Sweet Emma Smith

We all know that behind every good man is a great woman, so it goes to reason that behind a great man is a remarkable woman.  Emma Smith was no exception. In the early 1800s, Joseph Smith was called at a young age to be the inexperienced prophet of a long-prophesied Restoration of the church that Jesus Christ had established while upon the earth.  Joseph became an instrument in the hands of God and the leader of a fledgling church, both assignments which laid heavy burdens upon him and made him the target of much opposition.  Despite his unprecedented faith, his undying work and perseverance, and his naturally pleasant nature, he was often downtrodden.  His suffering was sometimes unimaginable.  During this long refiner’s fire that the Prophet Joseph was chosen to endure, God saw fit to bless him with the company and support of a good woman, a help-meet in every sense of the word.

Emma Smith was a ministering angel in the flesh to her prophet husband.  She faced the same threats, trials, and discouragement that Joseph did, and notwithstanding her own suffering, she offered much-needed support to him and consistently reached out to others in service.  As expected with any female figure who plays an important role in the history of mankind, Emma and her story are somewhat controversial.  Her motives and choices are sometimes questioned, especially during the period after her husband’s martyrdom.  We cannot begin to imagine the depth of her sorrow or the extent of her exhaustion on every level– physical, emotional and spiritual exhaustion– by the point that her husband was murdered.  I’m afraid that she is one of the most misjudged characters in Church history, if not in the overall history of modern religion.

I have a dear friend who, because of her own personal testimony and because of opportunities given to her by her Heavenly Father, has made it one of her life’s missions to dispel the myths about Emma Smith.  She has dedicated years of study and prayer and thought to understanding Emma’s life, Emma’s history, and Emma’s heart.  This past weekend, she was invited to be the keynote speaker at a historical convention in Nauvoo, Illinois to speak about Emma’s story.  She felt overcome by the weight of the assignment, knowing that she would be speaking to a combined LDS and non-LDS audience, many of which have longstanding tight-held opinions about Emma.  However, over the years, she has developed a friendship with Emma, and despite her fears and anxiety about participating in this event, she prepared and fasted and prayed and pleaded that she might somehow be able to honor Emma through this opportunity.  That choice didn’t come without opposition either, but she did it and survived, and I’m very proud of her. She gave me permission to share this media clip that she and her husband prepared for her presentation.  (And incidentally, she received copyright permission to use the clips and music used here.)  I hope you can take five minutes to watch it and think about how remarkable Emma Smith truly was.

I know that Joseph loved his Emma dearly, and he must appreciate so much any efforts that we make to really know her and understand her.  I’m confident he wants us to appreciate her as he did.  She stands as an example to us of an “elect lady” (Doctrine and Covenants 25:3), and there’s so much we can learn from her still.  I’m thankful for what she did, for the price that she herself paid, so that her husband could do what the Lord called him to do.  The fruits of their sacrifice provided the framework of my faith, my family and my hope.  I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to honor both her and my friend.  (Thanks, Shantel.)

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19 thoughts on “Sweet Emma Smith

  1. I have loved this song since the first time I heard it several years ago. It is heart wrenching. Everything I have ever read or heard about Emma makes me marvel at her strength. I have always thought that her heart just truly broke when Joseph was killed. I can’t imagine that she lost her faith, but I also know that she and Brigham didn’t get along and I wonder that following him was just more than she could do in her beaten down and heartbroken state. Maybe she could have later, once given more time to grieve but it was too late. A woman couldn’t be alone very easily in the 19th century; she must also have been constrained in large ways by who she remarried. The Lord never rescinded his “elect lady” declaration and He knows her heart. We don’t. I heart Emma!

  2. Emma Smith is my hero. I want to be just like her. As good and kind and faithful as that wonderful woman. I survived the hardest part of my mission by remembering her and all her trials. If she could do it, so could I. She is such an amazing example for me. So much so that I named my daughter after her. Every day I strive to be as patient and happy and full of fun (for my children) as she was. I love her. Thank you Stephanie for posting this, and thank you Shantel for creating the media. It is beautiful. I only wish I could have heard your presentation on it. Is there any way that you could post it, or email it? I would love to hear/read it.

  3. Crying all the way through.

    Thank you so much for sharing. What a beautiful piece and what a wonderful woman. I have always admired her and looked up to her, she did indeed face MANY challenges.

  4. What a beautiful clip, Shantel. I too wish I could here your presentation. If there is a way to share it with us I would be so grateful. You are amazing and so was Emma!

  5. Thank you for sharing this. I love Emma Smith. She truly was an amazing woman. I cannot even imagine what it must have been like for her.

    I love the clip. I have never heard the song before. Thank you to your friend, Shantel.

    Years ago when I read “The Work and The Glory” and there is a part where Emma is walking down the street being ridiculed I have to tell you it really gave me a clearer picture of what it must have been like for her.

  6. Wow. That made me cry. Bawl.

    I love Emma, and feel the same way about how misunderstood she has been. I got the chance to play Emma in one of the shows that is performed in the summers at Nauvoo when I was 20. I gained a real perspective and insight into her and feel that we can’t judge her decisions because we simply can’t fathom all that she endured as Joseph’s wife.

    I would love to hear Shantel speak someday.

  7. The new seminary DVD media supplement for Doctrine & Covenants has this video clip (although I can’t remember if it is the same music). We loved watching it (and bawling through it) as a class! I, too, love Emma Smith. I would never want any one to judge me as harshly as some have judged Emma.

    A couple of years ago our little town of Winnemucca was fortunate enough to have Lori Woodland author of Beloved Emma (illustrated by Liz Lemon Swindle) come and give a presentation on Emma. (Lori is originally from Winnemucca so she couldn’t say no!) It was a delight!

    Good luck Shantel on your presentation!

  8. Amazing. Thanks for sharing Stephanie and Shantel. I too love Emma. She bore all her trials with such strength. What an example she is. My little, teeny, tiny, trials pale in comparison to all she went through and she still handled them far better than I could ever dream of! I know she has finally found a place without trials, ridicule, and people judging her. I only hope I live worthily enough to be able to meet her some day, and thank her for the inspiration she is in my life.

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