Events in life of prophet, 'elect lady'

A"love story" between a prophet and an "elect lady" was recounted Aug. 30, in a lecture in Salt Lake City.

Buddy Youngren, president of the Joseph Smith Sr. Family Association, addressed the topic, "Joseph and Emma Smith: their love story and posterity." His speech, given in the auditorium of the Museum of Church History and Art, was the eighth lecture in the "Genealogical Society of Utah Centennial Lecture Series," held to observe the 100th anniversary of what is now the Church Family History Department.A theatrical producer, author and college instructor of theater arts, Brother Youngren is a recognized expert on the Smith family. He is a member of the Geneva Heights 3rd Ward, Orem Utah Geneva Heights Stake.

Among the events of their lives he recounted was the Prophet's incarceration in Liberty Jail, while Emma was left to care for their young children and to seek asylum with the rest of the Saints at Quincy, Ill.

"When you think of Emma caring for these chilldren . . . knowing she may never see him alive again, you begin to realize you're seeing Sister Emma during her finest hour," Brother Youngren commented. "Her first responsibility then and always was family. She had to worry about how the bills were paid, where they would sleep, what they would eat. Joseph's first priority was God and His kingdom. That's why he was being incarcerated.

"At Quincy, Ill., Emma and the children are made the house guests of the Judge Cleveland family, and in strange quarters that first night, she puts the children to bed by candlelight. When they are asleep she writes a letter to her husband back at the Liberty Jail."

Brother Youngren quoted this portion of the letter:

"The situation in which you are, Joseph, the walls, the bars and bolts, rolling rivers, running streams, rising hills, sinking valleys and spreading prairies that separate us, and the cruel injustice that first cast you into prison and still holds you there, with many other considerations places my feelings far beyond description. But I still live and am yet willing to suffer more, if it is the will of kind heaven that I should, for your sake."

Brother Youngren commented: " `For your sake.' Doesn't that tell us something of Sister Emma's testimony? She was willing to do it all again for the man she loved."

He began the lecture by recounting the night Joseph took Emma with him in a borrowed carriage and obtained the Nephite record. Although she served as his scribe during part of the translation of the record, she was never permitted to see it.

"But she leaves us one of the strongest testimonies we have concerning the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon. Later in life, she recorded: `I have not the slightest doubt that that book is of divine origin. I sat across the table from my husband. I wrote with my own pen the words as they fell from his inspired lips. I would give him the pronunciation after he would spell the word out.'

"One particular word she remembered was the word Sariah. Joseph could spell it but he couldn't pronounce it. And at another time, while they were working, she said: `Joseph looked up. . . . He said, "Emma, does Jerusalem have a wall around it?" '

"She said: Yes, Joseph, Jerusalem has a wall around it. Everybody knows that.' He said,Thank goodness; I thought I was being deceived.' And he went right on translating the record.

"Emma summed up her testimony saying, `I knew it would be impossible for a learned man to produce or fabricate that work, much less the unlearned man I knew my husband to be.' "

A granddaughter's account, Brother Youngren said, tells of the gold plates being hidden beneath a cloth on a table at Joseph's and Emma's home, that she was forbidden to look under the cloth, but she did trace the characters through the cloth with her fingers, hefted them, and felt the edges.

"Why was it that Sister Emma was forbidden to see the gold plates?" he asked. "Well, when we really get into why, we come across the difference between Joseph and Emma. The major difference was the Prophet Joseph lived by knowledge. . . . Sister Emma lived by faith. Certain things were withheld from her to enhance her faith. Joseph's motto in life was God and His kingdom first. Sister Emma's motto was family first. So we tend to identify perhaps a little more with Emma in times of crisis. We're tried through our faith according to what our Heavenly Father has in mind for us."

Brother Youngren told of much of the tragedy that beset Emma, including the deaths in infancy of their first born child, Alvin, and twins who were born to them next.

"Emma's grief is great now," he related. "She has buried her first three babies. In nearby Orange, Ohio, another tragedy is occurring. In this case, twins are born to Brother and Sister John Murdock. But in this case, the twins survive and the mother dies. When the prophet learns of it, he writes a letter to Brother Murdock, asks if he'll consider adopting out those motherless orphans to him and Emma. After prayer and fasting, Brother Murdock brings his little boy and his little girl to Joseph and Emma for adoption."

But another tragedy befell Joseph and Emma, Brother Youngren said, when a cruel mob abducted the prophet while he was caring for their son and Emma was caring for their daughter. The mobsters beat, tarred and feathered the prophet. Emma hid the children in a tree during the ordeal, and the boy died a few days later from exposure in the cold night air.

The lecturer told of other tragedies, including unjust incarcerations of the prophet, and the death of their son Don Carlos after only 14 months.

"In a 2 1/2-year period that stretches from 1840 to 1842, Joseph and Emma lose 40 relatives," he said. These include Emma's parents, Joseph's father, his brother Hyrum's son, and his brother Samuel's wife.

"Nephews, neices, uncles, aunts, cousins, mother, father, brother, children to the extent of 40 all pass beyond the veil in a 2 1/2-year period. But Joseph and Emma don't blame God for their discomfort. Together they're vigorously engaged in the cause of bringing forth and establishing Zion."

EDITOR'S CORRECTION - September 23, 1994 - not a published correction.

(Richard E. Turley Jr., managing director of the Church Historical Department, says that the letter referred to in this article as being written by Joseph Smith on June 18, 1844, is a forgery perpetrated by James Strang or one of his associates in 1844.)

Brother Youngren read a letter he said was written June 18, 1844, just nine days before the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith. "As far as I know, this letter hasn't been published. I came across it many years ago in the archives of the Church. I'd like to share it with you, especially now since you know a little of what Joseph and Emma endured together:

" `I have long felt that my present work is done and that I should soon be called to rule a mighty host. But something whispers to me it will be a land of spirits where the wicked cease from troubling and the bonds of the prisoners fall off. My heart yearns for my little ones. But I know God will be a father to them and I can claim face to face the fulfillment of promises from Him who is a covenant-keeping God, who sweareth and performeth and faileth not to the uttermost. The wolves are upon the scent, and I am waiting to be offered up if such be the will of God. . . .' "

Brother Youngren cited a journal account kept by Joseph and Emma's son Alexander to the effect that Emma saw Joseph in vision just before she died, and that he admonished her to be patient and she would yet have all of her children.

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