The following is the eleventh in a series of articles giving greater detail from the stories behind the hidden things in our recently released Treasures of the Restoration jigsaw puzzle. If you haven’t gotten yours yet, BUY IT HERE.
For those in the state of Utah, It’s still not too late to get it before Christmas if you order today!
If you already have yours, bookmark or print this page so you can hang on to the story to share with your family as you come upon the hidden phrase when you do the puzzle. Read the ninth article in the series HERE.
Emma Hale was 21 years old when she first laid eyes on Joseph Smith, Jr., then 19. She couldn’t have known what an impact this meeting would have on her life or what unique challenges they would face together as they worked to grow the fledging Church of Jesus Christ in these latter days.
Too often we may fall into the trap of thinking that Emma was just an extension of Joseph rather than seeing her as a person of great religious conviction, influence, and impact in her own right. A family tradition even suggests that Emma’s father overheard her praying for him in the woods as a child and that was a great contributor to his spiritual conversion to the faith that the family had been attending without him. Deep conviction and devotion to God were integral to Emma’s identity even as a child.
That devotion only developed and continued as she grew into adulthood and supported Joseph in his prophetic role in bringing about the Restoration. We included her portrait as one of the hidden things in our Treasures of the Restoration puzzle and look forward to the opportunity to shed a little extra light on who she was—particularly by seeing her through the eyes of those who knew her best.
The following was the impression Emma left on Captain Dan Jones, not yet converted to the Gospel:
“Soon, purely by accident, there fell into my hands a segment of a letter which the wife of Joseph Smith had written to some religious sister when she was [visiting] her husband in the Missouri prison; and I shall never forget the feelings which that segment of a letter caused me to have. I perceived clearly that not only did its author believe the New Testament, the same as I—professing the apostolic faith, and rejoicing in the midst of her tribulations at being worthy to suffer all that for a testimony of Jesus and the gospel—but also it contained better counsel, more wisdom, and showed a more gospel-like and godly spirit than anything I had ever read!”
(Quoted from Dennis, Ronald D., Dan Jones, Welshman: Taking the Gospel Home, Ensign, April 1987.)
“The impact of the letter was such that Dan Jones was not satisfied until he was able to talk with someone about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” said Ronald D. Dennis, “Several late-night conversations convinced him that he was nearly a full-fledged Latter-day Saint already. Reluctant to sacrifice his popularity and livelihood as a steamboat captain, he searched for counterarguments to this new religion in order to pacify his conscience for not converting to the newfound faith. ‘But I shall be forever grateful,’ he later wrote, ‘that the task was too difficult and endless for me.’”
Captain Dan Jones would go on to convert thousands to the Gospel, becoming one of the most impactful missionaries of that time, and it all began with the example of Emma.
The following comes from Lucy Mack Smith, mother of the prophet and mother-in-law to Emma:
Emma’s health at this time was quite delicate, yet she did not favor herself on this account, but whatever her hands found to do she did with her might, until so far beyond her strength that she brought upon herself a heavy fit of sickness, which lasted four weeks. And, although her strength was exhausted, still her spirits were the same, which, in fact, was always the case with her, even under the most trying circumstances. 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 ever done; for I know that which she has had to endure-she has been tossed upon the ocean of uncertainty-she has breasted the storms of persecution, and buffeted the rage of men and devils, which would have borne down almost any other woman. It may be that many may yet have to encounter the same-I pray God that this may not be the case; but, should it be, may they have grace given them according to their day, even as has been the case with her.
(Scot Facer Proctor and Maurine Jensen Proctor, Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, Bookcraft, Salt Lake City, 1996, pp. 248-49, emphasis added.)
Many of us may have found just how difficult facing things with unflinching courage, zeal, and patience really is as 2020 continues to bring a barrage of difficulties and uncertainty to us all around the world. Emma was truly asked to face intense adversity; losing six of her children, having her husband’s life constantly threatened and eventually violently taken, and watching the suffering of the Saints for the cause of the Gospel.
And yet she selflessly opened her home to the sick, orphaned, and homeless despite her own sorrows. She was the first president of the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo, where she set an example of that Christlike charity that is what the Relief Society organization around the world continues to be known for today.
Besides being an example of service and an “elect lady” responsible for compiling the hymns, “Emma taught the women doctrine, managed membership, and publicly defended principles of moral purity. Emma was the first woman to receive temple ordinances; she then initiated other women in these sacred rituals. As the first lady of Nauvoo, she hosted diplomats in her home, made public appearances with Joseph at civic and community events, and presented political petitions in support of the Church and her husband.”
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.
She was beloved by the people and especially beloved by the husband who she was fiercely loyal to, despite 16 moves in 17 years of marriage and constant difficulty and loss.
These were the prophet’s sentiments concerning his wife, Emma in 1842:
With what unspeakable delight, and what transports of joy swelled my bosom, when I took by the hand, on that night, my beloved —she that was my wife, even the wife of my youth, and the choice of my heart. Many were the reverberations 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, which had strewed our paths and crowned our board. Oh what a commingling of thought filled my mind for the moment, again she is here, even in the seventh trouble—undaunted, firm, and unwavering—unchangeable, affectionate Emma! (Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 Vols. 5:107)
There have been eras of the Church’s history where members didn’t see Emma through the eyes of the love and respect demonstrated by the people above who knew her well. Many have judged her harshly for the decision to stay behind in Nauvoo rather than accompanying the Saints westward. Some question whether that represented a loss of faith.
But her faith in her husband’s prophetic role and in the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon never wavered. In an interview with her sons not long before she died, she said, “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.”
In a moving article written by Emma’s great-great-granddaughter, Gracia N. Jones, she shares this tender scene from the autumn of Emma’s life:
A woman who served as a maid in Emma’s home during Emma’s later years related the fact that each evening after the chores were done, Emma would climb the stairs to her room, sit in her low rocker, and gaze out the window at the western sunset over the Mississippi River. No one dared approach to offer comfort, because they did not know how to touch the depth of sorrow evidenced by the tears that coursed down her cheeks.
We can ask, “Why did she cry?” Was it the awful loss of her beloved Joseph? Was it the memory of her babies laid in graves in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Illinois? Was it the tragedy of seeing her precious youngest son hopelessly ill? Was it regret for past mistakes? Was it sorrow for disappointments lived through? Was it haunting uncertainties regarding the course she had taken, as well as thoughts about what might have been had tragedy and persecution not dogged her life? Having lived a long life, as the Lord had promised in her patriarchal blessing, and now seemingly humbled and refined, Emma must have pondered questions about the hereafter. Her son Alexander later reported that a few days before her death, Emma had a vision that disclosed her acceptance by the Lord.
Gracia retells the account of that vision as follows:
Sister Elizabeth Revel, Emma’s nurse, explained that a few days earlier Emma had told her that Joseph came to her in a vision and said, “Emma, come with me, it is time for you to come with me.” “As Emma 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, 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 from me.’ She sprang forward, caught the child up in her arms, and wept with joy over the child. When Emma 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.”
What a beautiful image of the love and hope of the very truths of the Gospel that were restored to the earth through Joseph Smith with Emma’s love and support.
People are complex, it is nearly impossible for us to fully understand their choices and their motives, which is why the judgement of what they do isn’t left to us, but to an ever-compassionate and all-seeing God. There is no doubt that Emma’s conviction, strength of character, and moral courage were a crucial part of the strength of the Church in the early part of the Restoration and we should revere her for what it took to offer that example. As the article about her on the Church’s website today says, “Her name and character have been both revered and misunderstood in Latter-day Saint memory, but her actions and influence cannot be erased.”
So, when you come upon the portrait of Emma Hale Smith in our Treasures of the Restoration puzzle, remember to see her through the eyes of those that knew her best, including the Lord Himself who, in her final years, offered His reassurance that—as her patriarchal blessing promised—“Emma … thou art blessed of the Lord, for thy faithfulness and truth, thou shalt be blessed with thy husband…the holy angels shall watch over thee and thou shalt be saved in the kingdom of God.”
 Dennis, Ronald D., Dan Jones, Welshman: Taking the Gospel Home, Ensign, April 1987
 “LDS Women of the Past: Personal Impressions,” Woman’s Exponent 36 (February 1908): 1.
 Patriarchal blessing given to Emma Hale Smith, 9 December 1834, Kirtland, Ohio, Patriarchal Blessing Book No. 1, Archives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints