Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » In Her Own Words: Sarah Granger Kimball, 1884

In Her Own Words: Sarah Granger Kimball, 1884

By: Ardis E. Parshall - February 06, 2009

Sarah Melissa Granger Kimball (1818-1898) is remembered chiefly as the generous young woman whose idea to sew shirts for men building the Nauvoo Temple led to the formation of the Relief Society.

Sarah’s family joined the Church when she was in her early teens; as a 15-year-old, she was one of the few women invited to study at the School of the Prophets in Kirtland. After emigrating to Deseret, she served as a ward Relief Society president for forty years, was for many years secretary on the General Relief Society board under Eliza R. Snow, and was the first president of the Utah Woman Suffrage Association.

She also played a role in the preservation of an important relic of Church history. In her own words:

Salt Lake City, 19th July, 1884

Mr. George Reynolds.

Dear Brother:

In response to your note asking me how I came in possession of the [Book of Mormon] manuscript, from Mr. [Lewis] Bidaman [Emma Smith’s second husband], now in the hands of President Joseph F. Smith, I will say:

Last year I visited friends in the States of New York, Ohio, Michigan, and the northern part of Illinois. On my way home I went down from Burlington to see the old landmarks in and around Nauvoo. I arrived there on the 7th of September. After visiting what was once our family home, and the place where the beautiful Nauvoo Temple once stood, I rode through Parley, Mulholland and Main streets, and felt like weeping over the desolation.

I asked the lady friend with whom I was riding to call with me on Mr. Bidaman, a former acquaintance; after learning where I was from, he recognized me and seemed pleased. We talked a little of times that were, and of persons gone. He made inquiries about Salt Lake City and its inhabitants. I referred to his home which is a temporary four-room building on the southwest corner of the foundation laid for the Nauvoo House. I asked why the heavy and extensive foundations around him were being torn up. He replied, that he had bought the premises, and the rock was torn up to sell, as he was poor and otherwise would not have been able to build.

I said, I am interested in this foundation because I remember there were treasures deposited under the chief corner-stone. He said, yes, I took up the stone box and sold it to Mr. — (I do not remember the name.) It had been so long exposed to the wet and weather that its contents were nearly ruined. I gave the coin to Joe (Joseph [III]) and told him he could have the pile of paper. He said it was the manuscript of the Book of Mormon; but it was so much injured that he did not care for it.

While we were talking Mr. Bidaman’s wife brought a large pasteboard box and placed it on my lap. It contained a stack of faded and fast decaying paper. The bottom layers for several inches were uniform in size. They seemed to me larger than common foolscap. The paper was coarse in texture, and had the appearance of having lain a long time in water, as the ink seemed almost entirely soaked into the paper. When I handled it, it would fall to pieces. I could only read a few words here and there, just enough to learn that it was the language of the Book of Mormon.

Above this were some sheets of finer texture folded and sewed together. This was better preserved and more easily read. I held it up and said, “Mr. B., how much for this relic?” He said, “Nothing from you; you are welcome to anything you like from this box.” I appreciated the kindness, took the leaves that were folded and sewed together, also took two fragments of the Times and Seasons, published by Don Carlos Smith. I send with this a fragment dated January, 1840, for your acceptance, containing the pathetic lamentation of P.P. Pratt, while chained in prison.

Very respectfully,




  1. Wow. That is a very curious story for a number of reasons. Among them, she says that went to call on Mr. Bidaman [sic?] and mentioned his wife. Like she didn’t know Emma. Peculiar.

    Comment by Researcher — February 6, 2009 @ 7:05 am

  2. I thought it curious that she mentions “Mr. Bidaman’s wife,” too. Of course, Emma at this time was seen as a traitor of sorts, not the revised Emma we see in modern LDS culture.

    Comment by Steve C. — February 6, 2009 @ 7:27 am

  3. Interesting that that strikes all three of us. It seems to go beyond any conventional merging of a wife into her husband’s identity. I couldn’t tell whether Sarah was blurring the reference to Emma because of how she felt personally or because of how she thought her reader might feel, or for some other reason.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — February 6, 2009 @ 8:12 am

  4. I love Sarah. I was also unaware of this story; thanks for bringing it to our attention.

    Comment by J. Stapley — February 6, 2009 @ 8:42 am

  5. While we were talking Mr. Bidaman’s wife brought a large pasteboard box and placed it on my lap.

    This sentence seems very loaded to me. It raises so many questions. It seems pretty clear, though, that Sarah had a more cordial relationship with Mr. B than with his wife. Fascinating story.

    Comment by Martin Willey — February 6, 2009 @ 9:16 am

  6. Didn’t Emma die in 1879? I had read in a novelized history that after her death Mr. Bidaman married a woman that he’d had an affair and child with. The date on Sarah’s letter makes it probable that this was his second wife.

    Comment by Nicole — February 6, 2009 @ 9:30 am

  7. Emma Smith died on April 30, 1879, four years before this visit with Mr. Bidamon. Ardis, can you describe more particularly what manuscript this was and what has been done with it since?

    Comment by John Mansfield — February 6, 2009 @ 10:22 am

  8. Thanks John and Nicole; I suspected that this wife wasn’t Emma. Any idea who Bidamon’s second (or is third?) wife was?

    Comment by Ben Pratt — February 6, 2009 @ 10:25 am

  9. Note: the word “it” escaped from my parenthetical comment in the previous post.

    Comment by Ben Pratt — February 6, 2009 @ 10:26 am

  10. It was Nancy Abercrombie, his fourth wife (pp. 8-10).

    Comment by Justin — February 6, 2009 @ 11:02 am

  11. Fascinating post – and a great example of digging out the details in the comments.

    Comment by Ray — February 6, 2009 @ 11:08 am

  12. John, the fragment that Sarah obtained is still owned by the Church and preserved in the archives (or more likely, the vaults).

    There were two “original” manuscripts — one written by the scribes as Joseph dictated, and the fair copy made to take to the printer. I *think* the printer’s original was owned by David Whitmer from early days onward, until he presented it to the LDS church; we still have that. I don’t know whether the Community of Christ or anyone else may have preserved some of the ruined dictated original. Somebody better informed, please speak up with corrections or additions — I keep warning y’all that history for me starts with 24 July 1847, and that I’m very shaky on the earlier details.

    Thanks for clarifying the matter of which of Louis C. Bidaman’s wives would have been the one to bring in the box.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — February 6, 2009 @ 11:08 am

  13. Actually, Whitmer’s grandson sold the printer’s manuscript to the RLDS Church in the early 1900s for about $2500. The LDS Church owns about 25% of the original manuscript (28% of the original is extant).

    Comment by Justin — February 6, 2009 @ 12:08 pm

  14. I really enjoyed reading this. There’s so much chance and happenstance here in relation to the manuscript that it boggles my mind.

    And pleased to know that SGK wasn’t referring to Emma in a cold way (a sort of John McCain-like “that one” reference). Still, there may be something to her tone in that her description of Mr. Bidaman is as simply “a former acquaintance.” That term seems somewhat loaded?

    Comment by Hunter — February 6, 2009 @ 12:15 pm

  15. Thank you, Justin.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — February 6, 2009 @ 12:28 pm

  16. I don’t know much about the relationship Mr Bidamon had with the saints before they left Nauvoo. It sounds like there was something.

    Comment by BruceCrow — February 6, 2009 @ 12:58 pm

  17. Ardis, there is an autograph book of Sarah Melissa Kimball in the archives. She acquired her book in 1850 and dozens of her friends wrote messages to her. For example, on 21 Jan 1898, Lula Greene Richards wrote:

    Dear Sister, My part of the world has been
    Better for your having lived therein.
    You were blest ‘neath the Prophet Joseph’s hands
    And received from his life’s divine commands.
    And, speaking with him, your voice it was
    Which quickened the thought and dispatched the cause
    Wherein all women may aid and bless
    The sister’s work to relieve distress.
    Then the key was in women’s favor turned—
    What lessons have Zion’s daughters learned!
    May their children and children’s children tell
    Your name and your works throughout Israel. . .

    You might want to look at the autograph book and share some of the other messages with Keepa.

    (sorry about the extra blank line in the poem, it doesn’t show it that way when I type it)

    Comment by Maurine — February 6, 2009 @ 1:31 pm

  18. Well, one thing about the “Mr. Bidamon’s Wife” controversy is that it may simply be an old use of the language. In “Pride and Prejudice,” the elder sister Jane speaks of “my mother” to Elizabeth — her younger sister and daughter of that same mother. It seems redundant today but it was apparently part of the more formal structure they had then. Admittedly, “Pride and Prejudice” was written decades before this letter and in a different country but I think that with change slower then than it is today, it’s still a possibility.

    Comment by Proud Daughter of Eve — February 6, 2009 @ 6:46 pm

  19. Wow, I left this post open in another tab to respond to it and ask about his wife like everyone else, but it got solved in the meantime. So interesting, thanks everyone.

    Comment by Michelle Glauser — February 7, 2009 @ 7:21 am

  20. Actually, the Mr. Bidamon we are speaking of here, was hired by the prophet before his death to manage the Red Nrick Store on Nauvoo. He was a buggy maker in a nearby town whom Joseph was very impressed with in a business sense.

    He never joined the church. He looked upon Joseph as a good, well meaning man who was misguided.

    The irony of it all is that Emma married him on Joseph ‘s birthday. This offended many of the Saints in Utah as you might well expect.

    Comment by Ken — October 4, 2013 @ 4:23 pm

  21. I was involved with my first cousin, Ruth Rosetta Murdock, perhaps,known to some of those in recent years before I became upon being on here, minute by minute as my life is now consumed with Family History.
    Rosetta, I call her, was a Mormon with LDS, BEFORE she passed on a few years ago. She and I began our families history some 15-20 years ago but I never became too close as living in another state than she did and my life was consumed in raising children, employment, city and school activities. Late winter of 1913 a big box was delivered to me via mail. Not expecting anything I put it in a corner to check later. Later became much later. I did not open the box until Spring or Summer of 2014. To my complete surprise, it was her family history materials and I must believe God told this other person ‘send to Lil’. She will know what to do with it’. Yes, I did. I became consumed in order to try my best in completing our Family History. I am not a Mormon. And I hesitated to contact the church with questions I have. I am working on the family project, countless hours, and yesterday, became aware of BYU programming showing JOSEPH SMITH life stories. I have purchased all of the DVD’s available, Books written by Murdock Ancestors and learning so very much. Thank you. I will continue watching your programs related to my relatives. Lillian

    Comment by Lillian Murdock — June 14, 2015 @ 2:49 pm