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5 love stories of latter-day prophets

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Sacred Grove, 1951 Age: 78 President and Mrs. McKay visit the Sacred Grove, August 1951. (Photographer unidentified) (Church History Library onilne)

President David O. McKay and his wife Emma Rae on a visit to the Sacred Grove in August 1951. (Photo via Church History Library online)

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has always been a family-centered faith. President Boyd K. Packer said in 2010 that “The ultimate end of all activity in the Church is that a man and his wife and their children might be happy at home, protected by the principles and laws of the gospel, sealed safely in the covenants of the everlasting priesthood.” In The Family: A Proclamation to the World, Church leadership has unitedly stated that “Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan.”

So it’s little wonder that the leaders of the Church have historically made happiness in family life a high priority. Here are the love stories of five latter-day prophets and their wives.

David O. and Emma Ray Riggs McKay

Emma Ray Riggs, or “Ray” to those who knew her, first noticed young David O. McKay when he and his brother rented out a cottage in the rear of her family’s home.

“There are two young men who will make some lucky girls good husbands,” Ray’s mother said. “See how considerate they are of their mother.”

“I like the dark one,” Ray replied, referring to David.

Their first date was to David’s missionary farewell dance. They saw each other again once more before his mission, an event David described in his journal this way: “In the evening, took a ride over on South Hills. Low purple mountains at sunset very beautiful. Sunday evening went strolling with Ray. Told each other secrets. A memorable night!”

When David returned home from his mission, he taught at Weber Stake Academy. Ray graduated from the University of Utah and was offered two teaching positions. One was near her family in Salt Lake City. The other was in Ogden, near David. She moved to Ogden.

They were the first couple to be married in the Salt Lake Temple in the 20th century on Jan. 2, 1901.

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Camilla Eyring Kimball reads with her husband, President Spencer W. Kimball. (Photo courtesy LDS Media Library)

Spencer W. and Camilla Eyring Kimball

Spencer W. Kimball’s first date with his wife was, in Camilla’s words, “a shabby trick” on her part.

The two had met casually before his mission and were reintroduced a few months after Spencer’s return. They talked on a bus ride, where Spencer asked if he could call on her again. She said he could, but they made no plans for when.

Spencer dropped by unexpectedly a few nights later, when she had her hair in curlers and was preparing to go dancing with a date and some other friends. When it became clear that Spencer was planning to stay for the night, Camilla had a choice to make.

“I was in a pickle,” Camilla later said, recalling the experience. She told Spencer that a group was going dancing and asked if he wanted to come. When her date, Alvin, arrived, he picked up both Camilla and Spencer. Alvin refused to dance with her that night.

Spencer and Camilla were married later that year on Nov. 16, 1917.

Ezra Taft and Flora Smith Amussen Benson

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Ezra Taft Benson with his wife, Flora, and their six children. (Photo via Church History Library)

Ezra Taft Benson’s friends told him he didn’t have a chance with Flora Smith Amussen. Ezra and his friends were  spending a weekend in Logan, Utah, when Flora drove by them.

“As the boys waved at her, she waved back,” he remembered. “I said, ‘Who is that girl?’ They said, ‘That’s Flora Amussen.’ I told them, ‘You know, I’ve just had the impression I’m going to marry her.'”

They said, “She’s too popular for a farm boy.”

Ezra replied, “That makes it all the more interesting.”

They courted before his mission, and when he came home, they continued to see each other. Then Flora received her mission call and Ezra finished his education. They were married after her return on Sept. 10, 1926.

Gordon B. and Marjorie Pay Hinckley

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President and Sister Hinckley participate in the Days of ’47 Parade on July 24, 1999. (Photo courtesy Mormon Newsroom)

Marjorie Pay lived across the street from the Hinckleys as a child. She was a pretty little girl who was well-spoken and impressive.

“I saw her first in Primary,” Gordon remembered later. “She gave a reading. I don’t know what it did to me, but I never forgot it. Then she grew older into a beautiful young woman, and I had the good sense to marry her.”

Gordon and Marjorie didn’t date seriously until after his return from his mission. During their courtship, Marjorie realized that as much as Gordon loved her, something else would always come first.

“As we got closer to marriage, I felt completely confident that Gordon loved me,” she said later. “But I also knew somehow that I would never come first with him. I knew I was going to be second in his life and that the Lord was going to be first. And that was OK.” She also told Sheri Dew, Gordon’s biographer, that “It seemed to me that if you understood the gospel and the purpose of our being here, you would want a husband who put the Lord first. I felt secure knowing he was that kind of man.”

Thomas S. and Frances Johnson Monson

President Monson with his wife, Frances, on their wedding day. (Photo courtesy Mormon Newsroom.)

Thomas S. Monson and Frances Johnson Monson on their wedding day in 1948. (Photo courtesy Mormon Newsroom)

Thomas S. Monson first saw his wife, Frances, at a University of Utah dance. He didn’t meet her until a month later, when he saw her again waiting for a streetcar with friends. He rode in the car with them, then called Frances that night and invited her to a dance at the Pioneer Stake building.

Remembering their date, President Monson later said that Frances’ father discovered that Thomas’ relative had introduced his family to the Church.

“Her father wept,” he said. “He wept easily. He said, ‘He and his companion were the missionaries who taught the gospel to my mother and my father and all of my brothers and sisters and to me.’ He kissed me on the cheek. And then her mother cried, and she kissed me on the other cheek. And then I looked around for Frances. She said, ‘I’ll go get my coat.'”

Four years after that initial meeting, they were married on Oct. 7, 1948.

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