After the sacred gathering of nearly four dozen Saints in the Whitmer Home in Fayette, New York on Tuesday, April 6, 1830, this little, no, tiny band was given the commission to take the restored gospel of Jesus Christ to all the world. What an overwhelming task! How could so few bless so many?
After the sacred gathering of nearly four dozen Saints in the Whitmer Home in Fayette, New York on Tuesday, April 6, 1830, this little, no, tiny band was given the commission to take the restored gospel of Jesus Christ to all the world. What an overwhelming task! How could so few bless so many? And yet, the Lord knew who He was calling and what various converts would do. One eager young man, twenty-two-year-old Samuel Harrison Smith, younger brother of the Prophet Joseph, stepped forward and volunteered to start the work. And within 100 days, a remarkable woman was called to give her gifts and talents to the kingdom—Emma Hale Smith.
Welcome, dear friends, to Meridian Magazine’s Come Follow Me podcast. We are Scot and Maurine Proctor and this week’s material covers Doctrine and Covenants, sections 23-26 and is entitled “Strengthen the Church.” We are excited to talk to you this week about two of our beloved heroes from early Church History, but before we talk about Samuel and about Emma, we need to tell you about one little-known early convert to the Church, Solomon Chamberlin. Remember, the Lord works with the weak and the simple to bring forth His mighty works, and Solomon, like all of us, was among the weak and the simple. And his story shows that out of small things proceedeth that which is great (see D&C 64:33).
That’s right. Solomon had a vision in which he was shown that God was about the establish His true church on the earth as in New Testament times. Solomon was traveling on the Erie Canal in the fall of 1829 when he was directed by the Spirit or a spirit-guide at Palmyra to get off the boat and travel south. The Spirit directed him to a farmhouse for the night and within a short time, the woman of the house told him about Joseph Smith and the “gold Bible.” When the woman mentioned the “gold Bible,” Solomon said, “There was a power like electricity went from the top of my head to the end of my toes.” He found that he was only one-half mile from the Smith cabin and he immediately left and called on that household.
I love Solomon’s door approach: “Peace be to this house…Is there anyone here that believes in visions or revelations?” Hyrum Smith had answered the knock on the door and he said, “Yes, we are a visionary house.” Solomon had printed a pamphlet documenting his own spiritual experiences and the family read it together. This would be the beginning of a great friendship and they spent the whole of the evening and into the night talking about the Book of Mormon, the angel Moroni, the Lord’s plans to bring forth His true Church. Oh, how I would have loved to be there that fall evening in the Smith home as they talked openly about Joseph’s calling and mission.
The next day, Solomon went to the Grandin printing press, excited to see this new book of scripture. The Book of Mormon was only in the early stages of printing, not one copy was yet finished or bound. The book would be comprised of 37 signatures of 16 pages each—Hyrum gave Solomon four signatures, the first 64 pages of the book, to fold up and take with him. He was thrilled and immediately headed for Upper Canada. In this energetic, self-appointed mission of enthusiasm and love, Solomon said, “I preached all that I knew concerning Mormonism, to all both high and low, rich and poor…[and] exhorted all people to prepare for the great work of God that was now about to come forth, and it would never be brought down nor confounded.” (For more details, see Porter, Larry C., Solomon Chamberlin’s Missing Pamphlet: Dreams, Visions, and Angelic Ministrants, BYU Studies, Volume 37, Issue 2, April 1, 1997, pp 113-140)
Talk about “out of small things proceedeth that which is great”—from that early mission of Solomon Chamberlin’s, by some estimates, more than 700 people came into the Church. Their hearts and minds were prepared for that which “was now about to come forth” and when other missionaries came, they joined the Church by the hundreds. What a bold thing to do! And how would it be to have as your only teaching materials just 64 pages of the not-yet-published Book of Mormon? I’ve always been so impressed by Solomon. He married Hopestill Haskins and had three children. Solomon and Hopestill were faithful and true to the gospel and went west with the Saints. Hopestill died in Winter Quarters before she could make it to the Salt Lake Valley. Solomon’s posterity are strong and faithful people—we got to be in the same ward with one of his great-great grandsons in Virginia.
That’s right—it was Mark Roberts. Mark reminded me of his grandfather and I used to tell him that. Mark was tall and slender and very smart and was always there for everything in the gospel. He was “all in” just like his grandfather. Whenever I think about Solomon Chamberlin, I think about his faithful grandson, Mark Roberts.
We love to put things in context and there is a key in Section 24 to understanding early Church History. Look at verse 3:
Magnify thine office; and after thou hast sowed thy fields and secured them, go speedily unto the church which is in Colesville, Fayette, and Manchester, and they shall support thee; and I will bless them both spiritually and temporally;
Okay, Maurine, why does this seemingly insignificant verse help us understand early Church History?
Because here we have a list of those first three branches of the Church in Colesville, Fayette and Manchester, New York. These are the centers of Church activity in those infant days of the Church and each of those branches is centered around a family.
Colesville, New York is centered in the Joseph and Polly Peck Knight family. From all that we can learn, there were 84 members in that branch in Colesville, and interestingly enough, 36 members of the branch were either Knights or Pecks! That’s 43% of the branch! You might recognize others in the branch like Hyrum Smith and his wife, Jerusha and daughter Lovina and Emer Harris (that’s President Dallin Oaks great grandfather and brother to Martin Harris). But again, this Colesville Branch was centered in the Knight extended family and they met in the Knight home for services.
And the Fayette, New York branch was centered on the Peter and Mary Musselman Whitmer Family. The Whitmers had eight children and their extended family included the Pages and the Cowderys.
The Manchester Branch was centered in the Joseph Smith, Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith Family.
So, again, Colesville Branch—the Knights. Fayette Branch—The Whitmers. Manchester Branch—the Smiths. This will help us in our studies as we see the migration of the Saints further and further to the west.
And these families were critical to the early growth and development of the Church. Individual members of each of these three branches personally helped the Prophet Joseph in times of need.
And it’s interesting, Scot, when we have given firesides in various stakes around the Church, we have often probed the Stake President or the Stake Relief Society President to see how the Church got started and how it grew in their area. Inevitably it is a certain family who either joined the Church or moved it. Do you remember when we went to speak to that women’s conference in Denton, Texas? We kept hearing about this woman who was going to direct the choir that day for the conference. I mean, we heard about her from at least four different people. They all loved her and they all revered her. “Oh, she is the mother of this Stake. She and her husband moved to this area in, (I believe it was the 1950’s), and they just started finding people and fellowshipping and loving everyone and inviting them to their home. There wasn’t even a branch in those days—and now there are four wards and a stake in Denton.”
When we came into the chapel and saw this woman warming up the choir, wow! We could immediately tell who she was. She was a presence. She was so full of love and enthusiasm and focus. She had all those sisters singing like angels. And you could tell they were not going to take their eyes off of her. She was so impressive. And when we were introduced to her (and if anyone out there is listening and can remind us of her name—please drop us a line) she was like meeting Sister Knight, or Sister Whitmer or Sister Smith. She was amazing! That’s the kind of centering in a family we are talking about in Colesville, Fayette and Manchester.
And we could tell numerous other stories about what we call the backbone of the Church in certain areas for a generation or two, like the Oscarsons in St. Louis, or the Lauritzens in Riverside, California or the Scribners in Santa Rosa, well, and your parents, Paul and Martha Proctor and the Ownbys in Rolla, Missouri. These are families who were the nuclear power plant for the Church in these areas—they are full of energy, love, enthusiasm, testimony, strength, faith, power, charity and they never, never stop serving the Lord. You know about these kinds of families wherever you are. Don’t you want to be like this—like the Knights and the Smiths and the Oscarsons and the Ownbys—to be ALL IN. That’s what we want.
Speaking of “all in” let’s talk for a few minutes about Samuel Harrison Smith. Just a little footnote: As I’ve studied the records and the writings of the Smiths and others, I do think that in the Smith family they called him Harrison. It’s not important, but I always like to get in the minds and hearts and context of these early Saints.
So, Samuel left as what some call, the first official missionary of the Church. And what was his mission? He was to carry with him as many copies of the newly published Book of Mormon as he could and sell them to anyone who was interested and try to help raise funds to help pay the printing costs. Now, of course, he was to preach the gospel and find those who would listen, feel the Spirit, repent of their sins and allow themselves to be baptized, but that printer’s debt was on the minds of those who were close to the Prophet Joseph and to Martin Harris. Remember the 18-month-note for $3,000 was signed August 25, 1829 and would come due February 25, 1831.
In those days, a brand-new copy of the Book of Mormon was selling for $1.25—which is equivalent to about $34 in our day’s money. So, imagine your job was to sell copies of the long-rumored “gold Bible” to strangers for $34? You are likely to not be very successful and so it was for Samuel. He went out the first day and had no success whatsoever.
Samuel walked more than 20 miles that first day, July 1, 1830, and made it to Bloomington, New York to a local tavern. He tried to sell the book to the burly, rough innkeeper who had asked where the book came from. Samuel replied that the book had been translated from golden plates and that his brother Joseph has found it buried in the earth. To this the man yelled, “You liar! Get out of my house; you won’t stay one minute with your books!” And then he physically threw Samuel out the door.
I have to say here that Samuel restrained himself because he was 6’4” tall and was strong as an angus bull, but his mission was not to fight but to preach. He slept that night under an apple tree, going to bed without any food.
The next day he found one Methodist circuit preacher named John P. Greene. Samuel tried to convince the reverend of the importance of this book but John was very skeptical. His wife was listening from the side. The conversation went something like this:
“Well, Mr. Smith, I am not personally interested in your book, but if you will leave a copy here, I will take it on my circuit and make a list of any people who might be interested in buying it.”
Well, that wasn’t much success. We might say he was pretty discouraged, but he was also very determined.
That’s right. Samuel came back two weeks later and the Reverend Greene had not found anyone interested. He left the book with him anyway, hoping for some interest in this next round.
About the end of July, he returned again and this time Samuel was determined to either get the $1.25 for the book, or retrieve it from the Greene’s. “It just so happened,” and we say that phrase as a code for “it was providential” that this time Mr. Greene was not home, but his wife Rhoda was home.
“I talked with her for a little while and then, binding my knapsack upon my shoulders, arose to depart, determined to take the Book with me.”
Rhoda burst into tears and said, “Sir, I have read this book and I know it to be true. Will you not pray with me?”
They knelt in prayer and Rhoda said, “I had never heard any prayer so. It filled me with the Spirit of God.”
During the prayer the Spirit whispered to Samuel to leave the book with Rhoda. He encouraged her to implore her husband to read it and how he could obtain his own testimony. She was thrilled.
Well, Rhoda YOUNG Greene did get her husband to read the book and he did obtain his own witness of its truthfulness. Rhoda shared it with her brother, Brigham Young.
Samuel was also able to sell a copy to another Methodist preacher, Phineas H. Young—brother of Brigham and Rhoda. Phineas got his witness. He reported that he preached that Sunday to his congregation. “He defended [the Book of Mormon] for ten minutes [over the pulpit] when suddenly the Spirit of God came on him with such force that in a marvelous manner he spoke at great length on the importance of it…He closed by telling the people he believed the book.”
A copy was shared with Brigham’s niece, Vilate, who shared it with her husband, Heber C. Kimball. From that seemingly unsuccessful, short mission of not selling many copies of the Book of Mormon, we know of many who joined the Church, including one, who would lead the Church as President for 33 years. Out of small things proceedeth that which is great!
Now, we want you to come and understand Emma Hale Smith more than you have in the past. We love Emma, have studied her for many years; we admire her, we honor her and we desire for you to know her more intimately.
Emma was born July 10, 1804 in Harmony township, Pennsylvania. I think it’s so wonderful that the Church has rebuilt the home where she was born as part of the Priesthood Restoration Site. Emma was 18 months older than Joseph. She was tall, dark-haired, well-educated. She was a teacher. She was the seventh of the nine children of Isaac and Elizabeth Hale. She had four older brothers, two older sisters and two younger brothers.
She and Joseph would have nine children together (just like Emma’s family) and they would adopt twins for a total of 11 children (just like Joseph’s family). Of these 11 children, they would lose six of them to death. This one fact alone was devastating to Emma almost more than anything.
Emma was called by the Lord to accompany Joseph to the Hill Cumorah the night of September 21/22 of 1827. She was there in the wagon, at the base of the hill when Joseph received the plates from the Angel Moroni. She was there through almost the entire translation of the plates. In the early days of the work, Emma would often serve as scribe to Joseph, but her keeping the house up, doing the laundry, making the meals, taking care of guests truly precluded her from being a full-time scribe.
Near the end of her life, Emma was asked: Are you sure that [Joseph] had the plates at the time you were writing for him?
Her Answer. The plates often lay on the table without any attempt at concealment, wrapped in a small linen tablecloth, which I had given him to fold them in. I once felt of the plates, as they thus 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.
How many people can give that kind of report? That is thrilling.
Emma and Joseph moved into 13 homes in 17 years of marriage. Most of those homes were where they were living with other families in their homes, like the Smith parents, the Hale’s, the Whitmer’s, the Whitney’s, the Morley’s, the Johnson’s and the Newel K. Whitney Store in Kirtland.
Emma was naturally full of charity. Her home was seldom if ever just inhabited by her husband her own children. Many times she had ten, twelve, fifteen or twenty other living in her home—all of whom were in great need at the time.
Lucy Mack Smith, her mother-in-law, said of her:
“She was then young, and, being naturally ambitious, her whole heart was in the work of the Lord, and she felt no interest except for the church and the cause of truth. Whatever her hands found to do, she did with her might and did not ask the selfish question ‘Shall I be benefited any more than anyone else?’ If elders were sent away to preach, she was the first to volunteer her services to assist in clothing them for their journey, let her own privations be what they might.”
“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; for I know that which she has had to endure; that she has been tossed upon the ocean of uncertainty; that she has breasted the storm of persecution, and buffeted the rage of men and devils, until she has been swallowed up in a sea of trouble which [would] have borne down almost any other woman.” (Smith, Lucy Mack, Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, edited by Scot Facer Proctor and Maurine Jensen Proctor, Bookcraft, Salt Lake City, 1996, p. 249]
In fact, it was Emma’s reputation as a woman of charity that attracted Captain Dan Jones of the Maid of Iowa, a Mississippi River boat, to join the Church and become one of its most successful missionaries.
Emmeline B. Wells, a contemporary of Emma, wrote of her:
“Sister Emma was benevolent and hospitable; she drew around her a large circle of friends, who were like good comrades. She was motherly in nature to young people, always had a houseful to entertain or be entertained. She was very high-spirited and the brethren and sisters paid her great respect. Emma was a great solace to her husband in all his persecutions and the severe ordeals through which he passed; she was always ready to encourage and comfort him, devoted to his interests, and was constantly by him whenever it was possible. She was queen in her home, so to speak, and beloved by the people, who were many of them indebted to her for favors and kindness.” (LDS Women of the Past: Personal Impressions,” Women’s Exponent 36 (February 1908): 1.
This is the Emma I know. She was the perfect match for Joseph.
The Lord said of her: “thou art an elect lady, whom I have called.” (D&C 25:3)
How would you like the Lord to say that to you?
The Lord also said to her:
“Murmur not because of the things which thou hast not seen, for they are withheld from thee and from the world, which is wisdom in me in a time to come.” (D&C 25:4)
In Emma’s last testimony she was asked:
Question: I should suppose that you would have uncovered the plates and examined them?
Emma’s answer. I did not attempt to handle the plates, other than I have told you, nor uncover them to look at them. I was satisfied that it was the work of God, and therefore did not feel it to be necessary to do so;
Question: Did Mr. Smith forbid your examining the plates?
Emma’s Answer. I do not think he did. I knew that he had them, and was not especially curious about them. I moved them from place to place on the table, as it was necessary in doing my work.
Isn’t that remarkable, Scot? She truly knew this was God’s work and followed Joseph’s careful instructions that no one was to see the plates except those whom He called.
It so remarkable. And I love her final testimony of the Book of Mormon, this is more than three decades after Joseph was killed.
Her son asked her: Mother, what is your belief about the authenticity, or origin, of the Book of Mormon?
Emma’s Answer. My belief is that the Book of Mormon is of divine authenticity –I have not the slightest doubt of it. I am satisfied that no man could have dictated the writing of the manuscripts unless he was inspired; for, when acting as his scribe, your father would dictate to me hour after hour; and when returning after meals, or after interruptions, he could at once begin where he had left off, without either seeing the manuscript or having any portion of it read to him. This was a usual thing for him to do. It would have been improbable that a learned man could do this; and, for one so ignorant and unlearned as he was, it was simply impossible.
That’s the Emma that I know with an unflinching, life-long, never-deviating testimony of the Book of Mormon.
Joseph wrote of Emma:
“With what unspeakable delight, and what transports of joy swelled my bosom, when I took by the hand, on that night, my beloved Emma—she that was my wife, even the wife of my youth; and the choice of my heart. Many were the re-vibrations of my mind when I contemplated for a moment the many scenes we had been called to pass through. The fatigues, and the toils, the sorrows, and sufferings, and the joys and consolations from time to time had strewed our paths and crowned our board. Oh! what a co-mingling of thought filled my mind for the moment, again she is here, even in the seventh trouble, undaunted, firm, and unwavering, unchangeable, affectionate Emma.” (History of the Church, 5:107)
That’s the Emma that I know, “undaunted, firm, and unwavering, unchangeable, affectionate Emma.”
When she was driven from Missouri and Joseph and his companions were left behind in the Liberty Jail, Emma suffered unspeakable hardship and trials. She and her family left Far West on February 7, 1839. She had trudged across the bitter cold and snows of Northern Missouri with a 7-year-old daughter and a six-year-old son clinging to her skirts and a 2-and-a-half year old toddler and an 8-month old baby in arms. Joseph’s sacred papers and the manuscript for the translation of the Bible were sown into her heavy wool skirts. She crossed the frozen Mississippi with those children, walking carefully across, listening for the horrifying cracking sounds that could come in an instant. Emma wrote a letter to Joseph in the Liberty Jail, soon after arriving in Quincy, Illinois:
“I shall not attempt to write my feelings altogether, for the situation in which you are, the walls, 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. … Was it not for conscious innocence and the direct interposition of divine mercy, I am very sure I never should have been able to have endured the scenes of suffering that I have passed through … 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 … and if God does not record our sufferings and avenge our wrongs on them that are guilty, I shall be sadly mistaken. … You may be astonished at my bad writing and incoherent manner, but you will pardon all when you reflect how hard it would be for you to write when your hands were stiffened with hard work and your heart convulsed with intense anxiety … but I hope there [are] better days to come to us yet. … I am ever yours affectionately. Emma Smith.”
That is the Emma I know: one who willing to suffer more if it is the will of kind heaven.
This letter, and a letter that arrived the same day from his brother, Don Carlos, so moved Joseph, that he poured out his soul to God and wrote a long epistle to the Church. Excerpts from that long letter have been canonized as Sections 121, 122 and 123 of the Doctrine and Covenants. We shall talk about them in a future podcast.
Emma went to see her parents for the last time in 1831. She had worked so hard to get them to believe in Joseph and to believe the Book of Mormon and to join them as they were now moving westward to Kirtland, Ohio. Both Isaac and Elizabeth refused. This broke Emma’s heart.
About ten years later, when Joseph revealed the doctrine of baptism for the dead to the Saints, Emma is reported to have nearly run to the Mississippi River with a group of Saints and thereupon she was baptized in behalf of her deceased Mother.
This is the Emma I know, one who wanted her family to be united and together for eternity.
Maurine, I was reading Emma’s Patriarchal Blessing a number of times this week and feeling the Spirit each time I read it. There are a couple of lines I wanted to share. First this one:
“Thy soul has been afflicted because of the wickedness of men in seeking the destruction of thy companion, and thy whole soul has been drawn out in prayer for his deliverance: rejoice, for the Lord thy God has heard thy supplication.”
This gives us great insight into Emma’s love for and loyalty to Joseph. Emma would see Joseph be arrested at least 42 times—including six times in one day. She would see him beaten, tarred and feathered and nearly killed by a mob—and that mobbing, that night, led to the death of their son five days later. She would see Joseph falsely taken by the Missouri militia (or the Missouri Mob, as her mother-in-law called them) and sentenced to death. She waited patiently as Joseph went into hiding from his enemies sometimes weeks at a time. At five months pregnant Emma watched as Joseph was taken from her and her family to the Carthage Jail. She would never see him again. Did the Lord really hear her supplication? I testify that He did.
Here’s another line that we loved from her Patriarchal Blessing:
“Thou shall see many days; yea, the Lord will spare thee till thou art satisfied, for thou shalt see thy Redeemer.”
That’s quite the promise. Did it come to pass? Emma lived 34 years, 10 months and 3 days after the martyrdom. So, the promise of her seeing many days was fulfilled—that’s 12,725 days without Joseph.
Her granddaughter, Emma Belle Smith Kennedy, said of her:
“Her eyes were brown and sad. She would smile with her lips but to me, as small as I was, I never saw the brown eyes smile. I asked my mother one day, why don’t Grandma laugh with her eyes like you do and my mother said because she has a deep sorrow in her heart.”
I do believe with all my heart that this was the sorrow of the loss of Joseph that never went away.
But what about the promise of seeing her Redeemer?
Emma’s nurse, Elizabeth Brierley Revel, gave this account to Alexander Hale Smith:
“Well, a short time before she died, she had a vision which she related to me. She said your father came to her and said to her, ‘Emma, come with me, it is time for you to come with me.’ And as she related it, she said, ‘I put on my bonnet and my shawl and went with him; I did not think that it was anything unusual. I went with him into a mansion, a beautiful mansion, and he showed me through the different apartments of that beautiful mansion. And one room was the nursery. In that nursery was a babe in the cradle. She said, ‘I knew my babe, my Don Carlos that was taken away from me.’ She sprang forward, caught the child up in her arms, and wept with joy over the child. When she recovered herself sufficient, she turned to Joseph and said, ‘Joseph, where are the rest of my children?’ He said to her, ‘Emma, be patient, and you shall have all of your children.’ Then she saw standing by his side a personage of light, even the Lord Jesus Christ.”
This is the Emma I know, the Emma who would be with Joseph for eternity, the Emma who would be given the blessing to have all 11 of her children, the Emma who had the faith that would allow her to see the Savior Jesus Christ as promised to her.
There’s so much more to know about Emma. We will teach more about her in the coming months so stay tuned. I do want to add one thing now because we are studying Section 25 of the Doctrine and Covenants this week.
Emma was given the wonderful task to make a selection of hymns and create a hymnbook for the Church.
Look more closely at the text of her commission:
11 And it shall be given thee, also, to make a selection of sacred hymns, as it shall be given thee, which is pleasing unto me, to be had in my church.
So, this was going to be given to Emma by revelation. She was to be directed by the Spirit to find those hymns which would be pleasing to the Lord to be sung throughout the Church.
Then the Lord continues:
12 For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads.
You never really stop to think what kind of impact and influence this mission of Emma’s has had upon the whole Church over the generations. We really just take for granted that we pick up our 1985 edition of the Hymnbook and turn to Hymn number 136 and we sing I Know That My Redeemer Lives.
Emma chose 90 hymns for that first little hymnbook, 35 of which are still in our current 1985 edition. William W. Phelps wrote a hymn for the dedication of the Kirtland Temple that was placed in the final pages of that 1835 edition of Emma’s hymns. The book was actually published in 1836 not long before that dedication. That final hymn, The Spirit of God, barely fit in their allotted space, and they had to change the type font to get it all in on that last page.
I love the hymns Emma chose, including Redeemer of Israel.
When we take groups to the Holy Land each year (except for this last year), we sing that song probably more than any other. It has a powerful message and is full of doctrine and hope. I love Emma’s choice of Guide Us, O Thou Great Jehovah. And He Died! The Great Redeemer Died! And I Know That My Redeemer Lives. These are such Christ-centered hymns that draw us closer to the Lord, strengthen our faith, fill us with joy. These are such a part of our culture and our inner life. The hymns resonate with our souls in a way that nothing else does. They are such a fast way to invite the Spirit into our beings.
And what would the Tabernacle Choir do without Emma’s choice of Gently Raise the Sacred Strain? And how about Now Let Us Rejoice in the Day of Salvation and O God the Eternal Father and, of course, the WW Phelps hymn, perhaps the greatest of them all that is sung at every temple dedication: The Spirit of God Like a Fire is Burning. I’m so grateful for Emma’s careful and inspired choices of hymns that still reside in all of our souls these 186 years later.
The hymns are such a part of our culture. Scot, you and I have attended Church all over the world. I remember when we had been working in India for a few weeks and we had our sacrament meeting and we just started singing the first hymn and we could hardly sing, because as we heard those refrains, we just felt like we had come home. The same thing happened as we sang the hymns on the South Island of New Zealand, do you remember, Scot, with that congregation in Greymouth, where all those beautiful Samoans lived in the ward and they sounded like the Tabernacle Choir? We could hardly sing because we felt the Spirit so strongly.
You know what we are talking about. When you hear the songs of Zion, it immediately brings the Spirit to your soul. It makes you feel better. It draws you closer to the Lord. It opens a window in your heart for revelation to come in.
Emma was told to “lay aside the things of this world, and seek for the things of a better.” As we sing the hymns, with all of our hearts, this is what happens—we naturally feel to lay aside the things of this world and seek for the things of a better. (see D&C 25:10)
This is the Emma that I know, who invites the entire Church to sing the songs of Zion and offer these songs of the righteous as a prayer unto the Lord. There is no way to measure the blessings that have come to the entire Church because of Emma’s fulfilling this mission so wonderfully.
When Joseph was being taken to the Carthage Jail, he had his last few minutes with Emma and their children. Emma so wanted to receive a blessing from him before he left but with all the men and their horses waiting outside and his being under arrest, there was no time. He told her to write down whatever she wanted and when he returned, he would sign it. He never returned.
One of the lines from the blessing she wrote that has always moved me is this one:
I desire the spirit of God to know and understand myself that I might be able to overcome whatever tradition or nature that would not tend to my exaltation in the eternal worlds.
For those who may have negative feelings about Emma or question her life’s choices, or feel to be critical of her, we hope this has been helpful to you. Please don’t be surprised when she is among the faithful who extends her hand to you at the gates of the celestial Kingdom.
That’s all for today. We have loved being with you and helping you to get to know Sister Emma Hale Smith a little better. Next week’s lesson is “All Things Must Be Done in Order” and will cover Doctrine and Covenants, sections 27 and 28. Thanks so much to Paul Cardall for the beautiful music that accompanies this podcast and to our producer, Michaela Proctor Hutchins for the great work she does. Blessings to you and see you next time.