About Camilla Kimball (Eyring)
Spencer W. Kimball returned home from his mission in January 1917. That August he reported on his mission in a stake conference. At that stake conference was Camilla Eyring, a young woman to whom Spencer had been casually introduced before his mission. Four days later they met at a bus stop. Spencer reintroduced himself and they had their first personal conversation sitting together on the bus. He inquired, during the conversation, if he could call on Camilla. She responded in the affirmative.
“But she did not expect him to call unannounced. When he arrived at her home one evening soon after their bus ride she was dressed in a kimono, hair up in curlers, preparing to go dancing with a boyfriend and some other friends. Camilla did not know what to do. So she sat with young Mr. Kimball on the porch and talked, expecting his visit to end at any moment, until it became obvious he had no intention of leaving.
“‘I was in a pickle,’ Camilla later said. Though she wanted to favor Spencer, she already had a date, so she fudged. She told Spencer that a crowd was going dancing. Did he want to come? Spencer, delighted with his good luck, said yes, so when Alvin drove up in his car with the others, Camilla asked if a friend could come along. The two piled in the car and Alvin let his rage out through his foot. He drove, said Camilla, ‘like the devil was after him.’ By the time the car pulled up to the dance hall in Layton, Alvin was through with Camilla. He wouldn’t dance with her again for fifteen years. ‘I played a shabby trick,’ Camilla admitted” (Kimball and Kimball, Spencer W. Kimball, 84; see also Gibbons, Spencer W. Kimball, 63–64).
Their relationship blossomed, and Spencer and Camilla were married on 16 November 1917. The following tribute was later paid to Camilla:
“How much a man’s success depends upon his wife! Elder Kimball has been favored with a charming helpmate who has been constant, patient, full of understanding and encouragement. Her training in, and teaching of, home economics has enabled her to feed and clothe her family well, even though the income sometimes was small. Camilla is the daughter of Edward Christian Eyring and Caroline Romney. They had come to Arizona from Mexico in 1912 as a result of the Mexican revolution. It was in 1917 when she was teaching at the Gila Academy at Thatcher that she met Spencer, and it was not many months before their courtship ripened into marriage. It is said that ‘transplanted flowers are usually the fairest’ and so it was in her case; the blue-eyed, golden-haired girl with the Spanish name, transplanted from Mexico, blossomed into glorious womanhood as an intelligent, well-trained woman, prominent in her own right” (Udall, Improvement Era, Oct. 1943, 591).
Returning home, he married Camilla Eyring, a school teacher, on November 16, 1917. They eventually had four children: Spencer L., Olive Beth, Andrew E., and Edward L. Spencer.
Of the night before her wedding, Camilla Eyring wrote: “I was ready to back out. I went to my room and cried and cried.” She and Spencer W. Kimball had courted only thirty-one days. She wasn’t sure she was she ready to be married.
Camilla was university educated and worked as a teacher, a rare circumstance for a young woman in 1917. Spencer, on the other hand, had minimal schooling, thanks to the draft of WWI. He had less than four dollars in his pocket, and could be called to war anytime and perhaps never return. There was no money or time to go to the Salt Lake Temple, something they both deeply regretted. “Yet, I also loved him desperately,” Camilla wrote, “and decided I was willing to go ahead despite my fears.”
The next evening she stood in her parents’ living room in Pima, Arizona, prepared to take her vows, but it was hardly the wedding she’d dreamed of. The shabbiness of the home embarrassed her, there were less than ten people in attendance, and she was dressed in a pink party dress she worried wasn’t the right thing for a bride. Finally, Bishop Merrill conducted “An impressive ceremony—at least it seemed so to me. And so we were married.”
Camilla was pregnant immediately, something that embarrassed her for fear that when the baby was born people would be counting days. She continued to work, but with the draft hanging over his head, it was difficult for Spencer to find steady employment. It was seven months before they had the money needed to go to Salt Lake and be sealed.
“By this time,” wrote Camilla. “I was big and ugly and my nerves were worn to a frazzle. I hated meeting Spencer’s relatives and friends [in Salt Lake] for the first time looking like I did, and I made matters worse by being irritable. I cried almost every day of that first year of our marriage. I wonder now how Spencer ever stood it.”
Nine months and nine days after their wedding, Spencer LaVan was born after a long and extremely difficult delivery. Camilla would suffer ill effects for many years. During the next four years she had two miscarriages, increasing both her physical and emotional struggle.
But then they welcomed their daughter, Olive Beth, into their home and their hearts. They eventually completed their family with two more boys, Andrew Eyring and Edward Lawrence.
In the decade that followed, Spencer put in long hours at work and in his callings while Camilla focused on family and home. Together they survived the Great Depression, nursed a son through polio and struggled through their own illnesses. They suffered failed investments, job changes, economic crisis and finally regained their footing only to be asked to give it all up.
In 1943, after twenty-five years of marriage, Spencer was called as a General Authority.
They knew that the call, though specifically for Spencer, would necessitate sacrifice and commitment from them both and spent many nights tossing and turning as they attempted to accept this turn they had never expected.
“All his life [Spencer] had been faithfully dedicated to the Church and had been outstanding in his service. I knew he could do it if the Lord had called him. I was willing to give my support.” But it wouldn’t be—and it wasn’t—easy.
They had two children still living at home and had just completed the house they had planned for many years. “The boys resented being uprooted. I hated leaving our dream house and my parents. But we had been called and so we went.”
President Kimball wrote in his Journal, “My wife was my salvation. She comforted me and encouraged me and continued to say there was only one road to follow.”
When Harold B. Lee became Prophet in 1972, and Spencer W. Kimball became president of the twelve, Camilla took comfort in the fact that President Lee was younger and in better health than her husband. She felt sure he would be Prophet for many years. But eighteen months later, Spencer called her from the hospital to tell her that President Lee had died. “Pray for me,” he said.
“It was something neither of us had desired: in fact, we had been terrified in the thought it might come.”
But as always, they answered the call and lengthened their stride. Camilla traveled with her husband whenever possible and often said, “When he is well—I’m well.” Through sixty-eight years of marriage, they remained tirelessly supportive of one another and dedicated to their family.
When asked if she was ever discouraged by the trials she had faced in life, Camilla said, “Our present experiences simply serve as preparation for what is to come. We cannot afford to sink into self-pity. We have too much to learn and do.”
It is often said that behind every great man is a great woman. In the case of Spencer and Camilla Kimball, it is appropriate to say that the Camilla was not behind, but beside him in all things.
“Neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 11:11
SALT LAKE CITY, Sept. 21— Camilla Eyring Kimball, widow of Spencer W. Kimball, the former president of the Morman Church, died Sunday night at her home, church officials said. She was 92 years old. Mrs. Kimball was born Dec. 7, 1894, in Colonia Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico, and at 17, when revolutionaries in the Mexican civil war threatened Mormon colonies in Chihuahua she was sent to Provo, Utah, to live with an uncle. Her family loved from Mexico to Arizona, where she eventually joined them and met her future husband. He served as president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1973 until his death in 1985.
Camilla Kimball's Timeline
December 7, 1894
Colonia Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico
November 16, 1917
Arizona, United States
September 20, 1987
Salt Lake City, UT, USA
Salt Lake City, Utah, United States