180 years ago today - 1842 Early

[Helen Mar Kimball]

In Nauvoo the Prophet's 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 into his bosom and then betrayed him. Therefore, when he told my father [Heber C. Kimball] to take a second wife, he requested him to keep it a secret and not divulge it even to my mother, for fear that she would not receive the principle. Father realized the situation fully, and the love and reverence he felt for the Prophet was so great that he would rather have laid down his own life than have betrayed him. This was the greatest test of his faith he had ever experienced.

When first hearing the principle taught, believing that he would be called upon to enter into it, he thought of the two Sisters Pitkin, who, as they were both elderly ladies and great friends of my mother's, he believed would cause her little if any unhappiness. The woman he was commanded to take, however, was an English lady nearer my mother's age, who came over with her husband and two little girls with a company of Saints in the same ship in which President Brigham Young and my father were returning from their second mission to Europe. ...

... but 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 separation and all the trials and sacrifices they had been called to endure, was more than he felt able to bear. He realized not only the addition of trouble and perplexities 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 forever, 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 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."

Father was heard many a time to say that he had shed bushels of tears over this order, the order of "celestial or plural marriage."

The Prophet told him the third time before he obeyed the command. This 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.

My mother had noticed a change in his looks and appearance, and when she enquired the cause he tried to evade her question, saying it was only her imagination, or that he was not feeling well, etc. But it 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 at night, and instead of going to bed he would walk the floor; and the agony of his mind was so terrible that he would wring his hands and weep, beseeching the Lord with his whole soul to be merciful and reveal to his wife the cause of his great sorrow, for he himself could not break his vow of secrecy. His anguish, and my mother's, were indescribable, and when unable to endure it longer, she retired to her room, where, with a broken and contrite heart she poured out her grief to Him who hath said: "If any lack wisdom let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not." "Seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you."

My father's heart was raised at the same time in supplication, and while pleading as one would plead for life, the vision of her mind was opened, and as darkness fleeth before the morning sun, so did her sorrow and the groveling things of earth vanish away, and before her she saw the principle of celestial marriage illustrated 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 but accept it and stand in her place by her husband's side. She was also shown 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 kingdoms, power and glory extending throughout the eternities, worlds without end.

Her soul was satisfied and filled with the Spirit of God. With a countenance beaming with joy she returned to my father, saying, "Heber, what you kept from me the Lord has shown to me."

She related the scene to me and to many others, and 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 that 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, her integrity was unflinching to the end.

[Whitney, Helen Mar, Jeni Broberg Holzapfel, and Richard Neitzel Holzapfel, A Woman's View: Helen Mar Whitney's Reminiscences of Early Church History, Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1997]

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