i was asked to speak in sacrament meeting on mother's day, with the topic of emma smith. there is so much to be found of her, much of it terribly sad... i read article after article to find what i thought was a good representation of her, without it being too miserable, it was mother's day after all. i have great admiration for emma and am truly grateful to follow in her footsteps and those of other latter-day saint women. ♥
I’ve been asked to speak on Emma Smith, the wife of the prophet Joseph Smith, who was, as such, the “mother” of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
More than 200 years have passed since Emma Hale was born in Pennsylvania. Emma is honoured as the first president of the Relief Society, remembered for her efforts in compiling the original Latter-day Saint hymn book, and revered as the wife of the Prophet Joseph Smith. But Emma’s role during the period of the establishment of the Church covered an even wider range of experiences.
Emma’s first act of support for Joseph Smith was marrying him in spite of her father’s firm opposition. Joseph, who had just turned twenty-one loved Emma Hale; her willingness to marry him under difficult circumstances affirmed her belief in his spiritual experiences. She was twenty-two at the time and a school teacher. Emma possessed a ready wit and a natural ease with other people. She became a valuable asset to Joseph as the events of his life demanded frequent social occasions.
When Joseph took his new bride home to Manchester to meet his family, she was welcomed warmly by the Smith Family. Emma soon discovered that life with Joseph was neither tranquil nor dull. She accompanied Joseph to the Hill Cumorah on that dark night when he received the gold plates, keeping a careful watch below as the young Prophet climbed the terrain to meet the angel Moroni. In the months that followed, as speculators and gold-seekers harassed the Smiths, Emma helped keep secret the places where the plates were hidden. One on occasion she even rode a stray horse, to Macedon, New York, where Joseph worked, to warn him of a gathering mob.
In the setting of Joseph’s boyhood home, a close and lasting friendship developed between Emma and her husband’s mother, Lucy Mack Smith. Lucy said of Emma: “She was then young and being naturally ambitious her whole heart was in the work of the Lord and she felt no interest except for the church and the cause of truth. Whatever Her hands found to do, she did with her might and did not ask the selfish question, “shall I be benefited any more than anyone else?” If Elders were sent away to preach she was the first to volunteer her services to assist in clothing them for their journey and let her own privations be what they might.”
In the book the Lucy Mack Smith’s tribute to her daughter in law Emma can be found, and I quote: “I have never seen a woman in my life, who would endure every species of fatigue and hardship, from month to month, and from year to year, with that unflinching courage, zeal, and patience, which she has ever done; for I know that which she has had to endure—she has been tossed upon the ocean of uncertainty—she has breasted the storms of persecution, and buffeted the rage of men and devils, which would have borne down almost any other woman.”
When Joseph obtained the gold plates and continued his mission of being an instrument in the hands of God in restoring the gospel, Emma served as a scribe during his first efforts to translate the Book of Mormon. She was baptized on 28 June 1830, shortly after the Church was organized. In July 1830 the Lord outlined her mission, in a revelation found in Doctrine and Covenants Section 25: “Thou art an elect lady, whom I have called. … And the office of thy calling shall be for a comfort unto my servant, Joseph Smith, Junior, thy husband, in his afflictions.” She was also directed to compile a book of hymns for the Church, and she was warned to “continue in a spirit of meekness, and beware of pride.”
Emma’s patriarchal blessing, given on 9 December 1834 by her father-in-law, Joseph Smith, Sr., presents important information concerning Emma’s contribution to the Restoration, how the Lord viewed Emma, and what he promised her. “Emma … thou art blessed of the Lord, for thy faithfulness and truth, thou shalt be blessed with thy husband, and rejoice in the glory which shall come upon him. Thy soul has been afflicted because of the wickedness of men in seeking the destruction of thy companion, and thy whole soul has been drawn out in prayer for his deliverance; rejoice, for the Lord thy God has heard thy supplication. Thou hast grieved for the hardness of the hearts of thy father’s house, and thou hast longed for their salvation. The Lord will have respect to thy cries, and by his judgments he will cause some of them to see their folly and repent of their sins; but it will be by affliction that they will be saved. Thou shalt see many days, yea, the Lord will spare thee till thou art satisfied, for thou shalt see thy Redeemer. Thy heart shall rejoice in the great work of the Lord, and no one shall take thy rejoicing from thee. Thou shalt ever remember the great condescension of thy God in permitting thee to accompany my son Joseph when the angel delivered the record of the Nephites to his care. … Thou shalt be blessed with understanding, and have power to instruct thy sex, teach thy family righteousness, and thy little ones the way of life, and the holy angels shall watch over thee and thou shalt be saved in the kingdom of God, even so, Amen.”
As a mother, life for Emma must have been a heart wrenching experience, filled with much pain. During their seventeen-year marriage, nine children were born to Joseph and Emma, and they adopted two. Emma’s first three children died shortly after birth: Alvin in 1828 and twins in 1831. They adopted twins, Joseph and Julia Murdock, whose mother, had died just one day after the birth of Emma’s twins, leaving a bereaved husband quite unable to care for the infants. Little Joseph Murdock died in March 1832 as a result of exposure during an incident of mob violence. The following November, Emma gave birth to a healthy son, Joseph Smith III. Although Emma enjoyed little Julia and Joseph, she truly grieved over her lost babies.
The Lord comforted Emma once again in her patriarchal blessing: “Thou hast seen much sorrow because the Lord has taken from thee three of thy children. In this thou art not to be blamed, for he knows thy pure desires to raise up a family, that the name of my son Joseph Smith, Jr. might be blessed. And now, behold, I say unto thee, that thus says the Lord, if thou wilt believe, thou shalt yet be blessed … and thou shalt bring forth other children, to the joy and satisfaction of thy soul, and to the rejoicing of thy friends.”
Emma’s faith was rewarded: Frederick was born in 1836, and Alexander in 1838. Don Carlos was born in 1840, dying just fourteen months later. An unnamed son was stillborn on 6 February 1842; and David Hyrum was born in 1844, four months after the death of his father.
Emma’s care for the untold numbers of ill and homeless Saints as well as her care for Joseph’s extended family—his parents, brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews—is legend. Emma’s work in the Church naturally included attending to Joseph’s business in his absence and taking care of their children.
She manifested courage and intelligence, defending Joseph in her letter to Illinois Governor Carlin.In her office as the first general president of the Relief Society, she set an example of strong leadership. Her instructions on compassionate service set the tone for generations of Relief Society members under the theme she promoted: “Charity Never Faileth.”
Emmeline B. Wells wrote of her: “Sister Emma was benevolent and hospitable; she drew around her a large circle of friends, who were like good comrades. She was motherly in nature to young people, always had a houseful to entertain or be entertained. She was very high-spirited and the brethren and sisters paid her great respect. Emma was a great solace to her husband in all his persecutions and the severe ordeals through which he passed; she was always ready to encourage and comfort him, devoted to his interests, and was constantly by him whenever it was possible. She was queen in her home, so to speak, and beloved by the people, who were many of them indebted to her for favours and kindness.”
The Prophet wrote in his journal, reflecting on a visit from Emma while he was in great danger and difficulty in 1842: “With what unspeakable delight, and what transports of joy swelled my bosom, when I took by the hand, on that night, my beloved Emma—she that was my wife, even the wife of my youth, and the choice of my heart. Many were the reverberations of my mind when I contemplated for a moment the many scenes we had been called to pass through, the fatigues and the toils, the sorrows and sufferings, and the joys and consolations, from time to time, which had strewed our paths and crowned our board. Oh what a commingling of thought filled my mind for the moment, again she is here, even in the seventh trouble—undaunted, firm, and unwavering—unchangeable, affectionate Emma!”
Upon instruction from the Lord, the Relief Society was organized in March of 1842 by the Prophet Joseph Smith. It was originally called the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo, and Emma Smith, the wife of Joseph Smith, was selected as its first president. Joseph Smith taught, “The Church was never perfectly organized until the women were thus organized.” (Let’s be honest, we all know women are organised!)
Historical records of the Church in our dispensation describe the devotion of early Relief Society women as they bore testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ and served the sick and poor among them to build up the kingdom of God. The Relief Society provided opportunities for Latter-day Saint women to expand their influence and to bless their families, wards, stakes, communities, and nations. Throughout its history, members of the organization have spoken up regarding relevant issues of their time. Relief Society continues to provide such opportunities for women today with around 6 million members throughout 170 countries.
What a blessing it is to have the Relief Society for women in the world today, to have a place of safety and refuge amongst so much evil. To know that it was formed in such a way, to ensure that it has lasted for us today, following in the footsteps of women such as the “elect lady” Emma Smith. How grateful I am to be a mother in Zion. How blessed I am to raise my children in the gospel and to watch them grow, both in body and in spirit, to see their faith and testimony grow as they get older. Although trying at times, I know there is no greater purpose in my life than to be a mother, to teach them, to guide them and help them develop a love for their Saviour. I am forever grateful to have been brought up by a wonderfully strong mother, who is everything I hope to be. For strong grandmothers who brought up my father and mother in the gospel, and for my bonus mother, my mother in law Oliveta for faithfully raising my husband in the gospel, so that we can do the same. What joy there is to be found in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ!
I am forever grateful for the women of the church, who paved the way, for us to receive the blessings we do today. I know of the truth of the gospel. I know Joseph was a prophet who restored the gospel for all of us to find the joy we have. If you do not know of the truth, find out for yourself, you will never regret the decision to ask your Father in heaven to know.