J. Golden Kimball, one of the most colorful and
beloved of the General Authorities was one of the First Seven Presidents
of Seventies from 1892 until his death in 1938. He was born in Salt Lake
City, June 9, 1853, "in a palatial Utah home of half a century ago—a residence
of his father's, Heber C. Kimball, erected in
1848-49. His mother's name was Christeen Golden Kimball, she being the
only member of her family that ever joined the Church.
Elder Kimball was carefully trained by his father,
as he was living in such close proximity to him that he was ever under
his very watchful care. He had the privilege in his early years of accompanying
his father with Pres. Brigham Young's large parties
when visiting the settlements of the Saints. He was a student of the leading
schools of Salt Lake City up to 1868, and had a life scholarship paid in
what is now the University of Utah. He was also a student of the "Morgan
His father died June 22, 1868, and being the eldest
child of his mother's family, unfortunately and against his mother's wishes
he became attached to the vocation of driving a team—hauled wood from the
canyons, ore from the mines, etc. To follow a profession of any kind was
not urged upon young people in those days, and notwithstanding every effort
was made by his mother to secure more elevating employment, it failed;
and the mother went out the second time, in 1875, as a pioneer, and with
her family located in Meadowville, Rich county, Utah, where Brother Kimball
and his brother Elias S., who became his partner in business,
purchased four hundred acres of farm and meadow land, and in that cold,
northern clime established a ranch and farm, and for fifteen years followed
the horse and cattle business. They were successful and accumulated considerable
From the time of his father's death, and up to the
fall of 1881, he was under no restraint of any kind, but was as free as
the birds that fly in the air; no man's hand was stretched out to guide
him in the footsteps of his father until that man of God, Elder Karl G.
Maeser, was directed by the Spirit of the Lord to the isolated little settlement,
made up largely of eleven of Heber C. Kimball's sons and their families.
This great and good man called the people together in a log school house
and testified of God, and spoke in the interest of the Brigham Young Academy.
The Spirit of God awakened and aroused Brother Kimball and his brother
Elias, and for the first time they realized there was something else to
be accomplished in life besides looking after cattle and horses. They repented
of their weaknesses, reformed, and after great sacrifices and the overcoming
of many difficulties they both attended the Brigham Young Academy for two
years, and were guided and tutored by Dr. Maeser and his associate teachers.
While it is true they did not graduate or attempt
to do so, they repented, reformed, and gained a testimony that God lives,
and they were loyal and true to the Brigham Young Academy from that day forth.
At the expiration of the school term, Elder Kimball was called, April 6,
1883, by Pres. John Taylor, to fill a mission
to the Southern States. In eight days after receiving his call he was set
apart by Brother Moses Thatcher. Together with
twenty-four Elders he landed in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and was appointed
by Pres. Brigham H. Roberts to labor in Virginia,
where he joined his companion as a traveling Elder and labored absolutely
without purse or scrip. After laboring one year he was appointed to act
as secretary of the Southern States Mission at Chattanooga under the direction
of Pres. Roberts.
He was very familiar with the details of the martyrdom
of Elders Gibbs and Berry, as well as with the mobbing, shooting at and
whipping of "Mormon" Elders during the year 1884. The last year of his
mission his health and constitution were broken; he was troubled with malaria,
which continued to afflict him for many years. In the spring of 1885 he
received an honorable release, and returned via New Jersey, where he preached,
and visited his mother's relatives.
On his return he continued in the ranch business,
and was ordained a Seventy by President C. D. Fjelsted,
July 21, 1886. On his return to Bear Lake he traveled as a home missionary
in that Stake, and was appointed to preside over an Elders' quorum, after
which he was chosen and set apart as superintendent of the Young Men's
Mutual Improvement Associations of the Bear Lake Stake, and visited the
associations until he moved to Logan city. The Kimball brothers partook
of the spirit running rife in the world and commenced to worship
the "Old Gold Calf," hoping to gain honor and renown by becoming rich.
Elder Kimball did partake of the more refining elements
of life when he married on September 22, 1887, Miss Jane "Jennie" Smith
Knowton. The couple would have six children.
Elder Jonathan G., together with Newel and Elias,
entered into the implement business under the name of "Kimball Brothers,"
establishing places of business at Logan and Montpelier. They signed notes
for the first time for over thirty thousand dollars. They labored hard
for four years, and lost their investment, but saved their good name and
paid their debts. Their ranch was exchanged for Cache valley property,
and their cattle and horses invested in real estate. They were not yet
convinced of the danger of speculation, but went into the real estate business
during the boom, and bought everything almost that was for sale, and wound
up their career as business men by investing in a company that had purchased
119,000 acres of land in Canada. What they failed to lose their friends
helped them out of, and they were for the time being prevented from chasing
after the golden calf. Moral: "Don't go in debt."
The Lord again came to the rescue, and Brother Jonathan
G. was then called, Aug. 1, 1891, by Pres. Wilford Woodruff
to succeed Elder William Spry as the president of the Southern States Mission.
Notwithstanding his health was seriously impaired, and he was about to
graduate in a business way, the Prophet of the Lord promised him he should
regain his health and be blessed of the Lord, which was literally fulfilled.
Brother Kimball labored three years as president of the Southern States
Mission, and was succeeded by his brother, Elias S. Kimball.
On April 6, 1892, he was chosen one of the First
Council of the Seventy, and was ordained by Apostle Francis
M. Lyman, two days later. Brother Kimball was called to be one of the
aids in the General Board of the Young Men's Mutual Improvement Associations
in the year 1896, and took an active part in filling appointments, as directed
by the General Board, in nearly every Stake in Zion, visiting the young
men's conferences, young men's and young ladies' conjoint conferences,
In January, 1901, Brother Kimball was appointed
by President Snow and given the privilege, in company with his wife and
Elder Heber J. Grant and family, to visit the
California Mission, the object of the call being chiefly that he might
become acquainted with that field of labor. He had the privilege of meeting
with the Elders and Saints and listened for the first time to the "Mormon"
Elders preach on the street corners. Elder Kimball was very much impressed
with that country and people and came to believe a Stake of Zion would
yet be established in the State of California.
It was as a General Authority that J. Golden Kimball
became best known to the saints. For the speech patterns he had picked
up during his wild years as a drover and cattleman came to the fore to
the embarassment of some and the amusement of many. Many a "hell" and "damn"
came from his lips during the stake conferences at which he was called
upon to speak and even occasionaly from the pulpit at General Conference.
But while some may have felt him crude, no one ever doubted that Elder
Kimball could drive home a point with the best of them. Asked how he could
get away with the way he spoke, Elder Kimball is said to have replied,
"Hell, they can't excommunicate me. I repent too damned fast."
After a long and colorful career as a General Authority
during which he rose to become the Seventh (senior) President of the Seventy,
Elder Kimball died as a result of injuries incurred in an automobile accident
September 2, 1938 near Reno, Nevada. He will long be remembered with love
The Salt Lake Tribune which in those days often wrote
bitterly of the Church and especially its General Authorities, editorialized
on the occasion of Elder Kimball's death: "The Church, of which he
was an honored member and high official, may never have another like him.
He was frank, outspoken, and fearless in his utterances. His discourses
scintillated with original observations which occasionally disturbed some
of his hearers, but never failed to convey his honest thoughts. Rich and
risable are the stories told of his apt retorts and pointed remarks. His
genial, wholesome nature will be remembered long and his quaint sayings
repeated after many solmn visages and doleful homilies are forgotten.
There was but one J. Golden Kimball. He was respected,
beloved, and enkoyed by all with whom he made contact. His passing is a
distinct loss to his circle, his Church, his community, and his commonwealth."