Emma Hale Smith was the wife of Joseph Smith Jr., the founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormon Church). Emma was born on July 10, 1804, the seventh of nine children, and grew up in Harmony, Pennsylvania. She was educated well and even had an extra year of school outside of the normal grammar school.Emma met Joseph Smith for the first time in 1825. Joseph was smitten with her, which wasn’t surprising since she had grown up to be a tall, attractive woman with nice features, a dark complexion, brown eyes, and black hair. She possessed a singular regal beauty of form and of character. Joseph boarded with Emma’s family for two years and twice asked her father for permission to marry her, but was refused.Finally on January 18, 1827, Emma and Joseph were married without her father’s permission (Emma was 23 years of age). After their marriage, the Hale family told them that they were always welcome in their home. On June 15, 1828, Emma gave birth to their first child; unfortunately the little boy only lived a few hours. Emma nearly died from complications and Joseph spent two weeks by her side while she recovered.
During the winter of 1828-1829 Emma helped Joseph as he translated the Book of Mormon by working as a scribe. On June 28, 1830, Emma was baptized as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormon Church). In that same year Joseph received a revelation about Emma which can now be found in Doctrine and Covenants section 25. In the revelation Emma Smith was asked to put together a hymnal for the Church. She fulfilled this job, and the hymnal was printed five years later.
In February of 1831, Emma and Joseph moved to Kirtland. It was a hard time for Emma Smith, because she was six months pregnant and had just recovered from an illness. In April, 1831, Emma gave birth to twins. The twins lived only three hours. Just a month later, the Smith’s were able to adopt twins whose mother had passed away; they named them Julia and Joseph. In 1832 and again in 1836 Emma gave birth to sons. Both lived to adulthood.
In 1838 the Saints were forced from Missouri, and Joseph was put in jail. Emma Smith had four young children and was forced out of her home by the mob in the middle of winter. She walked across the frozen Mississippi River with two children in her arms, two clinging to her skirts, and Joseph’s translation of the Bible sewn into her cloak, to refuge in Illinois.
While in Nauvoo, Emma gave birth to three more sons. The first two died in infancy and the third was born after Joseph was martyred in 1844. In 1842, Emma Smith was elected as the first president of the Relief Society and helped many of the needy and poor. After Joseph’s death, Emma chose not to follow the main body of the Church to Utah. (She was pregnant and ill, and clung to a promise that the Nauvoo house she lived in would be hers forever.)
Emma remarried and remained in her home, also caring for Joseph’s elderly mother. Emma’s sons founded the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, now called the Community of Christ. This church was at first founded on the principle that polygamy was not acceptable. With about 250,000 members currently, it has evolved into a church with doctrines and practices much like any protestant sect.
Emma never turned from her membership in the Mormon Church, and received visitors from Utah cordially. She did, however, indulge the spiritual aspirations of her sons. She had been hot and cold towards the doctrine of polygamy, and was worn by the extreme trials of her life with Joseph. However, she longed for Joseph, and his name was the last word she uttered. Emma’s separation from the main body of the Church in the last part of her life does not, however, take away from the important role she played in the history of the Church. Her mother-in-law Lucy Mack Smith said of her, “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” (Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith, 1996).