Question: Did Helen Mar Kimball "confess" to having marital relations with Joseph?

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Question: Did Helen Mar Kimball "confess" to having marital relations with Joseph?

Helen allegedly said "I would never have been sealed to Joseph had I known it was anything more than ceremony"

Critics of the Church provide a supposed "confession" from Helen, in which she reportedly said:

I would never have been sealed to Joseph had I known it was anything more than ceremony. I was young, and they deceived me, by saying the salvation of our whole family depended on it.[1]

The source of the statement is "suspect"

Author Todd Compton properly characterizes this source, noting that it is an anti-Mormon work, and calls its extreme language "suspect."[2]

Author George D. Smith tells his readers only that this is Helen "confiding," while doing nothing to reveal the statement's provenance from a hostile source.[3] Newell and Avery tell us nothing of the nature of this source and call it only a “statement” in the Stanley Ivins Collection;[4] Van Wagoner mirrors G. D. Smith by disingenuously writing that “Helen confided [this information] to a close Nauvoo friend,” without revealing its anti-Mormon origins.[5]

In order for this story to be true, Helen would be telling a story at variance with all other things that she wrote

To credit this story at face value, one must also admit that Helen told others in Nauvoo about the marriage (something she repeatedly emphasized she was not to do) and that she told a story at variance with all the others from her pen during a lifetime of staunch defense of plural marriage.[6]

If we accept the statement as valid, we may interpret it in other ways than conjugality.

As Brian Hales writes:

It is clear that Helen’s sealing to Joseph Smith prevented her from socializing as an unmarried lady. The primary document referring to the relationship is an 1881 poem penned by Helen that has been interpreted in different ways:

"I thought through this life my time will be my own The step I now am taking’s for eternity alone, No one need be the wiser, through time I shall be free, And as the past hath been the future still will be. To my guileless heart all free from worldly care And full of blissful hopes and youthful visions rare The world seamed bright the thret’ning clouds were kept From sight and all looked fair but pitying angels wept. They saw my youthful friends grow shy and cold. And poisonous darts from sland’rous tongues were hurled, Untutor’d heart in thy gen’rous sacrafise, Thou dids’t not weigh the cost nor know the bitter price; Thy happy dreams all o’er thou’st doom’d also to be Bar’d out from social scenes by this thy destiny, And o’er thy sad’nd mem’ries of sweet departed joys Thy sicken’d heart will brood and imagine future woes, And like a fetter’d bird with wild and longing heart, Thou’lt dayly pine for freedom and murmor at thy lot; But could’st thou see the future & view that glorious crown, Awaiting you in Heaven you would not weep nor mourn. Pure and exalted was thy father’s aim, he saw A glory in obeying this high celestial law, For to thousands who’ve died without the light I will bring eternal joy & make thy crown more bright. I’d been taught to reveire the Prophet of God And receive every word as the word of the Lord, But had this not come through my dear father’s mouth, I should ne’r have received it as God’s sacred truth."

One year after writing the above poem, she elaborated:

"During the winter of 1843, there were plenty of parties and balls. … Some of the young gentlemen got up a series of dancing parties, to be held at the Mansion once a week. … I had to stay home, as my father had been warned by the Prophet to keep his daughter away from there, because of the blacklegs and certain ones of questionable character who attended there. … I felt quite sore over it, and thought it a very unkind act in father to allow [my brother] to go and enjoy the dance unrestrained with others of my companions, and fetter me down, for no girl loved dancing better than I did, and I really felt that it was too much to bear. It made the dull school still more dull, and like a wild bird I longed for the freedom that was denied me; and thought myself a much abused child, and that it was pardonable if I did murmur."

After leaving the church, dissenter Catherine Lewis reported Helen saying: “I would never have been sealed to Joseph had I known it was anything more than a ceremony.”

Assuming this statement was accurate, which is not certain, the question arises regarding her meaning of “more than a ceremony”? While sexuality is a possibility, a more likely interpretation is that the ceremony prevented her from associating with her friends as an unmarried teenager, causing her dramatic distress after the sealing.

Supporting that the union was never consummated is the fact that Helen Mar Kimball was not called to testify in the Temple Lot trial. In 1892, the RLDS Church led by Joseph Smith, III sued the Church of Christ (Hedrickites), disputing its claim to own the temple lot in Independence, Missouri, that Edward Partridge, acting for the church, had purchased in 1831 and which his widow, Lydia, had sold in 1848 to finance her family’s trek west.

The Hedrickites held physical possession, but the RLDS Church took the official position that, since it was the true successor of the church originally founded by Joseph Smith, it owned the property outright.[7]


Notes

  1. Catherine Lewis, Narrative of Some of the Proceedings of the Mormons (Lynn, MA: n.p., 1848), 19.
  2. Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1997), 195. ( Index of claims )
  3. George D. Smith, Nauvoo Polygamy: "...but we called it celestial marriage" (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2008), 202. ( Index of claims , (Detailed book review))
  4. Linda King Newell and Valeen Tippetts Avery, Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith, 2nd edition, (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1994), 147.
  5. Richard S. Van Wagoner, Sidney Rigdon: A Portrait of Religious Excess (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 2005), 293. (Reviews)
  6. On Helen’s authentic statements, see Helen Mar Whitney, A Woman’s View: Helen Mar Whitney’s Reminiscences of Early Church History, ed. Jeni Broberg Holzapfel and Richard Neitzel Holzapfel (Provo, UT: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1997), ix–xliii.
  7. See "Helen Mar Kimball" at http://josephsmithspolygamy.org/plural-wives-overview/helen-mar-kimball/