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Vilate Murray Kimball (1806-1867)

Edward W. Tullidge, The Women of Mormondom (New York, 1877), pp. 104-115.


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 settled in Mendon, Monroe County. Here we resided until we gathered in Kirtland in the fall of 1833.

About three weeks before we heard of the latter-day work we were baptized into the Baptist Church.

Five elders of the Church 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. Their names were Eleazer Miller, Elial Strong, Alpheus Gifford, Enos Curtis and Daniel Bowen.

Hearing of these men, curiosity prompted Mr. Kimball 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.

At their meetings Brigham and Heber saw the manifestations of the spirit and heard the gift of speaking and singing in tongues. They were constrained by the spirit to bear testimony to the truth, and when they did this the power of God rested upon them.

Desiring to hear more of the Saints, 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 and their wives went with him.

They stayed with the Church about six days, saw the power of God manifested and heard the gift of tongues, and then returned rejoicing, bearing testimony to the people by the way. They were not baptized, however, until the following spring. Brigham was baptized on Sunday, April 14th, 1832, by Eleazer Miller, and Heber C. Kimball was baptized the next day.

Just two weeks from that time I was baptized by Joseph Young, with several others.

The Holy Ghost fell upon Heber so greatly, that he said it was like a consuming fire. He felt as though he was clothed in his right mind and sat at the feet of Jesus; but the people called him crazy. He continued thus for months, till it seemed his flesh would consume away. The scriptures were unfolded to his mind in such a wonderful manner by the spirit of revelation that he said it seemed he had formerly been familiar with them.

Brigham Young and his wife Miriam, with their two little girls, Elizabeth and Vilate, were at the time living at our house; but soon after her baptism Miriam died. In her expiring moments, she clapped her hands and praised the Lord, and called on all around to help her praise him; and when her voice was too weak to be heard, her lips and hands were seen moving until she expired.

This was another testimony to them of the powerful effect of the everlasting gospel, showing that we shall not die, but will sleep and come forth in the resurrection and rejoice with her in the flesh.

Her little girls, Sister Miriam left to my care, and I did all I could to be a mother to her little ones to the period of our gathering to Kirtland, and the marriage of Brigham to Miss Mary Ann Angell.

The glorious death of Sister Miriam caused us to rejoice in the midst of affliction. But enemies exulted over our loss and threw many obstacles in the way of our gathering with the Saints.

To my husband's great surprise some of the neighbors issued attachments against his goods; yet he was not indebted to any of them to the value of five cents, while there were some hundreds of dollars due to him. However, he left his own debts uncollected, settled their unjust claims, and gathered to Kirtland with the Saints about the last of September, 1832, in company with Brigham Young.

Here I will relate a marvelous incident, of date previous to our entering the Church.

On the night of the 22nd of September, 1827, while living in the town of Mendon, after we retired to bed, John P. Green, who was then a traveling Reformed Methodist preacher, living within one hundred steps of our house, came and called my husband to come out and see the sight in the heavens. Heber awoke me, and Sister Fanny Young (sister of Brigham), who was living with us, and we all went out-of- doors.

It was one of the most beautiful starlight nights so clear we could see to pick up a pin. We looked to the eastern horizon, and beheld a white smoke arise towards the heavens. As it ascended, it formed into a belt, and made a noise like the rushing wind, and continued southwest, forming a regular bow, dipping in the western horizon.

After the bow had formed, it began to widen out, growing 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 continued moving until they reached the western horizon. 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 distinctly see 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 Great Britain. We also saw their officers with their swords and equipage, and heard the clashing and jingling of their instruments of war, and could discern 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. We could hear their steps.

When the front rank reached the western horizon, a battle ensued, as we could hear the report of the arms, and the rush.

None can judge of our feelings as we beheld this army of spirits as plainly as ever armies of men were seen in the flesh. Every hair of our heads seemed alive.

We gazed upon this scenery for hours, until it began to disappear.

After we became acquainted with Mormonism, we learned that this took place the same evening that Joseph Smith received the records of the Book of Mormon from the angel Moroni, who had held those records in his possession.

Father Young, and John P. Green's wife (Brigham's sister Rhoda), were also witnesses of this marvelous scene. Frightened at what we saw, I said, Father Young, what does all this mean? He answered, "Why it is one of the signs of the coming of the Son of Man."

The next night a similar scene was beheld in the west, by the neighbors, representing armies of men engaged in battle.

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 revelation requiring it to be erected by a certain period.

The enemies were raging, threatening destruction upon the Saints; 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 of the little army. On the 5th of May 1834, they started. It was truly a solemn morning on which my husband parted from his wife, children and friends, not knowing that we should ever meet again in the flesh. On the 26th of July, however, the brethren returned from their expedition.

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 and found their families and friends enjoying good health and prosperity.

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. Here I will relate a vision of the Prophet concerning the Twelve Apostles of this dispensation, for whose welfare his anxiety had been very great.

He saw the Twelve going forth, and they appeared to be in a far distant land; after some time they unexpectedly met together, apparently in great tribulation, their clothes all ragged and their knees and feet sore. They formed into a circle, and all stood with their eyes fixed on the ground. The Savior appeared and stood in their midst and wept over them, and wanted to show himself to them, but they did not discover him.

He saw until they had accomplished their work and arrived at the gate of the celestial city. There Father Adam stood and opened the gate to them, and as they entered he embraced them one by one, and kissed them. He then led them to the throne of God, and then the Savior embraced each of them in the presence of God. He saw that they all had beautiful heads of hair and all looked alike. The impression this vision left on Brother Joseph's mind was of so acute a nature, that he never could refrain from weeping while rehearsing it.

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, where a magistrate came forward and paid five dollars for our passage to Fairport.

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. They seemed much pleased, and treated him with great kindness.

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.

One day while Heber was seated in the front stand in the Kirtland Temple, the Prophet Joseph opened the door and came and whispered in his ear, "Brother Heber, the Spirit of the Lord has whispered to me, let my servant Heber go to England and proclaim the gospel, and open the door of salvation." . . .

A short time previous to my husband's starting [for his first mission to England], he was prostrated on his bed from a stitch in his back, which suddenly seized him while chopping and drawing wood for his family, so that he could not stir a limb without exclaiming, from the severeness of the pain. Joseph Smith hearing of it came to see him, bringing Oliver Cowdery and Bishop Partridge with him. They prayed for and blessed him, Joseph being mouth, beseeching God to raise him up, and etc. He [Joseph Smith] then took him by the right hand and said, "Brother Heber, I take you by your right hand, in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, and by virtue of the holy priesthood vested in me, I command you, in the name of Jesus Christ, to rise, and be thou made whole." He arose from his bed, put on his clothes, and started with them, and went up to the [Kirtland] temple, and felt no more of the pain afterwards.

At length the day for the departure of my husband arrived. It was June 13th, 1837. He was in the midst of his family, blessing them, when Brother R. B. Thompson, who was to accompany him two or three hundred miles, came in to ascertain when Heber would start. Brother Thompson, in after years, writing an account in Heber's journal of his first mission to Great Britain, in its preface thus describes that solemn family scene: "The door being partly open I entered and felt struck with the sight which presented itself to my view. I would have retired, thinking I was intruding, but I felt riveted to the spot. The father was pouring out his soul to That God who rules on high, Who all the earth surveys; That rides upon the stormy sky, And calms the roaring seas, that he would grant unto him a prosperous voyage across the mighty ocean, and make him useful wherever his lot should be cast, and that he who careth for the sparrows, and feedeth the young ravens when they cry, would supply the wants of his wife and little ones in his absence." He then, like the patriarchs, and by virtue of his office, laid his hands upon their heads individually, leaving a father's blessing upon them, and commending them to the care and protection of God, while he should be engaged preaching the gospel in foreign lands. While thus engaged his voice was almost lost in the sobs of those around, who tried in vain to suppress them. The idea of being separated from their protector and father for so long a time, was indeed painful. He proceeded, but his heart was too much affected to do so regularly; his emotions were great, and he was obliged to stop at intervals, while the big tears rolled down his cheeks, an index to the feelings which reigned in his bosom. My heart was not stout enough to refrain in spite of myself I wept and mingled my tears with theirs at the same time. I felt thankful that I had the privilege of contemplating such a scene. I realized that nothing could induce that man to tear himself from so affectionate a family group-from his partner and children who were so dear to him--but a sense of duty and love to God and attachment to his cause.

At nine o'clock in the morning of this never-to-be-forgotten-day, Heber bade adieu to his brethren and friends and started without purse or scrip to preach the gospel in a foreign land. He was accompanied by myself and children, and some of the brethren and sisters, to Fairport. Sister Mary Fielding, who became afterwards the wife of Hyrum Smith, gave him five dollars, with which Heber paid the passage of himself and Brother Hyde to Buffalo. They were also accompanied by her and Brother Thompson and his wife (Mary Fielding's sister), who were going on a mission to Canada. Heber himself was accompanied to Great Britain by Elders Orson Hyde, Willard Richards, J. [John] Goodson and I. [Isaac] Russell, and Priest Joseph Fielding.