In late 1825, Joseph Smith was working as a hired hand on a farm in South Bainbridge, New York.  He was tasked with finding and unearthing buried treasure presumed to be located there.  Joseph boarded at the nearby home of Isaac Hale, where he met Emma, Isaac’s twenty-year old daughter.  She has been described as 5’9” tall, “Fine looking, smart, a good singer” and “well turned, of excellent form...with splendid physical development.”  Joseph’s mother recalls, “...he had come to the conclusion of getting married...and he thought that no young woman...was better calculated to render [him] happy than Miss Emma Hale...”  Joseph twice asked Emma’s father, for her hand in marriage, but was refused because he was a “stranger”.

On January 17, 1827, Joseph and Emma rode away from the Hale residence on a horse and the following evening were married by a judge in South Bainbridge.  Emma remembers, “I had no intention of marrying when I left home...[but] Preferring to marry him to any other man I knew, I consented.”  Emma and Joseph retreated to Palmyra to live with Joseph’s parents.  Months later they returned to the Hale home to retrieve Emma’s belongings.  Isaac Hale was angered: “You have stolen my daughter and married her. I had much rather have followed her to the grave.”  In an attempt at reconciliation, Joseph promised Isaac he would give up the treasure seeking business.

A month later, on September 21, Joseph announced he had obtained gold plates, inscribed with an ancient language, that were buried in a hill near his home.  Emma had gone with Joseph to the hill, waiting patiently in the wagon until he returned; the plates wrapped in his coat.  Emma described that she later wrote as Joseph translated the plates, “with his face buried in his hat...hour after hour.”  The plates “lay on the table...wrapped in a small linen table cloth”.  Emma was not allowed to see the plates, but she remembers touching them beneath the cloth.  By spring of 1830, the gold plates had been published as the Book of Mormon, and a new church founded, with Joseph as its prophet.

In 1831 Emma and Joseph moved to Kirtland, Ohio where the church was rapidly growing.  There, on April 30, 1831 Emma prematurely gave birth to twins, but both died.  The following day Julia Murdock died while also giving birth to twins.  The father, feeling unable to care for the children allowed the Smiths to adopt them as Joseph and Julia.  A year later young Joseph would die.

In the fall of 1832, Joseph was visiting New York City.  Writing home, he said, “the thoughts of home, of Emma and Julia, rushes upon my mind like a flood and I would wish for moment to be with them.  My breast is filled with all the feelings and tenderness of a parent and a Husband...cumfort yourself Knowing that God is your friend in heaven and that you have one true and living friend on Earth your Husband.”  On the same day Joseph returned home from New York, Emma gave birth to a baby boy.  They named him Joseph.  A few years later, Emma would give birth to another son, Frederick.

In January 1838, lawsuits and dissention over the failure of the church run Kirtland Banking Society plagued Joseph.  After dark on January 12th, he fled Kirtland on a horse headed for Missouri, designated by revelation as “Zion”.  Five months pregnant, Emma and the children would pack the wagon and begin the 800 mile trip without him.  Once in Missouri, Emma would give birth to another son, Alexander.

The peace hoped for in Missouri would not last.  Tensions between Missourians and migrating Mormons soon erupted into conflict.  Joseph was jailed for his participation in the clash.  Fearing for his life, he wrote to Emma: “If I do not meet you again in this life may God grant that we may meet in heaven, I cannot express my feelings, my heart is full, Farewell Oh my kind and affectionate Emma. I am yours forever.”  In another letter he wrote, “Oh my affectionate Emma, I want you to remember that I am a true and faithful friend to you ... My heart is entwined around yours forever and ever”

Emma and the rest of the church were soon forced to leave Missouri.  In February 1839, with Joseph still in jail, Emma moved their family to Illinois, crossing the frozen Mississippi River with her four young children age eight-months to seven-years.  Emma herself was 4 months pregnant with another son, Don Carlos.  Joseph would soon join his family in what would become the thriving city of Nauvoo. 

In the relative stability of Nauvoo, Joseph would try to establish polygamy, a practice he had flirted with in Kirtland and Missouri.  Between the years 1841 and 1843, Joseph would marry more than thirty wives.  He kept the practice veiled from the public and from his wife, Emma.  When she discovered that he was taking additional wives, she struggled to accept it.  Joseph received a revelation regarding this “new and everlasting covenant” of plural marriage, part of which was directed at Emma:

D&C 132:1 Verily, thus saith the Lord...
D&C 132:4 ...no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory.
D&C 132:52 And let mine handmaid, Emma Smith, receive all those [wives] that have been given unto my servant Joseph...
D&C 132:55 But if she will not abide this commandment, then...I will...give unto him an hundred fold in this world, of...wives...”
D&C 132:62 And if he have ten virgins given unto him...he cannot commit adultery...
D&C 132:64  ...if any man have a wife...and he teaches unto her [this] law...then shall she believe and administer unto him, or she shall be destroyed...

Emma surrendered to Joseph’s revelation, even allowing several of his wives to live in her home.  But her submission soon faltered and Joseph arranged for these wives to live elsewhere.  On August 16, 1843 William Clayton wrote in his diary, “This A.M. Joseph told me that...Emma...had resisted the P[rinciple] in toto, and he had to tell her he would relinquish all for her sake...He however told me he should not relinquish anything.”

In early 1844, dissenters in Nauvoo learned of Joseph’s polygamy, and published the “Nauvoo Expositor” which accused him of introducing the doctrine of “the plurality of wives”.  As Mayor of Nauvoo, Joseph ordered the printing press destroyed.  He was subsequently arrested, soon to be jailed in nearby Carthage.  Before Joseph was taken away, Emma asked him for a blessing.  He instructed her to write the blessing down and he would authorize it upon his return.  In part, Emma wrote, “I desire with all my heart to honor and respect my husband as my head, ever to live in his confidence and by acting in unison with him retain the place which God has given me by his side...”

While jailed in Carthage, Joseph was killed by a mob action on June 27, 1844.  When his body was returned to Nauvoo, Emma knelt by his side and cried, “Oh, Joseph, Joseph! My husband, my husband! Have they taken you from me at last!”


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