Jonathan Golden Kimball, son of Heber C. Kimball and Christeen Golden, grew up in that second generation of pioneers, those who had been born in the West and knew nothing else, who had not known Joseph Smith or chosen to make the sacrifices that loyalty to him demanded, who somehow succeeded in carrying the Church over the hump from primitive, charismatic fervor to enduring, sustaining faith. J. Golden embodies that transition.
He reminds us more of the earthy cowboy end of our religious heritage than of its visionary glory, mostly due to the myriad stories told about his swearing. I’m convinced that 99% of those stories are made up by tellers who think they can improve on the truth, or assume that J. Golden would have cracked those jokes had he thought of them.
I know he swore and that he spoke freely of barnyard behaviors, but I don’t believe the coarseness was as deliberate or calculated as it appears in most of the stories. I think J. Golden was a guileless man who was not successful in controlling his language precisely because he was unaware, most of the time, that he was about to say something earthy.
Here’s an example of his candor, of his innocent admission of his failures and his constant, sincere striving to be a better man. This page records the day of his ordination as a Seventy (an ordinary stake-level Seventy, not a general authority), on July 21, 1886, when he was 33 years old. (Ignore the 1885 date printed at the top of the page; he was frugally using an outdated notebook for his diary.) It sounds like a howling funny J. Golden story, but recognize that he wrote this for his private record, not as a public performance. He is simply being himself.
My thanks to J. Paul Soderborg, occasional Keepa commenter, who came across this journal entry this morning and shared it with me.