Heber C. Kimball

Heber C. Kimball
First Counselor in the First Presidency
December 27, 1847 (1847-12-27)  June 22, 1868 (1868-06-22)
Called by Brigham Young
Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
February 14, 1835 (1835-02-14)  December 27, 1847 (1847-12-27)
Called by Three Witnesses
End reason Called as First Counselor in the First Presidency
LDS Church Apostle
February 14, 1835 (1835-02-14)  June 22, 1868 (1868-06-22)
Called by Three Witnesses
Reason Initial organization of Quorum of the Twelve
at end of term
No apostles ordained[1]
Personal details
Born Heber Chase Kimball
(1801-06-14)June 14, 1801
Sheldon, Vermont, United States
Died June 22, 1868(1868-06-22) (aged 67)
Salt Lake City, Utah Territory, United States

Heber Chase Kimball (June 14, 1801 June 22, 1868) was a leader in the early Latter Day Saint movement. He served as one of the original twelve apostles in the early Church of the Latter Day Saints, and as first counselor to Brigham Young in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) from 1847 until his death.

Early life

Kimball was born in Sheldon, Franklin County, Vermont in 1801, descending from the Kimball family who had immigrated to Massachusetts from Britain in 1634. He was named after a Judge Chase, who had helped the family in their efforts to settle in the area. His father having suffered the loss of his investments due to the embargo preceding the War of 1812, the family moved west and eventually settled in West Bloomfield, New York, Ontario County, New York around 1811.

Education and training

Kimball left school at age 14, trained as a blacksmith and potter, and moved with his brother in about 1820 to Mendon, Monroe County, New York, where he married his first wife, Vilate Murray, in 1822 and purchased his brother's pottery business. For the next 10 years, he carried out his trades, 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 sent a petition to the chapter at Canandaigua, New York, to receive the York Rite degrees of Royal Arch Masonry. His petition was accepted, although, as he reported, Anti-Masons had burned down the chapter building in Canandaigua.

Many years later, Kimball reminisced of his New York masonic experiences and stated: "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."[2]

When the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints had established itself in Nauvoo, Illinois, Kimball 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 was not active once he moved to Utah Territory, there being no lodge in Utah in his lifetime that would allow Mormons admittance.[3]

Early family life

Several of his close family died of tuberculosis within a few years of each other, his mother in February 1824 and his father in the spring of 1826, followed by his brother Charles C. and his brother's wife shortly thereafter.

His first child that survived infancy, William Henry, was born in Mendon, April 10, 1826.

Signs in the heavens

Kimball claims to have witnessed a miraculous event on September 22, 1827, which, according to his autobiography, he subsequently learned "took place the same evening that Joseph Smith received the records of the Book of Mormon from the Angel Moroni." This involved "a white smoke" arising on the horizon, growing "clear and transparent of a bluish cast" to reveal an army on the move "in platoons":

"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."[4]

His daughter Helen Mar was born August 22, 1828.

Joining the Latter Day Saint movement

While in New York, Kimball joined the local Baptist Church and was eventually baptized. Only three weeks later, three elders from Church of Christ, the original name of the Latter Day Saint church founded by Joseph Smith, visited the house of his friend, Phinehas Young. Kimball visited the house at this time and was impressed with church 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 he and several of the Young family saw a vision opened of the "gathering of the Saints to Zion." This 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 witnessed more miracles such as speaking in tongues and the interpretation of tongues.

On April 16, 1832 Kimball was baptized by Alpheus Gifford.[5] After the confirmation, the elder offered to ordain Kimball to the priesthood, but Kimball refused it as he felt he was unready. Thirty more people were baptized in Mendon and formed a branch of the church there.

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 Latter-day Saint branch and its members. Kimball had several people make executions on his property to recall considerable debts, which he was nevertheless able to pay off in full.

Church service

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 branches of the church. He reports one instance where Ezra Landon baptized some 20 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. He marched with Zion's Camp in 1834. From 1832 until 1840 Kimball served eight missions for the Church.[6]

Quorum of the Twelve

On February 14, 1835, Kimball was ordained a member of The Quorum of Twelve Apostles of the Church of the Latter Day Saints (renamed the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints[7][8] in 1838). He was one of the original twelve members of the Quorum, being 4th in seniority.

Joseph Smith called Kimball to lead a group of missionaries to England in 1837. The mission began work in Preston, Lancashire, England.[9] After the initial baptisms in Preston the missionaries expanded their efforts to the Ribble Valley. By the time Kimball left to return to the United States in 1838 about 1500 people had been baptized.[10]

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 Smith was imprisoned in the Liberty Jail, Brigham Young (now ranking leader of the Quorum) and Kimball organized the removal of approximately 12,000 Latter Day Saint refugees across the border into Illinois.[11] There the church founded the city of Nauvoo and built a temple.

In September 1839 Kimball left Nauvoo for another mission to England.[12] He did not reach Indiana until October. He made stops at Kirtland to encourage the remaining Saints there to move to Nauvoo and other places and a long stop in New York City.[13] He sailed from New York on December 19 but did not reach Liverpool until April 6. Kimball spent 1840 and some of 1841 in England. Initially in the area in and around Preston and later working as a missionary in London.[14] The missionaries began organizing groups of British converts to travel to America, beginning in 1840, and join the main body of the church.

After Smith's assassination in 1844, succession to the leadership of the church was a divisive issue for some. 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. Kimball stood next in leadership in the Quorum to Brigham Young.

First Presidency

Kimball became a member of the new First Presidency in 1847. Kimball led one of three large companies to the Salt Lake Valley in the summer of 1848.[15]

He established his families in Utah Territory and supported them by farming, ranching, milling at the Heber C. Kimball Gristmill 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.[16] He also worked to encourage economic independence for Utah.[17] He had one slave, Green Flake, who was given to the church for tithing, who he used as his personal driver.[18][19]

Government service

When the provisional government of the State of Deseret was organized in spring 1849, Kimball was appointed the chief justice and lieutenant governor of the proposed state.[20]

Kimball served in the Utah Territorial Legislature in the upper house (the Territorial Council) from 1851 until 1858.[21] He was president of the Council during the session beginning in March 1851, but later served as a regular member of the Council.[22]


One night at family prayers, Kimball said that "the angel Moroni had visited him the night before and informed him that his work on this earth was finished, and he would soon be taken.”[23] Kimball died the following day on June 22, 1868, at age 67, in Salt Lake City, Utah Territory, 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 plural marriage (polygamy). 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. Heber and Vilate agreed and gave their 14-year-old daughter Helen Marr as a plural wife of Joseph Smith. Kimball considered the marrying of multiple wives an expression of his faith in and obedience to God: "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. Why is this? Because God loves that man, and because he honors His work and word."[24]

Wives and children

Kimball eventually married a total of forty-three women, although it is stated that many of these marriages were merely caretaking arrangements lacking a physical intimacy component.[25] Kimball had sixty-six children by seventeen of his wives.

Grave marker of Heber C. Kimball.
Heber C. Kimball around 1862


Kimball has a number of noteworthy descendants, including:

See also


  1. After Kimball's death, George A. Smith was added to the First Presidency and Brigham Young, Jr. was added to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, but both Smith and Young had already been ordained apostles prior to Kimball's death.
  2. Whitney, Orson F. (1888). Life of Heber C. Kimball: Apostle, Father and Founder of the British Mission. Salt Lake City, Utah: Kimball Family. p. 27.
  3. The first time Mormons were granted admittance in Utah was 1984, even to those who had previously been admitted to other lodges prior to the Mormon Exodus.
    See: Kearney, Greg (2005), "The Message and the Messenger: Latter-day Saints and Freemasonry", 2005 FAIR Conference, Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research;
    "The Lodge: Brief History of Wasatch Lodge", WasatchLodge.org, Wasatch Lodge #1 Free & Accepted Masons.
  4. The Latter-day Saints Millennial Star. 1864. p. 472.
  5. Orson F. Whitney, The Life of Heber C. Kimball (Salt Lake City, Bookcraft, 1945) p. 21-22
  6. Stanley B. Kimball, "Heber C. Kimball" in Arnold K. Garr, Donald Q. Cannon and Rochard O. Cowan, ed., The Encyclopedia of LDS Church History, p. 607
  7. Manuscript History of the Church, LDS Church Archives, book A-1, p. 37; reproduced in Dean C. Jessee (comp.) (1989). The Papers of Joseph Smith: Autobiographical and Historical Writings (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book) 1:302–03.
  8. H. Michael Marquardt and Wesley P. Walters (1994). Inventing Mormonism: Tradition and the Historical Record (Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books) p. 160.
  9. Whitney, Kimball, p. 121
  10. David J. Whitaker and James R. Moss, "Missions of the Twelve to the British Isles", in Daniel H. Ludlow, ed. Selections from the Encyclopedia of Mormonism: Church History (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1995) p. 331
  11. Edward L. Kimball, "Heber C. Kimball" in Daniel H. Ludlow, ed., Selections from the Encyclopedia of Mormonism: Church History, p. 268
  12. Whitney, Kimball p. 265
  13. Whitney, Kimball, p. 271-275
  14. Whitney, Kimball, p. 287
  15. Kimball, "Kimball", Encyclopedia of Mormonism, p. 269
  16. Kimball, "Kimball", Encyclopedia of Mormonism, p. 270
  17. Stanley Kimball, Kimball, Encyclopedia of LDS Church History, p. 607
  18. Kristen Rogers-Iversen (September 2, 2007). "Utah settlers' black slaves caught in 'new wilderness'". The Salt Lake Tribune.
  19. Don B. Williams. Slavery in Utah Territory: 1847-1865. p. 52.
  20. Whitney, Kimball, p. 393.
  21. Territory of Utah: Legislative Rosters compiled by the Utah State Archives Staff, 2007
  22. Whitney, Kimball, p. 394.
  23. Pettit, Tom. "Moroni Appeared to 17 Different People!". Living Heritage Tours. Retrieved 2016-04-17.
  24. Journal of Discourses vol. 5, p. 22.
  25. Kimball, "Kimball", Encyclopedia of Mormonism, p. 369


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The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints titles
Preceded by
Sidney Rigdon
First Counselor in the First Presidency
December 27, 1847 June 22, 1868
Succeeded by
George A. Smith
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints titles
Preceded by
Brigham Young
Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
February 14, 1835 December 27, 1847
Succeeded by
Orson Hyde
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