Who do you love?

I'm just now getting around to reading, "Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith," last month's reading for FMH. Ok, I'm a little slow, I know, but I had to get through the Book of Mormon, first. Anyway, I'm not that far along. I got through the preface, which was surprisingly revealing, and I've gotten past the intro, which was equally revealing. Now I'm past the first few pages of the book, and it definitely has my attention. It probably took me about 15 minutes to get through all of that, and I must have exclaimed to DH, "Hey, did you know that...." about 8 times. (Of course, the answer was always, "Oh, yeah, and then does the book mention anything about...." Sometimes it's hard being married to somebody who seems to know EVERYTHING.) Anyway, in my 15 minute introduction to this woman, I am hooked. I feel like I want to know all about her, everything, how she thought, what she said, what she ate for breakfast, etc. She went through amazing trials with her first husband, only to feel abandoned and betrayed by his friends (read Brigham Young). She then started a new life with a new husband and a basically new religion, only to have one of her children convert to Catholicism, and have her husband cheat on her and leave her to deal with his illigitimate child, whom she raised (Um, heLLO!) (*NOTE: The writing of this post was temporarily interupted when I realized that Jacob was spending WAY too long in the bathroom, and I went downstairs to a partially flooded bathroom and a naked boy who was gleefully stuffing toilet paper into the toilet. [Sigh]) So, in a weird way, Emma is becoming one of my heros. One Sunday School teacher referred to her as Mormonism's "drunken uncle that nobody wants to talk about." And yet, I think we should honor Emma much more than we do. As my SIL puts it: Poor Emma. I think that Emma is probably just one unsung female hero of the Restoration, and it gives me pause to consider that there are many others of whom I'm not aware. Any enlightening thougts on any such women? Do they fall into the same category as "Poor Emma?" And now that the flood is cleaned up, it looks like I have to relinquish the computer for some serious game playing. It's a sad, sad day, ladies, when you children discover comptuer games.


Blogger hairyshoefairy said...

I, too, recently "discovered" Emma and love the woman! I think your Sunday School teacher was out of line when referring to her as the "drunken uncle, etc." I've never heard the First Pres. or Quorum of the Twelve say anything negative about her. They really seem to respect her. She's truly an amazing woman. I think a lot of people are far too quick to judge her. After all, could I have done any better? Probably not. In church films I've never really felt particularly attached to her, but I recently saw the new Joseph Smith film at the visitors center and I became very much so. She was such a strong woman who went through so much! That's something I kept thinking while watching this film; that those women who endured so much were incredibly strong. Another couple of women I'd like to learn about are Jerusha Barden (Hyrum's first wife who died) and Mary Fielding (Hyrum's wife after Jeusha).

1/20/2006 03:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Mark IV said...

How 'bout all the women who kept their families going while their husbands were serving missions?

1/20/2006 04:16:00 PM  
Blogger Tracy M said...

I don't know how those women did it- I might have made it on the walk across the prairie, but not haveing my husband around for years at a time? Not sure my faith is that strong.

Glad I'm here, now. I guess I better pick up the book and read it...

1/20/2006 04:19:00 PM  
Blogger Abby said...

I have always wondered why we never hear more of Emma. Her life was so riddled with hardships that I could never bear. I admire the endurance of her faith.
My testimony has not been shaken by polygamy, but I do believe that there are those who would struggle to overcome the details. As a married mormon woman I imagine what it would have been like to be the first wife, to find that my husband had married others, many which stayed in my home. It saddens my heart for her; and reminds me that Joseph was human. Maybe that is why we don't study their lives in more detail. What happened to them didn't change the fact that the church was true, nor does it build up the perceived character of early church leaders. She was amazing, but her history may always remain quietly studied. She suffered so much for the cause that seemingly deserted her in the end. Poor Emma.

There are many more like her. Not all as dramatic, but interesting. Read up a bit on Eliza R. Snow. She was married to Joseph and Brigham Young as well.

1/20/2006 04:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beware - "Mormon Enigma" relies on a bunch of Hofmann docs.

1/20/2006 04:26:00 PM  
Blogger Heather O. said...


The authors actually talk about the Hofman docs in great detail in the preface (which is why it took me so long to get through that part--it's pretty extensive.) They have printed a new edition with the references to the false documents taken out, with detailed commentary about what was eventually falsified. This was one of the things that was so surprising to me, and one of the "Wow, did you know that?" queries I had for Nate.

1/20/2006 05:38:00 PM  
Blogger Tigersue said...

I read a book called Judge Me Dear Reader, it is very good. Also you might like the book by her one of her Great-Great Granddaughters, called, Emma and Joseph, by Gracia N. Jones. http://deseretbook.com/store/product?sku=3907499

1/20/2006 05:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Susan M said...

Years ago a woman gave a talk about Emma's life in Sacrament Meeting in a ward I attended--I learned a lot from that talk (a lot of the stuff you mention in this post). I found it kind of ironic that she objected to polygamy and then ended up married to a man who cheated on her and then helped raise his illegitimate child.

She really was a remarkable woman.

1/20/2006 05:55:00 PM  
Blogger Keryn said...

I also loved the way Emma is portrayed in the new church film. (I wrote a little about it in my PonderIt blog.) I remember the first time I heard the story about her second husband's illegitimate child, I was so impressed and amazed. She has become a good example to me.

Speaking of great early church women, Polly Matilda Colton as portrayed in "Polly, a one-woman musical" by Steven Kapp Perry, is AMAZING. Every time I watch the DVD, I want to be a better person.

1/20/2006 06:34:00 PM  
Anonymous J. Stapley said...

Nice post, Heather. Some of the comments allude to the rehabilitation of Emma in Mormon discourse. We hear only but good things from the pulpit about her...and as well we should. She is a great hero of the restoration. We just need to mindful that it took the church a while to heal, if you will. There were some not-so-kind things said in the past.

As for others, one of my favorites is Zina D. H. What an amazing woman! I told my wife that I would like to name a girl (should we have one) Zina...that didn't go over well.

1/20/2006 09:18:00 PM  
Blogger Julie M. Smith said...

Heather, if you like this book you might also like:

A Mormon Mother
4 Zinas
In Sacred Loneliness

My cart at Amazon currently has 49 items in it, including:

Eliza and Her Sisters
A Widow's Tale
A Woman's View
Mormon Midwife

1/20/2006 09:37:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Jacob said...

Speaking of things abot Emma form the pulpit, did anyone catch the opening prayer of the Joseph Smith Bicentenniel?

It's been a while so I don't recall everything, but BKP (I think) asked the Lord to help Emma's posterity return to the church. I thought it was very poignant and was happy to hear it.

1/20/2006 09:48:00 PM  
Blogger The Daring One said...

Okay. I'm new here, but at the risk of sounding like a moron, what is FMH?

I agree with you about Emma though. She withstood more than I can imagine and no one can judge her for the decisions she made in her life.

1/20/2006 10:06:00 PM  
Blogger marian said...

daring one, you're not a moron if you ask, only if you don't.

FMH = Feminist Mormon Housewives

1/20/2006 11:13:00 PM  
Blogger Tracy M said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1/20/2006 11:14:00 PM  
Blogger Mark Butler said...

A classmate at BYU had been raised in the Reorganized Church before converting to the LDS church. He didn't want to hear anything about Emma--said she was the Reorg's answer to the Catholic's Mary.

I'm curious whether his experience was widespread back then (the class we shared was 30 years ago this fall), and whether it's the case now in the Community of Christ.

1/20/2006 11:33:00 PM  
Blogger Tracy M said...

I'm going to out myself as an ignoramous, but what are the Hoffman Papers?

1/21/2006 11:36:00 AM  
Anonymous J. Stapley said...

Justin, put up a short history of the Hofmann affair at The B-Times.

1/21/2006 11:55:00 AM  
Blogger Tim Jacob said...

But what's the connection between Hofmann and Mormon Enigma?

1/21/2006 12:34:00 PM  
Anonymous mrs k said...

One of my heroes is Ellis Reynolds Shipp. She was a midwife that went to medical school back east and taught and practiced and taught in Utah. There is a touch of controversy around her, but she really is my hero! And it's cool that because of polygamy, her sister-wives were able to care for her children while she was in school. Not many women were able to go college back then, much less medical school. For as much as the rest of the world critcized polygamy, I love at how it progressed this family. Also, the Zinas in Brigham's family! Wonderful women! There are way too many heroes to choose from....

1/22/2006 12:02:00 AM  
Blogger Ana said...

A hero (and an ancestor) of mine is Patty Bartlett Sessions. Early early convert, friendly with Eliza R. Snow. When her husband's much-younger second wife refused to go west and he decided to stay with the little stinker, Patty soldiered on and settled in Bountiful with her son Perregrine and his family. She planted and tended orchards and was amazingly self-sufficient. She was a midwife who delivered thousands of babies, one of them the first Mormon babe to be born in Utah, if I remember correctly. It's been several years since I read her extensive diaries in Special Collections at BYU, though I believe since then they've been edited and published. I loved them for the details of business and life as much as for the unswerving faith through great personal hardship.

1/22/2006 02:55:00 AM  
Blogger Heather O. said...


My understanding is that the authors of Mormon Enigma relied on some of Hofmann's forged documents to write their book. For example, one of Hofmann's documents included a blessing given to Joseph Smith by his father. This blessing is eluded to several times by other sources, but an original document with the words of the blessing never came to light. Because it was evident that such a blessing actually happened, it was not difficult for Hofmann to pass his made up blessing as genuine.

Another document that the authors used that turned out to be false was a letter written by Joseph to Maria and Sarah Lawrence (whoever they are). All notations to this letter have been deleted from the second edition of the book.

1/22/2006 08:35:00 PM  
Blogger nestle said...

New here as well. I LOVE Emma. I haven't read 'Mormon Enigma' however a few years ago I was asked to portray Emma as if I was here. I spent months researching her and her life. She was a wonderful woman and someone I cannot wait to meet. She was simply spectacular. By what I learned (after reading about 7 different books on her) she affirmed her testimony of the Joseph at the end of her life. I'll include the quote later. I do know for me if I had my loved one with me I would have been able to do (at least I like to imagine I could) what Emma did. If he was taken from me I think the wind would have been taken from my sails. So she didn't go west? So what? It doesn't change what she did or who she was. She said this a couple of months before she died
“My belief is that the Book of Mormon is of divine authenticity. I have not the slightest doubt of it. … Though I was an active participant in the scenes that transpired, and was present during the translation of the plates … and had cognizance of things as they transpired, it is marvelous to me, ‘a marvel and a wonder,’ as much as to anyone else.” Describing her experience, she said: “The plates often lay on the table without any attempt at concealment, wrapped in a small linen tablecloth which I had given him [Joseph] to fold them in. I once felt the plates as they lay on the table, tracing their outline and shape. They seemed to be pliable like thick paper, and would rustle with a metallic sound when the edges were moved by the thumb, as one does sometimes thumb the edges of a book.” She also testified, “I know Mormonism to be the truth; and believe the church to have been established by divine direction.” To me this was awesome when I was learning about her because it confirmed what I was feeling about her at the same time dispelling all the rumors I had heard about her.

1/23/2006 09:58:00 AM  

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