testimony and visiting and discussing matters as we chose. It was a glorious time. These are wonderful brethren with whom I work.”


Blessed by Twelve:

“Then President Lee, having mentioned that I was having some [health] troubles, Elder Benson prayed valiantly for me. Now I was seated in a chair and all the Brethren circled around me. President Tanner anointed me with oil and President Lee gave to me a sealing, and it was a marvelous blessing. He was given me many blessings and many others have in time of need. I have assisted all the Brethren in many administrations. I think never have I heard a more beautiful comprehensive pleading and prayer and administration and dedication than this. There was dedication in his payer, and though it had some fearsome aspects, it was soothing and gave me peace.”


Prayer and blessing for Elder Kimball:

“The opening prayer was offered by Brother Marion G. Romney and was a prayer such as only he can give and it was in my special favor. President Tanner explained that this was a special meeting for all of the General Authorities and the prayer circle and all were in my behalf. He explained a little concerning my problems and my concerns. Elder Harold B. Lee was mouth [voice] at the alter. He gave a wonderful prayer as he is able to do very feelingly. I felt a wonderful spirit; at the conclusion of the prayer circle in which everybody participated, I sat on a chair in the middle of the floor and President Tanner called on Elder Gordon B. Hinckley to anoint me with oil and his prayer was considerably more than an anointing; as he placed his hands on my head, there was a tremble through my whole body and it continued and there was a holy refining sweet influence through the whole meeting, and then President Tanner sealed the anointing and gave a marvelous blessing to me. Only the Twelve placed their hands on my head and all the other brethren followed the prayer as they [were] seated in the circle around, and at the conclusion of the prayer, Elder Lee took me in his arms and embraced me. Several others of the brethren came and put their arms around me and expressed their thanks. There was a great outpouring of the spirit and for some time during the dressing period and otherwise, the brethren expressed what a great blessing had come to all of them by reason of their unified purpose and their spiritual experience and indicated that it would be wonderful more frequently for all the brethren to unite on a single purpose for the spirituality that it developed.”


Prayer for Pres. Smith; angels present at Conference:

“Today was our Temple day and it was my turn to pray at the altar. I expressed thanks to the Lord for the great Conference; for the spirit of the people; and, for the satisfactions that seemed to have come and the security and the assurance. I thanked Him for the mantle that had fallen on the Prophet Joseph Fielding Smith. I thanked the Lord for the calmness in the Conference and that it seemed ‘as though a legion of angels with drawn swords had been hovering over us in the conference and giving protection to us.’”


Further Reading:

What Did Spencer W. Kimball Write About in His Journal? (From the Desk)

A Prophet’s Journey: The Journals of Spencer W. Kimball (BYU Studies Quarterly)

Inspirational Excerpts from The Journal of President Spencer W. Kimball, Part 1: Leadership

1 comment for “Meeting Church Leaders: Inspirational Excerpts from The Journal of President Spencer W. Kimball

  1. I appreciate your postings. One observation I made, which seems to be very common among us: Elder Kimball said “it seemed as though a legion of angels…” but this gets turned into “angels present…”

    And even then, Elder Kimball was apparently quoting some other occasion.

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