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.)