Mormon Literature Sampler:

What Is a "Good Man"?

J. Golden Kimball*

I take it that we will all be relieved when I get through. I certainly got the surprise of my life this morning. I anticipated being in agony most of the conference. I desire you to know and feel that I am trying to tell the truth, which I find is a very difficult thing to do. It is not my intention to skate around on thin ice and keep you people in anxiety. I know as well as I know anything that a man cannot speak to the Latter-day Saint people--in fact he should not, if he can only determine the matter--except when he is under the influence of the Holy Ghost. I have never been able to determine when I am going to speak by the direction of the Holy Ghost, and sometimes when I thought I had it, some of the brethren did not think so. So it leaves me in doubt and uncertainty.

I do not know why we should be fearful among our people or anywhere else as long as we make efforts to serve God and keep his commandments.

I have been thinking about something for some time. I haven't got it in the form of a speech. Men come to me occasionally, not very often, and shake me by the hand and say, "I am glad to shake hands with a good man." I never feel so "cheap" as when that happens, and I have always been thankful that they did not know me so well as I know myself. It is along that line that I would like to talk to you for a few minutes.

What is a good man? That has been a big problem with me. I have had a good deal of business dealings with men who claimed to be good men. They said they were good, and they told me how good they were; and when they got through with me, I did not have anything left. [Laughter.] Whenever a man comes to me now and tells me how honest he is, how good he is, I am not going to do business with him.

I am going to read to you a little from the Book of Mormon. I remember an apostle on one occasion--I had been interviewed regarding something I had preached--said to me, "Golden, why don't you read the Book of Mormon?"

I said: "I do as much as you do." And that was true at that time.

I have read the Book of Mormon. I have tried to understand it. I have tried to appreciate it; I have tried to believe it as my father believed it. There was no book that Heber C. Kimball read more and believed in more than he did the Book of Mormon.

I find that a man can act good and talk good and look good and not do any good. That which I am going to read to you is from Moroni's writings in which he tells something about a good man, which his father had told him. I haven't the time to tell you about the goodness and greatness of Mormon and Moroni, but I have great love for those characters. I quote the following [Moroni 7:5-15]:

For I remember the word of God, which saith by their works ye shall know them; for if their works be good, then they are good also.

For behold, God hath said a man being evil cannot do that which is good; for if he offereth a gift, or prayeth unto God, except he shall do it with real intent it profiteth him nothing.

For behold, it is not counted unto him for righteousness.

For behold, if a man being evil giveth a gift, he doeth it grudgingly; wherefore it is counted unto him the same as if he had retained the gift; wherefore he is counted evil before God.

And likewise also it is counted evil unto a man, if he shall pray and not with real intent of heart; yea, and it profiteth him nothing, for God receiveth none such.

Wherefore, a man being evil cannot do that which is good--

I am glad he bears down on that.

--neither will he give a good gift.

For behold, a bitter fountain cannot bring forth good water; neither can a good fountain bring forth bitter water; wherefore, a man being a servant of the devil cannot follow Christ; and if he follow Christ he cannot be a servant of the devil.

Wherefore, all things which are good cometh of God; and that which is evil cometh of the devil; for the devil is an enemy unto God, and fighteth against him continually, and inviteth and enticeth to sin, and to do that which is evil continually.

But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually: wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God.

Wherefore, take heed, my beloved brethren, that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God, or that which is good and of God to be of the devil.

For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night.

I desire now to call your attention to what Moroni said just prior to hiding the plates in the Hill Cumorah. It is just what we read in the Bible. I might go into this subject a little in detail, but time will not permit. I am not given to discussing things to be arbitrary, but when I make a statement, I want to do so hoping that you will think about it and get some good out of it. In this matter of choosing men that is what brings this to my mind--I am one of that number representing the First Council of the Seventy. There are constant changes in our councils, brought about through changes in other work of the Church. Men are taken out of our quorums to serve as high councilors, bishop's counselors, and for other purposes; and then the bishops of wards and presidencies of stakes recommend to us men to fill those vacancies. So we are all the time ordaining seventies and setting apart presidents to keep these quorums intact as far as we can. All these men are recommended to us as good men, and the bishops believe that they are good men, and most of them are good men; but there are some of them who have not proved to be very good. Some of these elders who have been recommended to be seventies, I do not know why they recommend them. Out of the number some of them are very choice men, but other elders that we ordain seventies, it is the last time we see them, and then we are blamed for the condition of quorums. But of course the responsibility rests with us to labor with those men and make of them, through the blessings of the Lord, good men.

Now this is the part I want to read, and I believe this. I may be of the old school, but I have heard it all my life. I believe it in my heart and with my whole soul. If it is not true, "then there is no truth, but we have been mistaken from our youth." We as a Church know this to be true:

"And again, I exhort you, my brethren,"--says Moroni, and this was about the last that he wrote

that ye deny not the gifts of God, for they are many; and they come from the same God. And there are different ways that these gifts are administered; but it is the same God who worketh all in all; and they are given by the manifestations of the Spirit of God unto men, to profit them.

For behold, to one is given by the Spirit of God that he may teach the word of wisdom--

What a wonderful gift!

And to another, that he may teach the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;

And to another, exceeding great faith; and to another, the gifts of healing by the same Spirit.

And again, to another, that he may work mighty miracles....

And again, to another, the beholding of angels and ministering spirits....

And all these gifts come by the spirit of Christ; and they come unto every man severally. according as he will.

And I would exhort you, my beloved brethren, that ye remember that every good gift cometh of Christ. [Moroni 10:8-18.]

And now, my beloved brethren [Mormon's words], if this be the case that these things are true which I have spoken unto you, and God will show unto you, with power and great glory at the last day, that they are true, and if they are true has the day of miracles ceased?...

Behold I say unto you, Nay [Moroni 7:35, 37].

Wherefore, if these things have ceased, then has faith ceased also; and awful is the state of man....

But behold, my beloved brethren, I judge better things of you, for I judge that ye have faith in Christ because of your meekness; for if you have not faith in him then ye are not fit to be numbered among the people of this church [Moroni 7:38, 39].

And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things. And whatsoever thing is good is just and true; wherefore, nothing that is good denieth the Christ, but acknowledgeth that he is. [Moroni 10:5, 6.]

Moroni exhorts us that we deny not the gifts of God, for they are many and they come from the same God. And there are different ways, and they are given by the manifestations of the Spirit of God unto men to profit them.

Notwithstanding all these great gifts, no man--however great--can lead, guide, and direct The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints unless he is divinely authorized and appointed as the prophet, seer, and revelator.

And I exhort you to remember these things; for the time speedily cometh that ye shall know that I lie not, for ye shall see me at the bar of God; and the Lord God will say unto you: Did I not declare my words unto you, which were written by this man, like as one crying from the dead, yea, even as one speaking out of the dust? [Moroni 10:27.]

Patriarchs tell me that prophecy is one of my gifts. It is only my gift through faith and through living up to the precepts of the gospel of Christ.

I have been told that I should prophesy. I want to say to you Latter-day Saints that to be a prophet of God all fear and all doubt have to leave your mind, and you then open your mouth and God gives you the words. But I have become so fearful about things I would be afraid to let it loose. I want to tell you there are a lot of us in the same fix. We are afraid of what people will think and are doubtful about its fulfilment.

When Heber C. Kimball prophesied that goods would be sold as cheap in the streets of Salt Lake as in New York, he himself turned to President Young and said:

"Brother Young, I think I have made a mistake."

Brother Young said, "Never mind, Heber. Let it go."

Charles C. Rich, after the meeting, said: "Heber, I don't believe a word you said."

Heber said: "Neither do I." [Laughter.] But he said: "God has spoken." And God had spoken.

No wonder he was frightened, for the people were in the depths of poverty, a thousand miles away from nowhere.

My testimony to you is that those gifts and promises are the heritage of God's children. I am not a visionary man; I am not a dreamer. I sometimes wonder what my gift is. I have never seen an angel, but I have the assurance that comes to me and is burned in my heart like a living fire by the power of the Holy Ghost that God is the Father, that Jesus is the Christ. | believe with all my soul that Joseph Smith was a prophet and is a prophet of God, and God knows there is ample proof to substantiate it. I also believe that Heber J. Grant is a prophet of God; and whenever God gets ready to give him something to tell you, I promise you in the name of the Lord you will get it, and you will get it straight, too.

The Lord bless you. Amen.

*J. Golden Kimball (1853-1933) was for over forty years a General Authority and member of the First Council of Seventy of the Church. A one-time mule skinner, who spoke with a high-pitched nasal drawl, he maintained an informality and a color in his addresses that endeared him to his listeners. A genuine folk-hero, "J. Golden" is the subject of many tales and stories that continue to circulate through Mormondom. He was unquestionably an effective speaker. His homespun metaphors and vernacular speech did much to ground the faith of his hearers soundly in the matters of everyday experience. This address was given at the October Conference of the Church in 1932.

Return to Mormon Sampler main menu

Mormon Literature

[Sampler | Bibliography | Criticism | Who's Who | What's Where | AML-List]

Please send your updates, corrections, or comments to Gideon Burton: