Journal text selected by Dennis B. Horne.
Some liberal dissidents of that day and this take issue with Elder Kimball’s book The Miracle of Forgiveness, thinking Elder Kimball to have been too hard and harsh on those who indulge in sin and won’t repent. For this reason I have included many diary entries documenting his writing the book and the highly influential results of its publication—including what certain of his Apostolic associates thought of it. Also what President Dallin H. Oaks thought of it.
One agnostic critic wrote this humorless bit about what he hoped might be found in the Kimball diaries: “A confession of regret for perhaps his biggest error in judgment, publishing The Miracle of Forgiveness. Supposedly, President Kimball did have some hindsight regret for the caustic level of moralizing in that book. But I really hope we find a truly candid admission, . . .” (It seems those in the great and spacious building just can’t stop pointing and mocking and ridiculing.) Anyway, far from regret, the abundant journal evidence indicates that Elder Kimball took great pride and joy in how his book was helping so many to change their lives and come unto Christ through faith unto repentance. But an agnostic critic doesn’t care about sincere repentance, only about ridiculing those who do and getting a laugh out of it. Elder Kimball also dealt with those types.
(I am aware of a paragraph in Edward Kimball’s Lengthen Your Stride biography of his father that includes the thought that “Spencer seemed to later wish he had adopted a gentler tone.” [working draft, 8;1]. And below there are a couple of items suggesting he knew he had “laid it on the line pretty strongly”—but those few items are counteracted by far more expressions of being pleased his work was helping so very many members to repent and obtain God’s forgiveness.)
This is part of a longer series of Excerpts from The Journal of President Spencer W. Kimball. The previous entries of counseling experiences give excellent context to the writing and effects of The Miracle of Forgiveness.
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):
July 30, 1959: I worked at the typewriter for many hours. . . . More hours at the typewriter—I am preparing an extensive treatise on Repentance.
August 3, 1959: After our morning oblations, our breakfast and some study and writing (I am writing a study of Peter) (and a treatise on Repentance). . . .
July 24, 1961: Today is Pioneer day. . . . I was working on my book on repentance.
July 13, 1965: I arose early and scattered my papers all over one end of the living room and began to work on my book, “The Miracle of Repentance.”
July 19, 1965: From early morning until late at night I was at a table with my book and a typewriter. . . .
July 20, 1965: Today was much as other days. I was up very early and worked on my book all through the day with several interruptions. . . . I made considerable progress on the book today. It seems an endless task.
July 28, 1965: I had my little portable typewriter which has gone around the world with me and my “Miracle of Forgiveness” book material and spent the day studying and working on it.
December 27, 1965: We spent the day in our room. They had provided me with a very long, large table which I spread my things out on and was working on my book, the first time for four or five months.
July 7, 1966: With tables all over the room and my book chapters scattered on them, I spent the day trying to bring these chapters toward completion.
July 16, 1966: I worked very hard through the day and made some progress on my book.
July 23, 1966: I spent much of the day at the desk, catching up on correspondence and working on my book, and made considerable headway.
August 1, 1966: I worked on the book. . . . Spent the day working on the book.
August 2, 1966: Spent the day at the table with the typewriter, the Dictaphone and the chapters of the book.
August 3, 1966: All the balance of the time from six in the morning until ten at night I was at the tables and the typewriter looking after mail and writing on the book.
August 6, 1966: Today was much like the other days since last Monday. I get up generally about six o’clock and go into the little office room and work at the book until about eight or eight thirty when we would have our breakfast. Generally we would take a walk. The last few days we have walked down to the post office to take another chapter or two for copying and to get the mail, then we return to the home and I work most of the day on the chapters of the book. . . .
The week has been a pleasant and profitable one. The book is coming along well. I have now all of the twenty-five chapters written, but of course they will need to be reduced, edited, polished and there are months ahead of us yet.
April 29, 1968: I spent the day at home working on correspondence reports and the book, The Miracle of Forgiveness.
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.
October 2, 1969: This evening, I went down to Bookcraft Inc. and autographed two hundred additional books, The Miracle of Forgiveness, having autographed three hundred the night before at home. It was quite a satisfaction to see the great pile of books, I believe, ten thousand piled up in the warehouse of Bookcraft Company and realize it was my book and on which I have been working about ten years through the vacations.
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.
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 7, 1969: They [the stake presidency] asked me to autograph some of the books, The Hidden Wedge, which they had purchased for members of their family and last night the President had asked me to autograph 33 of my new book, The Miracle of Forgiveness, which they are giving to their stake and ward leaders at Christmastime.
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.
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.’
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.
September 16, 1970: Today, I had a call from George Bickerstaff and Marvin Wallin concerning the book, The Miracle of Forgiveness. Four editions have been printed, one for 10,000; three for 6,000 each or a total of 28,000 copies. They are now considering a fifth edition. We talked about paper backed editions that would probably cost $1.75 or $2.00. They resisted a little though they were very gracious. Marv was going to talk to the leadership committee to see if it was their intent to use the book for a text in some year in the future. He was also going to get prices on a ten thousand or fifteen thousand edition, paper; they feel very optimistic about the continued sale of the book and think it may go on for years. They said it was one of the two best books they have published. I agreed to a fifth edition on the present basis of the $5.00 book and then we will take another look at it when the 6th edition comes out. [Note: the other book was probably Bruce R. McConkie’s Mormon Doctrine.]
January 28, 1971: I then had an interview in my office with . . . my income tax man, [name removed], concerning the 1969 income tax return. Since I had had a special income in 1969 from my book, The Miracle of Forgiveness, and I had taken some deductions for expenses in the creation of the book, and it was necessary that I justify these. I think we were able to satisfy the agent.
July 1, 1971: Later in the morning I had an interview with Marvin Wallin and Brother George his helper and discussed further printing of the book The Miracle of Forgiveness which up to now has had about 40,000 plus books printed and most of them sold. The demand seems to continue unabated. It seems to be something the people have wanted and needed.
July 26, 1971: For the past ten years in vacations of two weeks a year I had produced the Miracle of Forgiveness which had turned out to be a good seller and though I had not written it for that purpose it is now in its 7th printing and about 40,000 copies. I wrote it to change lives of people who needed to change. It has done that. I have given many copies away to people in distress and in morals [problems] or family life and numerous letters have come and statements to me that they owe their transformed lives to this book.
September 19, 1972: I had some interviews today with people that had many problems long ago and were so anxious to get rid of them. My books continue to sell. The Miracle of Forgiveness. It was the greatest shock of my life. I never had any idea when I turned over the manuscript to the publisher that it would sell more than a few thousand copies at the most and probably only hundreds, but to my amazement we are now in the fourth year in October and in the twelfth edition and tens and tens of thousands have gone and I have received royalties that amaze me and so I am giving much of the royalties to the Missionary Committee of the Church, designed especially for the Indian program.
January 24, 1973: Today I received another of the numerous letters of thank you for my book, and this was handed to me as I spoke to the missionaries on Wednesday morning. “Brother Kimball – I wanted to thank you for your book, The Miracle of Forgiveness. If I hadn’t read your book I may not have been able to go on this mission. I would feel very ungrateful if I didn’t thank you. Love, Elder [name removed].”
I noted in a list of translation items from the Translation Department that the Miracle of Forgiveness is assigned and in process of being translated into Danish, Norwegian, Swedish and Finnish.
January 30, 1973: I went to the Deseret Book Company and autographed about 250 books, most of them “Faith Precedes the Miracle,” and a good many “The Miracle of Forgiveness,” both of which are selling very readily, and I am using much of the royalties to assist missionary work in the world where missionaries are unable to furnish their monthly needs.
April 15, 1973: My book, “The Miracle of Forgiveness,” still has wide currency. It is now in its 14th printing.. Everywhere I go people come to have me autograph the books they have bought. I hear it quoted on every hand; I am greatly flattered. One woman wrote last week, “I have never enjoyed anything more than Brother Kimball’s new book.” [The rest of this page is filled with positive comments from members’ letters about the book.]
April 19, 1973: We sat by President and Sister Dallin Oaks and they told me that they were reading my book, “The Miracle of Forgiveness,” in their home evenings and that each member of the family had his own copy. He said that they had gone over several chapters and found nothing they could not discuss with their children and that the book gave them springboard.
April 20, 1973: [Name removed] wrote regarding his family and added: “A prominent man in our ward also mentioned that your first book, “The Miracle of Forgiveness,” had done more to mature him than anything he had read or studied and he is in his late fifties.”
One of the young men wrote, “ I read your book, ‘The Miracle of Forgiveness,” and this accompanied by several spiritual presentations concerning the need of repentance made me feel that I should expose and conquer my problems.”