To read more, visit the Helen Mar Kimball Whitney (1828-1896) Autobiography on the Joseph Smith Forum Reference!
With all the false traditions in which we were born, and in consequence of the degenerate tide with which the human family has been drifting for generations past, and as the Lord had no organized priesthood on the earth, it is not to be wondered at that in our ignorance of His ways the feelings of our natures should rebel against the doctrine of a plurality of wives. I remember how I felt, but which would be a difficult matter to describe–the various thoughts, fears and temptations that flashed through my mind when the principle was first introduced to me by my father [Heber C. Kimball], who one morning in the summer of 1843, without any preliminaries, asked me if I would believe him if he told me that it was right for married men to take other wives, can be better imagined than told. But suffice it to say the first impulse was anger, for I thought he had only said it to test my virtue, as I had heard that tales of this kind had been published by such characters as the Higbees, Foster and Bennett, but which I supposed were without any foundation. My sensibilities were painfully touched. I felt such a sense of personal injury and displeasure for to mention such a thing to me I thought altogether unworthy of my father, and as quick as he spoke, I replied to him, short and emphatically, “No, I wouldn’t!” I had always been taught to believe it a heinous crime, improper and unnatural, and I indignantly resented it.
This was the first time that I ever openly manifested anger towards him, but I was somewhat surprised at his countenance, as he seemed rather pleased than otherwise. Then he commenced talking seriously, and reasoned and explained the principle, and why it was again to be established upon the earth, etc., but did not tell me then that anyone had yet practiced it, but left me to reflect upon it for the next twenty-four hours, during which time I was filled with various and conflicting ideas. I was skeptical–one minute believed, then doubted. I thought of the love and tenderness that he felt for his only daughter, and I knew that he would not cast her off, and this was the only convincing proof that I had of its being right. I knew that he loved me too well to teach me anything that was not strictly pure, virtuous and exalting in its tendencies; and no one else could have influenced me at that time or brought me to accept of a doctrine so utterly repugnant and so contrary to all of our former ideas and traditions. This was just previous to his starting upon his last mission but one to the eastern states. Fearing that I might hear it from a wrong source, knowing, as he did, that there were those who would run before they were sent, and some would not hesitate to deceive and betray him and the brethren, he thought it best that I should hear it from his own lips.
The next day the Prophet called at our house, and I sat with my father and mother and heard him teach the principle and explain it more fully, and I believed it, but I had no proofs, only his and my father’s testimony. I thought that sufficient, and did not deem it necessary to seek for any further, but had I been differently situated like many were without a father and a mother to love and counsel me, probably my dependence, like theirs, would have been on the Lord, but I leaned not upon His arm.
My father was my teacher and revelator, and I saw no necessity then for further testimony; but in after years the Lord, in His far-seeing and infinite mercy, suffered me to pass through the rough waves of experience and in sorrow and affliction, I learned that most important lesson, that in Him alone must I trust, and not in weak and sinful man; and that it was absolutely necessary for each one to obtain a living witness and testimony for him or herself, and not for another, to the truth of this latter-day work, to be able to stand, and that like Saul, we “must suffer for His name’s sake.” Then I learned that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,” and that “He is nigh unto all those that call upon Him in truth, and healeth the broken in heart and bindeth up their wounds.”
On Plural Marriage
I think that no honest heart can read the outpourings of his soul and ever doubt the motive that prompted him to take upon himself burdens and responsibilities such as himself and brethren were called to do in marrying a plurality of wives, for it did not add to their domestic happiness in this life, but brought not only anxiety, care and sorrow, but placed their lives in jeopardy and they did not know but the consequences would be imprisonment and death, but they knew that it was a command from the Almighty and they obeyed God rather than men.1