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Interesting Report On Emma Hale Smith


Uncle Dale

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In the current LDS/RLDS History thread, I recently made this comment:

!840s newspaper reports document the growing split

between JS and Emma --- though I suppose that their

exact details and unsettling conclusons must be discounted

somewhat, as examples of Gentile propaganda. These

reports peak in the months following the murder of JS,

and find their starkest example in the puported 1845 Emma

letter to the NY Sun. Again, no matter the exact explanation

for that document, it represents one in a set of reports

indicating that Emma was not particularly strong in the

Mormon faith during the mid-1840s, and that she did not

hold her late husband in as high esteem as some Saints did.

Below you will find the text of an interesting letter published in the

Boston Recorder of September or early October, 1844. I

think it fairly well sums up Emma's views at the time.

Possibly she was being a little extra cautious in speaking with

"outsiders," in that she feared for her children's safety, etc. But I

still believe the report to be generally accurate.

I would very much appreciate it, if somebody could help me obtain

access to the "Incidents of Travel in the West" series of articles

published in the Boston Recorder in July-Aug.-Sept. of 1844.

Microfilms of this old newspaper are fairly easy to get hold of,

as it is part of the "American Periodical Series" on file in many

college and university libraries (for example, at the BYU Lee Library).

INCIDENTS OF TRAVEL IN THE WEST.

(exact publication date not yet determined)

It was the dark hour of midnight when I landed at Nauvoo; just ten days after the acting of that

tragi-comedy, whose closing scene was the murder of the Mormon "Prophget" and his brother. In

these circumstances, I confess it was not without some faint misgivings that I entrusted myelf,

a lone stranger, to the keeping of an uncouth looking personage who figured at the head of the

"City Hotel," close to by the Landing. By him I was conducted to a chamber where were three beds.

One was already occupied; the others were being vacated by a motley group conprising two families,

who, in their flight from Mormon troubles, were hastening into the boat which I had just left.

"Mine host" was not a man to waste words in making foolish apologies. -- Pointing to the now

emptied, but unmade beds, and telling me to take my choice, he withdrew.

It so happened that a wandering Mormon, just returned from a reconnoitering tour in the region

around Nauvoo, where he had been stealthily gathering up the opinions of the public, came to the

city hotel soon after I had retired, and was sent into the same chamber to lodge. Finding a brother

Mormon there, whom his coming had rousted from sleep, and not perceiving any one else, he commenced

a narrative of his adventures, which lasted rill near morning, unfolding many strange things

pertaining to Mormonism which nobody but a "latter day saint" would have been allowed knowingly, to

hear, and which conveyed to my mind several new impressions, to which I may advert hereafter. One

thing I learned which was of immediate practical use, viz. that while the Mormons were fearing a

fresh outbreak of violence from their enemies, their enemies were also fearing a visitation if

vengeance from the Mormons. These mutual fears, it was very evident to me, would keep both parties

still for the present. With this quietus I dropped asleep.

The morning at length came, and with it a steamer, on the deck of which, directly under my window,

I recognised my friend H. E. Esq., of Boston, who was easily persuaded to accompany me on a ramble

over this remarkable city. The sun was just above the horizon when we reached the site of the Mormon

temple, from the top of which, standing as it does on elevated ground, we had an extensive view.

The natural scenery is truly delightful. I doubt whether "Mt. Zion on the sides of the north," was

more "beautiuful for the situation." But I am sorry to say that this is the only point of resemblance

we could find between Nauvoo and "the city of the great king." -- Every where as far as the eye could

reach, frame houses and log houses, brick walls and mud walls, were scattered about and mixed

together, without the least apparent order. The temple is of hewn lime-stone, 120 feet by 80, and if

ever completed, will present rather an imposing appearance from the river. But the taste of a connoisseur

will be greatly offended by a nearer approach. The style of the archotecture, if not entirely original,

is borrowed from a darker age, or one of higher antiquity, than was known to any writer on that science

whose works are now extant. In the basement we found a rough baptismal font, or cistern, standing on

the backs of twelve wooden oxen, painted white. The unfinished tombs of the two Smiths are near the

temple. On our way from the landing, we had asked an individual to show us the grave of the prophet,

and were informed that no man knew the spot: that God hid him, as he did Moses -- a declaration which he

probably supposed the empty tomb would corroborate. But we were so unbelieving as to propound the same

question to a couple of foreigners whom we saw at work on the temple, and were told that he was buried in

the grave-yard, from which he was to be removed when the tomb was finished. We found nothing more common

than such contradictory statements. The population of Nauvoo, according to one man whom we asked, is

eighteen thousand; according to another it is only nine. Every version that we got of the late troubles

was different from every other. It seemed to me that "truth had fallen in the street."

The breakfast hour having arrived, we repaired to the "Mansion House," the late residence of Joe Smith,

which is a decent tavern, and now kept by his widow. It is a two story wooden house, not large, and

covered, I think, with red paint -- answering well enough the use for which it was intended, but falling

vastly below what we would naturally look for in an edifice, planned and constructed throughout (if the

vaticinations of Mr. Smith must be believed, by a special revelation from the Lord; and paid for, too,

by the offerings of the people, according to a clause in the same divine revelation. [note: the writer

has here confused the Mansion House with the Nauvoo House]

At breakfast we were favored by the company of Mrs. Smith, her four children (the eldest 13 years,) her

husband's youngest brother, his mother and aunt with several others who appeared to be boarders. The

widow has rather an interesting and inelligant countenance, appeared sad, but not overwhelmed, and after

breakfast conversed with us freely for an hour respecting her husband's death and the Nauvoo troubles. In

common with all the other Mormons with whom we conversed, she seemed to feel that the citizens were doomed

to be slaughtered, and the city possessed by their enemies. -- I enquired of her in what sense and to what

extent her husband regarded himself a prophet of the Lord. Her reply was, "Not in the same extravagant

sense, nor to the full extent his friends do." In answer to other questions on the same subject, I soon

perceived that she she had a much lower estimate of his prophetic character than is commonly entertained

among the Mormons. This might have been owing in part to certain domestic infelicities, which are known to

have occurred between them, and often to the great discomfort of Mrs. Smith. Only a few months before his

death, (I had this on good authority,) he turned his wife out of the house, and kicked her from the

door- stone. Such things would naturally have a tendency to sink the prophet in the estimation of any one

not entirely callous in body as well as soul. We commended the widow to such consolations as the christian

derives from the contemplations of God's wisdom and benevolence even in the afflictions which he sends.

To all which she replied in substance, that she should look upon her troubles in a very different loght

if she could believe that God had any hand in them.

We also conversed with Dr. Richards, a full-fed, lazy looking man, who was in prison with the Smiths, and

received a slight wound when they were shot. He made as loud boasts of his christian forbearance on that

occasion, as Richard III ever did of his humility. The resurrection of Joe Smith at the end of three years

was confidently spoken of; but my friend E. had the frankness to give it as his opinion, that indolence

and poverty, and intestine commotions would disorganize and disperse his infatuated followers before that

time. Having seen and heard all that we expected and somerthing more, we hired a colored Mormon to convey

us nine miles up the river to the ferry opposite Fort Madison in Iowa, which we crossed, wondering at the

strange mixture of honesty and knavery, sincerity and hypocricy, Mormonism and Mammonism which had come to

our notice in the city of Nauvoo.

Soon after our arrival at Fort Madison, Dr. Foster, a seceding Mormon, came over with a brace of pistols in

his pocket and a long bowie knife, which he affirmed (I know not with how much truth) he had been compelled

to draw in effecting his retreat. As he was one that assisted in getting up the "Nauvoo Expositor," whose

destruction by order of the Smiths was the cause of their death, his story seemed the more plausible. Some

reflections on the present aspect of Mormonism, I reserve for the next number. -- J. S. C.

Uncle Dale

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Uncle Dale-

Does this book contain the same publications as the Boston Recorder articles? If not sorry-

http://www.archive.org/details/incidentsoftrave00carviala

Sailgirl7

Unfortunately no -- the article series was only in the 1844 Boston newspaper, I think.

When I was at the Y's Lee Library I looked for this stuff, but somebody else had the

microfilm reel off the shelf that day.

Uncle "flew over Utah Lake last week -- saw one lone sailboat on the water -- I waved" Dale

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This article reads like an old fashioned melodrama with the villain and train tracks. The Nauvoo temple was anything but offensive to the eye. That is just absurd. They had their troulbes but Joseph threw Emma out on the street? hmmmm.... Surely there is truth laced throughout this silly article but anything I would take out of this would require verifiation from another source to take seriously.

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This article reads like an old fashioned melodrama with the villain and train tracks. The Nauvoo temple was anything but offensive to the eye. That is just absurd. They had their troulbes but Joseph threw Emma out on the street? hmmmm.... Surely there is truth laced throughout this silly article but anything I would take out of this would require verifiation from another source to take seriously.

I agree with you, Juliann, up to a point. While any objective facts might be rather hard to mine from this article, it is a fairly priceless source of intelligence as to attitudes--both of the writer, and those he quite confidently assumes are held by his readers.

And in that regard, it is quite valuable.

Regards,

Pahoran

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I agree with you, Juliann, up to a point. While any objective facts might be rather hard to mine from this article, it is a fairly priceless source of intelligence as to attitudes--both of the writer, and those he quite confidently assumes are held by his readers.

And in that regard, it is quite valuable.

Regards,

Pahoran

Luckily there are some other interviews with people in Nauvoo during 1844-45, as well as

some less specific vistors' reports. Only by compiling the entire set of texts can we begin

to compare, contrast, and sort out the obvious mis-reporting.

Take for instance the correspondent's unhappiness with the Nauvoo temple architecture --

he seems to have seen its mixture of antique styles as being distasteful. Similar things

were said about the Kirtland temple's eclectic exterior by earlier visitors there. No doubt

these type of observers favored some contemporary, early Victorian public building style

and their personal tastes got mixed into to their reporting.

None of which means that JS's tomb was not being readied for use in the late summer of 1844;

or that William Smith and Mother Lucy did not take their breakfasts at the Mansion House; or

that Apostle Richards was not a bit on the heavy side and a bit bombastic in his speaking.

We take these contemporary reports as we find them -- and try not to let any single one

of them influence our mental re-constructions of the past too much.

added:

[Did Willard Richards claim that JS would return within three years? I do not know. Let's look

at some other sources for that period and see if they report anything similar]

Did Emma and JS separate for a brief while not long before the assassination? Contemporary

reports say "yes," but they remain unverified.

That is our task -- I mean the verification part.

UD

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Did Emma and JS separate for a brief while not long before the assassination? Contemporary

reports say "yes," but they remain unverified.

.

That would not have been difficult...they more than one residence. It is the throwing her out the door that is ridiculous. Joseph would have been the one who had his clothes thrown into the street. And when it gets to the point that being portly is a measure of character this writer is really scraping the barrel for any slur he can possibly come up with. My bro-in-law is a collector and he has a couple of letters from non-LDS in the area that were quite appalled at the treatment of the Mormons and it has led me to be more critical about thinking everyone was in lock-step.

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I may be mistaken here but I thought Emma was so distressed about this forgery letter

that she wrote in and said it wasn't her who wrote it...

More like Mormon Spokesperson John M. Bernheisel wrote such a letter to the New York Sun

and Emma appended a tiny PS to the thing, saying that she had not written the previously

published letter.

Which was no doubt true -- the letter was almost certainly in the handwriting of James A. Bennett

(or, less likely, that of Apostle/Patriarch William Smith).

Thus Emma had "plausible deniability" with The Twelve when push came to shove. She also

maintained her independence, and the potential of writing ceritified letters to the national

newspapers, should she take a mind to it.

I read the first Emma letter as a reprise of her feelings at the time -- none of which she denied,

and much of which she later acted upon in her breach with The Twelve.

Then again, what do I know of such things?

UD

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That would not have been difficult...they more than one residence. It is the throwing her out the door that is ridiculous. Joseph would have been the one who had his clothes thrown into the street. And when it gets to the point that being portly is a measure of character this writer is really scraping the barrel for any slur he can possibly come up with. My bro-in-law is a collector and he has a couple of letters from non-LDS in the area that were quite appalled at the treatment of the Mormons and it has led me to be more critical about thinking everyone was in lock-step.

They very likely had a spat and Emma went to St. Louis to "go shopping" and/or to

Lee Co., Illinois to spend time with her relatives there.

She obviously was not walking the streets of Nauvoo, searching for room and board.

When I was a young fellow, an RLDS elder gave a testimony that JS never installed

a liquor bar in the Mansion House and set up Port Rockwell as his bar-tender there.

I'd missed the previous Sunday's discussion of the Flanders' Nauvoo book, so I had not

a clue as to why the good elder was bearing such witness -- or how on earth he knew!

Uncle "but I said under my breath, 'methinks the lady doeth protest too much'" Dale

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she did not hold her late husband in as high esteem as some....
What wife does? Most women are all too aware of the foibles of their husbands and love them deeply in spite of them.
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Well, they weren't so bad off that Joseph couldn't take the time to write her from prison shortly before his murder, though interestingly he doesn't show her any great signs of affection even though he gives his "love to the children and all my Friends". But perhaps at the time he didn't see his immediate death coming, especially since he said, after declaring himself innocent, "So you need not have any fears that any harme can happen to us".

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They very likely had a spat and Emma went to St. Louis to "go shopping" and/or to

Lee Co., Illinois to spend time with her relatives there.

Is that an out and out assertion or do you have documentation to back that up? "Shopping" in St. Louis? Wasn't St. Louis unfriendly (ie. anti) to Mormonism?

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Is that an out and out assertion or do you have documentation to back that up?

"Shopping" in St. Louis? Wasn't St. Louis unfriendly (ie. anti) to Mormonism?

Newell and Avery tell of one of Emma's visits to the relatives in Lee Co.,

that took place in 1843 (see pp. 147-150 in their book). But in this instance

her husband was also along for the trip. There are some other old references

to at least one other of Emma's trips there -- I'd have to dig them out.

Chapter 11 of the Newell and Avery book is largely devoted to what they call

"the personal tension between Emma and Joseph." See p. 178 in the following

chapter for at least one docummented Emma trip to St. Louis, as well as the

newspaper report of their temporary separation in the spring of 1844.

The authors cite the "Missouri Republican" of April 23, 1844 for a public report --

but my sources say it was in the previous day's issue. Perhaps it was in both:

http://www.sidneyrigdon.com/dbroadhu/MO/Misr1843.htm#042244

One robin does not make a spring, and one newspaper report does not prove

a temporary separation. But that is where I began my research into the matter.

I have some more notes and citations, from the Journal History of the Church

and a couple of Nauvoo diaries. I'll search for that stuff when next I'm at my

storage unit and have some time to spare.

UD

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Well, they weren't so bad off that Joseph couldn't take the time to write her from prison shortly before his murder, though interestingly he doesn't show her any great signs of affection even though he gives his "love to the children and all my Friends". But perhaps at the time he didn't see his immediate death coming, especially since he said, after declaring himself innocent, "So you need not have any fears that any harme can happen to us".

I think that the couple was closer during the Missouri period than during the late Nauvoo period.

But that is only my opinion, and other researchers may have much better source material on

the topic than I have been able to gather, stranded out here in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

UD

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Truman Madsen alludes to some domestic problems Joseph was having, but no further details were given, and I think probably not known for certain. Joseph had apparently said something during some meeting with friends that indicated all was not well at home. However, I think any husband and wife could say the same thing at various times in their relationship. Unfortunately, yellow journalists like to pick up any little rumor and expand on it, with or without any further evidence.

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Truman Madsen alludes to some domestic problems Joseph was having, but no further details were given, and I think probably not known for certain. Joseph had apparently said something during some meeting with friends that indicated all was not well at home. However, I think any husband and wife could say the same thing at various times in their relationship. Unfortunately, yellow journalists like to pick up any little rumor and expand on it, with or without any further evidence.

In the latest JS biography. historian Richard L. Bushman mostly glosses over the evidence for

family disputes and deeper troubles between Joseph and Emma. Only at the very end of his book

does he make a brief mention of Emma's "tortured relationship with Joseph," and that, only as

a prelude of his trying to explain her subsequent "alienation from the main body of the Church."

Bushman's treatment of Brigham Young's disclosures of deep-rooted troubles in the Smith household

are similiarly glossed over (in my opinion).

It might be argued that Bushman was writing a book about JS, and not about the wife -- but I still

think he might have said more, and probably chose not to, because it is a controversial subject.

How much of this stuff is "yellow journalism?" -- Perhaps some of it, but the contemporary writers

of those times might just as well have written senstional reports about other LDS leaders and their

family affairs. As in the case of Brigham's later domestic troubles in Utah, the "yellow journals"

were more often the promoters of gossip originating within the leaders' househousholds than they

were inventors of outright lies and deliberate slanders.

Had Joseph NOT chosen to be a secret polygamist, his personal life with Emma might have gone

better. And had he not been the constant center of attention for all matters in Nauvoo, both small

and great, that too might have helped.

And -- had Emma not been directly responsible for the founding of a rival church, years later,

we today might agree that her personal life was really none of our business. But she and her

family DID found just such an antagonistic institution -- and one that for decades accused BY

of being the false prophet of an apostate Utah splinter group. Because of THAT outcome, we now

naturally look for reasons and answers in what should have been her private affairs.

UD

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Well, with plural marriage, I'd almost think some tension would have been unavoidable. The New England society of the mid-1800s was not a place I would introduce it. As part of the "restoration of all things," it had to be revealed sometime, especially since it was, or is, a holy principle. Even today, I'm not sure it's gone forever, even now, but it definately threw many saints off and left only the most obedient. And when it was time to stop the practice, for whatever reason, it again threw off many saints. Joseph always said that the Lord would try his people, and obedience, not "the principle," is what I think the Lord was emphasizing.

We can't deny that many people didn't like it. Neither Joseph nor Brigham wanted it; but when it was time to stop, many people couldn't adjust (primarily the men), and today the remnants of those who left the church are exercising debasing and dictatorial power over those they suppose are their wives. And one reason for that is that there is no governance to keep them in check. They're totally out of control.

I'll always think Joseph and Emma loved each other, but there was more than plural marriage. There was the unrelenting persecution, the deaths of their infants, and Joseph's total dedication to the Lord, which only increased as his time drew neigh. As Madsen notes, the prophet was told five years before his death that his mission would last that long; so as that time approached, he hurriedly tied everything together, conferred the keys upon the Twelve and prepared for his demise. Even as he was retreating from Nauvoo, Emma, with some bitterness, urged him to return by letter, leading to his famous remark, "If my life has no value to my friends...."

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