When we speak of building the kingdom of God today, most of the time we mean it in a figurative sense: we serve in the Church, share the gospel with others, and follow the counsel of the living prophet.
Heber C. Kimball did all of these things, but as a blacksmith and potter,1 he also built the kingdom in a literal sense. Kimball was an artisan—a man of considerable manual skill. When he followed Brigham Young from Nauvoo to the Salt Lake Valley in 1847, he brought this large tool chest with him and used the tools in it to build the Lord’s kingdom in the West.
This chest, like Brigham Young’s travel case, is a durable piece with no fancy wood or joinery. Its iron straps and bolts are hand forged. The tool drawers inside are removable. The rough-hewn wood frame was covered with leather and decorated with a fine design of brass studs, making it both attractive and useful.
Throughout his life, Kimball lived his faith and “strove to build both the spiritual and material Kingdom of God.”2 After his baptism in 1832, Kimball served the Lord wherever and whenever he was called. He served several missions to the eastern United States, and he presided over missionary work in England,3 baptizing many and helping hundreds of converts immigrate to the United States to join the main body of the Church.4 He served on the Nauvoo city council and helped build the Nauvoo Temple.5 After Joseph Smith was killed and the Saints were forced from Nauvoo, Heber C. Kimball helped Brigham Young organize and supervise the Saints’ move across Iowa to Winter Quarters.6 He was later called as first counselor to President Brigham Young, and in 1848 he led a company of pioneers across the plains to the Salt Lake Valley.7
Heber C. Kimball spent the rest of his life serving the Lord. When he was serving in England in 1840, he explained his attitude toward serving God in a letter to his wife, Vilate: “I have got so I feel perfectly easy about these things, for they are the work of God and not the work of man. I know no other way than to be subject to the powers that be. I pray my Father will give me this disposition, for I wish to be in the hands of God as the clay in the hands of the potter.”8 As a man of both faith and labor, Heber lived up to this hope.