Vilate (pronounced similar to Violet) Murray Kimball was the first wife of early Church leader Heber C. Kimball.
Vilate was born on June 1, 1806, in Florida, New York. She married Kimball on November 7, 1822, and they lived in Mendon, New York, until they joined the Saints in Kirtland, Ohio, in 1833. She had been baptized in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints two weeks after her husband in April 1832. Three weeks before they had heard about the message of the Restored Gospel, they had been baptized into the Baptist church.
Longing to mingle with the Saints, Heber C. Kimball hitched his horses to his sleigh in the bitter cold of January 1832, and he, Brigham and Miriam Young, and Phineas and Clarissa Young took a freezing, 125-mile sleigh ride to visit the branch in Columbia, Pennsylvania. Vilate Kimball stayed at home and cared for all the children so the other wives could go.
After Brigham Young’s first wife, Miriam died of tuberculosis later in 1832, Vilate cared for her little daughters until Young married Mary Ann Angell.
She was part of the labor of women who knit and spun clothes for those who worked to build the [Kirtland Temple]. She was left alone while her husband joined the ranks of Zion's Camp (in 1834) and while he served missions for the Church.
Vilate was devoted to the Church and to her husband, who also served as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (1835–1847), and after Joseph Smith’s martyrdom, a member of the First Presidency (1847–1868). She and her husband never deviated from their testimonies and were loyal to Joseph Smith, even during the period when many members questioned Joseph.
She is associated with two accounts about the practice of polygamy. The first involves Joseph Smith telling Heber that the Lord had revealed that Heber was to surrender his wife, Vilate, to Joseph. Heber endured three days of agony while he fasted and prayed to submit his will to the Lord, then led Vilate to Joseph’s home. Joseph then told him that his willing heart was all that the Lord required and that he had passed his test of faith. The Prophet then joined their hands together and sealed them as husband and wife for eternity.
A second is recounted by Helen Mar Kimball, daughter of Heber C. and Vilate Kimball:
- In Nauvoo, shortly after his return from England, my father, among others of his brethren, was taught the plural wife doctrine, and was told by Joseph, the Prophet, three times, to go and take a certain woman as his wife; but not till he commanded him in the name of the Lord did he obey. At the same time Joseph told him not to divulge this secret, not even to my mother, for fear that she would not receive it; for his life was in constant jeopardy, not only from outside influences and enemies, who were seeking some plea to take him back to Missouri, but from false brethren who had crept like snakes into his bosom and then betrayed him.
- My father realized the situation fully, and the love and reverence he bore for the Prophet were so great that he would sooner have laid down his life than have betrayed him. This was one of the greatest tests of his faith he had ever experienced. The thought of deceiving the kind and faithful wife of his youth, whom he loved with all his heart, and who with him had borne so patiently their separations, and all the trials and sacrifices they had been called to endure, was more than he felt able to bear. . . .
- My mother had noticed a change in his [Heber's] looks and appearance [since the command to practice plural marriage], and when she enquired the cause, he tried to evade her question, saying it was only her imagination, or that he was not feeling well, etc. But it so worked upon his mind that his anxious and haggard looks betrayed him daily and hourly, and finally his misery became so unbearable that it was impossible to control his feelings. He became sick in body, but his mental wretchedness was too great to allow of his retiring at night, and instead of going to bed he would walk the floor; and the agony of his mind was so terrible that he would wring his hands and weep, beseeching the Lord with his whole soul to be merciful and reveal to his wife the cause of his great sorrow, for he himself could not break his vow of secrecy. His anguish and my mother's, were indescribable and when unable to endure it longer, she retired to her room, where with a broken and contrite heart, she poured out her grief to [God]. . . .
- My father's heart was raised at the same time in supplication, and while pleading as one would plead for life, the vision of her mind was opened, and she saw the principle of Celestial Marriage illustrated in all its beauty and glory, together with the great exaltation and honor it would confer upon her in that immortal and celestial sphere if she would but accept it and stand in her place by her husband's side. She was also shown the woman he had taken to wife, and contemplated with joy the vast and boundless love and union which this order would bring about, as well as the increase of kingdoms, power, and glory extending throughout the eternities, worlds without end.
- Her soul was satisfied and filled with the Spirit of God. With a countenance beaming with joy she returned to my father, saying, "Heber, what you have kept from me the Lord has shown me."
- She related the scene to me and to many others, and told me she never saw so happy a man as father was, when she described the vision and told him she was satisfied and knew that it was from God. She covenanted to stand by him and honor the principle, which covenant she faithfully kept, and though her trials were often heavy and grievous to bear, her integrity was unflinching to the end.
Heber eventually married a total of 43 women and fathered children with 17 of them. Vilate was the mother of ten children. She traveled from Winter Quarters to Salt Lake City in the 1848 Kimball Wagon Company of over 600 people. She died on October 24, 1867.