Helen Mar Kimball

  • Out of the 34 women, 7 of them were teenage girls as young as 14-years-old. Joseph was 37-years-old when he married 14-year-old Helen Mar Kimball, twenty-three years his junior. Even by 19th century standards, this is shocking.
UPDATE: The Church now admits that Joseph Smith married Helen Mar Kimball “several months before her 15th birthday” in its October 2014 Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo essay.

Joseph took 14-year-old Helen Mar Kimball’s hand in marriage after his disturbing Abrahamic test on her father, Heber, while promising Helen and her family eternal salvation and exaltation if she accepted:

Just previous to my father’s starting upon his last mission but one, to the Eastern States, he taught me the principle of Celestial marriage, and having a great desire to be connected with the Prophet Joseph, he offered me to him; this I afterwards learned from the Prophet’s own mouth. My father had but one Ewe lamb, but willingly laid her upon the alter: how cruel this seemed to the mother whose heartstrings were already stretched until they were ready to snap asunder, for he had taken Sarah Noon to wife and she thought she had made sufficient sacrifice, but the Lord required more. I will pass over the temptations which I had during the twenty four hours after my father introduced to me the principle and asked me if I would be sealed to Joseph, who came next morning and with my parents I heard him teach and explain the principle of Celestial marriage - after which he said to me, ‘If you will take this step, it will ensure your eternal salvation and exaltation and that of your father’s household and all of your kindred.’
This promise was so great that I willingly gave myself to purchase so glorious a reward. None but God and angels could see my mother’s bleeding heart – when Joseph asked her if she was willing, she replied, ‘If Helen is willing, I have nothing more to say.’ She had witnessed the sufferings of others, who were older and who better understood the step they were taking, and to see her child, who had scarcely seen her fifteenth summer, following in the same thorny path, in her mind she saw the misery which was as sure to come as the sun was to rise and set; but it was all hidden from me.

CES Letter, Page 52-53

The CES Letter misrepresents Joseph Smith’s relationship with 14-year-old Helen Mar Kimball. 

According to available evidence, Joseph Smith did not seek Helen as a plural wife.

Helen's father, Heber, arranged for the sealing. Multiple evidences indicate that the relationship was not consummated. Helen was given a choice and agreed to the sealing. Helen’s mother and father likewise agreed to the union.

Marriages to 14-year-olds were uncommon but not scandalous in the 1840s. For example, Illinois Governor Thomas Ford (1842-1846), the state official who forced the Prophet to appear at Carthage where he was murdered, married Frances Hambaugh when she was 15 and he was 28. Jesse Hale, brother to Emma Hale Smith, the Prophet's wife, married Mary McKune when she was fifteen and he twenty-three.   Martin Harris, one of the Three Witnesses of the Book of Mormon, married his wife Lucy when she was only fifteen.  

After her sealing, Helen remained in her parent’s home and engaged in activities typical of an oldest child—helping around the home and caring for younger siblings.

Late in life, Helen penned a poem briefly mentioning the disappointment that the sealing had affected her social interactions and that she had apparently been teased by some who suspected the union during those thirteen months prior to the martyrdom.

Helen admitted that she was young and did not understand the complex doctrines. Deeper understanding of the principle came later in life when she had matured and lived the full principle with her husband Horace Whitney, to whom she gave two plural wives.

Helen became an ardent defender of the Prophet and polygamy, writing two books about plural marriage: Plural Marriage as Taught by the Prophet Joseph (Salt Lake City: Juvenile Instructor Office, 1882) and Why We Practice Plural Marriage (Salt Lake City: Juvenile Instructor Office, 1884).


 See:

Helen Mar Kimball Biography

FairMormon: Helen Mar Kimball

A Woman's View: Helen Mar Whitney's Reminiscences of Early Church History

Helen Mar Kimball Whitney, 1828-1896, Autobiography (c. 1839-1846) "Life Incidents," Woman's Exponent 9-10 (1880-1882) and "Scenes and Incidents in Nauvoo," Woman's Exponent 11 (1882-83) 

“A Subject That Can Bear Investigation”: Anguish, Faith, and Joseph Smith’s Youngest Plural Wife" by J. Spencer Fluhman

Joseph Smith’s Sealings to Young Wives

FairMormon: Was Helen Mar Kimball’s plural marriage to Joseph Smith Consummated?

FairMormon: Joseph Smith’s Marriages to Young Women