One of the women from Church history who is remembered by name by virtually anyone who has even the barest knowledge of Church history is Emma Hale Smith, wife of the Prophet Joseph Smith. She was the loving wife who stood by her husband through 17 years of tumultuous marriage and social upheaval. She was the faithful Latter-day Saint who served as her husband’s scribe for part of his translation of the plates, who compiled the Church’s first hymnbook, who was the first general president of the Relief Society. She is the woman whose tragedies in life inspire sympathy – the woman who lost so many children in infancy, the woman who took in infants whose mother had died, the woman whose husband was torn from her through violence, leaving her to raise her still-young children alone. She is the honored subject of the visual arts, of plays, of descendants’ celebrations. She is the “Elect Lady” of scripture.
That’s all true … in 2015. But that wasn’t always the case. Before 1984, before Linda King Newell’s and Valeen Tippets Avery’s sensitive Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith, Emma Hale Smith was one of the great villains of Mormon history. She was the woman who had stayed behind in Nauvoo, denying Brigham Young’s authority as president of the Church. She was the woman who betrayed Joseph’s memory by marrying an adulterous non-Mormon. She is the one who helped her son establish that wicked and apostate church, the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. She is the one of whom Brigham Young said: “Joseph used to say that he would have her hereafter, if he had to go to hell for her, and he will have to go to hell for her as sure as he ever gets her.” Brigham also supposedly said that “Emma Smith is one of the damnedest liars on earth!” accusing her of twice attempting to murder Joseph Smith by poison. She is the one about whom I said something sympathetic in 2010, only to have my aunt spit back in anger, “That woman kept Joseph’s children out of the Church!”
Lesson 17: “What Shall I Do That I May Inherit Eternal Life?”
Luke 12, 14, 16
Purpose: To help class members understand that we must be willing to sacrifice the things of this world to obtain a place in the kingdom of heaven.
1. Trusting in riches can keep a person out of the kingdom of God.
2. Seek heavenly, rather than earthly, treasures.
3. Followers of Christ must be willing to forsake all to be true disciples.
4. Seek spiritual wealth with enthusiasm and energy.
Scripture Discussion and Application
[Before class begins, write “The Kingdom of God” on the board.] The Kingdom of God – we can be a little vague about what we mean by that, thinking of the Kingdom of God as the current Church and our participation in it, or the Kingdom during the thousand years when Christ will reign personally on the earth, or the eventual Celestial Kingdom where those who have been judged worthy to live in the presence of God throughout eternity will dwell. But taking it all as a whole, what are some of the traits or qualities of the Kingdom of God? What kind of people do we need to become to be worthy of the Kingdom of God? [Accept any suggestions; list six or more suggestions – in one- or two-word terms – on the board. This needs to move quickly, so don’t allow discussion at this point, and settle for fewer suggestions if it drags.]
As Amy alluded in a comment on the original post, there has been some Facebook discussion of the graph included in my post on Women as Actors in Church History. A comment by another critic and first-time commenter was caught in the moderation filter and not posted. In other words, there has been some flak about my intentions and methods.
The purpose of “Women as Actors in Church History” and the posts to follow in the coming week is to highlight some of the ways women’s contributions have been included – or not – in our standard histories. I don’t intend to explore why that is so (although that would be a great discussion to have), and I’m certainly not attributing malice to anybody anywhere for the overlooking of women’s contributions. I simply want to look at how our histories have incorporated women, and, in later posts, explain why including women among the characters in our written history can benefit us all (but especially, not surprisingly, our girls and young women), and, finally, to announce a project to address that need. (I didn’t want to let that cat out of the bag so early, but at least now you’ll see how each post in this series leads to that end.)
Acknowledging that women’s participation is often overlooked in our written history is one thing. Understanding how wide the gap is — getting a mental and emotional grasp of the divide — is a necessary step, I think, to agreeing that there is a need to narrow the gap. But how do you create that understanding?
An Auctioneer advertised: For Sale – A large quantity of oil paintings by some of the most ancient masters of the day.
A boy was asked to write a short essay on pins by way of an exercise in composition, and produced the following:
“Pins are very useful. They have saved the lives of a great many men, women, and children – in fact, whole families.”
“How so?” asked the puzzled inspector, on reading this.
“Why, by not swallowing them,” was the immediate reply.
From the Relief Society Magazine, 1933 –
A Pioneer Trousseau
by Elizabeth Cannon Porter
Roger Hughes drove up to his home – a log house plastered with mud – with a flourish.
“Gwen!” he called excitedly. His daughter, a slim, vivacious girl came to the door.
“See what I’ve got for you.” Hastily alighting he pulled out a bolt of white sheeting from his wagon, followed by one of unbleached muslin, another of turkey red, a parcel of gray linsy-woolsy, some flannel and a roll of gay colored calico.
His wife, who had now come out, exclaimed in wonder.
From 1928 —
A 1983 Friend article asks its young readers, “Can you identify these women in Church history? Match the descriptions with the names.”
1. Eliza R. Snow
2. Aurelia Spencer Rogers
3. Romania Bunnell Pratt
4. Emma Hale Smith
5. Lucy Mack Smith
6. Martha Hughes Cannon
7. Elmina Shephard [sic] Taylor
a. First woman in United States to be elected a state senator
b. Mother of first prophet in this dispensation
c. First president of the Young Women
d. President of the first Primary
e. First president of the Relief Society
f. Well-known poet and author
g. First woman medical doctor in Utah
By Vesta Pierce Crawford
(In Memory of the Organization of the Relief Society
Ninety Years Ago)
Mists of many years have fallen on Nauvoo,
But the women brave who labored there
This day in glowing memory live anew,
And from altered arch of time and space
They reach their eager hands to us,
For we as daughters of that steadfast race,
Have sought to follow where they passed
And find the widow and the orphaned one;
In paths where want and sorrow walk
Still work of love and charity is done;
And yet we could not serve so well,
Or seek with faith for wisdom’s road to go
Had you not set an ensign on our way,
O, valiant sisters of the long ago!
“If Joseph Smith’s teachings were untrue, then those of the great Nazarene fall to the ground, for they are one and the same. You can’t philosophize the truths of the gospel away, nor explain them by saying the prophet was a victim of apparitions, for they are real, tangible facts, behind which stand a great mass of proof a good as has ever been offered to substantiate any statement. It is a comfort, a blessing, a delight to me, and I pray that it may ever be so to you.”
— President Joseph F. Smith, Logan, March 14, 1911.
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Henri Labroue (1880-1964) was a graduate of several French universities, with degrees in history, geography, and law. He won a prize through France’s public education department to travel around the world from 1907 to 1909, writing of his impressions of the peoples he encountered in North America and Asia. He was elected as a Radical Socialist to the French Assemblée nationale, first in 1914 and again in 1928.
Labroue was virulently anti-Semitic. Early in World War II, he founded an Institute of Jewish Studies – that is, to “study” Jews as a cancer in western society – and in 1942 he published an edition of Voltaire’s works, excerpted and grossly distorted to support condemnation of the Jewish people. He engaged in numerous anti-Semitic activities and produced numerous anti-Semitic publications during the war years, to the point where he was imprisoned as a collaborator at the end of the war. Banned for life from holding any position in the French university system, he was sentenced to a 20-year prison term in 1945, but was pardoned and released in 1951.
During 1908, while on his around-the-world tour, Labroue spent some time in Salt Lake City observing the Mormons. He wrote the following article for the popular Sunday newspaper, Les Annales politiques et littéraires, where it was published on 5 April 1908. It is a letter addressed to “Madam X,” his composite of Mormon womanhood – it is a bizarre mixture of fact and fantasy.
My English translation appears below the original French.
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