Spencer Wooley Kimball, 1895-1985, was the 12th president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, serving in that capacity from 1973 until his death.
He was born in Salt Lake City on 28 March 1895 to Andrew Kimball and Olive Woolley. His paternal grandfather was Heber C. Kimball, who was one of the original Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the latter days and then First Counselor in the First Presidency to Brigham Young
In 1898, When Spencer was three, the family moved to Thatcher, Arizona. He served a mission to the Central States.
Returning home, he married Camilla Eyring, a school teacher, on November 16, 1917. They eventually had four children: Spencer L., Olive Beth, Andrew E., and Edward L. Spencer. He worked in the fields of banking and insurance, determined to remain self-employed for the flexibility it gave him to tend to Church duties.
His call as an apostle came in 1943. He sold his business, moved his family to Salt Lake City, and at the October General Conference in 1943 received the sustaining vote of the Church's membership and was that same day ordained an apostle by President Heber J. Grant.
As an apostle, President Heber J, Grant gave him the responsibility of working with the Indian peoples. Appalled by the poverty and hardship he saw, he first presided over the distribution of welfare goods, then determined that any long term benefit must come from the twin efforts of improvements to infrastructure in the Reservations and improvement of education of the Native Americans. Elder Kimball developed the Indian Student Placement Program which allowed Indian students to be placed in homes where they could receive an extended education. This program was in place many years until improving conditions lessened its need. He preached vigorously against racial prejudice.
He had not been expected to succeed to the Presidency, as Harold B. Lee was named an Apostle two years before him and succession is strictly by seniority. However, Lee died suddenly in December 1973 after a presidency of a year and a half and Kimball, as President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, was next in line. Though he was seventy-eight, he set a brisk pace. Despite his having suffered heart attacks in the 1940s, his energy was legendary and he exemplified his slogans, "Lengthen our stride" and "Do it." Throat cancer in the 1950s left him with a distinctive soft hoarse voice. In 1972 he underwent open-heart surgery to replace an obstructed artery and a failing valve.
He encouraged missionary service by worthy young men and called for volunteers among women and couples. He extended the church to communist countries by avoiding political stances. He is known for articulating for the first time the Three-fold Mission of the Church, establishing operating Areas and Area Presidencies to decentralize Church government, establishing the three-hour Block Meeting Schedule. The church under Kimball opposed the Equal Rights Amendment as a misguided means to reach legitimate objectives, and criticized the weapons buildup by world powers, successfully opposing basing MX missiles in the Utah-Nevada desert.
The thing for which he is probably best known, to the church and the world at large, is removing race as an obstacle to receiving the priesthood and entering the temple in June 1978. Earlier revelations and interpretations had forbidden it to blacks.
Brain surgery in 1979 slowed him, and recurring troubles in 1981 ended his active leadership. During his last four years, his counselor Gordon B. Hinckley shouldered major responsibilities. President Kimball died 5 November 1985 and was succeeded by Ezra Taft Benson
The books he wrote that are still in print are: