Heber Chase Kimball
– June 22
) was a leader in the early Latter Day Saint movement
. He served as one of the original twelve apostles
in the early Mormon church, and as first counselor to Brigham Young
in the First Presidency
of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
from 1847 until his death.
Kimball was born to Solomon Farnham Kimball and Anna Spaulding in Sheldon
, Franklin County, Vermont
. Kimball's grandfather arrived in America from England, and assisted in the Revolutionary War
. His immediate family consisted of Charles Spaulding Kimball, Eliza Kimball, Abigail Kimball, Heber Chase Kimball, Melvina Kimball, Solomon Kimball and Daniel Spaulding Kimball. All were born in Sheldon. Daniel died at the age of seven months. Heber Chase was named after a Judge Chase, who had helped the family in their efforts to settle in the area.
Kimball writes of his parents in Synopsis of the History of Heber C. Kimball:
- My father was a man of good moral character, and though he did not profess any religion, he taught his children good morals, and never would suffer them to swear, or play upon the Sabbath day without correcting them, but would have them remain at home and read good books or attend the church.
- My mother was a Presbyterian, and agreeably to the strictest sense of their religion, she lived a virtuous life, and according to the best of her knowledge taught her children the ways of righteousness.
Solomon Kimball suffered the loss of his investments due to the embargo preceding the War of 1812. He left Vermont and moved west and eventually settled the family in West Bloomfield, New York, Ontario County, New York around 1811.
Education and training
Kimball began attending school in 1806, and continued until the age of 14. At that time, his father took him from school and taught him how to be a blacksmith. The year 1816 was particularly cold and he recorded that the family ate boiled milkweeds
for three weeks. (See Year Without a Summer
for an explanation.)
Around 1820, Heber set out on his own. His father had lost all of his property and Heber decided it was best to start making it on his own. His manner was timid and shy, and he would go for days without food rather than ask a neighbor. Eventually, his oldest brother, Charles C., took him under his wing. He taught Kimball the potter's trade. About this time he moved with his brother to Mendon, Monroe County, New York. He also enlisted with the local militia, and was never delinquent for 14 years. On November 7, 1822, he married Vilate Murray. Shortly after that, he purchased his brother's pottery business.
For ten years he worked as a potter in the summer, and as a blacksmith in the winter. He also chopped wood and cleared land. In the meantime, he accumulated five and a half acres (22,000 m²) of land, built a house and a barn, and planted an orchard.
In 1823, Kimball received the three first degrees of Freemasonry
in the lodge at Victor Flats
, Ontario County, New York
. In 1824, he and five others sent a petition to the chapter at Canandaigua, New York
to receive the York Rite
degrees of Royal Arch Masonry. Their petitions were accepted. Unfortunately, as Heber reported, Anti-Masons
had burned down the chapter building in Canandaigua.
Many years later, Heber C. Kimball reminisced of his New York masonic experiences:
- No man was admitted into a lodge in those days except he bore a good moral character, and was a man of steady habits and a member would be suspended for immoral conduct. I wish that all men were masons and would live up to their profession, then the world would be in a much better state than it is now.
When The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had established itself in Nauvoo, Illinois, Heber was one of the original petitioners to establish a lodge there, and served as Nauvoo Lodge U.D.'s first Junior Deacon. He remained active in Freemasonry throughout his stay in Nauvoo, but no serious effort was made in Utah by the Mormons to establish a lodge there.
Early family life
Kimball's first daughter, Judith Marvin, was born in Mendon on July 29
. She died May 20
at almost 11 months of age.
His mother died in February 1824 from tuberculosis. His father moved from West Bloomfield to Mendon to live with Kimball. Roughly a year after that, in the spring of 1826, his father also died from tuberculosis. Shortly after that, his oldest brother, Charles C., and his brother's wife died from tuberculosis as well and were buried beside their father.
Kimball's son, William Henry, was born in Mendon, April 10, 1825.
Signs in the heavens
Kimball claims a miraculous event on September 22
. He describes it in his autobiography.
- Sept. 22, 1827, while living in the town of Mendon, I having retired to bed, John P. Greene, a traveling reformed Methodist preacher, waked me up calling upon me to behold the scenery in the heavens.
- I called my wife and sister Fanny Young (sister of Brigham Young) who was living with me; it was so clear that you could see to pick up a pin, we looked to the eastern horizon and beheld a white smoke arise towards the heavens, and as it ascended it formed itself into a belt and made a noise like the rustling of a mighty wind, and continued southwest, forming a regular bow dipping in the western horizon.
- After the bow had formed it began to widen out and grow clear and transparent of a bluish cast, it grew wide enough to contain twelve men abreast.
- In this bow an army moved, commencing from the east and marching to the west. They moved in platoons, and walked so close, the rear ranks trod in the steps of their file leaders, until the whole bow was literally crowded with soldiers.
- We could see distinctly the muskets, bayonets, and knapsacks of the men, who wore caps and feathers like those used by the American soldiers in the last war with Britain; also their officers with their swords and equipage, and heard the clashing and jingling of their instruments of war and could discover the form and features of the men. The most profound order existed throughout the entire army, when the foremost man stepped, every man stepped at the same time: I could hear the step.
- When the front rank reached the Western horizon a battle ensued, as we could distinctly hear the report of the arms and the rush.
- No man could judge of my feelings when I beheld that army of men, as plainly as I ever saw armies of men in the flesh it seemed as though every hair of my head was alive. This scenery was gazed upon for hours, until it began to disappear.
- Subsequently I learned this took place the same evening that Joseph Smith received the records of the Book of Mormon from the Angel Moroni.
Kimball had two more children after this event. Hellen Mar was born August 22, 1828. Roswell Heber was born January 10, 1831. He died six months later on June 15.
Joining the LDS Church
Kimball writes that he had always contemplated aspects of religion and salvation since he was about 12 years old. The directions provided by the priests and teachers of the various churches never satisfied him. However, while in New York, Kimball joined the local Baptist Church
. He attended several of their meetings, and eventually received baptism. He claims that many of the teachings he agreed with, but there were many he did not believe in as well. He counted the association as a good thing, however.
Only three weeks after receiving baptism in the Baptist Church, three elders from Latter Day Saint Church of Christ visited the house of his friend, Phinehas Young. Kimball visited the house at this time and was impressed with their teachings. He also witnessed the speaking of tongues and the interpretation of tongues during this visit. He claims to have been visited by the power of God.
During this time, he reported that, while he and several of the Young family were chopping wood, a vision opened up to them and they saw the "gathering of the Saints to Zion" and many other things. This and many other events led him to travel to Pennsylvania to visit with the elders some more, accompanied by some of the Youngs. They stayed six days with the elders and the church there. They witnessed more miracles such as speaking in tongues and the interpretation of tongues.
On April 14, 1832, Brigham Young was baptized by Eleazer Miller. Shortly thereafter, one of the elders called on Kimball while he was at work. During the conversation, Kimball jumped up and declared that he wanted to be baptized. They went immediately to a small stream in the woods and he was baptized in April 1832 by Alpheus Gifford. After the confirmation, the elder offered to give the priesthood, but Kimball refused it as he felt he was unready. Shortly after that, 30 more people were baptized in Mendon, and they formed a branch of the church.
About this time, people began calling Kimball "crazy", although he claims he was "clothed in the right mind". He claims the scriptures unfolded for him.
Local clergy and members of other faiths soon became antagonistic towards the small LDS branch and its members. Heber had several people make executions on his property to recall debt owed. Although the debt was great, he was able to secure the money necessary to pay them in full.
Shortly after his baptism, Kimball was ordained an elder by Joseph Young
, and began proselyting in the neighboring areas with Joseph and Brigham Young
. They were met with great success, baptizing many and building up churches. He reports one instance where Ezra Landon baptized some twenty people but wanted Kimball to confirm them. He did so, and immediately they began speaking in tongues and interpreting them.
In 1833, Kimball relocated his family to Church headquarters in Kirtland, Ohio. Kimball was ordained a member of The Quorum of Twelve Apostles on February 14, 1835. He was one of the original twelve members of the Quorum, being 4th in seniority. He marched with Zion's Camp in 1834.
Joseph Smith, Jr. called Elder Kimball to lead a group of missionaries to England in 1837. The mission began work in Liverpool, England and met with considerable success. Kimball was known as a simple and outspoken preacher who worked hard. He and the other missionaries brought many people to the new faith. The missionaries began organizing groups of British converts to travel to America, beginning in 1840, and join the main body of the church. Kimball returned with a small party to make travel arrangements for the groups and discovered the Latter Day Saints were undergoing considerable strife and pressure in the state of Missouri. While Joseph Smith was imprisoned in the Liberty Jail, Brigham Young (now ranking leader of the Quorum) and Kimball organized the removal of approximately 12,000 LDS refugees across the border into Illinois. There the Church founded the city of Nauvoo and built a temple. Kimball returned to his mission in England in 1840 and served until 1841.
After Joseph Smith's assassination in 1844, succession to the leadership of the Church was a divisive issue. Brigham Young, standing as the head of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, led the majority of church members across the state line into Iowa and eventually to the Salt Lake Valley. Heber C. Kimball stood next in leadership in the Quorum and was called to the new First Presidency in 1847. Kimball led one of three large companies to the Salt Lake Valley in the summer of 1848. He established his families in Utah and supported them by farming, ranching, milling and freighting, in addition to church responsibilities. While in the First Presidency, Kimball received special assignments to supervise the ongoing British Mission and to conduct temple ordinances. He also served in the Utah's Territorial legislature.
Heber C. Kimball died on June 22, 1868 in Salt Lake City, Utah, from the effects of a carriage accident. He was buried in the Kimball-Whitney Cemetery (40.772949, -111.889755), located on the south slope of what's now known as Capitol Hill, an area then called "Heber's Bench" after him.
Kimball received private instruction from Joseph Smith on the new LDS commandment of plural marriage
. Initially reluctant, Kimball accepted the responsibility and married a second wife, Sarah Noon. His first wife, Vilate Murray Kimball
, accepted plural marriage and welcomed the additional wives as sisters. Kimball eventually married a total of forty-three women, although a number of these marriages were not intimate ones. These platonic marriages included a union with Mary Fielding Smith
, widow of the LDS Patriarch Hyrum Smith
. He had sixty-five children by seventeen different women.
- I have noticed that a man who has but one wife, and is inclined to that doctrine, soon begins to wither and dry up, while a man who goes into plurality [of wives] looks fresh, young, and sprightly.
- Heber C. Kimball, Journal of Discourses. vol 5, p. 22
Kimball has a number of noteworthy descendants, including:
- Allen, James B.; Glen M. Leonard. The Story of the Latter-day Saints. Deseret Book Co., Salt Lake City, UT, 1976. ISBN 0-87747-594-6.
- Kimball, Stanley, editor. On the Potter's Wheel:The Diaries of Heber C. Kimball, Signature Books, Salt Lake City, UT. ISBN 0-941214-60-5
- Ludlow, Daniel H., A Companion to Your Study of the Doctrine and Covenants, Deseret Book Co., Salt Lake City, UT, 1978. ISBN 1-57345-224-6.
- Ludlow, Daniel H., editor. Church History, Selections From the Encyclopedia of Mormonism. Deseret Book Co., Salt Lake City, UT, 1992. ISBN 0-87579-924-8.
- Smith, George D., editor. The Journals of William Clayton, Signature Books, Salt Lake City, UT, ISBN 1-56085-022-1