The marriage of Helen Mar Kimball to Joseph Smith is certainly one of the most controversial polygamous relationships in LDS Church history. [n1] Relying upon the work of Andrew Jenson, the marriage has generally been dated to sometime in the month of May 1843. [n2] I recently read a blessing given to Helen Mar Kimball by her father Heber C. Kimball, dated May 28, 1843, available at the LDS Church History Library.
Given the degree to which both Heber and Vilate Kimball were involved in the marriage, it seems credible to me that the details relating to marriage in the blessing suggest that Helen was unmarried when the blessing was given.
The following is my first-pass transcription:
[Digital image of holograph,* Heber C. Kimball family collection, MS 23826, fd. 2, image 1-2]
A Fathers blessing upon the head of He
llen Mar Kimball who was born in Mendon, Munro County New York August 22nd 1828
By Heber C. Kimball an Apostle May 28th 1843
Hellen my daughter I lay my hands upon thy head in the name of Jesus Christ and according to the authority which God has given unto me I say unto thee thou shalt be blest with immortal glory and enthroned with glory in the presence of the Lord where thou shalt be crowned with all the blessings of intelligence and see as thou art seen and know as thou art known. Thou shalt be blessed with the blessings of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Thy posterity shall become numerous and great in the earth. Thou art of the ^same^ seed ^with thy brother^
of Joseph[†] and thou shalt be blessed and crowned with his blessings. Thou shalt be honored of God and by man thy wisdom shall be great and thine understanding reach to heaven and no power shall stay these blessings from thee. Be humble, and listen with care to thy father and mother and all thy superiors. Let thine eye be placed upon the things of God. Seek not riches nor the honors of this earth but those which are above. Let thy treasure be laid up in heaven. When thou shalt be enthroned in the presence of God, deposit it there. For thou shalt be blest with a companion and he shall be a man of God. Listen with care to his council for he shall be thy head, inasmuch as thou wilt do this thou shalt be honored of God, and shall be inspired with the blessings of God. Thou shall understand things in heaven and on the earth, kingdoms, and all things by which the earth is governed. Let thy mind diligent in study and no one shall excel thee. Be upright, be pure; and whatsoever covenant thou shalt enter into let it be in view of eternity, that thou mayest look upon thy father and mother and thou wilt then see their [anxiety?] which they have had for thee [p. 2] Be true to all men, to the poor as well as to the rich and especially be charitable to all men. I seal these blessings upon thee and no one shall take them away they shall be thine in time and in eternity. I seal thee up unto eternal life and thou shalt come forth in the resurrection and shalt have power to waft thyself from kingdom to kingdom where they increase forever. I seal these blessing upon thee in the name of Jesus Christ and by the authority of the Holy Priesthood even so Amen._
* The handwriting of the document isn’t familiar to me. But really, I can only pick out a few regulars, like Thomas Bullock, so it isn’t really saying much.
† The interlinear additions and strikeouts appear to be in a different hand and pen. Note that assignments to a particular tribe isn’t really a common thing at this point in patriarchal blessings, though this is a blessing by a father qua patriarch (see John Taylor, “Patriarchal,” Times and Seasons 6 (1 June 1845): 921). I’ve seen Patriarchal blessings as late as the early twentieth century that include no delineation of tribe.
In particular the blessing mentions the anxiety of Helen’s parents over her and that she was to “be blest with a companion and he shall be a man of God. Listen with care to his council for he shall be thy head, inasmuch as thou wilt do this thou shalt be honored of God, and shall be inspired with the blessings of God.” Helen’s own accounts indicate how terribly difficult the proposition of marriage to Joseph Smith was for the family. If Jenson was correct that the marriage occurred in May 1843, then I submit that this blessing may have been the last blessing of a father over his young daughter before a marriage. Whether such minutia is important will be a function of one’s interest I imagine.
- J. Spencer Fluhman, “’A Subject That Can Bear Investigation’: Anguish, Faith, and Joseph Smith’s Youngest Plural Wife” Mormon Historical Studies 11 (Spring 2010): 41-51.
- Brian C. Hales, Joseph Smith’s Polygamy, Volume 2: History (Draper, Utah: Greg Kofford Books, 2013), 268-269, 335; Todd Compton, In Sacred Lonliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1997), 748.