I met Sister Camilla Eyring Kimball a few months after I began working as a staff writer in 1972.
Having supported her husband, President Spencer W. Kimball, in his Church positions ever since he was called as a stake clerk three weeks after their marriage on Nov. 16, 1917, Sister Kimball’s feelings of responsibility increased when he was set apart as president of the Church on Dec. 30, 1973.
In an interview in early January 1974, Sister Kimball used one word to express her feelings toward her responsibilities: anxiety.
Along with sensing the weight that rested upon her husband’s shoulders, she had a major asset: love.
“I love people,” she said. “I love fun and I love to laugh. ... I love the gospel and I feel the only way a person can feel comfortable, secure and happy is through living the gospel. I have a real assurance of the truthfulness of the gospel. ...
“I realize that some people tend to judge the Church by individuals. One thing I’ve always tried to teach our children was that people are not perfect, but the gospel plan is perfect. ... I told our children to never be let down by what an individual does. If a bishop or a General Authority makes a mistake, that has no effect on the truthfulness of the gospel.”
As her ward Relief Society’s spiritual living teacher, she saw successful results of her challenges to women to read the scriptures and books pertaining to the subjects they were discussing. Seventy-two women accepted her challenge to read the Book of Mormon; 12 read it three times.
Sister Kimball said women should be improving themselves constantly. “It’s important for a woman to stay alive intellectually,” she said. “It’s so easy to get lazy when you’re older and not really be stimulated to read widely and make the best use of time.
“I think mothers need to be alert to the influences that are confronting their children so they can be in sympathy with the temptations that confront them. Even grandmothers should be influential to their grandchildren.”
Expressing a firm conviction that there’s no happiness or satisfaction in wasting time or deviating from constructive living, Sister Kimball said, “A person always has to backtrack if he goes the wrong road, and it’s so hard to make up for wasted time.”
She placed emphasis on the importance of education. She was a school teacher when she first saw Spencer W. Kimball.
“It was at a dance, and it wasn’t a very telling experience,” she said with a laugh. “I was a new girl in the community, and he didn’t dance with me. I was a little piqued at him. I thought it was the least he could do. That was before he went on his mission. He had been away and had come home and had lots of girlfriends.
“The next time I saw him was after he came home from his mission. I was teaching school in Arizona and was waiting to go home on the bus. He was going to my hometown to visit a friend. He introduced himself and we sat together on the bus. He asked if he could come see me. That started a short courtship. We met in September and were married in November.”
Sister Kimball had some definite views about love. “It’s something that grows,” she said. “I think compatibility is a very important thing; it’s important that you have common interests, common ideals and common goals.
“This is a foundation upon which you build love. I think many people think of infatuation as love, but there are many things besides just physical attraction, although I think that’s important, too. But that’s only one facet.”
She attributed their successful marriage to their appreciation toward the gospel’s attitude of marriage and life. “We know that marriage is eternal and we’re making our future, as well as our present. We have the same ideals, and our backgrounds are similar; neither of us has had any real financial affluence. We’ve had to economize and our money values are the same. We share the same ambition for education and the gospel.
“Sometimes the sledding has been a little difficult. We went through the Depression, but we knew how to economize. We never got into debt; we never lived beyond our means. It was a firm idea for both of us that ‘you don’t buy anything you can’t afford.’”
Among the Kimballs’ many common interests was their love for travel and dancing. They traveled throughout the United States with their young children, staying in inexpensive motels and taking their food with them.
In their younger married life, President and Sister Kimball were active members of a square dance club. “We danced every week,” she said, “but as we grew older, it became apparent that we were so busy that we had to drop a few of the activities we had enjoyed when we were younger.”
Sister Kimball’s route to happiness was no well-guarded secret: “People can find happiness through living the gospel. The gospel encompasses everything. It was designed to make people happy.”