Question: Emma Hale Smith is mentioned in D&C 25; 132: 51-56. How many children did Joseph and Emma have? How many of them lived? How old was Emma when she died?
Answer: Emma Hale Smith was born 10 July 1804 in Harmony, Pennsylvania, to Isaac Hale and Elizabeth Lewis. Emma was about five feet nine inches tall, had dark hair and brown eyes, and was described as “of excellent form.” Joseph and Emma were married on January 18,1827 in South Bainbridge, New York.
On 22 September 1827, Emma was privileged to be the first to know that Joseph had acquired the plates from the angel Moroni. The plates “lay in a box under our bed for months,” she said, but I never felt at liberty to look at them.” Emma was a scribe for the Book of Mormon translation for a time, and said of her experience, “It is marvelous to me...when acting as his scribe, [he] would dictate to me hour afer hour, and when returning after meals, or after interruptions, he could at once begin where he had left off, without either seeing the manuscript or having any portion of it read to him.” She bore a continuing testimony in her seventy-fourth year, of her husband’s prophetic calling: “I believe he was everything he professed to be.” She never denied Joseph was a Prophet of God.
Emma was baptized on 28 June 1830 by Oliver Cowdery. Section 25 of the Doctrine and Covenants is addressed to her: “...thou art an elect lady, whom I have called.” Emma was admonished to develop her talents, which included selecting sacred hymns. In response to this admonition, Emma compiled a pocket-sized hymn book which contained ninety hymns.
Emma served as a “comfort unto” her husband while quietly enduring her own personal suffering. Mother Smith wrote of her daughter-in-law, “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...”
Emma has been criticized by some for not following the leadership of Brigham Young and going West with the Saints after the death of Joseph. Emma had endured so much and must have felt so alone when Joseph was killed. She had been married to Joseph for seventeen years, bearing nine children, the last one born after Joseph was killed. Of the nine children she bore, only four grew to maturity. She and Joseph also adopted the Murdock twins, and only Julia would live to maturity. Joseph had been the foundation for her strength; how could she go on without him. Together they had accomplished what needed to be done.
In a letter to Joseph, Emma wrote, “No one but God knows the reflections of my mind and the feelings of my heart when I left our house and home, and almost all of everything that we possessed excepting our little children, and took my journey out of the State of Missouri, leaving you shut up in that lonesome prison.”
Since women had very few rights in those days for ownership of property or guardianship of their own children, Emma married Major Lewis Bidamon in December 23,1846. She related a reason for re-marrying in an interview in 1869, “I had my own reasons for so doing to protect my children.” Emma was Lewis’ wife for thirty-two years, and he worked hard to provide for her and the children, even with his many flaws. He respected Joseph and would not let anyone speak ill of Joseph in his presence.
Emma lovingly cared for Joseph’s mother, Lucy, until her death in at 81 in 1856. On the day she passed away, her grandson, Joseph III, held her hand until she died. Emma often hosted missionaries from Utah on their way east or to Europe on their missions, including her nephew, Joseph F. Smith, whom she greeted warmly. She also welcomed Lewis Bidamon’s son into her home. Later she would invite his mother, Nancy Abercrombie, to live with them to be close to her son. She asked Lewis to marry Nancy afer her death, which he did. Julia Murdock Smith, an adopted daughter, also live with and helped care for Emma the last years of her life.
Emma’s health failed rapidly in April 1879. Emma had a remarkable vision of Joseph coming to visit her a few days before her death. Her family rallied to her side on the evening of 29 April 1879. Her son Alexander recalled hearing his mother call, “Joseph, Joseph, Joseph.” Alexander reported seeing his mother extend her left arm and hearing her say, “Joseph! Yes, yes, I’m coming.” Emma died at 4:20 a.m. on 30 April 1879 in Nauvoo at the age of seventy-four.
Many local friends and family members came to her funeral, including Joseph’s sisters, Lucy and Katherine. There was a great outpouring of love expressed for her and her charity by all who attended.