Lucy Walker published a fairly extensive autobiographical account of her experience with polygamy in Reminiscences of Latter-day Saints: Giving an Account of Much Individual Suffering Endured for Religious Conscience (retrieved 2018-09-24). Lyman Omer Littlefield, (Logan: Utah Journal Co, 1888), 46–48. Hales also uses a typed transcript from the above linked www.boap.org site.
My mother lingered until January, 1842, then passed away. Calling her children around her bed, she bore a faithful testimony as to her convictions that Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God, and that through him the gospel of the Son of God had been restored in its fullness, whereby we might return into the presence of the Father. She exhorted her children to never depart from the truth, but to live so that she might meet them in that world where there would be no more sorrow, no more suffering, no more tears of anguish at pronouncing the sad word good-bye. She then closed her eyes and her sweet spirit passed away, leaving a beautiful smile on her dear face. It did not seem to us that it was possible she was dead, but only in a sweet sleep. When at length we were forced to believe she would never speak to us again, we were in the depths of despair. Ten motherless children! And such a mother! The youngest was not yet two years old. What were we to do?
My father’s health seemed to give way under this heavy affliction. The Prophet came to our rescue. He said: “If you remain here, Brother Walker, you will soon follow your wife. You must have a change of scene, a change of climate. You have just such a family as I could love. My house shall be their home. I will adopt them as my own. For the present I would advise you to sell your effects, place the little ones with some kind friends, and the four eldest shall come to my house and be received and treated as my own children, and if I find the others are not content or not treated right, I will bring them home and keep them until you return.” I wrung my hands in the agony of despair at the thought of being broken up as a family, and being separated from the loved ones. But said the Prophet, “My home shall be your home, eternally yours.” I understood him not. However, my father sought to comfort us by saying two years would soon pass away, then with renewed health he hoped to return and make us a home where we might be together again.
Soon after he left, my sister Lydia, aged 8 years and 11 months, was attacked with brain fever. We had visited her several times and found that all that was done did not relieve her sufferings, and when we told the Prophet how very sick she was, he told the boys to put a bed in the carriage and he went with them. He told the family that they must excuse him, but he was under the greatest obligation to look after her welfare and had come to take her to his own house where he could see to her himself. He took her in his arms from the carriage and baptized her in the Mississippi River; but in a few days she too passed away. Everything that could be done was done. But she was to join her dear mother in the spirit world, and we were left more lonely than before.
Here allow me to say that our own father and mother could scarcely have done more or manifested greater solicitude for her recovery than did the Prophet and his wife Emma. They watched with us by her bedside and when all was over, accompanied us to her last resting place beside her mother. One after another were brought home until all the younger members of the family were there except the baby. Judge Adams and wife, of Springfield, Illinois, came to Nauvoo and desired one of the girls to live with them. We reluctantly consented for sister Jane to return with them, where she had a pleasant home until after their death, when she returned to Nauvoo.
My brother William married Miss Olive Hovey Farr, in the fall of 1843. They boarded at the mansion six months, then went to housekeeping and took the children with him. I begged the privilege of going with them! I thought it too great a task for his wife to assume so great a responsibility. The Prophet and his wife introduced us as their sons and daughters. Every privilege was accorded us in the home. Every pleasure within reach was ours. He often referred to Brother Lorin as his “Edwin.” He was indeed his confidential and trusted friend. He was ever by his side; arm in arm they walked and conversed freely on various subjects. He was with him when he was arrested at Dixon by Wilson and Reynolds, who were determined to take him down the river into Missouri, but were foiled in this attempt. It was in this case “Uncle Billy” Rogers as he was familiarly called, made himself conspicuous in his defense; declared, with an oath, that they could not come there and kidnap a man and take him away in that manner. He said he would be d—-d if Smith should not have fair play. They were forced to take him through the state by way of Nauvoo. Brother Lorin hurried on home, brought his favorite horse Charley, and met him on foot, weary and covered with dust. He warmly embraced him, mounted his horse, and rode into Nauvoo. As they drew near the city, the people turned out en mass to greet him. Brother Lorin went with him to Springfield to attend his trial, and had the exquisite pleasure of seeing him acquitted.
At the time he crossed the river and was actively making arrangements to go beyond the Rocky Mountains, he said, “I have the promise of life for five years, if I listen to the voice of the spirit.” But when Emma and some of his brethren besought him to return, he said, “If my life is worth nothing to you, it is worth nothing to me.” He well knew it was in the program that he must sacrifice his life for the principles God had revealed through him. Death had no terrors for him, although life was dear. I have often heard him say he expected to seal his testimony with his blood. He anticipated great joy in meeting his parents and friends beyond the grave. He believed that as soon as the spirit left the body, we were shaking hands with and greeting our friends.
He often referred to the feelings that should exist between husband and wives, that they, his wives, should be his bosom companions, the nearest and dearest objects on earth in every sense of the word. He said men must beware how they treat their wives. They were given them for a holy purpose that the myriads of spirits waiting for tabernacles might have pure and healthy bodies. He also said many would awake in the morning of the resurrection sadly disappointed; for they, by transgression, would have neither wives nor children, for they surely would be taken from them, and given to those who should prove themselves worthy. Again he said, a woman would have her choice; this was a privilege that could not be denied her.
In the year 1842, President Joseph Smith sought an interview with me, and said: “I have a message for you. I have been commanded of God to take another wife, and you are the woman.” My astonishment knew no bounds. This announcement was indeed a thunderbolt to me. He asked me if I believed him to be a prophet of God. “Most assuredly I do,” I replied. He fully explained to me the principle of plural or celestial marriage. He said this principle was again to be restored for the benefit of the human family, that it would prove an everlasting blessing to my father’s house, and form a chain that could never be broken, worlds without end. “What have you to say?” he asked. “Nothing.” How could I speak, or what could I say? He said, “If you will pray sincerely for light and understanding in relation thereto, you shall receive a testimony of the correctness of this principle. I thought I prayed sincerely, but was so unwilling to consider the matter favorably that I fear I did not ask in faith for light. Gross darkness instead of light took possession of my mind. I was tempted and tortured beyond endurance until life was not desirable. Oh that the grave would kindly receive me, that I might find rest on the bosom of my dear mother. Why should I be chosen from among thy daughters, Father, I am only a child in years and experience, no mother to counsel; no father near to tell me what to do in this trying hour. Oh, let this bitter cup pass. And thus I prayed in the agony of my soul.
The Prophet discerned my sorrow. He saw how unhappy I was, and sought an opportunity of again speaking to me on this subject, and said: “Although I cannot, under existing circumstances, acknowledge you as my wife, the time is near when we will go beyond the Rocky Mountains and then you will be acknowledged and honored as my wife.” He also said, “This principle will yet be believed in and practiced by the righteous. I have no flattering words to offer. It is a command of God to you. I will give you until tomorrow to decide this matter. If you reject this message the gate will be closed forever against you.”
This aroused every drop of Scotch in my veins. For a few moments I stood fearless before him, and looked him in the eye. I felt at this moment that I was called to place myself upon the altar a living sacrifice–perhaps to brook the world in disgrace and incur the displeasure and contempt of my youthful companions; all my dreams of happiness blown to the four winds. This was too much, for as yet no shadow had crossed my path, aside from the death of my dear mother. The future to me had been one bright, cloudless day. I had been speechless, but at last found utterance and said: “Although you are a prophet of God you could not induce me to take a step of so great importance, unless I knew that God approved my course. I would rather die. I have tried to pray but received no comfort, no light,” and emphatically forbid him speaking again to me on this subject. Every feeling of my soul revolted against it. Said I, “The same God who has sent this message is the Being I have worshipped from my early childhood and He must manifest His will to me.” He walked across the room, returned and stood before me with the most beautiful expression of countenance, and said: “God Almighty bless you. You shall have a manifestation of the will of God concerning you; a testimony that you can never deny. I will tell you what it shall be. It shall be that joy and peace that you never knew.”
Oh, how earnestly I prayed for these words to be fulfilled. It was near dawn after another sleepless night when my room was lighted up by a heavenly influence. To me it was, in comparison, like the brilliant sun bursting through the darkest cloud. The words of the Prophet were indeed fulfilled. My soul was filled with a calm, sweet peace that “I never knew.” Supreme happiness took possession of me, and I received a powerful and irresistible testimony of the truth of plural marriage, which has been like an anchor to the soul through all the trials of life. I felt that I must go out into the morning air and give vent to the joy and gratitude that filled my soul. As I descended the stairs, President Smith opened the door below, took me by the hand and said: “Thank God, you have the testimony. I too have prayed.” He led me to a chair, placed his hands upon my head, and blessed me with every blessing my heart could possibly desire.
The first day of May, 1843, I consented to become the Prophet’s wife, and was sealed to him for time and all eternity, at his own house by Elder William Clayton.
Today I have but one regret, which is that I have not been a more worthy representative of the principle of plural marriage, and that I have not lived a more perfect life. I can also state that Emma Smith was present and did consent to Eliza and Emily Partridge, also Maria and Sarah Lawrence being sealed to her husband. This I had from the Prophet’s own mouth; also the testimony of her niece, Hyrum Smith’s eldest daughter, (my brother Lorin’s wife), as well as that of the young ladies named themselves, with whom I was on most intimate terms, and was glad that they, too, had accepted that order of marriage. Instead of a feeling of jealousy, it was a source of comfort to me. We were as sisters to each other.
In this I acted in accordance with the will of God, not for any worldly aggrandizement, not for the gratification of the flesh. How can it be said we accepted this principle for any lustful desires? Preposterous! This would be utterly impossible. But, as I said before, we accepted it to obey a command of God, to establish a principle that would benefit the human family and emancipate them from the degradation into which they, through their wicked customs, had fallen.
In all this, God had in view a road marked out for me that I knew not, to struggle against the tide of opposition, prejudice and tradition, to aid in establishing a principle that would exalt mankind and bring them back into His presence. A tie has been formed that will guide me to the highest and most glorious destiny, if I continue to walk in the regeneration, which is the grand object of my life.
No one can possibly feel more deeply to regret than I do, the course taken by the sons of President Joseph Smith, knowing that they have been misinformed; that it is through prejudice, through yielding to popular opinion that they have been misled. They might heir their father’s priesthood, if they would take proper steps and honor the principles revealed through him. Thus they might be called to occupy prominent positions in this dispensation, to aid in forwarding the great work of redemption and to seek to bring every honest soul of every nation to a knowledge of the gospel of the Son of God. O, that they had eyes to see and ears to hear the sound of the gospel, and walk in the footsteps of their illustrious father, knowing as I do that he was the grandest personage that has stood upon the earth since the days of our Savior. O, that God would in His boundless mercy, His matchless charity, withdraw the curtain and let but one ray from His magnificent countenance shine upon them, that like Saul of Tarsus, they might turn to God and become his apostles in very deed. That they might also accept the many testimonies given by those whose lives have been pure and spotless, who have sought to aid in establishing eternal principles that will exalt the human race in the presence of God. How gladly we would have them in our midst, did they walk in the spirit of their father.
They seem surprised that there was no issue from asserted plural marriages with their father. Could they but realize the hazardous life he lived, after that revelation was given, they would comprehend the reason. He was harassed and hounded and lived in constant fear of being betrayed by those who ought to have been true to him.
Since 1845, I have been the wife of President Heber C. Kimball, by whom I have had nine children, five sons and four daughters, have lived in the same house with other members of his family, have loved them as dearly as my own sisters, until it became necessary, as our children began to grow up around us, to have separate homes. Every mother has her own mode of government, and as children grow in years, it is more pleasant to have them under the immediate dictation of their own mother. I can truthfully state, however, that there is less room for jealousy where wives live under the same roof. They become interested in each other’s welfare; they love each other’s children. Besides, in my experience, I find the children themselves love each other as dearly as the children of one mother. In sickness, it has been a pleasure to minister to those in need of assistance.
I will say here, too, that it is a grand school. You learn self control, self denial; it brings out the nobler traits of our fallen natures, and teaches us to study and subdue self, while we become acquainted with the peculiar characteristics of each other. There is a grand opportunity to improve ourselves, and the lessons learned in a few years, are worth the experience of a lifetime, for this reason, that you are better prepared to make a home happy. You can easily avoid many unpleasant features of domestic life that through inexperience you otherwise are unprepared to meet.
The study of human nature is a grand study. I can only speak for myself in this regard. When I separated from others and went to a home with my own children, I placed many little safeguards around our home that experience had suggested, and my children grew into their teens without having heard an unkind word between their father and mother. When the father was there, everything was done necessary for his comfort. To make our home a pleasant one was the chief object of life. When absent I knew he was in good company and where he had a right to be. I stood in no fear from his associations with others, because I knew their purity of life. It is needless for me to say anything in regard to the life and character of President Heber C. Kimball. He lives in the hearts of the people called Latter-day Saints, and his acts and works are known abroad.
As time passed on he seemed to appreciate more than ever his wives and growing children. His last words to me were that he had been agreeably disappointed in my course of life, had appreciated my example as a wife and as a mother, that none had excelled me in the home life. Wherever my lot had been cast, there he had found a place of peace and rest. “Let me now thank you kindly,” he said, “for every kind word, for every kind act of your life, and when I am gone, which will not be but a short time, you shall be blessed and find friends.” He went on to say that if he never spoke to me again, I might rest assured that I had his most sanguine good feelings, his unbounded love and esteem. “What can you tell Joseph when you meet him? Cannot you say that I have been kind to you as it was possible to be under the circumstances? I know you can, and am confident you will be as a mediator between me and Joseph, and never enjoy any blessing you would not wish Heber to share.”
These words were more precious to me than gold, as they were his last, with the addition of “I leave my peace and blessing with you. May the peace of Heber ever abide in your habitation.”
I do not pen these facts thinking that others did not share equally in his esteem, as every woman carves her own niche in her husband’s affections.
Heber C. Kimball was a noble whole-souled son of God, and was as capable of loving more than one woman as God Himself is capable of loving all his creations.
Sister Vilate Murrey Kimball, first wife of Heber Chase Kimball, was one of the noble women of earth. She was dearly beloved by his wives and children, as well as by all who intimately knew her. Too little has been said of her exemplary life. She was as a ministering angel to those in distress, ever ready to aid those who had not been so fortunate as herself in regard to the comforts of life. She never seemed so happy as while seeking to make others happy. Every year it was her custom to invite all the family to dine at her table, and insisted that it was her privilege to wait upon and make them happy and comfortable. In her last sickness, she expressed her regret that she could no longer have the pleasure of seeing the family together as she had been in the habit of doing. On one occasion when one of her old time associates was urging her to come often, as she had done in her former years, she answered, “You must excuse me, as our own family has grown so large that by the time I visit them all, I want to begin the rounds again.” This shows the good feelings she cherished towards her husband’s many wives and children. Too much cannot be said in praise of her example. In her demise, Zion lost one of her noblest daughters.
Very sincerely, your sister in the gospel,
Lucy W. Kimball.
The above from the pen of Mrs. Kimball is written in an entertaining style. Her statements are all unequivocally straightforward and will convey to the reader the impression that she speaks of circumstances and facts wherein she was an actor. The writer was well and familiarly acquainted with her in the Nauvoo days, when she was Miss Lucy Walker, a blooming and vivacious young lady of fifteen or sixteen summers. She possessed a character above reproach and has ever been universally esteemed as an upright person, whose veracity has never been questioned upon any matter. With the relationship concerning which she speaks, between herself and President Joseph Smith, deceased, the writer became familiar during the residence of the Saints at Nauvoo and of course previous to the death of the Prophet. He then knew that a marriage existed between them, by a variety of circumstances not necessary to be enumerated here. If it were possible for a doubt ever to have existed, Mrs. Kimball’s statement herein made, after the lapse of so many years–during which time the Prophet’s mortal remains have reposed in the grave–would most effectually remove such doubts. We give it here to establish a fact–persistently controverted by some–in the history of the remarkable man who brought forth a faith which has indelibly marked the nineteenth century with a new religious era destined to revolutionize the opinions of the moral world, before mankind can be made to see the gospel eye to eye and travel together the straight and narrow path which alone leads to eternal life hereafter. It is true that the restoration of the fullness of the gospel, through the agency of this remarkable man, has already engrafted upon the theories of many renowned theologians numberless ideas and views which they have gleaned from the doctrines given through him and from the sermons and writings of the various elders who have been prominent in advocating his doctrines. And there is one marked feature in all this. These theologians, as much as possible, reproduce these doctrines as being new with them, to make the world believe they possess a genius of mind fruitful in the origination of new ideas, far in advance of the age, which no brain but theirs has been powerful enough to grasp. Also, it would be too great a bending of the dignity of those learned divines to confess they found such grand ideas among the doctrines of a people which the combined efforts of the world cannot vanquish with argument, and hence persecution and defamatory subterfuges become the prolific missiles hurled against them by a union of the religious brotherhoods.