Friday, May 09, 2008

Mothers to emulate - Mary Fielding and Emma Smith - or maybe not...

   This article is a sacrament talk I gave on May 14, 2000. It is about the choices we make in life, and the effect those choices have on our posterity.

   I’m going to tell you about two mothers. Both of these ladies were married to great leaders in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Emma Hale Smith was the wife of The Prophet Joseph Smith. Mary Fielding Smith was the wife of the Patriarch of the Church, Hyrum Smith. Hyrum was Joseph’s older brother.

   During this talk, I want you primary girls and young women and mothers with children still at home to ask yourselves what you would have done if you had been Emma Hale or Mary Fielding.

   First I’ll tell you about Mary Fielding Smith. Try to put yourself in her shoes as you listen to these stories.

   Mary Fielding was born in 1801 in England. She and her family moved to Canada. When Mary was 35 years old, Apostle Parley P. Pratt went to Canada on a mission. Elder Pratt taught Mary and her brother Joseph Fielding the gospel and they were baptized. On this Canadian mission Elder Pratt also taught the Gospel to John Taylor, who would become the third President of the Church.

   Mary moved from Canada to Kirtland Ohio to join the Saints. Mary’s brother and sister and their families also moved to Kirtland. Mary was well educated and became a live-in governess and teacher for various families in Kirtland.

   Joseph Smith’s brother Hyrum had four daughters and two sons named Lovina, Mary, John, Hyrum, Jerusha, and Sarah. Mary died in 1832. Hyrum’s wife Jerusha died in October, 1837, while giving birth to Sarah.

   Joseph Smith told Hyrum that it was the will of the Lord that he should remarry without delay, and that he should wed Mary Fielding. So Hyrum asked Mary to marry him and she accepted. They were married on December 24, only two months after Jerusha’s death. Hyrum Smith was 37 years old, and Mary Fielding was 36. Mary was an attractive woman, and had had several suitors, but had always felt that none of them was right for her. She believed that there was someone special, and she was willing to wait until they found each other, no matter how long it might take. When Hyrum asked her to marry him, even though they had not courted and were not romantically involved, she knew he was that man.

   Mary’s first baby was born the next year, 1838. She named him Joseph Fielding. In 1901 Joseph Fielding Smith, or Joseph F. as he was known, became the sixth President of the Church. And his son, whose name was also Joseph Fielding Smith, became the tenth President of the Church in 1970.

   Two months after Joseph F. was born, Mary visited Hyrum in Liberty Jail. It was January, 1839. In February, the Saints fled into Illinois because of Governor Boggs’ extermination order. Several months later, Hyrum escaped. He joined her in Quincy, Illinois, in April, 1839. The next month they settled in the place the Saints called Nauvoo, The Beautiful, on the banks of the Mississippi river.

   Mary’s second baby, Martha Ann, was born in Nauvoo in 1841. Little Hyrum Jr. died about four months later that same year. He was 7 years old. During that eventful year Mary and her sister Mercy helped organize the women of the Church to raise funds for the Nauvoo Temple.

   Joseph and Hyrum were murdered in Carthage jail on June 27, 1844. Two years later, in the fall of 1846, Mary left Nauvoo with her eight children. They crossed Iowa from the Mississippi to the Missouri. Joseph F. drove an ox team all the way across Iowa. He was only eight years old at the time. Mary and her family lived in Winter Quarters for eighteen months. More than 350 Saints died from sickness and the bitter cold during that difficult time.

   Joseph F. learned by watching and listening to his mother’s example. She taught him that in the performance of all duties and labors he should go to the Lord in prayer. You’ve all heard the wonderful story that tells how Mary was told by the Lord where to go to find their lost yoke of oxen when they were returning from St. Louis. I’d tell it if there were time.

   Everyone encouraged Mary and her children to stay in Winter Quarters and not go west because they were so poor, but Mary prayed about it. The Lord inspired her and impressed her with the feeling that she should go West with the wagons. You’ve all heard the story about Peter Lott, the captain of Mary’s company, who complained that she would be a burden on the entire company. Her response was that she would beat him into the valley. And of course her little group of wagons did make it into the Salt Lake Valley ahead of the rest of the company. It is a funny story, but I know you’ve all heard it so I won’t tell it again today.

   At one point on that journey one of Mary’s oxen laid down in the road like it was dead and wouldn’t get up. Mary insisted that her brother and another man give the ox a blessing. They poured consecrated oil on the ox’s head, placed their hands on the ox and rebuked the power of the destroyer. Immediately the ox got up and again pulled the yoke as if nothing had happened. That ox continued to pull Mary’s wagon all the way to the Great Salt Lake, day after day after day. And then it died the very night they arrived in the valley.

   They arrived in Salt Lake City on September 22, 1848. It was John’s 16th birthday. Lovina was 21. Jerusha was 12, Sarah was 10, Joseph F. was 9, and Martha Ann was 7.

   Before leaving Nauvoo, President Young sent an invitation to Emma Smith, the wife of the Prophet Joseph, to furnish conveyance for her and her children, and provisions and means to take them to the mountains, but it was refused, as we will see in the second half of my narrative. Emma Hale Smith would not come with the Latter-day Saints.

   Mary Fielding Smith never received such an invitation. On her own initiative she gathered up her children, made the trip down to St. Louis, purchased provisions and equipment, financed herself with the help of her brother, and made the journey to those valleys in the mountains. Just think of the things Joseph F. and the other children learned from their sweet association with this great woman.

   In the early years in the Salt Lake Valley, Joseph F. tended cattle and sheep, cut wood, and hired out at harvest time. The opportunities for education in those early days of trying experiences of the Church were limited. Mary gave him his education. She taught him to read the Bible during their pilgrimage across the plains, in the tent, and by the camp fire.

   Although a widow with few means, Mary directed her children to pick the best of their farm produce for the tithing office. It was a difficult thing for young Joseph F. Smith to divide the family’s meager potato crop into two piles, and then follow the directions of his widow mother to take the pile of the better potatoes to the bishop as tithing. You’ve all heard the famous encounter between Mary and the man at the tithing office who thought she shouldn’t have to pay tithing that was witnessed by Joseph F. when he was 11. So I won’t tell it again. There isn’t enough time.

   Mary Fielding Smith died on September 21, 1852, probably from pneumonia, but also from over-work, at the age of fifty-one. She was widely respected and admired during her lifetime. Later generations saw her through the eyes of her son, President Joseph F. Smith, who often spoke of her as a model of courage and faithfulness.

   Joseph F. was 13 years old when his mother died. Two years later, at the October 1854 General Conference, he was called on a mission to the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii), where he remained until 1858.

   In the April 1908 General Conference, President Ben E. Rich, of the Southern States Mission, said that Mary Fielding Smith “planted the faith of the Gospel so deep in the hearts of her children that all hell has not been able to root it out of a single one of them.” Mary and Hyrum Smith now stand at the head of a posterity numbering many hundreds of righteous Latter-day Saints.

   Now let’s contrast the life of Mary Fielding Smith with the life of Emma Hale Smith. Please try to put yourself in Emma Hale’s shoes the way I asked you to do when I told you about Mary Fielding.

   Emma Hale was born in 1804. She married Joseph in 1827, when he was 21 years old and she was 22. That was the year Joseph received the gold plates from the Angel Moroni. Emma was never allowed to see the plates.

   The following year, 1828, Emma bore her first child. They named the baby Alvin after Joseph’s eldest brother, but the child only lived for a few hours. Two years later, in 1830, the Book of Mormon was published and the Church was organized. Emma was baptized in June, and Joseph Smith received what is now Section 25 of the D&C, in which Emma is designated “the Elect Lady.”

   In that revelation she was told that her calling was to be a support and comfort to her husband, to continue to act as his scribe, and "to expound scriptures and to exhort the church." She was also commissioned to prepare a hymnal for the Church, which was published five years later.

   Joseph and Emma moved frequently because of the constant persecution. They relocated to Kirtland, Ohio in 1831, where Emma gave birth to twins Louisa and Thaddeus. The twins only lived for a few hours. Nearby, a friend, Julia Clapp Murdock, wife of John Murdock, died after also giving birth to twins. Unable to care for them alone, her husband asked the bereft Joseph and Emma to raise his twins as their own. This they gladly did, naming the infants Joseph and Julia. A year later, in 1832, Joseph was tarred and feathered. The baby boy, only 11 months old, caught pneumonia during this episode, and died just five days later.

   Emma was pregnant at the time, and her fourth baby was born in October. This child was also named Joseph - Joseph Smith III. Enduring her husband's frequent absences on Church business, Emma was obliged to support herself and her children by taking boarders into her already crowded quarters, an expedient that she would frequently employ throughout her life.

   Emma helped gather supplies for the men of Zion's Camp, who accompanied Joseph to Missouri to assist the beleaguered members there. She also provided room and board for builders of the temple in Kirtland and shared her means with new converts flooding into the area. In 1836 Emma had a fifth child - Frederick Granger Williams. During 1836 the Kirtland Temple was dedicated and the keys of missionary work, temple work, and the perfecting of the saints were restored to men on earth by Moses, Elijah, and Elias. You can read about it in D&C 110.

   In 1838, as relations with their Kirtland neighbors deteriorated and the Church experienced increasing internal difficulties, Emma followed her husband and other members to Missouri to consolidate the Church in one central location. Emma, Joseph, and their three living children joined the settlement in Far West, the new center of the Church, and Emma gave birth to her sixth baby, Alexander Hale. The year 1838 brought the Haun’s Mill massacre. Joseph spent parts of 1838 and 1839 in Liberty Jail.

   In February 1839 the followers of Joseph Smith left Missouri and crossed the frozen Mississippi River into Quincy, Illinois. Emma Smith was among them. She didn't know where her husband was, nor whether he was dead or alive. Under her dress, in cotton bags of sufficient size to contain them, Emma carried some of the Prophet's papers, which included the manuscript for the Inspired Version of the Bible. In her arms were her two smallest children, Alexander and Frederick. The older two children, Julia and little Joseph, clung to her skirts as she crossed the frozen river on the ice that bitter cold day. From Quincy she wrote to her husband of the trials she had endured, but vowed that she was "yet willing to suffer more if it is the will of kind heaven."

   Joseph did come home two months later, in April 1839, settled in Nauvoo, and began to write his History of the Church. Emma’s father died in 1839.

   In 1840 Emma gave birth to Don Carlos, her seventh baby. Don Carlos died a year later in 1841. That was the year the Nauvoo Temple was begun and baptism for the dead was introduced.

   The next year was 1842, and the Relief Society was organized. Emma was elected the first President of that organization. Another baby, Emma’s eighth, was stillborn in 1842 (History of the Church, Vol.5, Ch.12, p.208), and apparently not named. Emma’s mother Elizabeth also died that same year.

   In August, Joseph wrote in his journal, “. . . my beloved Emma . . . 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 the sufferings, and the joys and consolations, from time to time, which had strewed our path 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!” (HC 5:107).

   In 1843 Emma became the first woman in this dispensation to receive the Endowment. Before Joseph’s death, about 65 men and women had been endowed. The Relief Society was suspended in 1844 because of Emma’s opposition to polygamy. Loyal to her husband for seventeen years through all the vicissitudes that his mission had entailed, Emma Smith was unable, at the end, to make the sacrifice that the doctrine of plural marriage required. She struggled between her faith in her husband's prophetic role and her aversion to a principle that he, as Prophet, had been instructed to institute.

   It is recorded that just before Joseph left Nauvoo on his way to Carthage, he asked Emma three times, “Emma, can you train my sons to walk in their father’s footsteps?” Emma was pregnant with their ninth child. When Joseph had been dead for five months, Emma’s last baby was born in November, 1844. She named him David Hyrum.

   You all know about the exodus from Nauvoo that took place beginning in February 1846. You’ve read how the Saints spent the last weeks in Nauvoo receiving their endowments in the newly dedicated Temple. You’ve all heard about their suffering as they crossed the trackless prairies of Iowa on their way to Omaha and Winter Quarters. But Emma chose not to go with the Saints. At the beginning of this talk I said I was going to talk about choices. Through how many hundreds of awful experiences did Emma remain faithful? But then, perhaps when it mattered the most, she wavered.

   Joseph Fielding Smith wrote that “President Brigham Young had made every effort by promise of extended help to Emma Smith, widow of the Prophet, to aid her to make the journey west with the exiled Saints; but all such offers were haughtily refused. Unfortunately there had arisen a feeling of bitterness in the heart of Emma Smith against Brigham Young and the Twelve. No amount of pleading, no amount of persuasion in kindness, could remove it, she stubbornly refused to make the journey with the Saints.”

   Three and a half years after the death of her husband, on Joseph Smith’s birthday, December 23rd, 1847, Emma Hale Smith remarried. Emma married a widower, two years older than she, with two children. His name was Lewis C. Bidamon, or “Major” Bidamon. Emma’s step children were Zerelda, aged 13, and Mary Elizabeth, aged 11. Emma’s stepdaughter Julia was 16. Four of her nine children were still alive. Joseph was 15, Frederick was 11, Alexander was 9, and David Hyrum was 3. Eventually, Joseph and Emma had 28 grandchildren. Today, Joseph and Emma have more than 2,000 descendants.

   Do you remember what I told you Joseph asked Emma, as he was about to go to Carthage? “Emma, can you train my sons to walk in their father’s footsteps?” Almost none of Emma’s descendants have followed in Joseph’s footsteps. Think of how Joseph must feel to see his posterity outside the Church he gave his life to help restore to the earth.

   Now I don’t judge Emma. You’ve heard about all the things she suffered as she supported her husband in his calling. But there is no arguing with the fact that virtually none of her descendants enjoy the blessings of the Gospel, the blessings of the Priesthood, the blessings of the Temple.

   Melvin J. Ballard, who was an apostle from 1919 until his death in 1939, summed it up this way after the death of President Joseph F. Smith, in a tribute to Mary Fielding Smith.

   “I have thought of what a tremendous influence the example of these two mothers has had. On the one hand Emma has turned all the posterity of the Prophet through herself and the Prophet away from the Church -- aliens to the truth that God has revealed and established; while Mary Fielding Smith turned at the very fountain of that stream the posterity of her illustrious husband, Hyrum Smith, into the channels of the Church, into the truth; and here they stand a mighty host, increasing, and will continue to grow as the generations come.

   “When the president was taken away, in the imaginations of my own mind by the enlightenment of the Spirit of God that came to me, I saw President Joseph F. Smith received on the other side. Tongue cannot tell the joy that was in Hyrum Smith's heart when he received his beloved son, Joseph F. Smith. Joy beyond expression was in the heart of Hyrum Smith when his true, tried, noble, and God-fearing wife, the inspiration, the protection of her son Joseph Fielding --came to him.

   “I thought of it in contrast to the feelings of the Prophet when his son and his wife Emma came. His must have been a sorrowful greeting.”

   You primary girls, you young women and those of you who are mothers. I want you to think very hard about your lives and your choices and the effect that those choices will certainly have on your children and grandchildren and great grandchildren. And I want you to think about the fact that even if you make correct choices almost your entire lives, if you don’t endure to the end you may lose everything.

   What kind of a woman will you become? What kind of mother will you be? What will you teach your children? The answer depends on the choices you make now and every day of your lives. As you listened to these stories about Emma Hale and Mary Fielding, did you put yourself in their shoes and ask how you would have responded to their challenges? I challenge you to think how the choices you make now will surely extend onward into eternity in the lives of your children and grandchildren.


At 1/10/10, 10:07 AM, Blogger JSLindgren said...

Have you seen the movie Emma Smith: My Story? Your grandnieces played young Julia. As much as I feel compassion and love for Emma Smith, I cannot dispute the history of her posterity and my strong desire to avoid such a course for my family. Why is admitting this so uncomfortable? It feels like I'm being judgemental in every wrong sense of the word.


Post a Comment

<< Home