A General Conference Classic
Before there were teleprompters, perfectly choreographed talks, the Conference Center, and broadcasting time limits, there were ruffled up notes, long winded brethren, and The Tabernacle with its huge clock which none of the speakers ever paid attention to.
A lot has changed since then.
Yet twice a year Latter Day Saints gather to listen to the living oracles, our Prophets, Seers, and Revelators, and to listen to the guidance the Lord would give us in our time through his ordained servants.
Tonight I felt like sharing one of my personal favorite General Conference addresses ever given. It was given on 9 April 1932 in the 102 Annual General Conference of the Church. And I love it not so much because it was given by an amazingly colorful individual, but because his message is so precise, humble, and clear.
We must, like he did, learn to recognize that “still small voice” in our lives.
So turn your mind’s eye back to that simpler time, a hot afternoon in the Tabernacle on hard wooden pews, and prepare yourself to hear that high pitched voice of one of Israel’s finest…
Hearing The Voice of the Lord
Elder J. Golden Kimball – First Council of the Seventy
I am very anxious as well as desirous that I be under the influence of the right spirit, the Spirit of the Lord. I have no ambition, no desire but to serve the Lord and to keep his commandments and to fulfill and complete my labors.
I have been very much impressed with one thought, and I have had quite a number of thoughts, and that is: the number of speakers that have spoken during this Conference. If they have not reached pretty much all the people then they have not fulfilled what I believe. I believe that in this Church and among the children of men there are people there may not be very many who understand me. Perhaps I may be the only one among you who can reach my kind of people. Well, if that is true, why not let me be natural and talk to them ? You who do not like my talk can go to sleep if you want to. As long as I can reach a soul when under the influence of the Holy Spirit and plant a seed of truth in his heart, it seems to me, with all the experience I have had, it would be a wonderful thing.
I remember that not many Conferences ago I was called to the stand just before the Conference adjourned. President Grant told me I had seven minutes-I took three-and I think it is the only time that President Grant ever shook hands with me after one of my talks. (Laughter) President Grant did not shake hands with me because of what I said; it was because I left him four minutes, and that is more than any of the other brethren had ever done.
I have had another idea quite a while, and I think I will express it. You see that great big clock over there. I cannot see the hands, my eyes are not as good as they used to be. Well, with that great big clock before me and this microphone in front of me they tell a man to get the Holy Spirit ! (Laughter)
Now, what I am trying to get at is this: it takes intelligent people to understand what I am trying to get at. I do not do your thinking for you, you have to do your own thinking. If I give you a little chaff to get you to take a little wheat, my trouble has always been you choose the chaff and lose the wheat.
I remember a long time ago when the Mutuals launched the New Era Magazine. I was on a trip with Apostle Francis M. Lyman. We started out in Sevier County (Utah) and went to Panguitch and the surrounding settlements, and to Kanab and St. George; and when we got to St. George, Brother David H. Cannon, the President of the Stake, and Brother Edward Snow, superintendent of the Mutuals, with their buggies transferred us to Panacca. The people of Panacca had not seen an Apostle for twenty years, and it was Sunday, a fast day. Meetings were begun in the morning and they kept them up all day, and we were fasting. I was pretty nearly dead at four o’clock. After four o’clock Brother Lyman said, “Now, Brother Kimball, get up and tell them about the Era.” He had done a good deal of talking himself about the Era. During that trip I think we got four hundred subscribers-$800.00. I wrote out all receipts. It was in September. Brother Lyman at this meeting told me to get up, so I did, and I said: “All you men that will take the Era if we will let you go home, rise your right hand.” There was not a single man who did not raise his hand and subscribed and paid $2.00 cash for the Era. (Laughter) Brother Lyman said: “That is the brightest thing you ever did.” I do not claim that was inspiration; it was good psychology. But sometimes the Spirit of the Lord speaks in such a manner. And really, they paid $2.00 to get out!
I am trying to say this to you because we never know, if we listen to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit, just what it will do for us.
I am going to tell you a story that I have never told before. When I was president of the Southern States mission, after a year’s time I concluded that I would try to hold a conference in a city. Up to that time we had always kept out of cities. So I made my arrangements with the president of the conference to hold such a meeting and to secure some place where we could hold it. We had no money The only place they could secure was the court house. I told the Elders: “I will do the preaching, and if they kill me you need not bother any further.” The people were very prejudiced. When the time came I met those Elders, a fine body of men, wonderful, courageous men, men of faith-they had to be in the South. We went to the court house, and all those present in the crowd were men; there wasn’t a woman among them, and we all knew what that meant. When there are no women there is a great deal of danger. It is dangerous enough when they are present.
At any rate I made up my mind to deliver my message as fervently and humbly as ever a president of a mission preached. I intended to do all the talking. I went there determined to preach the Gospel. I had my Bible, and I am well acquainted with my Bible. I cannot find anything in anybody else’s Bible. I have owned this Bible for forty years and it is well marked and every subject traced in my own penmanship. I would not take money for this Bible. I went there believing that the Spirit of God was on me as the president of the mission. I was humble as a child. It was the only time in my life that I have ever been far enough away from the Brethren that I could do as I pleased. (Laughter) Ever since that time I have been closed in.
But I got up that day to preach the Gospel, faith and repentance, etc. All at once something came over me and I opened my mouth and said to that body of men: (The building was crowded; among them were some of the leading men of the city) “Gentlemen, you have not come here to listen to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I know what you have come for. You have come to find out about the Mountain Meadows Massacre and polygamy, and God being my helper. So I will tell you the truth.” And I did. I talked to them for one hour. When the meeting was out you could hear a pin drop. There was no comment; there was no noise or confusion, and we went to the hotel.
We had arranged for lodgings at a cheap hotel. After a short time a brass band played. Elder Willard Bean was the president of the conference. I sent him out to find what it all meant. I thought it meant trouble. So he inquired and they told him: “We are serenading that big long fellow.” That is the only brass band I have ever had dispense music after one of my talks. What I want to ask you good people is this: Was I moved upon by the right spirit? The next day when we went to the woods to hold our priesthood meeting, which we always held in the woods – we had no other place – I said to those Elders: “Don’t one of you dare preach that sermon; it will cost you your life.” And I have never preached it since.
What I am beating around in the brush to put over is this: Does the Lord God direct his servants? He certainly does! If he doesn’t we are a failure and we are no better than others. We do not know just what to say. I don’t. I don’t know just how to say it, but the Lord being my helper as long as I live I am going to try to be natural and I am going to try to have my mind open with the hope that God will give me his Holy Spirit when I open my mouth and use the talent which the Lord has given me.
Now, brethren and sisters, I know what that feeling is. I have not had it very often, but I know that there is such a thing as “the still small voice.” I have heard it.
My time is up. But if you people do not believe that I sustain the Authorities of this Church and uphold God’s work, I do. I don’t know how I could prove it to you any better than I have in my own way. God bless you. Amen.