Question: What experience did Vilate have which allowed her to accept her husband participating in polygamy?
Answer: “My maiden name was Vilate Murray. I am the youngest daughter of Roswell and Susannah Murray. I was born in Florida, Montgomery County, New York, June 1st, 1806. I was married to Heber Chase Kimball November 7, 1822, having lived until that time with my parents in Victor, Ontario County.
“After marriage, my husband [and I] settled in Mendon, Monroe County [Ohio]. Here we resided until we gathered in Kirtland in the fall of 1833 . . . Five elders of The Church [of Jesus Christ] of Latter-day Saints came to the town of Victor, which was five miles from Mendon, and stopped at the house of Phineas Young, the brother of Brigham.
“Hearing of these men, curiosity prompted Heber to go and see them. Then for the first time he heard the fullness of the everlasting gospel and was convinced of its truth. Brigham Young was with him…Desiring to hear more, in January, 1832, Heber took his horses and sleigh and started for Columbia, Bradford County, Pennsylvania, a distance of one hundred and twenty-five miles. Brigham and Phineas Young went with him. They stayed about six days . . . and then returned rejoicing . . . They were not baptized, however, until spring. Brigham was baptized on Sunday, April 14th, 1832 and Heber was baptized the next day. Just two weeks from that time I was baptized by Joseph Young.
“Brigham Young and his wife Miriam, with their two little girls were at the time living at our house, but soon after her baptism Miriam died. . . . Her little girls, Sister Miriam left to my care, and I did all I could to be a mother to her little ones up to the marriage of Brigham to Miss Mary Ann Angell . . .[Heber] left his own debts uncollected, settled their unjust claims, and [we] gathered to Kirtland with the Saints about the last of September 1832, in company with Brigham Young.
“After our gathering to Kirtland, the Church was in a state of poverty and distress. It appeared almost impossible that the commandment to build the temple could be fulfilled. . . . The enemies were raging, and the brethren were under guard night and day to preserve the prophet’s life, and the mobs in Missouri were driving our people from Jackson County.
“In this crisis the Camp of Zion [Zion’s Camp] was organized to go to the defense of the Saints in Jackson, Heber being one…On the 5th of May 1834, they started. It was truly a solemn morning on which my husband parted from us, his children and friends, not knowing that we should ever meet again in the flesh. On the 26th of July, however, the brethren returned.
“The Saints now labored night and day to build the House of the Lord, the sisters knitting and spinning to clothe those who labored upon it. When the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles was called, my husband was chosen one of them, and soon he was out with the rest of the apostles preaching the gospel of the last days; but they returned on the 27th of the following September.
“The temple was finished and dedicated on the 27th of March, 1836. It was a season of great rejoicing indeed, to the Saints, and great and marvelous were the manifestations and power in the Lord’s house. On the 10th of May, 1836, my husband again went east on a mission, and I made a visit to my friends in Victor, where Heber and I met, and after spending a few days, returned to Ohio, journeying to Buffalo. . . . The passengers were chiefly Swiss immigrants. After sitting and hearing them some time, the Spirit of the Lord came upon my husband so that he was enabled to preach to them in their own language, though of himself he knew not a word of their language.
“We returned to Kirtland to find a spirit of speculation in the Church, and apostasy growing among some of the apostles and leading elders. These were perilous times indeed. In the midst of this my husband was called on his mission to Great Britain, this being the first foreign mission…At length the day for the departure of my husband arrived. It was June 13th, 1837.’
Heber, through the Prophet Joseph, was commanded to take a young widow with two small children as his wife. This deception grieved Heber sorely. He was commanded three times before he yielded. Vilate noticed a change in his manner and inquired as to the cause. Heber tried to evade her questions. Finally Vilate retired to her room and bowed down before the Lord, pouring out her heart to Him. The order of Celestial Marriage was explained to her, together with the exaltation and honor it would bring to her if she would accept it and stand at her husband’s side. She returned to her husband saying, “Heber, what you have kept from me, the Lord has shown me.” She told him what she had seen and said she knew it was from God. Though her trials were many, her integrity was unflinching. She stood by as Heber took many wives, who always found in Vilate a faithful friend.
Sometime later, the Saints were driven from Nauvoo, and they made a camp called Winter Quarters. Vilate, on February 2, 1847, gave birth to her seventh son, and so remained behind in Winter Quarters while Heber went with the first group. Heber returned for his family the following year, and they arrived in Salt Lake in September 1848. Heber built homes for his many families. Vilate’s home became one of the most beautiful garden spots in the Valley. Many times Vilate gave the other families the needed supplies out of her own store. Vilate was known as the peacemaker of the Kimballs, pouring oil on troubled waters in the misunderstandings which were bound to arise in so large a family.
Vilate wrote many beautiful poems, and passed this talent on to a number of her descendants, a few of whom are her daughter Helen Mar, who wrote both prose and poetry, and Helen Mar’s son, Orson F. Whitney, who was noted for his many poetic works and numerous books.
Vilate gave birth to ten children. The love between Heber and Vilate was enduring. They sent many letters to each other. Heber always referred to Vilate as the love of his youth. On October 22, 1867, in her 62nd year, Vilate died after a life of unselfishness. As Heber stood by her side, after praying to keep her longer, he said, “I shall not be long after her.”
The funeral services for Vilate Kimball were held October 24th in her home. Among those present were President Brigham Young, Elders Orson Pratt, John, Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, George A. Smith, Joseph F. Smith, George Q. Cannon and Patriarchs John Smith, John Young and many other friends. President Young delivered the funeral address. He said he could truly say that a better woman never lived. She was ever disposed to do good and met every obligation that devolved upon her. President Kimball also spoke touchingly of the virtues of his faithful wife.
Vilate’s panel on stone
She was buried in the Kimball-Whitney family burial grounds in Salt Lake City, Utah.
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