Emma Smith: My Story (2008)
Director: Gary Cook and T. C. Christensen.
Starring: Katherine Thompson (Emma Hale Smith), Patricia Place (Emma Bidaman), Nathan Mitchell (Joseph Smith), Rick Macy (Joseph Sr.), Emmelyn Thayer (Mary Fielding Smith).
story of the wife of Mormon founder Joseph Smith
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film.
Julia Murdock Smith says that her father Joseph Smith went to Carthage. Her mother was upset because she knew he wasn't coming back. He was killed a few days later. Now she was a widow with five young children. Louis Bidaman came to call on her. For 20 years he and mother shared a marriage of affection. When she was 63 she learned that Louis had betrayed her with a woman half her age. The young woman had a son and when she couldn't take care of the boy, she brought him to mother. His name was Charlie. Mother raised him as her own child and even hired the boy's biological mother to work at the house where she could see her son grow up.
Emma Smith was always taking in strays. Julia says she was one of those strays. And when mother was older, Julia came home to take care of mother. But, as usual, Emma took care of her too.
Flashback. Pennsylvania, 1813. Mr. Hale believes that God does not interfere in our lives. He tells Emma Hale and her mother that he does not want any praying in this house. So Emma prays elsewhere. Dad caught her praying to give her father faith. He is so touched by her prayer that he tells her from now on the family will pray together.
It was love at first sight with Joseph Smith and Emma Hale. But father never liked Mr. Smith and did not approve of the relationship. At times Emma felt torn between Joseph and her father.
Joseph tells Emma that his best friend was his brother Alvin. The two get married even though Mr. Hale never gave his blessing to the wedding. They married without it.
New York, 1827. Joseph and Emma are having dinner with Joseph's family. Hyram looked after Joseph when he was a youngster. After dinner Emma is left behind with her mother-in-law. She tells Emma that her husband approves of her. And mom thanks Emma for making her Joseph so happy.
Back to the present. Julia sadly tells her mother that she buried one husband and divorced another and she is sick most of the time. So she doesn't have the best relationship with God.
Flashback. Joseph tells Emma that when Alvin died, the reverend said he was lost, because he was never baptized. And this was something that Joseph could not believe. He said that he saw God and Jesus and was told that there was work for him. He was to do God's work. Of course, this kind of talk was not very popular with the followers of the traditional religions. And some people were so disturbed that they wanted to kill Joseph Smith.
Joseph tells Emma that he was commanded by the Lord to translate the record, the golden record. Emma never actually got to see this golden record. Joseph uses a scribe, Martin, to take down Smith's translation of the record. One day Joseph lent the record to his scribe to show to his wife to prove to her that there is a golden record.
Emma is pregnant, but she loses the baby. In fact, she loses six children. Martin the scribe loses 116 pages of Smith's translation. Smith feels guilty because the Lord said no, but he still lent the golden record to Martin. Joseph says the manuscript is lost and that, in addition, he may have lost his soul. Emma prays, but the Lord did not answer right away. It took awhile.
After awhile, Joseph went back to translating the golden record again. Emma says she never doubted him because she just knew the book was of "divine authenticity". But her father would tell her: "Emma, he's making a fool of you." He says that she had been "taken in" by the man. Emma serves as scribe for Joseph, but he keeps himself behind a curtain so Emma could not actually see the golden record.
When the book is printed, Joseph shows Emma a copy of the book. Its title is: "An Account Written by Mormon, Upon the Plates Taken from the Plates of Nephi" by Joseph Smith, Jr.
Joseph tells his followers they should organize a church and he gets unanimous support. Even Emma's dad is baptized. One day Emma asks her husband what is "an elect lady"? Joseph tells her she is "an elect lady" for he relies on her council.
Emma is pregnant again and Joseph is very happy about it. The Smiths are going to be moving with their band to Ohio. Emma's mother tells her that Ohio is so far away and her father says if she goes, she's no longer welcome in his home. Emma gives her a copy of Joseph's book, but mother gives it back to her. Emma never saw her parents again.
Ohio, 1831. Emma is in labor. She loses the twins. Emma asks Joseph: "What if I can never have a child?" Joseph tells her it will all work out.
In the Ohio town the long time residents start handing out anti-Mormon literature. One of them is the woman named Lydia. Many people in the town were actively hostile to the new belief. One night a bunch of men come to Joseph's house, drag him outside, force him to drink liquor and then tar and feather him. Emma has to clean him up very carefully. She asks: "How much do we have to endure?"
Emma losses another child. A canal boat is pulled by a mule. It docks by the Ohio town. One of the young men running down to meet the boat is Brigham Young (future Mormon leader).
Joseph speaks of building a temple. As the ministry expands, Joseph is away from home more and more.
November 6, 1832, birth of Joseph Smith.
The anti-Mormon Lydia finally reads the holy book of the new religion. Joseph and his people build a temple. Some people in the religious community suggest that Joseph is a fallen prophet. The Smiths start losing some of the people who had been long time members of the church. Emma goes to speak to one of them, Parley. He lost his wife and is mad at God and Joseph Smith. Emma tells him: "Don't let sorrow take your faith from you." Parley comes to the home of Joseph Smith and the two men embrace.
Joseph Smith and his people are moving again. They now will build another Temple in Missouri.
Missouri, 1838. Emma comments that these were dark, dark day for them. There grew a great opposition to the faith and some of the homes of the faithful were burned down. Joseph was taken to a trial that never came. Emma goes to see her husband in jail. She asks her husband how much longer will it take? It's already been weeks. She says Frederick cries for him every night. Emma then says that it's not safe in Missouri anymore. She wants to take the children and leave. Joseph says that is a great idea. Take the people and go. They will go to Illinois.
Emma talks with a dying man. He asks her to take care of his wife Lucy if he does die. The man says everyone says he relies on Lucy, but Lucy also relies on him almost as much.
Illinois, 1839. In the new settlement, Emma patiently waits for her husband. One day he arrives saying: "They let us go." Later Joseph tells the people that the name of the new settlement, Nauvoo means "beautiful place".
Emma's dad dies and her mom dies soon after her father. Joseph's father dies. One of his last phrases was; "Joseph, I see Alvin."
Emma has a sick child. She tells her husband: "God will not take another of my children." But the child, born 1840, does die.
Joseph tells the women of the church that God has chosen Emma to preside over a society of women. Emma tells them that the society members will be "ambitious to be good". She says one of their purposes is to bring relief for those who are in need.
Two men come and bang at Emma's door. She opens the door and they tell her that they have a warrant for the arrest of Joseph Smith for something that happened in Missouri. Emma tells them the truth that her husband is not at home. Emma is fearful after this. She hears someone coming up the steps at night and she fears it is those men from Missouri. She grabs a hair brush with which to hit them and hides behind the door. When someone comes into the room, she starts to brain him, but it is just her husband. Joseph is amused at her using a hairbrush as a weapon.
Joseph says that dangerous or not, he just had to see his wife again. Before he leaves, Emma asks him to give her a blessing. He suggests that she write out her blessing and he will sign it when he gets back. And now he has to go because: "They'll be watching the house."
One of Joseph's friends tells him not to underestimate these men (from Missouri). "They intend to destroy you." One day Joseph is grabbed and placed in a wagon to be taken back to Missouri. Joseph is saved by some of his followers who on horseback catch up with the wagon. He tells his kidnappers that they will come to dinner with him tonight.
Back to the present. Julia wants to talk about the issue of polygamy. She knows that this was very hard on her mother. Julia wants to know from her why did she allow it for it hurt her so? Emma replies: "It hurt us both." But she always avoids the subject.
Flashback. Opposition to the newcomers comes from every corner now. Joseph talks of going farther west. But first he is going to Carthage. Emma is fearful for him and asks him to come back to her.
Back to the present. Julia says that part of Emma went with her husband. Her mother wrote out the blessing that her husband promised to sign on his return. Joseph Smith is assassinated in Carthage.
Emma tells Julia that there is no end to hope and no end to love.
Emma died peacefully in 1879. With her final breath, she whispered: "Joseph. Joseph. I'm coming!"
Julia died of cancer in 1880.
Emma's surviving children were: Julia, Joseph III, Alexander, Frederick and David.
Good movie. It was not made by the Mormon Church but by the historical society of Joseph Smith and Emma Hale Smith and another organization. It is said that they used a lot of materials only available to the family. Apparently, there were a lot of misconceptions about Mrs. Smith and the movie makers and actors wanted to rectify this. The two main actors of the Smiths were both good and in the interviews on the DVD they make it obvious that they felt honored to be part of a movie to help rectify the misconceptions about Emma Smith. One of the points of the movie is to show just how much Emma suffered from the fear that at any moment her husband might be killed by the opponents of the new belief. And there were many occasions in which Joseph Smith could have been killed. Also shown is that Emma was a woman of deep faith and charity. She lost a great many children in childbirth or soon after childbirth, which added greatly to her pain.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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