Emma Hale Smith, painting by Julie Rogers

Happy Women’s History Month!

I love this woman. An ordinary woman who found herself a key player at an extraordinary time in history.

Emma Hale Smith had a happy, privileged life with her parents in Harmony, Pennsylvania, but gave it all up when she fell in love with, and married, Joseph Smith, Jr.

Disowned by her parents, constantly driven from one home to the next, Emma and Joseph would bury many children: four died at birth and two as toddlers.

Her mother-in-law, Lucy Mack Smith said: “I have never seen a woman in my life who would endure every species of fatigue and hardship, from month to month, and from year to year, with that unflinching courage, zeal, and patience, which she has always done.”

Emma was left alone and destitute when Joseph was unlawfully dragged to jail, always had a house full of people for whom she was caring for, and was in constant fear for her life, and that of her husband’s.

Emma served as a scribe for her husband while he translated scripture that would become The Book of Mormon. She compiled the first hymnal, and was ordained, to “expound scriptures and exhort the church according as it shall be given thee.” She spoke with spiritual authority, providing a pattern for women in the church to speak publicly at a time when few women did.

As the first President of the Relief Society, an all-women’s organization that ministered to, and provided spiritual, emotional, and physical relief within the church and community, Emma stood before her Relief Society sisters, and declared, “We are going to do something extraordinary.”

And they did! The Relief Society has grown into the oldest and largest women’s charitable organization in the world, with over 7.1 million members in 188 countries.

Emma did not go west with the pioneer saints, but said this of her faith: “I have not the slightest doubt of it. … 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.”

Emma and Joseph’s life was always one of scrutiny. Their marriage was never easy. And yet it is a great love story. Jospeh said she was “the wife of my youth, and the choice of my heart.” Emma would outlive Joseph by thirty years. She remarried, but it is said that it was Joseph’s name she uttered on her deathbed – Joseph!

Sources: At the Pulpit, Reeder and Holbrook, churchofjesuschrist.org

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