Latter-day Saint Life

When President Kimball Helped a Stranded Mother + What It Teaches About Priesthood Power in the Family


Some may remember a story of President Spencer W. Kimball helping a stranded pregnant woman in the airport who was pushing along her young toddler.1 President Kimball comforted the woman, whom he had never met and knew nothing about, gave the little girl a piece of gum, and got the young, pregnant, exhausted mother and her wet and hungry 2-year-old daughter on the next flight out of the Chicago O’Hare airport.

That young pregnant woman was my mother. I have sat in Church meetings when this story was shared and when members have asked more regarding the backstory. Perhaps a little of the rest of the story could be of benefit in the context of the priesthood and men and women working together for the salvation of souls.

My parents met at Brigham Young University. My mother had been an active member of the Church all her life, although by the time she reached adulthood, her mother had become inactive. My dad was raised in an inactive home. His mother died by suicide when he was a young teenager. Due to the circumstances of his youth, he determined at a young age that he would raise his family differently from how he was raised. My dad basically raised himself as an active member, thanks in great part to the support of wonderful friends and Church leaders. He served a mission for the Lord in the Eastern States, and, to make a long story short, after he returned from his mission, my parents eloped to the Salt Lake Temple, where they were sealed. None of their parents attended.

After their marriage, my parents continued their education at BYU. My mom graduated in elementary education and used her degree to teach school while helping my dad get through school. (She would continue to use her degree throughout the rest of her life, especially in the raising of her children.) While still in school, my mom gave birth to their oldest daughter. Four miscarriages followed, and the doctors put my mom on bed rest, as she had become quite weak with these pregnancies. The doctors tried to convince my parents to not have more children, and even to abort their current unborn baby, but they both felt strongly that they wanted and were inspired to have more children.

Now, with my mom pregnant for the sixth time but extremely weak, my parents decided that it would be best for my dad to drop out of school and my mom to leave work for a while so they could move to Michigan, where my mother could receive help from her family. Not having enough money for all of them to fly, and aware of the danger a long drive would impose on my mom and the baby, my parents sold everything they had: musical instruments, car, clothes, and so on, to get my mom on that airplane with my sister. In fact, my dad had 35 cents extra in his pocket that he gave to my mom in case she needed it. Knowing that money would be tight for him, and his drive longer than her flight, she snuck the money back into his coat pocket, just in case. The plan was for my dad, in his junker car, to drop my mom and sister off at the airport and then drive all day and night and meet them in Michigan.

All went as planned until the pilot announced that, due to weather, the plane would have to make an emergency landing in Chicago. Having been instructed by the doctor that she couldn’t hold anything heavier than a loaf of bread, and having no money, no extra change of clothes for her or her daughter, no extra food, and no extra diapers, my mom got off the airplane with my sister. Hours went by, and there was no indication of when they would be leaving. My mom was exhausted and concerned. Finding no available seat, she eventually slumped down against a wall with my sister cradled in her lap. In this position, she prayed and pled for help, hoping not to lose this baby and wanting to relieve the burdens of her young daughter.

Within moments, a kind, elderly man came and knelt by them on the floor, assessed the situation, and began offering help. He immediately picked up my soaking wet and sobbing toddler sister and wrapped her in his arms. Carrying my sister, the gentleman went to the desk and, with some type of persuasion, got my mom and sister on the next flight to Michigan. Although my mom did not recognize the man, she later reflected that she should have been more embarrassed for their circumstances, as my sister soaked his suit with her dripping wet diaper and she herself was in a horrible state. But, in the moment, she was overwhelmed with gratitude for the kindness of this elderly gentleman.

Months later, after giving birth to a healthy boy, my parents were at a fireside being broadcast from Salt Lake City. When President Spencer W. Kimball began speaking, my mom immediately recognized him as the man in the airport. She immediately wrote him a letter, thanking him for his service. He responded that he would never forget that day in the airport and thanked her for her service as a wife and mother.

My mom was cautious in speaking of this story, never wanting to bring undue attention to herself, always stating that it was President Kimball’s story. In many ways it is. But for me, it’s also a story of how the Lord uses His priesthood to bless His righteous disciples: President Kimball as a priesthood key holder, and my mom and dad, both endowed with priesthood power and authority for their own family.

President Kimball, as an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, held all the keys of the kingdom of God on the earth in this dispensation. Because of this priesthood authority, he literally could act in the name of God in all things. Because of his righteousness, he was blessed with incredible priesthood power. My mother has mentioned on a number of occasions that, during the time President Kimball was helping her, she literally felt as if he were blessing her—healing her, in a sense. In fact, after this experience with President Kimball, my parents were blessed to have 10 more naturally born children, adopted another, and also raised my dad’s nephew, whom I know only as my brother. Their ability to rear 13 children was clearly a miracle and defied all the odds previously pronounced by the doctors.

President M. Russell Ballard taught, “Not only is the priesthood the power by which the heavens and the earth were created, but it is also the power the Savior used in His mortal ministry to perform miracles, to bless and heal the sick, to bring the dead to life, and, as our Father’s Only Begotten Son, to endure the unbearable pain of Gethsemane and Calvary—thus fulfilling the laws of justice with mercy and providing an infinite Atonement and overcoming physical death through the Resurrection.”2

As for my parents, they too were using the power and authority of the priesthood with which they were endowed, having each made and kept sacred covenants in the temple. They had knelt across the altar as a couple and entered into the patriarchal/familial order of the priesthood, or the new and everlasting covenant of marriage, and were both given priesthood power and authority of God for their family. President Ezra Taft Benson explained that “the order of priesthood spoken of in the scriptures is sometimes referred to as the patriarchal order because it came down from father to son. But this order is otherwise described in modern revelation as an order of family government where a man and woman enter into a covenant with God—just as did Adam and Eve—to be sealed for eternity, to have posterity, and to do the will and work of God throughout their mortality.”3

Both my mom and dad were thus able to receive revelation, knowledge, authority, and power available only to those who make and keep these sacred covenants in the temple. Although traveling alone on the plane, my mother was not without the priesthood power and authority of God, as she was blessed with it in God’s holy temple.

Here were three people: President Kimball, my mother, and my father, all using their priesthood power and authority for the salvation of God’s children on the earth. These three individuals were determined to keep their covenants, and, in their own unique ways, be about His errand for the salvation of the souls of others. I believe that because of the covenants each of these three members made, and their willingness to serve the Lord and obey Him at all costs, He blessed each of them with priesthood power and authority. It’s as if my parents, President Kimball, and the Lord were all on the same team, to “bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39).

Lead image from Getty Images

1.    Edward L. Kimball and Andrew E. Kimball Jr., Spencer W. Kimball (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1977), 334.

2.    M. Russell Ballard, “This Is My Work and Glory,” Ensign, May 2013.

3.    Ezra Taft Benson, “What I Hope You Will Teach Your Children about the Temple,” Ensign, August 1985.

President Russell M. Nelson recently voiced a concern that "too many of our brothers and sisters do not fully understand the concept of priesthood power and authority. I fear that too many of our brothers and sisters do not grasp the privileges that could be theirs."

Some are surprised to learn that priesthood authority, privileges, and power apply to women as well as men. On the other hand, many women feel undervalued, voiceless, and marginalized regarding the priesthood. Our limited understanding and frustration often stems from the priesthood being taught too narrowly.

The Priesthood Power of Women relies on the standard works and teachings of the living prophets to help all members, especially women, more fully understand God's power and take full advantage of the powers, blessings, and privileges available to them in this mortal journey by

  • clarifying truth regarding the priesthood, for both men and women.
  • further expanding our knowledge of the priesthood, and
  • strengthening and empowering us as we seek to better fulfill our priesthood responsibilities and make full use of priesthood privileges.

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