Academic journal article Western Folklore

The J. Golden Kimball Stories

Academic journal article Western Folklore

The J. Golden Kimball Stories

Article excerpt

The J. Golden Kimball Stories. By Eric A. Eliason. (Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2007. Pp. xx + 188, preface, acknowledgments, introduction, notes, bibliography, index. $50.00 cloth, $20.00 paper.)

According to the Utah History Encyclopedia, J. Golden Kimball (1853-1938) was "one of the most colorful and humorous folk heroes in Mormon history." For decades as a high official of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormon), he traveled to "practically every Mormon community in the Intermountain West," and during his tenure - cut short by his untimely death in an automobile accident - gave "hundreds of sermons." Many church members adored him because of "[hjis humor, wit, sprinkling of 'damns' and 'hells' in his speeches, and unsanctimonious common touch." Following his death there arose a "kind of fraternity of storytellers specializing inj. Golden stories" (Powell 1994).

During my own childhood it was my good fortune to hear many tales of Brother Kimball, for my grandparents, faithful Mormon members, were fans, and it was through their telling of his stories that I learned how to be a good Mormon while still being human. For me the stories made living the Mormon Gospel a little less rigid. The stories convey to church members, whom from time to time slip up, drink coffee, and use swear words, that they still belong to the LDS church and that the Lord will forgive them. Brother Kimball was a hero to my grandparents, they kept his legend alive in my family through their recollections, and I brought this perspective into reading Eric A. Eliason's similar anecdotal accounts in Thef. Golden Kimball Stories. The book is an eloquent presentation and evaluation of stories told through generations of Mormons.

Eliason collected J. Golden Kimball stories from students at Brigham Young University, and from the archives of Utah State University and Brigham Young University. The stories collected were predominantly by Mormons from Mormons who grew up immersed in Mormon culture. Most of the Kimball stories presented in the book were either first hand accounts or from family members who remember hearing the tales throughout their lives. Eliason remarks that the Kimball stories transcend generations because of the humorous and spiritual role he plays as a folk hero to believers of the Mormon faith. "This is a serious book about a humorous subject," writes Eliason (vii). …

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