Question: Was Joseph Smith's marriage to 14-year-old Helen Mar Kimball indicative of "pedophilia"?


Question: Was Joseph Smith's marriage to 14-year-old Helen Mar Kimball indicative of "pedophilia"?

It is claimed by critics of the Church that Helen Mar Kimball expected her marriage to Joseph not to include physical relations but that it actually did

The use of the term "pedophilia" by critics is intended to generate a negative emotional response in the reader. Pedophila describes a sexual attraction to prepubescent children. There is no evidence that Helen ever cohabited with or had sexual relations with Joseph. Pedophiles don't advertise their obsession, and they certainly don't discuss marriages with the parents of their intended victims. It was Heber C. Kimball that requested that this sealing be performed, not Joseph. There is no evidence that Joseph was a pedophile.

It is claimed by critics that Helen Mar Kimball,

"expected her marriage to Joseph Smith" to be a ceremony "for eternity only," not an actual marriage involving physical relations. How surprised she was to discover "that it included [marriage for] time also": a physical union at age fourteen with a thirty-seven year-old man.[1]

Joseph was sealed to Helen Mar Kimball at her father's request

Joseph was indeed sealed to 14-year-old Helen Mar Kimball, and it was at her father's request. According to Helen:

My father was the first to introduce it to me, which had a similar effect to a sudden shock of a small earthquake. When he found (after the first outburst of displeasure for supposed injury) that I received it meekly, he took the first opportunity to introduce Sarah Ann [Whitney] to me as Joseph's wife.
—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)) off-site

Helen continued to live with her parents after the sealing, and then married someone else and had children with them after Joseph's death

Helen continued to live with her parents after the sealing. After Joseph's death, Helen was married and had children.

Unlike today, it was acceptable to be sealed to one person for eternity while being married for time to another person. It is not known if this was the case with Helen, however.

There is no evidence whatsoever that Helen's marriage to Joseph was ever consummated

There is, despite the critics' insinuations, no evidence that Helen Mar Kimball's marriage was consummated. (Consummation would not have been inappropriate, since this was a marriage, but the critics are too anxious to find problems where no evidence for such exists. Helen did have some disappointments—these mostly revolved around being less free to participate in parties and socials, not at being physically joined to an older husband.

But, Helen later saw her youthful displeasure as inappropriate and insisted that she had been protected and blessed by being a plural wife, even though she did not know it at the time.

Helen spoke out on the subject later in her life

Helen ought to allowed to speak for herself:

I did not try to conceal the fact of its having been a trial, but confessed that it had been one of the severest of my life; but that it had also proven one of the greatest of blessings. I could truly say it had done the most towards making me a Saint and a free woman, in every sense of the word; and I knew many others who could say the same, and to whom it had proven one of the greatest boons--a "blessing in disguise." [2]

Notes

  1. GDS, p. 201-202; citing Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, 500.
  2. Helen Mar Kimball, Why We Practice Plural Marriage, 23-24 cited in Andrus, Doctrines of the Kingdom.