Heber Chase Kimball (1801-1868) and his wife Vilate Murray Kimball (1806-1867) embraced The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often inadvertently called the “Mormon Church,” in 1832. Ever faithful to The Church of Jesus Christ and the Prophet Joseph Smith, Heber served eight proselyting missions throughout the United States and the United Kingdom. Vilate sustained and supported Heber in his assignments and strengthened her own testimony through her faithfulness. Heber was ordained a member
of The Quorum of Twelve Apostles on February 14, 1835. In 1842, due to his steady faithfulness as an Apostle, Heber was one of the first commanded to live the principle of plural marriage in Nauvoo, Illinois. Heber married Sarah Noon in 1842.
Heber and Vilate’s daughter Helen (1828-1896) recorded their experience.
My mother often told me that she could not doubt the plural order of marriage was of God, for the Lord had revealed it to her in answer to prayer.
In Nauvoo, shortly after his return from England, my father, among others of his brethren, was taught the plural wife doctrine, and was told by Joseph the Prophet three times to go and take a certain woman as his wife; but not till he commanded him in the name of the Lord did he obey. At the same time Joseph told him not to divulge this secret, not even to my mother, for fear that she would not receive it; for his life was in constant jeopardy, not only from outside influences and enemies, who were seeking some plea to take him back to Missouri but from false brethren who had crept like snakes into his bosom and then betrayed him.
My father realized the situation fully, and the love and reverence he bore for the Prophet were so great that he would sooner have laid down his life than have betrayed him. This was one of the greatest tests of his faith he had ever experienced. The thought of deceiving the kind and faithful wife of his youth, whom he loved with all his heart, and who with him had borne so patiently their separations, and all the trials and sacrifices they had been called to endure, was more than he felt able to bear.
He realized not only an addition of trouble and perplexity that such a step must bring upon him, but his sorrow and misery were increased by the thought of my mother hearing of it from some other source, which would no doubt separate them, and he shrank from the thought of such a thing, or of causing her any unhappiness. Finally he was so tried that he went to Joseph and told him how he felt-that he was fearful if he took such a step he could not stand, but would be overcome. The Prophet, full of sympathy for him, went and inquired of the Lord; His answer was, “Tell him to go and do as he has been commanded, and if I see that there is any danger of his apostatizing, I will take him to myself.”
The fact that he had to be commanded three times to do this thing shows that the trial must have been extraordinary, for he was a man who from the first, had yielded implicit obedience to every requirement of the Prophet.
When first hearing the principle taught, believing that he would be called upon to enter into it, he had thought of two elderly ladies named Pitkin, great friends of my mother’s, who he believed would cause her little, if any, unhappiness. But the woman he was commanded to take was an English lady named Sarah Noon, nearer my mother’s age, who came over with the company of Saints in the same ship in which father and Brother Brigham returned from Europe. She had been married and was the mother of two little girls, but left her husband on account of his drunken and dissolute habits. Father was told to take her as his wife and provide for her and her children, and he did so.
My mother noticed a change in his manner and appearance, and when she inquired the cause, he tried to evade her questions. At last he promised he would tell her after a while, if she would only wait. This trouble so worked upon his mind that his anxious and haggard looks betrayed him daily and hourly, and finally his misery became so unbearable that it was impossible to control his feelings. He became sick in body, but his mental wretchedness was too great to allow of his retiring, and he would walk the floor till nearly morning, and sometimes the agony of his mind was so terrible that he would wring his hands and weep like a child, and beseech the Lord to be merciful and reveal to her this principle, for he himself could not break his vow of secrecy.
The anguish of their hearts was indescribable, and when she found it was useless to beseech him longer, she retired to her room and bowed before the Lord and poured our her soul in prayer to Him who hath said: “If any lack wisdom let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not.” My father’s heart was raised at the same time in supplication. While pleading as one would plead for life, the vision of her mind was opened, and, as darkness flees before the morning sun, so did her sorrow and the groveling things of earth vanish away.
Before her, was illustrated the order of celestial marriage, in all its beauty and glory, together with the great exaltation and honor it would confer upon her in that immortal and celestial sphere, if she would accept it and stand in her place by her husband’s side. She also saw the woman he had taken to wife, and contemplated with joy the vast and boundless love and union which this order would bring about, as well as the increase of her husband’s kingdoms, and the power and extending throughout the eternities, worlds without end.
With a countenance beaming with joy, for she was filled with the Spirit of God, she returned to my father, saying: “Heber, what you kept from me the Lord has shown me.” She told me she never saw so happy a man as father was when she described the vision and told him she was satisfied and knew it was from God.
She covenanted to stand by him and honor the principle, which covenant she faithfully kept, and though her trials were often heavy and grievous to bear, she knew that father was also being tried, and her integrity was unflinching to the end. She gave my father many wives, and they always found in my mother a faithful friend.
Account taken from Life of Heber C. Kimball, Whitney, 1888, p335-338.
I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have moved 64 times and have not tired of experiencing this beautiful earth! I love the people, languages, histories/anthropologies, & especially religious cultures of the world. My life long passion is the study & searching out of religious symbolism, specifically related to ancient & modern temples. My husband Anthony and I love our bulldog Stig, adventures, traveling, movies, motorcycling, and time with friends and family.