Statue honors late prophet: President Kimball's 'continuing influence' on many is remembered

The late, beloved prophet and president of the Church, Spencer W. Kimball, was honored May 18 during a ceremony in which a bronze statue of his likeness was unveiled in Arizona.

This honor marked his continuing influence not only on Church members but also on people from other faiths.The statue was commissioned by Arizona land developers Gary Walker and Buddy Johnson, both of the Methodist faith, and will be placed along a walking trail in Las Sendas, a new housing development community in northeast Mesa.

The statue was the first one of 15 to be unveiled that honor people from around the world and different walks of life. Other statues include Harriet Tubman, Thomas Merton, Rabbi Abraham Heschel, Duke Ellington and Albert Camus. "These are people who meant a lot to us over the years," Mr. Johnson said.

Mr. Walker said that he came to know and love Spencer W. Kimball by reading about him. "Spencer Kimball has become a hero of mine. He was an extraordinary man because he was so ordinary. What he did was simple but profound. From my standpoint he was a very pivotal figure and his influence touched so many people, not just the Mormon people."

The statue was unveiled in a ceremony in which many members of the Kimball family attended. Spencer LeVan Kimball, President Kimball's oldest son, spoke during the program. He said two things on the statue were symbolic to his father's life. In one hand is a shovel which represents his humble beginnings, his occupation as a builder in Thatcher, Ariz., and his active involvement in irrigation matters in the Gila Valley. In the other hand is an open Book of Mormon which represents the missionary focus of his entire life, he said.

He also said it was fitting that the statue is in Arizona because "my father always felt a very close attachment to Arizona and always felt like it was home."

The statue of President Kimball was sculpted by LDS artist and sculptor Russell Bowers of Arizona. "It is a large understatement," he explained, "to say it was an honor to represent this man and his many virtues in bronze. I prayed a lot that it would be worthy of the individual."

He recalled that President Kimball's teachings had such a great influence on his life that he named his oldest son Spencer. "I was surprised that they would pick someone so close to me," he said. "But I certainly agree that his teachings have had a great impact on humanity."

Steve Young, LDS football star, also spoke during the ceremony. He called the statue a special honor for all Church members. "This will be a place where many of us can come and reflect on our own associations with President Kimball," he said.

"He is my prophet," he said. "Everyone in the Church has a prophet which he or she has a close affinity to, for whatever reason, and he's mine."

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