President Spencer W. Kimball: A prophet at the piano

“Music City.”

That’s the nickname for Nashville, Tennessee. The name took on new meaning when I heard a prophet playing a piano. Here’s how that came about:

President Spencer W. Kimball and his wife, Sister Camilla Eyring Kimball, visited four cities in Tennessee in less than three days, July 25-27: Chattanooga, Nashville, Murfreesboro and Cookeville.

At one stop, they were overnight guests of Nashville Tennessee Stake President Robert N. Brady and his wife, Glenda Brady.

President and Sister Kimball arrived at the Brady home at the end of a long day, which started out with the dedication of an LDS meetinghouse in Chattanooga early on the morning of July 26, and an afternoon reception for representatives of Nashville’s city government and other prominent people, such as the celebrated Minnie Pearl of the Grand Ole Opry.

After the evening meal, President and Sister Kimball relaxed in the den with members of the Brady family and a few local Church leaders. President Kimball chose to sit on an old-fashioned piano stool with his back to the instrument’s keyboard. I don’t remember precisely what the conversation was about, other than some history of the Church in the area.

After a little while, someone said, “President Kimball, why don’t you whirl around and play us a tune?”

President Kimball immediately turned around on the adjustable stool and played “I Am a Child of God.” He didn’t “play it straight,” like the version printed in today’s Children’s Songbook. He added some flourishes, what I might describe as a few “jazz notes.” I got the distinct impression that most people in the room were surprised, first, that President Kimball could play the piano and, second, that the prophet would “jazz up” such a classic song in the LDS repertoire.

At first, everyone just listened. Then President Kimball played the song again, this time more sedately and in keeping with the songbook version. Children in the room went to the piano and stood close by President Kimball and began singing the song. Pretty soon, the adults in the room joined in.

I’ve heard performances in some of the world’s greatest concert halls, but I can attest that few selections roused my emotions as much as hearing those children sing, accompanied by a prophet.

After President and Sister Kimball went upstairs to their room, which had twin beds borrowed for the night from two of the Bradys’ children, Sister Brady and I sat and talked. I asked her to tell me what she thought about having the prophet as a guest in her home.

“I’ve never been so calm,” she said. “It’s a beautiful experience to be so completely relaxed. I’m sure the impact of them being here will hit after they’ve gone and then I’ll realize that the prophet sat on that piano stool and played that old piano.”

I remember another point of interest: The next morning, when President and Sister Kimball came downstairs for breakfast, the two children whose room they had occupied had a very important question for President Kimball: “Which bed did you sleep in?”

President Kimball didn’t tell them.