Emma Hale Smith — The Right Stuff
Later, Smith reportedly determined by looking into his seer stone that the “right person” was Emma Hale Smith, his future wife. There is no specific record of Smith seeing the angel in 1826, however, after Joseph and Emma were married on January 18, 1827, Smith returned to Manchester, and as he passed by Cumorah, he said he was chastised by the angel for not being “engaged enough in the work of the Lord”. He was reportedly told that the next annual meeting was his last chance to get the plates and the Urim and Thummim.
Just days prior to the day Smith said he was to meet with the angel on September 22, 1827, Smith’s treasure-seeking associate, Josiah Stowell, and Joseph Knight, Sr. arranged to be in Palmyra for the attempt to retrieve the plates. Because Smith was concerned that Samuel Lawrence, his earlier confidant, might interfere, Smith sent his father to spy on Lawrence’s house the night of September 21 until dark. Late that night, Smith took the horse and carriage of Joseph Knight, Sr. to Cumorah with his wife Emma. Leaving Emma in the wagon, where she knelt in prayer, he reportedly walked to the site of the golden plates, retrieved them, and hid them in a fallen tree-top on or near the hill. He also reportedly retrieved the Urim and Thummim, which he showed to his mother the next morning. According to Knight, Smith was more fascinated by this artifact than he was the plates.
What follows is excerpted from:
Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling
Richard Lyman Bushman, Jed Woodworth – 2007 – Biography & Autobiography – 784 pages
p. 494 Year 1843
church secured scores of affidavits from people who knew of the practice in
Nauvoo. 35 Besides proving the existence of plural marriage, the affidavits
attempted to refute the hypothesis that Joseph’s relations with his plural
wives were purely spiritual. Some members of the Reorganized Church
accepted ceremonial marriages but thought Joseph never slept with his
wives. 36 To rebut that view, the affidavits noted the occasions when Joseph
occupied the same room with a wife, facts that might have been omitted had
not the Utah Mormons been determined to prove that Joseph and his plural
wives were married as completely as the later polygamists under Brigham
While Joseph was alive, there were times when Emma countenanced
plural marriage. In May 1843 she approved two wives, Eliza and Emily Par-
tridge, daughters of Edward Partridge and helpers in the Smith household.
The sisters were an awkward selection because Joseph had already married
them two months earlier in March without Emma’s knowledge. When
Joseph proposed, Emily and Eliza, nineteen and twenty-three, went through
the usual turmoil. At first they turned Joseph down, but by the time he told
Emily that “the Lord had commanded him to enter into plural marriage
and had given me to him,” she was prepared. They married on March 4,
1843. “Well I was married there and then,” she wrote many years later.
“Joseph went home his way and I going my way alone. A strange way of get-
ting married wasent it?” Eliza Partridge married him four days later. In
May, they both went through the ceremony again with Emma present. 37
About the same time, Emma agreed to accept Maria and Sarah Lawrence,
two other young women living in the Smiths’ house. 38
Emma’s concurrence brought about a reconciliation, which led in turn to
her and Joseph’s priesthood marriage. Joseph probably would not have had
the sealing performed while Emma opposed the plural-marriage revelation.
But on a cold Sunday evening, May 28, 1843, in the upper room of Joseph’s
redbrick store, Joseph and Emma were “sealed” for eternity by the power of
Unfortunately, the reconciliation did not last. Emma had agreed to the
plural marriages, but she immediately regretted it. “Before the day was over
she turned around or repented of what she had done and kept Joseph up till
very late in the night talking to him,” Emily Partridge wrote in the 1880s,
when revealing Emma’s faults was thought to aid the Utah church. “She
kept close watch of us. If we were missing for a few minutes, and Joseph was
not at home, the house was searched from top to bottom and from one end
to the other, and if we were not found, the neighborhood was searched until
we were found.” One day Emma heard Joseph talking to Eliza Partridge in
an upstairs room. Joseph closed the door and held it shut, while Emma
called Eliza’s name and tried to open the door. “She seemed much irri-
tated,” he reported to William Clayton. 39
[At this point in the narrative, it still seems Emma was in a state of denial as to the “spiritual” nature of her husband’s plural marriages. Joseph had made a shrew of his wife. Emma had been the “right person” at the beginning of the revelation. She is not blameless here, but bears the scars of her husband’s human fallibilities.]
The situation deteriorated. In her 1884 reminiscence, Emily wrote of
She sent for us one day to come to her room. Joseph was present, looking like
a martyr. Emma said some very hard things – Joseph should give us up or
blood should flow. She would rather her blood would run pure than be
poluted in this manner. Such interviews were quite common, but the last time
she called us to her room, I felt quite indignant, and was determined it should
be the last, for it was becoming monotonous, and I am ashamed to say, I felt
indignant towards Joseph for submitting to Emma.
Emma wanted the marriages to the Partridge girls ended. Emily said,
“Joseph asked her [Emma] if we made her the promises she required, if she
would cease to trouble us, and not persist in our marrying some one else.
She made the promise. Joseph came to us and shook hands with us, and the
understanding was that all was ended between us.” Later he said to Emily
privately, “You know my hands are tied. And he looked as if he would sink
into the earth.” Emma wanted the girls out of the house and the city. Emily
said later that “my sister and I were cast off. 40
Joseph was unsure how far the usually composed Emma would go in her
anger. Near the end of June, he warned William Clayton that Emma
“wanted to lay a snare for me.” Joseph said that “he knew she was disposed
to be revenged on him for some things she thought that if he would indulge
himself she would too.” 41 Clayton, trying to patch up relations with one
of his own wives, was dumbfounded. Joseph warned him against getting
involved. The staid and upright Emma, determined to regain her dignity,
was looking for a way to punish her husband. Joseph was anxious and under
Emma had always performed her duties as wife of the Church president.
She entertained housefuls of guests, appeared at reviews of the Nauvoo
Legion, and took on multiple business duties, traveling to St. Louis in late
April, for example, when Joseph dared not stir for fear of arrest. Emma
believed in her husband’s inspiration. She had been convinced ever since
watching the Book of Mormon translation going on in her house in 1829.
Late in life, she told a Momon elder that the gold plates “lay in a box under
our bed for months.”
Knowing her basic faith, Hyrum thought Joseph should show Emma a
written revelation on plural marriage. Hyrum had been reluctant to accept
the principle himself until Brigham Young explained that it allowed him to
be married to both Jerusha Barden, his deceased first wife, and to Mary
Fielding, his current spouse. At the same time, he had the spiritual confir-
mation so many others reported. 42 On May 29, the day after Joseph was
sealed to Emma, Hyrum was sealed to his two wives. In July, Hyrum argued
[Page 496 missing]
By “anointed” Joseph meant Emma had received an “endowment,” the
first woman to take part in the ceremony offered to nine men a year and a
half before. The endowment was the heart of the temple rituals that had
grown considerably since the Kirtland temple dedication. For a year after
the bestowal of the expanded endowment in May 1842, no one else was
endowed. During that year, the central importance of marriage, and of
women, had emerged. When he renewed the ceremony on May 26, 1843,
Joseph taught the participants about the “new and everlasting covenant,”
referring to marriage. By then he knew that men and women must marry by
the power of the priesthood to reach the highest degree of celestial glory. 48
The increased importance of marriage meant including women in the
temple ceremonies. Emma was the natural choice to be endowed first. On
or before September 28, she passed through the endowment ceremony. 49
From then on, she initiated other women into washings, anointings, and
sealings. Heber Kimball noted in his journal that “January 1844 my wife
Vilate and menny feemales was received in to the Holy Order, and was
washed and inointed by Emma.” By the time of Joseph’s death in June 1844,
sixty-five persons had been endowed. 50
Those who had been endowed met almost weekly to induct others, hear
instruction, and offer prayers. Called the “Quorum,” the “Anointed Quo-
rum,” or the “Holy Order,” this small group of endowed members held
prayer circles, probably dressed in special temple clothing and partially
reenacting the ceremonies. 51 A typical entry in Richards’s record reads:
“Prayer Meeting at Joseph’s. Quorum present … Hiram and his wife were
blessed, ord[ained] and anointed. Prayer and singing.” Sometimes the notes
on the anointings themselves were coded. “Prayer Meeting in the evening
at S E Room Jos[eph’s] old house,” one entry began. “R Cahoon and”
[sequence in code] “wife anointed and Mother Smith.” Although used
intermittently, the coded words showed Richards’s sense that the occasions
were too sacred to be written for any eye to see. 52
Joseph introduced a more advanced ordinance called the “second anoint-
ing,” between September 28 and February 26. The ceremony, given to
eighteen men and their wives, was Joseph’s attempt to deal with the theo-
logical problem of assurance. How did a Christian, in the words of the first
chapter of 2 Peter, “give diligence to make your calling and election sure”? 53
Calvinist theologians had argued over the question of certain knowledge
for centuries. Was it possible to end doubt about one’s standing with the
Lord? 54 Preaching from 2 Peter 1 in May 1843, at the time he was reviving
the endowment, Joseph had taught that the “more sure word of prophecy”
meant “a mans knowing that he was sealed up unto eternal life by revelation
and the spirit of prophecy through the power of the Holy priesthood.” A
few months later, the revelation on priesthood marriage had promised those
[Page 498 missing]
Fanny Murray was Joseph Smith’s last plural wife. His marriages had
dropped off sharply after July 1843. During his confrontation with Emma
between July 12 and 16, Joseph may have agreed to add no more. He told
Clayton she would divorce him if he did. Whatever the arrangement,
Joseph wed Melissa Lott on September 20, perhaps because he had pro-
posed earlier in the summer. 60 Fanny Murray may have seemed like an
innocent exception to him, but not to Emma.
In the winter, Emma fulfilled her role as president’s wife to the utmost.
On Christmas Day 1843, the Smiths entertained a large party at their
house, spending the evening “in a most cheerful and friendly manner in
Music, Dancing, &c.” In the middle of the festivities a disheveled figure
with long hair stumbled in, pretending to be a Missourian. Joseph scuffled
with the man until he saw it was Orrin Porter Rockwell, now released from
a Missouri prison where he had been held on suspicion of shooting Lilburn
Boggs. Rockwell had been moved from jail to jail and was held for weeks
before he was finally acquitted. After his release, he walked for twelve days
to arrive in Nauvoo, as it happened, just in time for the party. 61
The parties continued nonstop that winter. On New Year’s Eve, a com-
pany of fifty musicians and singers serenaded the Smiths under their win-
dow with William Phelps’s New Year hymn. On New Year’s Day, another
large party had supper at the Smiths’ and “continued music and dancing till
morning.” On January 18, 1844, a “Cotillion Party” at the Nauvoo Man-
sion marked Joseph and Emma’s wedding anniversary. 62
Two weeks earlier, Joseph told Richards about Emma: “I was remarking
to Bro[ther] Phelps what a kind, provident wife I had. That when I wanted
a little bread and milk she would load the table with so many good things it
would destroy my appetite.” Emma entered the room at that moment, and
Phelps said to her, “You must do as Bonaparte did have a little table, just
large enough for yourself and your order thereon.” Phelps pictured the two
of them, Joseph and Emma, dining quietly together. Emma knew better.
“Mr. Smith is a bigger man than Bonaparte,” came her retort, perhaps wist-
fully. “He can never eat without his friends.” 63
Joseph III’s Account
In February, 1879, only two months before Emma’s death, Joseph III, who had heard her testimonies to others many times on the subject of polygamy, put some of the questions directly to her himself:
Q. (Question)—What about the revelation on polygamy? Did Joseph Smith have anything like it? What of spiritual wifery?
A.—There was no revelation on either polygamy, or spiritual wives. There were some rumors of something of the sort, of which I asked my husband. He assured me that all there was of it was, that in a chat about plural wives, he had said, “Well, such a system might possibly be, if everybody was agreed to it, and would behave as they should; but they would not; and, besides, it was contrary to the will of heaven.” No such thing as polygamy, or spiritual wifery, was taught, publicly or privately [by him], before my husband’s death, that I have now, or ever had any knowledge of.
Q.—Did he not have other wives than yourself?
A.—He had no other wife but me; nor did he to my knowledge ever have.
Q.—Did he not hold marital relation with women other than yourself?
A.—He did not have improper relations with any woman that ever came to my knowledge.
Q.—Was there nothing about spiritual wives that you recollect?
A.—At one time my husband came to me and asked me if I had heard certain rumors about spiritual marriages, or anything of the kind; and assured me that if I had, that they were without foundation; that there was no such doctrine, and never should be with his knowledge, or consent. I know that he had no other wife or wives than myself, in any sense, either spiritual or otherwise (Saints’ Herald 26:289–290).
What position does Community of Christ take on Joseph Smith Jr.’s alleged involvement in polygamy?
Our faith is grounded in the gospel of Jesus Christ and not in the actions of any particular person. Community of Christ affirms its long history of vigorous opposition to polygamy as a doctrine or practice, regardless of what historical research concludes about its origins in the early Latter Day Saint movement.
The church has consistently taught monogamy as the basic principle of Christian marriage (Doctrine and Covenants, Sections 111 and 150).
As a policy, Community of Christ does not legislate or mandate positions on issues of history. The church encourages honest, responsible historical scholarship.
Historians use academic research to get as many facts as they can; then, they interpret those facts to construct as clear a picture as possible of what was going on in the past.
The issues of polygamy and whether Joseph Smith Jr. was connected with its inception at Nauvoo, Illinois, in the 1840s have been of considerable interest to Community of Christ members and others through the years.
The early RLDS Church (1860–1960) consistently opposed the doctrine and fought against the assertion by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints [Mormon] that Joseph Smith Jr. advocated this practice as part of a divine plan.
Joseph Smith III, son of the founding prophet and first prophet-president of the RLDS Church (1860–1914), spent much of his life trying to clear his father’s name from the stigma of polygamy and polygamous doctrine, even though there were leaders in the early RLDS Church who believed otherwise.
While it is clear Joseph Smith III sincerely believed his father was innocent, he affirmed on more than one occasion that even if his father was guilty, he was wrong.
Community of Christ takes into account the growing body of scholarly research and publications depicting the polygamous teachings and practices of the Nauvoo period of church history (1840–1846).
The context of these developments included a time of religious and cultural experimentation in the United States and the emergence of a system of secret temple ordinances in Nauvoo that accented the primacy of family connections, in this life and the next.
The practice of plural marriage emerged from that context and involved a small group of key leaders entering into polygamous marriage rituals and covenants.
Research findings point to Joseph Smith Jr. as a significant source for plural marriage teaching and practice at Nauvoo. However, several of his associates later wrote that he repudiated the plural marriage system and began to try to stop its practice shortly before his death in June 1844.
Good historical inquiry understands that conclusions are open to correction as new understanding and information comes from ongoing study. Community of Christ, in its ongoing quest for truth, remains open to a more complete understanding of its history.
Through careful study and guidance of the Holy Spirit, the church is learning how to own and responsibly interpret all of its history.
This process includes putting new information and changing understandings into proper perspective while emphasizing those parts that continue to play a vital role in guiding and shaping the church’s identity and mission today.
In this way, we can genuinely affirm the prophetic vision of Joseph Smith Jr., while acknowledging how God’s Spirit works in the lives of imperfect, but highly dedicated people to shape a faith movement that continues to play a vital role in God’s unfolding purposes today.
Over time Community of Christ has moved away from an identity rooted in battling polygamy and charges that Joseph Smith Jr. was somehow involved to focus on pursuing our mission to proclaim Jesus Christ and promote communities of joy, hope, love, and peace.
Today, members and friends around the world live out the call to create communities of Christ’s peace in our families and congregations and across villages, tribes, nations, and throughout creation.
Community of Christ encourages its members and others to explore all issues pertaining to its history in an open atmosphere. We must keep our hearts and minds centered on God’s revelation in Jesus Christ.
As God’s Word alive in human history, Jesus Christ was and is the foundation of our faith and the focus of the church’s mission and message.
For more about Community of Christ perspectives on church history, see the Church History Principles.
For more information, please e-mail Missionary Ministries; or call 816/833-1000 or 1-800/825-2806, ext. 2244 or 2240; FAX 816/521-3098; or mail inquiries to Missionary Ministries, 1001 W. Walnut, Independence, MO 64050-3562 USA.
It would appear that Prophet Joseph Smith did institute the practice of polygamy. It is less apparent how much his wife, Emma, knew. Perhaps she could have fought harder.
Then Prophet Smith is responsible for LDS not being held in a favorable light by many.
And for the countless numbers of women and girls abused by Mormon polygamists over the many years.
There are so many descendants of these plural “marriages.” They are innocent.
So Prophet Smith’s imperfections were very costly.
And cost Emma dearly.
I want to believe that Joseph and Emma are together again. And experiencing a lifetime of devotion.
Devoted to their Creator and to their Savior. And to each other.
Uploaded by SethAdamSmith on Jan 24, 2010
The Nauvoo Willow Tree – Reflections of Emma Smith