Channeling Emma Smith

I think that most women are set up by Mother Nature at birth to choose and fall for any guy that comes along at some point in her life in the interest of propagating the species. That biological clock starts ticking sometime after puberty and makes her start trying to turn herself inside and out just so long as it makes her attractive to some guy in close proximity. In my grandparents’ day, you married the boy on the neighboring farm likely as not, or fell for the traveling salesman or, like Madge Owens in the 1955 movie PICNIC, fall for the handsome but egotistical drifter who hops back on the train and leaves in the end. I’m not sure why I think of Madge in the context of Emma Hale Smith, but I do. All I can say is, Poor Emma! She didn’t deserve the life Joseph Smith gave her. I try to imagine myself as Emma in an effort to more fully understand what it must have been like for her.

Not only do I give up my family to marry him against my father’s wishes, but eventually I find myself alone while he’s off traveling to further his own ambitions of establishing his new religious order. I take in boarders as my family did in order to keep my children and myself fed. Then I find out years later that the rumors that Joseph’s new church teaches the doctrine of polygamy, of many wives for men but not the other way around (polyandry), is not only true, but he has himself already taken approximately 20 wives in sworn secrecy, including a 14- and a 17-year old.

But I cannot admit my father was right about him after all. I can talk to him. I’ll remind him of our marriage vows, and the original premise of the original Mormon bible that he dictated to me, “Wherefore, my brethren, hear me, and hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none.” If he had not been assassinated, I’m certain my husband would have abolished the practice of plural marriage altogether. He as much as promised that in our private conversations.

Poor Emma. Not the first woman to fall victim to a charming drifter whose quest for fame and fortune led him to declaring his intent to run for the presidency of the United States. But then he was cut down by an assasins bullet in 1844. By that time he had apparently accumulated at least 33 wives, one-third of whom were younger than he, and another third were already married.

After his death, Emma lived pretty much outside the graces of the church under Mr. Young. She even remarried, and–as luck or poor choices in men would have it–suffered further heartbreak when her second husband fathered a child with a younger woman. She even took the boy in when he was orphaned around age 12 and raised him herself. This woman was either a saint or a martyr! And certainly had a lot to learn where men were concerned.

When she died, her final words were to Joseph, her deceased husband, something to the effect of “I’m coming Joseph, I’m coming!” She probably died convinced that, had he lived, her first husband would have abolished plural marriage altogether, although from all I’ve read, that probably would not have been the case and there wouldn’t have been a darn thing she could have done about it. Women in the church are at the mercy of their husbands when it comes to eternal salvation.

That’s why I say, Poor Emma. She must have been POed, but she still had to act like a saint! I certainly would not have been. To the point that I might have gone Lorena Bobbitt on what my mother would have said was a sorry excuse for a man, Joseph Smith! Darn those hormones and clicking biological clocks anyhow!

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5 thoughts on “Channeling Emma Smith

  1. You’d probably be interested in the book: “Mormon Enigma.” It’s a biography of Emma, widely accepted by scholars both critical and supportive of Mormonism.

    Another book of interest would be “Sacred Lonliness” by Todd Compton. It’s a historical look at the wives of Joseph Smith.

  2. Besides the hormones and the biological clock, don’t forget the brainwashing. Why do we always feel like we aren’t complete unless we have a man? I’ve watched friends of mine, even at our advanced ages, go from one lousy relationship to another. I’m not much better. I stayed in my marriage for 42 years. But I wouldn’t do it again. It’s been 11 years since my divorce and I’ve enjoyed every one of them, alone.

  3. That’s interesting because I’ve studied Joseph but never paid a minute’s attention to Emma. You are right, poor Emma.

    And I agree with Ruth to – there’s a whole social network focused on needing someone else to complete us (I think men get it too but not as consistently)

    My divorce took longer than my marriage lasted – a story for another day.

  4. It sounds like none of you are LDS because if you were you would understand why Emma was an Elect Lady. And the true facts would be on here and not false ones.

    • While there is much to admire about the way Emma Smith lived her life, I cannot believe she was truly happy with her life. I think many people, women especially, deny their true feelings just to keep the peace. This is simply my take on Emma Smith from books I’ve read and the recent Emma Smith movie I saw. You can believe what you like. None of us will ever know for certain, will we?

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