President Kimball once had a powerful dream about his deceased father. Here’s how it shaped his testimony

by | Jul. 14, 2021

Editor’s note: The following excerpt comes from a book about special witnesses of Jesus Christ. You can read this chapter in its entirety at truthwillprevail.xyz as well as other chapters as they are posted. This excerpt is republished here with permission.

In a quarterly meeting of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles held in 1957, while speaking to his beloved apostolic associates, Elder Spencer W. Kimball “recounted to them a dream of a visit from [his] deceased father.”1  The dream came while he dealt with deeply concerning health problems, while he pondered his life and possible death. “I tried to piece together my bits of knowledge to anticipate what the life beyond the grave was like,” he said. “There came back to me vividly a hallowed experience when about a year ago my own father, Andrew Kimball, came to me.”2  Speaking of this to his brethren, he said,

It seemed I stood in the room with other people around me. Then I saw him, my father. My father was a handsome man, tall, straight, young, in his sixties, with dark, piercing eyes and a commanding appearance, and there he was, not a vague apparition, but so real and so lifelike, so much like himself. I called to him, “Oh, Father, Father, it is so good to see you.” He had a radiant smile such as he had had in his life. It warmed me and inspired me. I was pulsating with gladness. I could not understand why others could not see him, he was so clear and distinct and pleasing. “Oh, my beloved father!” He said no word, and now he seemed to be moving away gradually. He had been only an arm’s length from me. Now he faded out of the picture and was gone.

I awakened and lay hours, reliving the beautiful dream and the satisfying vision again and again. I did not want it to pass from my memory. I went to my desk and wrote it in my journal and went back to bed, lying quietly in the darkness musing and reliving this hallowed experience.

So vivid it was that I felt sure it had some meaning. I was not sure for what purpose it had been given to me. . . .

And so I have been grateful through the years for that sweet moment. If it did nothing more for me than to more completely connect mortality with immortality, it served a good purpose. As I have contemplated these months the exquisite joy which came to me in this reunion with my earthly father, I came to anticipate the infinitely greater happiness the possible meeting of my Lord and Savior and our Eternal Father. . . .

Somehow after this, the future, whatever it was, did not look so bleak and nebulous. There settled down over me a comfort and a peace which, except in a few weak moments, has never left me.3

During another period of deep introspection, as he again thought about his mortality and his throat problems, he wrote to a son: “I leave with my children and others my testimony. I know. How more completely could I know anything? I know that it is true and divine. And as I face the end of my days I say it again and again without fear and in total honesty.”4  But Elder Kimball’s days were not yet ended.

In late 1973, with the unexpected death of President Harold B. Lee, Spencer W. Kimball became the President of the Church. Of this change in leadership, Elder Bruce R. McConkie said:

When President Lee passed he was attended by President Marion G. Romney, his second counselor, and President Spencer W. Kimball, the President of the Council of the Twelve. President N. Eldon Tanner was in Arizona at the time. Brother Romney, as the representative of and counselor to President Lee, was in complete and total charge at the hospital. He gave President Lee a blessing. He felt the spirit of peace and satisfaction, the calm assurance that whatever eventuated would be right. He did not promise President Lee that he would be healed. The President had become ill very rapidly, just in a matter of hours or moments. Shortly after this blessing, he passed away. At the moment he passed, Brother Romney, in harmony with the system and the established tradition and custom of the Church, stepped aside, and President Spencer W. Kimball was then in complete charge and had total direction. President Kimball was at that moment the senior apostle of God on earth. And as the last heartbeat of President Lee ceased, the mantle of leadership passed to President Kimball, whose next heartbeat was that of the living oracle and presiding authority of God on earth. From that moment the Church continued under the direction of President Kimball.5

President Kimball, because of many health problems, had not expected to outlive President Lee, but in the Lord’s providences, and after experiencing open heart surgery under the skilled hands of Dr. Russell M. Nelson in 1972, he did. Dr. Nelson, who later became an Apostle and then President of the Church, received a powerful spiritual experience while operating: “I shall never forget the feeling I had as his heart resumed beating, leaping with power and vigor. At that very moment, the Spirit made known to me that this special patient would live to become the prophet of God on earth.”6

At President Lee’s funeral, President Kimball said: “President Lee has gone. I never thought it could happen. I sincerely wanted it never to happen. I doubt if anyone in the Church has prayed harder and more consistently for a long life and the general welfare for President Lee than my Camilla and myself. I have not been ambitious. I am four years older than Brother Lee (to the exact day, March 28). I have expected that I would go long before he would go. My heart cries out to him and for him. How we loved him!”7

President Kimball had only been president for a short time when his heart began giving him further problems. Dr. Russell M. Nelson again told the story: “He had been president of the Church at the time about seven months. His heart was acting up that Saturday afternoon. (I had done heart surgery on him in April 1972.) I went out there and found his heartbeat to be grossly irregular—really out of time.” Dr. Nelson decided to take him to the hospital for further tests. “He was obedient as he usually is. On the way to the hospital he said, ‘Now, Brother Nelson, it would be a great disservice to the Church if I were to die this soon after being ordained as President of the Church. You have got to see that I stay alive a long time yet.’”8

At the April 1974 general conference, President Spencer W. Kimball was reported to have said the following:

The Lord has revealed to men by dreams something more than I ever understood or felt before. I heard this more than once in quorum meetings of the Council of the Twelve when George F. Richards was president. He was the venerable father of Brother LeGrand Richards who has just spoken to us. He said, “I believe in dreams, brethren. The Lord has given me dreams which to me are just as real and as much from God as was the dream of King Nebuchadnezzar, which was the means of saving a nation from starvation, or the dream of Lehi who through a dream led his colony out of the old country across the mighty deep to this promised land, or any other dreams that we might read in the scriptures.9

President Kimball then finished quoting from President Richards and also President George Q. Cannon using the former words of both men to establish and convey further meaning to those with ears to hear and hearts to understand:

It is not out of place for us to have important dreams,” [President Richards] said. “And then more than 40 years ago I had a dream which I am sure was from the Lord. In this dream I was in the presence of my Savior as he stood mid-air. He spoke no word to me, but my love for him was such that I have not words to explain. I know that no mortal man can love the Lord as I experienced that love for the Savior unless God reveals it to him. I would have remained in his presence, but there was a power drawing me away from him.

As a result of that dream, I had this feeling that no matter what might be required of my hands, what the gospel might entail unto me, I would do what I should be asked to do even to the laying down of my life.

And so when we read in the scriptures what the Savior said to his disciples, ‘In my Father’s house are many mansions: … I go to prepare a place for you … that where I am, there ye may be also.’ (John 14:2–3.) I think that is where I want to be.

If only I can be with my Savior and have that same sense of love that I had in that dream, it will be the goal of my existence, the desire of my life.”

Elder George Q. Cannon, who was in the presidency of the Church at one time, said this:

“I know that God lives. I know that Jesus lives; for I have seen Him. I know that this is the Church of God, and that it is founded on Jesus Christ, our Redeemer. I testify to you of these things as one who knows—as one of the Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ that can bear witness to you today in the presence of the Lord that He lives. . . .” 

Brethren and sisters, we come now to the close of this great conference. You have heard from most of the Brethren, as I have said, and their testimonies have been inspiring. What they have told you is true. . . .

Brethren and sisters, I want to add to these testimonies of these prophets my testimony that I know that He lives. And I know that we may see him, and that we may be with him, and that we may enjoy his presence always if we will live the commandments of the Lord and do the things which we have been commanded by him to do and reminded by the Brethren to do.10 

Then several years later, in the April 1978 general conference, President Kimball again adopted the words of another to express his own similar special witness: “‘I know that God lives. I know that Jesus Christ lives,’ said John Taylor, my predecessor, ‘for I have seen him.’ I bear this testimony to you brethren in the name of Jesus Christ.”11

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1. Correspondence, Spencer W. Kimball to Andrew Kimball, July 14, 1976. President Boyd K. Packer indicated that Elder Kimball felt that his father came to him in this dream to let Spencer know that he approved of his life. (See Lucille C. Tate, Boyd K. Packer: A Watchman on the Tower [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1993], 286; another account of this dream, with slightly more detail, is found in Kimball & Kimball, Spencer W. Kimball, 302.)

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.

4. Kimball & Kimball, Spencer W. Kimball, 304.

5. Bruce R. McConkie, “Succession in the Presidency,” BYU Speeches, January 8, 1974. 

6. “Spencer W. Kimball: Man of Faith,” Ensign, December 1985. 

7.  Spencer W. Kimball, “A Giant of a Man”; Address delivered at Funeral of President Harold B. Lee, December 28, 1973, in Ensign, February 1974. 

8. Russell M. Nelson, “A Call to Serve,” Salt Lake Institute of Religion Fireside, March 31, 1985, 7.

9.  Spencer W. Kimball, “The Cause is Just and Worthy,” Ensign, May 1974.

10. “The Cause Is Just and Worthy,” Ensign, May 1974.

11. Spencer W. Kimball, “Strengthening the Family—the Basic Unit of the Church,” Ensign, May 1978

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