Mormon History

Emma Smith and Mormonism - 1879

The Salt Lake Daily Tribune October 3, 1879


The important statement herewith given is a condensed colloquy had between the wife and eldest son of the prophet Joseph Smith, jun., at Nauvoo, Illinois, in February last, some two months prior to the death of the prophet's wife, who, for more than thirty years, has been the wife of Major Bidamon. It is taken from the Saints' Advocate, of October. The Advocate is the minor organ of the Josephite Mormons in Plano, Ill. The statement is there headed, "Last Testimony of Sister Emma," and will doubtless be received by the polygamic Church in Utah with no little interest, but, at the same time, as regards the institution of polygamy, with utter incredulity and distrust. On the other hand, Mrs. Bidamon's testimony in favor of the authenticity of the Book of Mormon and of the Mormon work, with polygamy left out, will not fail to be welcomed. But if her testimony is false in one case, the reasonable query will arise, why not in both?

Mrs. Bidamon's testimony on one point will be observed: She corroborates the statement of her father, Isaac Hale, who affirmed in 1834, before a Justice of Peace in Susquehanna county, Penn., that "the manner in which he (the prophet) pretended to read and interpret was the same as when he looked for the money-diggers, with the stone in his hat and his hat over his face, while the Book of Plates was at the same time hid in the woods.

There was, then, no Urim and Thummim. That, like the "stone box" containing the "sacred plates," is a wicked myth and a sheer fabrication. In this city Martin Harris declared "there never was any stone box, and mony other things were said about the plates that were not so." The prophet is known to have obtained his "peepstone" from the Chase well in Palmyra, N. Y., in 1822. The 'History of Joseph Smith' says:

Having removed the earth and obtained a lever which I got fixed under the edge of the stone and with a little exertion raised it up, I looked in and there indeed did I behold the plates, the Urim and Thummim and the Breastplate as stated by the messenger. * * * At length the time arrived for obtaining the plates, the Urim and Thummim, and the breastplate; on the 22d day of September, 1827, having went as usual at the end of another year to the place where they were deposited, the same heavenly messenger delivered them up to me, with this charge: that I should be responsible for them: that if I should let them go carelessly, or through any neglect of mine, I should be cut off; but that if I would use all my endeavors to preserve them, until he the messenger should call for them, they should be protected.

Oliver Cowdery says:

I wrote, with my own pen, the entire Book of Mormon (save a few pages) as it fell from the lips of the Prophet Joseph Smith, as he translated it by the gift and power of God, by the means of the Urim and Thummim, or, as it is called by that book, 'holy interpreters.' That book is true. Sidney Rigdon did not write it. Mr. Spaulding did not write it. I wrote it. I wrote it myself as it fell from the lips of the Prophet.

Says the prophet's wife:

Your father would dictate to me hour after hour. * * * I frequently wrote day after day, he sitting with his face buried in his hat, with the stone in it, and dictating hour after hour with nothing between us.

But a natural inquiry here is: if the scribe Oliver took down all the Book of Mormon, save a few pages, what became of the Lady Emma's work? Following is the statement of


Joseph Smith could neither write nor dictate a coherent and well-worded letter; let alone dictating a book like the Book of Mormon. And, though I was an active participant in the scenes that transpired, and was present during the translation of the plates, and had cognizance of things as they transpired, it is marvelous to me, "a marvel and a wonder," as much so as to anyone else.

I know Mormonism to be the truth; and believe the Church to have been established by divine direction. I have complete faith in it. In writing for your father I frequently wrote day after day, often sitting at the table close by him, he sitting with his face buried in his hat, with the stone in it, and dictating hour after hour with nothing between us. He had neither manuscript nor book to read from. If he had had anything of the kind he could not have concealed it from me. The plates often lay on the table without any attempt at concealment, wrapped in a small linen tablecloth, which I had given him to fold them in. I once felt of the plates, as they thus lay on the table, tracing their outline and shape. They seemed to be pliable like thick paper, and would rustle with a metallic sound when the edges were moved by the thumb, as one does sometimes thumb the edges of a book. I did not attempt to handle the plates, other than I have told you, nor uncover them to look at them. I was satisfied that it was the work of God, and therefore did not feel it to be necessary to do so.

(Major Bidamon here suggested: Did Mr. Smith forbid your examining the plates?)

Ans. -- I do not think he did. I knew that he had them, and was not specially curious about them. I moved them from place to place on the table, as it was necessary in doing my work.

My belief is that the Book of Mormon is of divine authenticity. I have not the slightest doubt of it. I am satisfied that no man could have dictated the writing of the manuscripts unless he was inspired; for, when acting as his scribe, your father would dictate to me hour after hour; and when returning after meals, or after interruptions, he would at once begin where he had left off, without either seeing the manuscript or having any portion of it read to him. This was a usual thing for him to do. It would have been improbable that a learned man could do this; and, for one so ignorant and unlearned as he was, it was simply impossible.

Ques. -- Who were scribes for father when translating the Book of Mormon?

Ans. -- Myself, Oliver Cowdery, Martin Harris, and my brother, Reuben Hale.


The words in brackets are the portions added to the revelation, or changed, since its first publication in the "Book of Commandments," of 1832. As it stands in the little old B. of C., it is headed

a Revelation to Emma, given in Harmony, Pennsylvania, July, 1830.

[Hearken unto the voice of the Lord your God, while I speak unto you,] Emma [Smith,] my daughter, [for verily I say unto you, all those who receive my gospel are sons and daughters in my kingdom]. A revelation I give unto you concerning my will, [and if thou art faithful and walk in the paths of virtue before me, I will preserve thy life, and thou shalt receive an inheritance in Zion]. Behold, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou art an elect lady, whom I have called. Murmur not because of the things which thou hast not seen, for they are withheld from thee and from the world, which is wisdom in me in a time to come. And the office of thy calling shall be for a comfort unto my servant, Joseph [Smith, jun.,] thy husband, in his afflictions, with consoling words, in the spirit of meekness. And thou shalt go with him at the time of his going, and be unto him for a scribe, that I may send [my servant,] Oliver Cowdery, whithersoever I will. And thou shalt be ordained under his hand to expound scriptures, and to exhort the Church, according as it shall be given thee by my spirit; for he shall lay his hands upon thee, and thou shalt receive the Holy Ghost, and thy time shall be given to writing, and to learning much. And thou needest not fear, for thy husband shall support thee in the Church, [from the Church, the revelation reads in the "Book of Commandments"]; for unto them is his calling, that all things might be revealed unto them, whatsoever I will, according to their faith. And verily I say unto thee that thou shalt lay aside the things of this world, and seek for the things of a better. And it shall be given thee, also, to make a selection of sacred hymns, as it shall be given thee, which is pleasing unto me, to be had in my Church; for my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads. Wherefore, lift up thy heart and rejoice, and cleave unto the covenants which thou hast made. Continue in the spirit of meekness, and beware of pride. Let thy soul delight in thy husband, and the glory which shall come upon him. Keep my commandments continually, and a crown of righteousness thou shalt receive. And except thou do this, where I am you cannot come. And verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my voice unto all. Amen.

From the above it appears that as late as July, 1830, long after the "plates" had been "translated," Emma was told not to "murmer" "because of the things which thou hast not seen, for they are withheld from thee, and from the world, which is wisdom in me in a time to come."

It also appears from the above that as early as July, 1830, Emma was to be a scribe for her husband, "that I may send Oliver whithersoever I will." Cowdery, for some reason, was not "sent" to Rigdon until the end of October.

It further appears from the above that several important assurances given to Emma in the draft of the revelation as originally printed are not to be found in subsequent editions. In the first edition "thou needest not fear, for thy husband shall support the from the Church;" in later editions, "thy husband shall support thee in the Church." The motivation, as it appears in the Book of Commandments, opens abruptly: "Emma, my daughter in Zion, a revelation I give unto you concerning my will. Behold, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou art an elect lady, whom I have called."

The revelation is touched up here and there to give it a more impressive ring. E. g. "That I may send Oliver" is less careful than "that I may send my servant Oliver," etc. "The Lord, therefore, adds to His own revelations whenever He thinks proper; but He has especially forbidden man to make any additions. The high prerogative of adding to any inspired revelation belongs to the Lord only," says Apostle Pratt.


Says Mrs. Smith Bidamon:

He [Joseph] had no other wife but me; He had no other wife but me; nor did he to my knowledge ever have. He did not have improper relations with any woman that ever came to my knowledge.

At Plano, Ills., in the summer of 1878, Elder Pratt is reported (Deseret News, Nov. 23, 1878,) to have "cited several instances of Joseph's having had wives sealed to him; one at least as early as April 5th, 1841."

Said the prophet's wife to her son Joseph:

No such thing as polygamy, or spiritual wifery, was taught, publicly or privately, before my husband's death, that I have now, or ever had any knowledge of. There was no revelation on either polygamy, or spiritual wives. There were some rumors of something of the sort, of which I asked my husband. He assured me that all there was of it was, that, in a chat about plural wives, he had said, "Well, such a system might possibly be, if everybody was agreed to it, and would behave as they should; but they would not; and, besides, it was contrary to the will of heaven." At one time my husband came to me and asked me if I had heard certain rumors about spiritual marriages, or anything of the kind; and assured me that if I had, that they were without foundation; that there was no such doctrine, and never should be with his knowledge, or consent.

[What! not even if "the Lord" required it? What sort of prophet was this!]

Ques. -- Did he not have other wives than yourself?

Ans. -- He had no other wife but me; nor did he to my knowledge ever have. I know that he had no other wife or wives than myself, in any sense, either spiritual or otherwise. He did not have improper relations with any woman that ever came to my knowledge.

The condition of feeling between your father and myself was good. There was no necessity for any quarreling. He knew that I wished for nothing but what was right; and, as he wished for nothing else, we did not disagree. He usually gave some heed to what I had to say. It was quite a grievous thing to many that I had any influence with him.

In view of the known facts, and "condition of feeling" that existed between the prophet and his wife, there is a depth of genuine wifely spirit -- a depth of pathetic appeal, even -- in the last paragraph. She, as well as her husband, knew they had parts to play. Both have now played them. Who assigned them these parts? God? No. Sidney Rigdon. Heaven does not require that we practise deceit. But the prophet's wife, through this statement she has made shows her to have been to some extent an ally with her husband, it is now evident was kept in the dark on some of the main points in the scheme.

She was more sinned against than sinning. She was a woman and a mother: a strong-willed woman, a strong-hearted mother -- "Let thy soul delight in thy husband, and the glory which shall come upon him." O subtle tempter!

The party chiefly responsible in this whole Mormon business is slowly but surely coming to light at last. His final and complete revelation of himself is inevitable, and is now but a matter of a very short time. The clue to the Mormon labyrinth is discovered.