Hi, I’m Hannah, and this is from Foundations, thanks for watching. In this series, we’re learning how to separate the facts from the fiction in LDS history and doctrine.
Today, we’re talking about Emma. Emma Hale was a lovely, refined, intelligent, middle class young lady in the eighteen twenties. She met Joseph Smith in Pennsylvania when she was twenty three while he was boarding in her parents home after falling in love, Emma and Joseph eloped despite her parents disapproval due to Joseph’s lower class and odd religious work. This is where Emma’s life of comfort ended. The couple first stayed with Joseph’s parents but moved back to Pennsylvania to live with Emma’s parents.
Less than a year later, after Joseph Smith got The Book of Mormon plates, Emma scribed for Joseph as he translated the Book of Mormon. She was a strong witness of the gift and power of God, by which he translated and of the truthfulness of the book. As Emma’s first pregnancy wore on, Martin Harris did most of the scribing to convince a skeptical wife. Martin begged Joseph to let him take the translation manuscript home to New York. Knowing better, Joseph finally relented anyways and let Martin take the pages.
While Martin was away. Emma gave birth to a boy who died shortly after she nearly died as well. Over a period of weeks, Joseph and her mother had to nurse her back to help. Women in Emma’s time knew they were risking their lives to have children, and the Lord addressed that concern and explained why he spared her life in a revelation which he gave to Emma through Joseph shortly after the Church of Jesus Christ was restored and Emma was baptized and confirmed into it.
In 1830, the Lord called Emma and elect lady and gave her several callings to compile hymns, to expound the scriptures and exhort the Saints to scribe for Joseph and to comfort and console Joseph. He promised to preserve her life as she remained faithful. The Lord’s revelation to Emma is the only one in the doctrine and covenants in which the Lord speaks directly to a woman through the Prophet. The Lord’s voice is more tender when he talks to Emma than when he speaks to Joseph or others.
And the revelation is very encouraging and comforting. But it’s also tough. It foreshadows Emma’s hardships and blessings and eventual exaltation. In one passage, the Lord acknowledges that he and she will sometimes be in a kind of tug of war over Joseph. He tells her to comfort my servant Joseph Smith, by husband, and he wants her to understand that Joseph is the Lord’s servant first. Another passage that is easy for us to miss must have been a huge dilemma for Emma.
Go with him. At his time of his going, the Lord told her. Speaking of Joseph, Emma obeyed that. She moved with Joseph to Ohio in the dead of winter in eighteen thirty one five months pregnant with twins. And when she boarded the sleigh and headed down the road away from her parents home, she would never see them again. That act of obedience reveals how deeply she loved and trusted the Lord and her husband and how sincerely she believed in them both.
Emma gave birth to her twins in April of eighteen thirty one, and they died within hours. On the same day, Julia Murdoch also gave birth to twins dying in the process. The twins father, helpless to feed and care for them, gave the twins to Emma and Joseph to raise in March of 1832 to one of the twins was very sick during a mob attack on Joseph Smith, where he was beaten, dragged from his house and covered in hot tar and feathers.
Emma tried her best to protect her sick babies during the attack, but the boy died and Joseph believed his death was caused by the exposure he suffered the night of the attack. In eighteen thirty two, Emma gave birth to Joseph Smith, the third, her first natural born child who would survive to adulthood. Another son was born in eighteen thirty six. Emma was a great influencer in the early church. Brigham Young credited her as the catalyst for the word of wisdom.
He said a bunch of men would invade her home for a school that was training them to be church leaders and missionaries. During the meetings, they smoked and chewed tobacco, spitting it around the room. Emma got to clean it all up and prompted Joseph to do something about it. In eighteen thirty three, he sought and received the mind of the Lord about tobacco and other substances that were debated at the time. And the Lord revealed the word of wisdom that is now DNC eighty nine.
Unfortunately for Emma, the revelation also for Bayti, which was a favorite drink for Emma. However, the word of wisdom was implemented slowly as it was meant more as a forewarning for saints of today than in the past. In 1842, the Lord called Emma Smith as the first president of the Relief Society and Nauvoo, Illinois. Her goal was to relieve suffering and poverty, love and minister to those in need. In essence, she led the women of the church in living the law of consecration through service and donations.
Emma was also called to create a hymnal, and throughout her life she curated and published to the first book Contain Texts of ninety songs. Her second included three hundred and four hymn texts. She included some favorite hymns from her Methodist background and other Christian traditions, along with original hymns written by the Saints. There was nothing the Lord called Emma to do that she didn’t throw herself in to accept plural marriage. Joseph taught the apostles and Nauvoo the Lord will feel after your heart strings and will wrench them and twist them around.
And you will have to learn to rely upon God and upon God alone. As though that wasn’t sobering enough, he added. If God could in any other way more keenly have tried Abraham than by calling him to offer his son Isaac, he would have done it. Emma must have felt that God had found a way to try her more keenly than he had tried. Abraham, historical records don’t reveal exactly what Emma knew about the revelation on plural marriage when she learned it, how she felt about it, and how she responded to it.
She didn’t leave us records of her views on the matter. All we have are a few insights left by others, but they do reveal Emma’s character. They show that she was fiercely opposed to infidelity. She preached against John Binnie’s apostate so-called spiritual wife system by which he and other predatorial men preyed upon vulnerable poor women. Emma was those men biggest foe, and when Binay threatened to retaliate, Emma dared him to bring it on. She was fearless in the face of evil.
Her fierce loyalty to Joseph and the Lord made plural marriage excruciatingly difficult. She had left her parents and siblings to obey the Lord and follow Joseph. She had buried many of her children and spent most of her married lives in the homes of other people and been driven from two states. She would be willing to do anything except share her husband, and that is the test the Lord gave her. She didn’t pass it perfectly, but she did pass. Here’s why we can be so confident in that assertion.
The same revelation that gave Emma her Abrahamic test also gives the terms and conditions of the new and everlasting covenant of marriage. Simply put, the three conditions of marriage are to have your marriage sealed by one who has ceiling power, have a sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise and something the revelation calls that to most holy, which is described in more detail in verse 19, verses 19 and 20, say that all those who meet all three conditions will be exalted.
We know from historical records that Emma was sealed to Joseph in May of eighteen forty three, and we can safely assume that it was verified by the Holy Spirit of Promise because in September of eighteen forty three they received the ordinance DNC one thirty to seven calls that to most holy, which means that the promised blessings of verse 19 are theirs, though neither Emma or Joseph was perfect. After receiving the sealing blessings, neither committed the unpardonable sins the revelation describes.
So they’re going to be together forever. Some people who don’t understand that may assume that I’m a lost out on her blessings when she didn’t follow Brigham Young and the Saints West after Jesus death. But she understood the covenant she had made, she knew the terms and conditions of the new and everlasting covenant of marriage, and they didn’t say anything about moving to the Rocky Mountains as Joseph left for Carthage and I asked him for a blessing. He couldn’t give her one then.
So he asked her to write her blessing out and promised that he would sell it. What she wrote reveals what she desired most. She knew exactly what she was saying when she wrote that she wanted to raise her children righteously, including the baby that she was expecting at the time, and to be united with Joseph and retain the place which God has given me by his side. Emma never saw Joseph alive again. He was murdered on June 27th, 1844, leaving her pregnant widow and sole provider and caregiver for their children.
She was heartbroken. Brigham Young, president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, became the leader of the church until such time as a new prophet was appointed. Emma and Brigham had enjoyed a fine relationship before, but now they parted in different directions. She wanted to stay in Nauvoo beside her husband’s grave, and she felt she had the right to property and records that Joseph possessed. Brigham was leading the Saints to safety in the West. He also felt like he had the right to the property and records and that they belonged to the church.
He invited them to come west with them, but she had no desire to do so. In 1847, the year Brigham arrived and what later became Utah. Emma married Major C.. Louis Bittleman, who was not a Latter Day Saints in April of 1860. Her son, Joseph, the third, was ordained with her support as prophet of the reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints. Mormon Lewis attempted to run a general store and hotel, but the lack of people in Nabu left them struggling monetarily for most of their lives.
Emma died peacefully in eighteen seventy nine. She was not perfect, but that was not the standard the Lord had set for her exaltation. Rather, he had told her to cleave to the covenant, which thou hast made, and promised her a crown of righteousness. She knew the covenant as well. She made and kept them intently, knowing that the Lord would in turn redeem her and exalt her with her husband. Emma is a hero. She was an educated, refined adult woman who chose time and time again to re-evaluate and renew her faith and testimony in the early church.
She remained true to her covenant through a lifetime of intense opposition and extreme trials. She endured to the end an incredible and admirable ways, pushing through trials that I would not have been willing to endure. And to the end, she was forgiving and resilient during the time, their marriage was strained by the test of plural marriage, and Joseph was being hunted by Missouri officials who are intent on prosecuting him. Emma met him at his hiding place on an island in the Mississippi River.
They’re in extreme hardship with the internal pressure of plural marriage and the external pressure of Missouri battering them came in a tiny boat to do what the Lord had commanded her be a comfort on to my servant, Joseph Smith, thy husband in his afflictions. Joseph’s Journal entry about this event says everything about Emma 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 past sins we had been called to pass through the fatigues and the toils, the sorrows and the sufferings and the joys and consolations from time to time had strewed our path 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. Thank you for joining us today, firm foundations created by me and I was special thanks this episode of Dr.
Steve Harper. Don’t forget to subscribe and we’ll catch you next time.