Spencer W. Kimball was born in rural Arizona in 1895. In April of 1978, as President of the Church, he talked about his boyhood and family and church life. He said the children loved to sing in church, and if they forgot a verse they could always join in on the chorus. And he sang, right there in the Priesthood meeting of General Conference. Unfortunately, this talk is not among the many on the Church YouTube channel, but the text is on lds.org. The title is “Strengthening the Family – the Basic Unit of the Church.” Here is a little of the text:
- I remember the song “In Our Lovely Deseret,” which Sister Eliza R. Snow wrote. She composed many of our songs. I can remember how lustily we sang:
Hark! Hark! Hark! ’tis children’s music,
Children’s voices, O, how sweet,
When in innocence and love,
Like the angels up above,
They with happy hearts and cheerful faces meet
I am not sure how much innocence and love we had, but I remember we sang it, even straining our little voices to reach the high E which was pretty high for children’s voices. I remember we sang:
That the children may live long,
And be beautiful and strong
I wanted to live a long time and I wanted to be beautiful and strong—but never reached it.
Tea and coffee and tobacco they despise.
And I learned to despise them. There were people in our rural community who were members of the Church who sometimes used tea and coffee and sometimes tobacco. The song goes on:
Drink no liquor, and they eat
But a very little meat
[I still don’t eat very much meat.]
They are seeking to be great and good and wise.
And then we’d “Hark! Hark! Hark” again, “…
He finished that song and then said:
- One of the songs that has disappeared was number 163, “Don’t Kill the Little Birds,” and I remember many times singing with a loud voice:
Don’t kill the little birds,
That sing on bush and tree,
All thro’ the summer days,
Their sweetest melody.
Don’t shoot the little birds!
The earth is God’s estate,
And he provideth food
For small as well as great.
I had a sling and I had a flipper. I made them myself, and they worked very well. It was my duty to walk the cows to the pasture a mile away from home. There were large cottonwood trees lining the road, and I remember that it was quite a temptation to shoot the little birds “that sing on bush and tree,” because I was a pretty good shot and I could hit a post at fifty yards’ distance or I could hit the trunk of a tree. But I think perhaps because I sang nearly every Sunday, “Don’t Kill the Little Birds,” I was restrained. The second verse goes:
Don’t kill the little birds
Their plumage wings the air,
Their trill at early morn
Makes music ev’ry-where.
What tho’ the cherries fall
Half eaten from the stem?
And berries disappear,
In garden, field, and glen?
This made a real impression on me, so I could see no great fun in having a beautiful little bird fall at my feet.
The following October he repeated his feelings about the birds. The title is ”Fundamental Principles to Ponder and Live“. The text and video are on the Church website and the video is on YouTube. At 5:29 minutes he talks about the Creation and then says, “I read at the priesthood meeting at the last conference the words to the verse of the song years ago, ‘Don’t Kill the Little Birds,’ with which I was familiar when I was a child growing up in Arizona.” I really remember him singing. If anyone has the recording of that Conference, please listen to it and tell me.
President Kimball ends that section of his address with the familiar quote from Joseph Smith, “I exhorted the brethren not to kill a serpent, bird, or an animal of any kind during our journey unless it became necessary in order to preserve ourselves from hunger.” Here is the YouTube video: