Thursday, April 10, 2008
Emma Hale Smith - Mormon Enigma
I feel like such a history buff. I read this at Shelah's suggestion and I'm glad I did. It's true that history changes depending on who wrote it because this book has a very different feel than the Bushman book on Joseph Smith I read a couple of months ago. I think Emma Smith must have been a force to be reckoned with. She was a strong, opinionated, independent woman at a time when those characteristics in a female were much more rare. I would truly love to have a chance to talk with her. From accounts given in this biography, she was a very charitable being, a doting mother and well educated. Someone the prophet loved and needed the good opinion of. What frustrated me when reading this, however, were all of the second hand accounts of her life. She didn't keep a history or journal and the only time her voice is heard is in letters. Her later years, when she fell out of favor with the Utah saints, were tainted by reports of missionaries traveling through Nauvoo with an interest in checking up on her. She had no desire to be checked up on and seemed to make an effort to appear unfriendly and changed from the woman many of them knew and loved.
So much of this book deals with polygamy. I honestly don't know if I would have reacted any differently than Emma if put in her situation. I guess I'm glad I don't have to find out. It's interesting to me to see polygamy come up in the news and entertainment. As church members, we find the practice appalling because it is against the commandments....now. We distance ourselves from the fundamentalists who show up in the news and make comments about how they are NOT mormon. But it was a commandment at one time. Emma couldn't get her heart or brain around it and upon the death of her husband, felt she needed to distance herself from the leadership she knew would continue the practice she found so abhorrent. Others, like her, fell away from the church or were ex-communicated due to misunderstanding or unlawful engagement of the practice. Today, the opposite is true. And it boils down to faith in a prophet. Did Joseph Smith receive a revelation about it? Did Wilford Woodruff? Gordon B. Hinckley? Emma was so close to Joseph she must have saw so much of the man as well as the prophet in him. She was convinced that he was deceived regarding the revelation of polygamy...that it was not from Heavenly Father. But the twelve, most importantly Brigham Young, saw otherwise.
Oh...so much to think about. Thanks for the suggestion, Shelah. I'm sure I wouldn't have read it otherwise.