News Release

The Apostle Chair – A Piece of Church History in the Japan Fukuoka Mission Home

In the living room of the Japan Fukuoka Mission Home is a beautiful pink overstuffed rocking chair. But this is no ordinary chair; it’s an historic memento of Church History.

“We call it the ‘apostle chair’,” shared Sister Jane Mack, who has lived in the mission home with her husband, President Spencer F. Mack since July 2018 when they arrived to serve as mission leaders.

The apostle chair belonged to President Mack’s grandfather, Spencer W. Kimball, who he is named after and who served as prophet and president of the Church from 1973 to 1985. When he died, President Kimball’s chair was given to his only daughter, Olive Beth Kimball Mack, and eventually inherited by her son, Spencer Mack, when she passed away.

“When we were called to serve as mission leaders, the chair was one of the items we selected to bring with us. We felt that having President Kimball’s chair in the mission home would be a nice touch, and would allow us to share some history and a unique opportunity with guests and friends in Japan,” explained President Mack.

“The story of the apostle chair has been shared in our family for many years. The then current First Presidency gave the chair to Grandpa Kimball when he served as an apostle. About 75 or 80 years before he received it, the leather chairs were purchased for use by the Twelve in their temple council room.”

In his own words President Kimball recorded, “When I came to the council in 1943, these twelve old worn leather chairs were sitting in the half-circle in the room of the Council of the Twelve on the 4th floor of the Salt Lake Temple. Here it was that the Twelve held a quarterly meeting in their own room. The chairs were in rather bad condition. Some of them would not rock, some would not sit up straight and on nearly all, the black leather was cracked and torn somewhat.

“A few years ago the spirit of renovation had taken hold of somebody and the room was re-decorated in yellow and the old chairs were dumped. I think they were piled up in some unused hallway, and new chairs were substituted. We wondered what had become of the dear old leather chairs. One day the First Presidency announced that they were giving to each apostle in the Council of the Twelve one of these old, old, rocking chairs and that we might have our chair reupholstered in our own color. So we took ours and had it upholstered in pink to match the other decorations in our living room.

“It is very comfortable and rocks well and very frequently when new people are in our home I undertake to let them sit in my ‘apostle’ chair and tell them the story, surmising for them that likely six of the prophets-presidents of the Church had sat in it many times and probably 25 or 30 or more apostles had sat through many meetings in that particular chair as each moved up in seniority from the last one when he came into the council.

“President Joseph Fielding Smith, President David O. McKay, President George Albert Smith, President Heber J. Grant, President Joseph F. Smith and undoubtedly President Lorenzo Snow and President Wilford Woodruff and likely President John Taylor all likely sat in my own chair many times. And now in my dilemma I have been sleeping in it many nights.” (Excerpts taken from President Kimball’s personal journal, shared by the Mack’s.)

Visitors at the Fukuoka mission home are often invited to sit in the chair, which undoubtedly leads to a conversation about President Kimball and a chance to reflect on prophets and apostles who have gone before.

“People throughout the world loved President Kimball, and seeing something that was connected to him reminds them of the love that they universally felt from him and for him,” explained President Mack. “Seeing and sitting in the ‘apostle chair’ stirs memories and is a reminder of happy and inspired days of the past.”

One unique feature of the Fukuoka Mission Home is that it is housed directly under the Fukuoka Japan Temple.

“It seemed fitting to have President Kimball’s temple chair in the mission home in such close proximity of the Fukuoka Temple during our stay here.”

Above the chair hangs a beautiful photograph of President Kimball, taken by a photographer for the Ensign magazine. President and Sister Mack kept the original photo on a matte board.

“We showed it to people once in a while, but it was so old,” explained Sister Mack. “Then a friend of ours took the photo and surprised us by having it beautifully framed.”

The Mack’s also keep an historic quilt on display in the mission home living room. The quilt has hand-stitched panels representing the pivotal times in the life of President Kimball: his days as a young boy working on a farm, his mission to Missouri, courting Sister Camilla Eyring Kimball, his call as an apostle from J. Reuben Clarke, his four children, his travels around the world, the books he wrote, and other significant events.

“Together, the quilt and the chair give us ample opportunity to share our family history, some Church history, and also provide experiences for our guests to reflect on their own lives and perhaps receive some personal inspiration and revelation,” commented Sister Mack. “Many visitors—from area presidency members and their spouses on down to sweet Primary children—have all sat in the chair and had their picture taken. It’s a wonderful conversation piece.”

The Mack’s also inherited a few of President Kimball’s walking sticks and brought the sticks on their mission as well.

“Grandpa liked to cut a branch and then carve it into a walking stick. After using it for a while, he would hang the stick up on the wall of his garage and carve another one,” remembered President Mack. “When he passed away, there were dozens of walking sticks on his wall.”

“The chair, quilt, photograph, walking sticks—these items allow many of our Japanese friends to experience a piece of President Kimball’s life without having to travel all the way to Utah or the Church History Museum. It’s not something that we’ve broadcast or advertised, but just used as a quiet occasion for guests to make connections to President Kimball and feel something. “

As an apostle and prophet, President Kimball visited Japan on several occasions. Most notably, in 1975 during the first Japan Area Conference of the Church in Tokyo, he announced the construction of the Tokyo Temple. Five years later, in 1980, he returned to dedicate the temple. Earlier, as an apostle in 1970, Elder Kimball visited Church members and servicemen in Okinawa, which is currently part of the Fukuoka Mission.

The Mack’s will complete their calling as mission leaders in June of this year, and will take the ‘apostle chair’ and other items back to Utah with them.

“It’s been a unique piece of our mission that we will always treasure. And we hope those who had the opportunity to sit in the chair will treasure those memories, too.”

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