The Real J. Golden Kimball

by Jerry Johnston
Deseret Morning News
February 26, 2005

For the past few days I've been nostalgically leafing through the Rees family histories. At one point I happened on my great-grandfather's missionary journal. And I found he had been set apart as a missionary by J. Golden Kimball, the legendary firebrand and general authority of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Not only that, but that blessing had been transcribed in full in the journal.

When the name J. Golden Kimball surfaces, people always smile. He has become the LDS Will Rogers. Stand-up comedy routines have been built around his remarks. Books collect hundreds of humorous anecdotes and sayings attributed to him.

He has become a man who's good for a laugh. The younger generation has the impression that people listened to "Brother Golden" during general conference just to see if he'd use a cuss word.

J. Golden Kimball has become a one-note vaudeville routine.

But the humor was just one facet of the man, as my great-grandfather's journal shows.

The Golden Kimball that emerges on those pages is a powerful, spiritual giant. When he laid his hands on the head of another, they were jumper cables that called down celestial electricity.

He was a Kimball, after all. And Kimballs come from "believing blood."

The blessing he gave my great-grandfather - even in print - rattles the clockworks of the heart.

Brother Golden crowns great-grandfather with "graces and blessings" and prays that the spirit moves upon him so he will understand what he is about to receive.

He then tells Grandpa Rees to cleanse his hands of the blood of this generation and become a "watchman on the towers."

He calls for the Holy Ghost to "burn within your heart as living fire." He told Grandpa Rees he would travel "by land and by water, upon the railroads and upon the thoroughfares," and said his life would be threatened but he would "be warned of danger in time to escape."

He told Grandpa Rees sacred and startling things I can't go into here.

After reading that blessing, I was wrung out. And I knew I would never think of Brother J. Golden the same way again. He was now another man in my mind. Yes, he had an incredible sense of humor. But humor was just one of his gifts.

After reading my great-grandfather's journal, I realize humor was just a facet, perhaps even a minor facet, of an amazing man.

(edited by David Van Alstyne)
Home / For Latter-day Saints