Heber C. Kimball—Man of Faith and Integrity

Brian K. Ray

Brian K. Ray, “Heber C. Kimball—Man of Faith and Integrity,” Religious Educator 3, no. 2 (2002): 151–165.

Brian K. Ray was a seminary teacher in Mesa, Arizona when this was published.

Heber C. Kimball

In a discourse to the Saints in July 1857, Heber C. Kimball, then a counselor in the First Presidency, remarked that while the members may feel that what he taught was “pretty snug doctrine and pretty rough,” he would “not give a dime for anything that is not rough.”[1] Elder Kimball’s life was characterized by experiences that shaped and formed him and that helped him not only to understand but to have implicit faith and total devotion to the “strong doctrine”[2] of the kingdom. He learned to “be passive and be like clay in the hands of the potter.”[3] Through his submissiveness, faith, devotion, and integrity, he was refined and molded by the Lord to become one of the great leaders of the Restoration.

Prepared from His Youth

Heber Chase Kimball was born in Sheldon, Vermont, on 14 June 1801. He was the fourth of seven children born to Solomon Farnham and Anna Spaulding Kimball. His parents were hardworking, virtuous people who endeavored to teach their children what was right. Heber’s formal education was limited because of his family’s financial hardships. He began at age fourteen to be trained as a blacksmith but at age nineteen was forced to move out on his own because of their lack of resources. He describes these early years of privation as follows: “At this time I saw some days of sorrow; my heart was troubled, and I suffered much in consequence of fear, bashfulness and timidity. I found myself cast abroad upon the world, without a friend to console my grief. In these heart-aching hours I suffered much for want of food and the comforts of life, and many times went two or three days without food to eat, being bashful and not daring to ask for it.”[4]

At an early age, Heber had inclinations toward religion; his natural desires were to find that church that would lead him back to his Father in Heaven. As early as age twelve, Heber “had many serious thoughts and strong desires to obtain a knowledge of salvation, but not finding anyone who could teach me the things of God, I did not embrace any principles of doctrine, but endeavored to live a moral life.”[5] Heber eventually joined the Baptist faith but was not long a member therein before the work of the Restoration commenced.

The Lord provided spiritual manifestations for Heber to prepare him for what was coming. Heber remarked: “The night the plates were given to Joseph Smith from their bed in the summit of the hill Cumorah, I saw, in the firmament above my head, hosts of men in platoons of twelve; and I saw them march until they reached the western horizon, as far as I could see them. After looking upon them for hours with my natural eyes, I never observed a variation of a hair’s breadth in their step, or the least disorder or confusion in their ranks.”[6] Heber observed a great heavenly battle between these opposing armies, foreshadowing the fierce battle between good and evil in the last days.[7]

In late 1831, Heber and his family, along with several of his friends, were introduced to the restored gospel. Heber rejoiced at hearing the teachings of the missionaries; he felt within his soul that they taught truth, for as he later taught, “truth is light, and light is life.”[8] Heber developed a deep love for the Book of Mormon, teaching that it “was written by the Spirit and power of God; the man that will read it faithfully will be filled with light and with truth.”[9] He commented jokingly that he “began to study the Scriptures . . . , and I had so little knowledge that the exercise of study began to swell my head and open my pores insomuch that the hairs dropped out; and if you will let your minds expand as mine did you will have no hair on your heads.”[10]

Heber was baptized in April 1832, leaving his pottery shop to have the ordinance performed in a nearby stream. He understood the importance of baptism, teaching that “by being baptized and keeping all the commandments, we become the beloved sons and daughters of God, the Holy Ghost descends upon us, and we are continually enlightened by its benign influences.”[11]

A Firm Believer

Upon becoming a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Heber desired to gather with the Saints in Kirtland and to be near the Prophet Joseph Smith. Heber and his close friend Brigham Young made a preliminary trip to Kirtland before moving there so they might meet the Prophet. An instant bond was created among the three men, and they remained close friends to the end of their lives. Heber revered Joseph Smith as the Lord’s mouthpiece and explained to the Saints, “You call us fools: but the day will be, gentlemen and ladies, whether you belong to this Church or not, when you will prize brother Joseph Smith as the Prophet of the Living God, and look upon him as a God.”[12] On another occasion, Heber taught that Joseph Smith “has [passed] behind the veil, but there never will a person in this dispensation enter into the celestial glory without his approbation.[13]

Once Heber and his family were in Kirtland, he began to work on building his home, his livelihood, and the temple. Kirtland had become the scene of mobocratic persecutions, and Heber came forward as one who was willing to defend the Church and its young prophet. Heber explained the situation as follows: “In September, 1833, we went to Kirtland and gathered with Joseph and the Saints. We had to go and buy guns, and stand in his defence, in that early day; and we did it for months and months, to keep the hellyons from him in Kirtland.”[14]

As persecution also raged in Missouri, the Lord revealed to Joseph Smith that Zion should be redeemed “by power” and that the Prophet should organize an army to march to the aid of the afflicted Saints (see D&C 103). Zion’s Camp was created, and Heber C. Kimball marched with them. This was a period of learning and growth for those who served in humility and diligence. Heber remarked that “when we went up to Missouri, 205 men, we had not had our endowments; but we went to redeem Zion according to the word of the Lord; and that was a preparatory work.”[15]

Even though Zion was not redeemed as many expected it to be, for Heber, the hand of the Lord was evident throughout their journeys. Most miraculous to Heber was their deliverance from their enemies in Missouri. He explained:

Those who went up then believed “Mormonism” in their hearts. There were two hundred and five who volunteered to go and redeem their brethren. And how was it in those days, when we were in that strait? Hosts of the people in Missouri were up in arms against us, both behind and before us, on our right and on our left. How did God defend us then? He sent a hailstorm fierce enough to stop their progress. The hailstones were so large that they cut their horses’ bridles, broke their gun-stocks, and cut holes in their hats: the storm had such an effect upon them that they would not any longer pursue us. The waters of the river rose forty feet in one night, and the whole region was flooded. In that way the Lord defended us, when we were a small company, and when he knew that we should be overcome, if he did not stretch forth his hand for our benefit.[16]

As the disbanded Zion’s camp returned to Kirtland, some who had succumbed to the spirit of apostasy asked tauntingly, “What have you accomplished?” Heber was one of the men whose faith-filled reply was “Just what we went for.”[17] His growth and preparation were evident when, on 14 February 1835, he was ordained an Apostle. Regarding his duties as such, Heber later taught: “The office of an apostle is to tell the truth, to tell what he knows. Has the Lord spoken to me? He has. I have heard His voice and so have you; and when you hear my voice, and it is dictated by the Holy Ghost, you hear the voice of God through me, but you do not believe it.”[18]

On 27 March 1836, Heber participated in the dedication of the Kirtland Temple. Many years of toil and sacrifice had now come to fruition as the house of Lord was dedicated to Him. During this time period, Joseph Smith administered a partial endowment to selected Church leaders. Heber’s understanding of the temple and its importance is evident:

The Temple is designed for many purposes, and there are many things that God will reveal and many blessings that he will confer upon this people in that building. . . .

Some may think that the erection of the Temple more particularly devolves upon brother Brigham, brother Heber, brother Daniel, the Twelve, and a few of the Seventies, High Priests, and Bishops; and when it is finished they may imagine that they will receive their blessings therein; but that work is designed to be general. There must needs be a universal exertion, not only by the leading official members of this Church, but by every member, male and female; for the Temple is not for us alone; it is also for our sons, and daughters, and succeeding generations. They will receive blessings in it, and therefore it concerns them as well as us.

If I obtain all the blessings of the Priesthood, all the endowments, all the blessings that God has to confer upon us in this probation, and keep those things sacred while I live, I am then as pure and holy as it is possible for a man to be while in the flesh. Then, if my wives are one with me, my children and their posterity will partake of those blessings which have been placed upon me. Every blessing conferred upon me tends to benefit my posterity. Those blessings are for every righteous man; and the blessings that are conferred upon faithful men and women in their holy anointings and sealings will rest upon their posterity after them for ever and for ever, through their faithfulness; and there is no end to it.

It is a strong additional inducement for you to live your religion, in view of the benefits that will be continued to your posterity. If you can only bear this in mind, I think it will serve to keep you steadfast in the line of your duties. Will our posterity partake of the blessings we will receive in the Temple which we are building? They will, for ever and for ever. Our blessings are to continue always. If we live so as to attain to the principles and fulness of perfection and to secure the promises of eternal lives, then those blessings will rest upon us and our children.[19]

Called to Serve in England

In spite of the glorious spiritual manifestations that were poured out in connection with the temple, the spirit of apostasy began to rage within the fledgling church. Heber was not one to commiserate with those who harbored such feelings against the Lord’s anointed. “A Saint that turns back unto the Devil,” explained Elder Kimball, “takes into his tabernacle the worst spirits, which make him many times worse that he was at the first. When pigs are washed in soap-suds, they look clean, and you would think them almost nice enough to live in the house; but no sooner have you washed them that they will go into the nastiest mud-hole they can find and muddy themselves all over from head to foot. Now, do they not look worse than before they were washed? It is just so with you, when you turn from your righteousness; you are worse than before you entered into the Church of Christ.”[20]

In the midst of the ugliness of this apostasy, the Lord revealed to the Prophet Joseph what He would have done for the salvation of His Church. On Sunday, 4 June 1837, Joseph Smith approached Heber in the Kirtland Temple and whispered: “Brother Heber, the Spirit of the Lord has whispered to me: ‘Let servant Heber go to England and proclaim my Gospel, and open the door of salvation to that nation.’”[21] The thought of such a mission was overwhelming to this humble man. In addition, the apostates amongst the leading councils of the Church opposed this new revelation. Commenting on these trying circumstances, Heber said:

I have seen the day when it was as much as our lives were worth to sustain Joseph Smith—the apostates were so thick around us, and persecution was so great. The day was when brother Brigham was the only Apostle on the earth, with the exception of Joseph, and Sidney, and Hyrum, that could say to brother Heber, Go, and you shall be blessed. I am reckoning brother Hyde with us, for he went with me on that mission to England. In connection with brother Joseph, brother Hyrum, and brother Sidney, brother Brigham said, “Go, brother Heber, and in the name of Israel’s God you shall be blessed, and it shall prove the salvation of thousands.”

John Boynton, one of the Twelve, came to me and said, “If you are such a damned fool as to listen to Joseph Smith, the fallen Prophet, and go to England under these perilous circumstances, if I knew you were shipwrecked on Van Dieman’s Land I would not assist you to get you from that land.” . . .

Those circumstances were the most trying circumstances that ever I was brought into. Joseph had to flee from that land to save his body from being slain, and so had brother Brigham and every other man who would sustain the Prophet, the apostasy was so great; and they were most hellish in their wickedness.[22]

In spite of the dangerous, apostate sentiments in Kirtland and his own feelings of inadequacy, Heber heeded the call to serve, leaving his family and friends on 13 June 1837 for New York, from whence he sailed for the British Isles. After a month of traveling, Heber and his companions arrived in England. His excitement and determination were evident as he leaped from the small boat when it was six or seven feet from the pier.[23] His enthusiasm and zeal for the work of the Lord characterized his mission, and consequently he enjoyed great success. In his own words:

I went and performed the mission according to the words of the Prophet of the living God, and was gone eleven months and two days from Kirtland, being on that land eight months and two days, in which time there were about two thousand souls added to the Church and kingdom of God, with the help of Elders Willard Richards, Orson Hyde, and Joseph Fielding. . . .

God had blessed and prospered me exceedingly, and the words of Joseph, Hyrum, Sidney, and Brigham were all fulfilled to the letter, which you all know. I was poor and weak, and did not know but a little in regard to this work in the latter days. My knowledge was in proportion to my experience. At the same time, I knew enough, by the help of the Holy Ghost, to confound the wise and to bring to naught the foolish things of this world. God has taken just such weak instruments as myself to bring to pass his great purposes. And you need not find fault with them: if you do, you find fault with God, who sent them.[24]

As Heber counseled with his brethren about their course of action, the Lord revealed that they should proceed to Preston, England. They arrived in Preston in the midst of an election and were amazed by the gaudy display of parades, music, and flags. As their coach came to a stop, a flag was unrolled nearly over their heads that said, “TRUTH WILL PREVAIL,” in large letters. Heber remarked, “It being so very seasonable, and the sentiment being so very appropriate to us in our situation, we cried aloud, ‘Amen! Thanks be to God, TRUTH WILL PREVAIL!’”[25]

This mission to England provided many opportunities for learning and growth for this servant of the Lord. As he traveled from town to town, he taught and baptized many and was privy to experiences of a special nature. Heber related the following:

I was in a place in England in which I felt very curious; but I did not know at the time what it meant. I went through a town called Chadburn, beyond Clithero. Before I went there, some persons told me that there was no use in my going, and asked me what I wanted to go to Chadburn for, saying it was the worst place in the country; for the sectarian priests had preached there faithfully thirty years without making any impression. Notwithstanding that, I went, and preached once, and baptized twenty-five persons, where the priests had not been able to do a thing.

I went through the streets of that town feeling as I never before felt in my life. My hair would rise on my head as I walked through the streets, and I did not then know what was the matter with me. I pulled off my hat, and felt that I wanted to pull off my shoes, and I did not know what to think of it.

When I returned, I mentioned the circumstance to brother Joseph, who said, “Did you not understand it? That is a place where some of the old Prophets travelled and dedicated that land, and their blessing fell upon you.”[26]

During this mission, Heber witnessed the power of the adversary as never before. Certainly Lucifer was aware of the effects of the missionary labors of this Apostle and sought to destroy him while he served. On one occasion, Heber and his companions had a vision of the hosts of evil whose desire was to destroy them. “We saw devils coming in legions,” Heber related. “They came towards us like armies rushing to battle. They appeared to be men of full stature, possessing every form and feature of men in the flesh, who were angry and desperate; and I shall never forget the vindictive malignity depicted in their countenances as they looked me in the eye. . . . We distinctly heard those spirits talk and express their wrath and hellish designs against us. However, the Lord delivered us from them, and blessed us exceedingly that day.”[27]

Heber taught on another occasion:

It is written, “resist the devil and he will flee from you.” Some people do not believe that there are any devils. There are thousands of evil spirits that are just as ugly as evil can make them. The wicked die, and their spirits remain not far from where their tabernacles are. When I was in England, twenty-eight years ago next June, I saw more devils than there are persons here to-day; they came upon me with an intention to destroy me; they are the spirits of wicked men who, while in the flesh, were opposed to God and his purposes. I saw them with what we call the spiritual eyes, but what is in reality the natural eye. The atmosphere of many parts of these mountains is doubtless the abode of the spirits of Gadianton robbers, whose spirits are as wicked as hell, and who would kill Jesus Christ and every Apostle and righteous person that ever lived if they had the power. It is by the influence of such wicked spirits that men and women are all the time tempted to tell little lies, to steal a little, to take advantage of their neighbor a little, and they tell us there is no harm in it. It is by the influence and power of evil spirits that the minds of men are prejudiced against each other, until they are led to do each other an injury, and sometimes to kill each other.[28]

Heber explained that from these and other similar experiences, he “learned the power of the adversary, his enmity against the servants of God, and got some understanding of the invisible world”[29] and that “the angels of God . . . were there and stood in defence of me and my brethren” by virtue of “the Priesthood and Apostleship which I held, and God would and did defend.”[30]

Trials in Missouri

On 20 April 1838, Heber left his field of labor in the British Isles to return home. It was a time of both sadness and rejoicing—sadness for leaving those to whom he had grown so close in their gospel associations and rejoicing for the great spiritual outpourings in that land. His feelings about his efforts in England are evident in this statement: “Did I go to England and preach the Gospel, win souls, and bring them here, to deny the faith, and go to hell? No. We go to win souls that we may save them and have joy with them in the day of eternity.”[31]

Upon arriving home, Heber moved his family to be with the membership of the Church in Missouri. Once again he enjoyed the association of Joseph and Brigham and the other faithful brethren. However, Missouri was already the scene of mob violence against the Saints, and Heber entered the fray to defend those whom he loved and served. Though the circumstances were ugly and frightening, Heber knew that the Lord was on their side:

I have passed through a great many trying scenes. I have been driven and rooted up every time that this Church has been removed from its gathering-place by its enemies. I have also had the experience of seeing armies come up against us in Caldwell county, Missouri, when we could not raise above five hundred half-armed men to defend the county, and the Governor, L. W. Boggs, ordered out as many as fourteen thousand troops against us. At that time, it looked as though we should be destroyed from the earth; but the Almighty was on our side. When I saw the condition that we were in, I concluded that it would be hot times; so I put heavy charge in my United States musket, only expecting to get one chance to fire, and felt determined that it should be a dead shot to some body. We all felt very queer, for there was no other prospect before us than that of immediate assassination; but of a sudden, as by a shock from all heaven, our enemies were panic-stricken and retreated in confusion.[32]

Though the Missourians were stayed on this occasion in October 1838, war against the Saints raged through their settlements in Daviess and Caldwell Counties. When Far West was taken by the mob-armies, William E. McLellin, disaffected and apostate, sought out Heber and asked him, “Brother Heber, what do you think of your fallen prophet now? . . . Are you satisfied with Joseph?” Heber’s response silenced this former peer: “Yes, I am more satisfied with him a hundred-fold than ever I was before, for I see you in the very position that he foretold you would be in. . . . Where are you? What are you about? . . . Have you not betrayed Joseph and his brethren into the hands of the mob, as Judas did Jesus? Yes, verily, you have; I tell you Mormonism is true, and Joseph is a true prophet of the living God; and you with all others that turn therefrom will be damned and go to hell.”[33]

Because of his absence in England, Heber was blessed with relative anonymity; he was not recognized and therefore not pursued by the Missourians. He was able to move fairly freely throughout the state of Missouri and spent considerable time traveling to visit the Prophet and his associates in the Liberty Jail. Heber carried correspondence to and from the jail and sought to console both those who were imprisoned and their loved ones. During this time Heber also received the assignment to seek redress in the legislature and in the courts for their losses, an effort that produced little more than sorrow and distress.

A Second Mission to England

Eventually, Joseph and the other prisoners were able to escape from their captors. This news caused the Saints to rejoice and the mobs to threaten with even greater vehemence. The Lord had revealed that the Twelve were to leave for a mission to Europe from Far West on 26 April 1839 (see D&C 118). The mobs, knowing of the revelation, vowed that such a meeting and departure would never take place. However, having faith that the Lord would make a way for them, a majority of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gathered from as far away as Quincy, Illinois, that the revelation might be fulfilled. They sang, ordained two new Apostles, and, during the early morning hours of 26 April, laid and dedicated the cornerstone of a temple in Far West. They immediately left the sacred spot and rode the thirty miles back to Quincy where, a few days later, their actions at the temple lot were sustained by a conference of the Church.

It was months before the Apostles were able to leave what had become the city of Nauvoo, Illinois, for their mission. One of the many trials that delayed their journey was the sickness that affected so many of the Saints, a sickness that still afflicted the families of both Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball at the time of their departure. On 18 September 1839, leaving their sick families together in the same house, Heber and Brigham rode away prostrate with illness in the back of a wagon. Feeling his heart would burst from having to leave his family in such conditions, Heber remarked: “I asked the teamster to stop, and said to Brother Brigham, ‘This is pretty tough, isn’t it; let’s rise up and give them a cheer.’ We arose, and swinging our hats three times over our heads, shouted: ‘Hurrah, hurrah for Israel.’”[34] Their wives came to the do or to acknowledge their cheer, placating the Apostles’ tender feelings.

On their journey, Heber and Brigham were blessed with the means to complete their journey. “Brother Brigham and I,” Heber explained,

once started with $13.50 and travelled 500 miles, paying $16 for every hundred miles travel, and paying for from two to three meals of victuals a day, and once in a while paying 50 cents apiece for a night’s lodging; and when we got through, we had not quite as much money as when we started. But if we had not any, it was quite a miracle, though we had some money left. We performed that journey with the means I have mentioned. That money we spent was in the elements, or else an angel of God went where it was, and got it, and put it into our pockets. Brother Brigham kept the purse; I put my money with his, and he kept paying out; and if it had been in the line of our duty to have kept travelling to this day, we should have had money unto this day.[35]

Heber also commented: “Do you not suppose that we believe in angels and holy beings, having visited us on those occasions? Cannot angels furnish Saints with money? Our wants were supplied, and we are witnesses of the fact, and we still live, and shall continue to live, and bear testimony to this generation.”[36]

Heber’s second mission was marked by great success, just as was his first mission. The missionary work in England continued to grow under the direction and leadership of the Twelve. Having served faithfully in that foreign land, the Apostles took leave of the British Saints and returned home, arriving in Nauvoo on 1 July 1841.

While in Nauvoo, Heber faced a test that would shake him to his soul. Joseph Smith informed Heber that he was required to give his beloved Vilate to the Prophet in marriage. Though his heart was rent at the thought, Heber’s faith in the Lord and His prophet would carry him through a situation as painful as this. After three days of prayer and fasting, having shed a multitude of tears, Heber presented Vilate to Joseph to be his wife. This magnificent display of faith and devotion moved the Prophet to tears. Joseph embraced Heber and told him that was all the Lord required, that he had been proved as Abraham had, and that Heber had shown his willingness to lay everything on the altar. Joseph joined the hands of Heber and Vilate together and sealed them for time and eternity.[37]

It was during this time as well that the doctrine of plural marriage was revealed. Heber was commanded to take plural wives but recoiled at the very thought. He had to be commanded three times before he was able to do it. Heber worried about how his wife would react to the command to live this doctrine. However, Heber was counseled by the Prophet not to discuss the matter with her, so Heber suffered in silence. Vilate noticed a change in him, an air of distress that afflicted him, and not being able to get an explanation from him, she sought an explanation from the Lord in prayer. The following morning Vilate went to Heber and told him not to worry, for the Lord had revealed to her the principles of plural marriage, and she would sustain the Prophet and her husband in fulfilling that commandment.[38]

The Martyrdom

In May 1844, the Twelve embarked on one final mission to the eastern states. The Prophet grew increasingly concerned about his safety until, on June 20, the Twelve were asked to return home. Seven days later, on 27 June 1844, Joseph and Hyrum Smith were murdered at Carthage, Illinois. Heber and the other members of the Twelve, though not understanding why at the time, felt severe mental distress the night of the Martyrdom. They made their way home full of grief and sorrow. Heber later commented:

Do I love the wicked? Yes, I love them insomuch that I wish they were in hell, that is, a great many of them, for that is the best wish I can wish them. And those that killed Joseph and Hyrum, and David W. Patten, and other Patriarchs and Prophets, I wish they were in hell; though I need not wish that, for in one sense they are in hell all the time; and if they have not literally gone down into hell they will go there, as the Lord God lives, every one of them, and every man that consented to the acts those murderers performed. That is loving the wicked, to send them there to hell to be burnt out until they are purified.[39]

With Joseph dead, the responsibility for leading the Church fell to the Twelve. While some sought to take control of the Church, the Lord made manifest through miraculous means that Brigham was Joseph’s rightful successor. Heber sustained Brigham in his new responsibilities and taught the membership of the Church about why it was so important for them to sustain their priesthood leader: “If you are ever saved, you have got to take a course to draw near to the throne of God; and how can you draw near to the throne of God, except you draw near to those men who are placed as His representatives in the flesh? . . . If you expect the favor of God, favor His servants and sustain them.”[40]

The Saints enjoyed a brief respite from persecution after the Martyrdom. Though a man of deep charity, Heber expressed that “in Nauvoo I was sorry when peace was declared, for I had got pretty well warmed up through the oppression of the ungodly, and I really felt like fighting.”[41] Sadly for the Saints, oppressive and violent influences reared their ugly head, and the Church was forced to move once again.

Pioneer to Utah

Heber worked closely with President Young to help him make the necessary preparations to move the Saints from Nauvoo. Heber was a member of the vanguard pioneer company that left the City Beautiful on 17 February 1846. He expressed his feelings as follows: “If I was driven to break up my home to-morrow, I would not cry for any thing which I have on this earth. Do you suppose that I would cry at being compelled to leave my house? Do you wish to know what I would do with it? I would say, let the houses and everything else go. Just before I left Nauvoo, I had finished me a good house, and when compelled to start, I told the devil to take it and stick it in his hat, and I would go to the mountains and get rich.”[42]

The vanguard company reached the Salt Lake Valley in July 1847. After about a month in the valley, the brethren returned to Winter Quarters to help their families and the other members in their preparations for the trek west. On 27 December 1847, in nearby Kanesville, Iowa, President Young revealed that the First Presidency would be reorganized. Heber was called and sustained as one of his counselors. Heber taught: “Brother Brigham is brother Joseph’s rightful successor, and he has his Counselors, and together they are an earthly pattern of the divine order of government. Those men are God’s agents, His servants, and are witnesses of your covenants, which you will have to fulfil.”[43] On another occasion, Heber explained:

My being one of the First Presidency of the Church does not excuse me from living my religion; but I should, on that account, be more faithful, and show an example to the flock of Christ, and constantly be alive to know how things are progressing in the Church, and be dictated by the Holy Ghost in every act of my life, that I may have power to discern the spirits of men, and be able to give unto them the very counsel that my Father in heaven would give them if he were here himself. I endeavor to take this course, and when I give counsel, I do not run against Brother Brigham, because I am led by the same spirit. You call these things little things, but they are as big things as I know of; these things lie at the root of the matter, and from them spring the fruits of righteousness. The main roots of a tree are fed by the little fibres, and from them spring the trunk, and the branches, and the fruit.[44]

Heber spent the rest of his days in the service of his God and his fellow men. He traveled throughout the Church’s settlements teaching and exhorting the members. He also served in a number of political positions, including chief justice and lieutenant-governor of the provisional state of Deseret.

Though blessed with many spiritual gifts, perhaps the most prominent of those enjoyed by Heber was the gift of prophecy. He prophesied that the Saints’ stay in Nauvoo would be short-lived, which caused Sidney Rigdon, who knew of Heber’s prophetic gifts, to grieve.[45] Heber prophesied that Saints would be afflicted with famine in the Salt Lake Valley and that they should lay up provisions for that day. Because he prepared himself, he was able to sustain many in their need.[46] Regarding this gift, Heber expressed the following:

How many times I have heard it—”We believe what brother Brigham says, and we believe this, and we believe that; but here is brother Heber,—he is a kind of wild, kind of enthusiastic; he is full of visions and wild notions.” Tell me one notion I have had that is not correct. Say you, “Some things you have prophesied have come to pass, but we do not know whether the rest will or not.”

I do not profess to be a Prophet. I never called myself so; but I actually believe I am, because people are all the time telling me that I am. I do not boast of that. I say that every man and woman who will live their religion, be humble, and be dictated by the Holy Ghost, the spirit of prophecy will be upon them.[47]

On another occasion, one of Heber’s employees, Colonel Robert Smith, asked Elder Kimball for a pair of shoes. Colonel Smith felt that Heber’s negative response was more negative than it needed to be and complained to the Lord in his prayers that night about his servant Heber. The next day, upon seeing Colonel Smith, Heber asked him why he would complain against him to the Lord and told him to come in and get his shoes.[48]

Heber C. Kimball was truly a man among men. His love of the Lord and of His servants was manifest through his actions during his lifetime. He loved the Saints and did everything in his power to teach them and serve them. He loved the youth, and his message to them and to their teachers rings as true today as it did then:

“I want the rising generation to come forth and secure their blessings in the house of the Lord, that they may be saved from the evil into which they might otherwise fall. If our sons could fully and clearly see the propriety of living their religion, they would from this day cease to mingle with wicked persons; and our daughters, too, if they understood the consequences, would never be found giving themselves in marriage to wicked men. As parents and teachers, we should try with all of our ability to impress upon the minds of our young people, by precept and example, principles of truth, that they may not remain uncontrolled and exposed to all the allurements of sin. We should tie them to us by the saving principles of the Gospel.”[49]


[1] Heber C. Kimball, in Journal of Discourses (London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1854–86), 5:27; hereafter cited as JD.

[2] JD, 5:254.

[3] JD, 5:132.

[4] Orson F. Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996), 7.

[5] Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball, 14.

[6] JD, 6:326.

[7] See Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball, 16–17.

[8] JD, 4:360.

[9] JD, 11:147.

[10] JD, 4:107.

[11] JD, 10:244.

[12] JD, 5:89.

[13] JD, 4:119.

[14] JD, 5:136–37.

[15] JD, 4:376.

[16] JD, 5:205.

[17] Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball, 63.

[18] JD, 12:190.

[19] JD, 5:18.

[20] JD, 6:52.

[21] Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball, 103–4.

[22] JD, 6:65.

[23] Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball, 119.

[24] JD, 6:65.

[25] Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball, 121–22.

[26] JD, 5:22.

[27] Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball, 130–31.

[28] JD, 11:84–85.

[29] Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball, 130–31.

[30] JD, 4:2.

[31] JD, 4:363.

[32] JD, 9:53.

[33] Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball, 218.

[34] Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball, 266.

[35] JD, 4:338.

[36] JD, 4:7.

[37] Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball, 323–24.

[38] Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball, 326–27.

[39] JD, 4:223.

[40] JD, 4:120.

[41] JD, 3:263.

[42] JD, 4:5.

[43] JD, 4:120.

[44] JD, 11:82.

[45] Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball, 257.

[46] Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball, 401–2.

[47] JD, 5:177.

[48] Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball, 441; see also J. Golden Kimball, in Conference Report, April 1913, 90.

[49] JD, 11:85.