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Emma's Blessing

by Zenaida

In the days leading up to the prophet’s martyrdom, Emma was undoubtedly feeling the strain of so much persecution, and sought a blessing from her husband. Because he was unavailable to fulfill her request, he instructed her to write her own blessing, which he offered to sign when he returned. He never got the opportunity, but the blessing she wrote remained. The original is said to be housed in the Church Archives. (Although it could be missing. If anyone knows the fate of this document, I’d be interested to know.) I found a copy of the text here:

“First of all that I would crave as the richest of heaven’s blessings would be wisdom from my Heavenly Father bestowed daily, so that whatever I might do or say, I could not look back at the close of the day with regret, nor neglect the performance of any act that would bring a blessing. I desire the Spirit of God to know and understand myself, that I desire a fruitful, active mind, that I may be able to comprehend the designs of God, when revealed through his servants without doubting. I desire a spirit of discernment, which is one of the promised blessings of the Holy Ghost.
“I particularly desire wisdom to bring up all the children that are, or may be committed to my charge, in such a manner that they will be useful ornaments in the Kingdom of God, and in a coming day arise up and call me blessed.

“I desire prudence that I may not through ambition abuse my body and cause it to become prematurely old and care-worn, but that I may wear a cheerful countenance, live to perform all the work that I covenanted to perform in the spirit-world and be a blessing to all who may in any wise need aught at my hands.

“I desire with all my heart to honor and respect my husband as my head, ever to live in his confidence and by acting in unison with him retain the place which God has given me by his side, and I ask my Heavenly Father that through humility, I may be enabled to overcome that curse which was pronounced upon the daughters of Eve. I desire to see that I may rejoice with them in the blessings which God has in store for all who are willing to be obedient to his requirements. Finally, I desire that whatever may be my lot through life I may be enabled to acknowledge the hand of God in all things.”
(Peterson and Gaunt, Faith, Hope and Charity, pp 18-19)

Also, the anniversary of her endowment is approaching. She was endowed September 28, 1843, and given the opportunity to oversee the sister’s temple ordinances through February of 1844. She was the first woman to receive the endowment.

Gracia N. Jones wrote an Ensign article that catalogs some of the main events of Emma’s life, and gives her experience with studying her great-great-grandmother’s history. The new movie about Emma’s life mentions the blessing, and I also came accros this book which has a copy of the text included, among other things. If you have other resources documenting Emma’s life and this blessing in particular, please do share.

This blessing, and the fact that Joseph would offer to let Emma write her own blessing give me great hope. While it’s true that he never signed it to ratify it’s validity, she offers up the desires of her heart, and to me, shows her honest desire to do the right thing, and be blessed in adversity. It allows me to contemplate my own role in seeking access to divine power.

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16 Responses

  1. FHL says:

    What’s the “curse which was pronounced upon the daughters of Eve” ?

    The part about “not through ambition” cause her to “become prematurely old and care-worn” is very interesting. Ambition?

    It’s really pretty neat. Thanks for sharing! =)

    • SS says:

      My interpretation of the curse: (verse 22 is the curse on Eve, verse 23 is the curse on Adam after they partook of the fruit.)

      Moses 4:22-23

      22 Unto the woman, I, the Lord God, said: I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception. In sorrow thou shalt bring forth children, and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

      23 And unto Adam, I, the Lord God, said: Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the fruit of the tree of which I commanded thee, saying–Thou shalt not eat of it, cursed shall be the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life.

      (Also see Genesis 3:16-17)

      Truly Emma had brought forth children in sorrow with the many she lost.

  2. Zenaida says:

    I wanted to do my next post on the curse of Eve. I have an idea, but I want to look into it more. I’d love to hear opinions on this, also.

  3. Jessawhy says:

    Zenaida,
    Wonderful post!
    I’ve heard a few different things about this letter. One person made it sound like Joseph just didn’t have time for Emma, so he put her off with a comment like, “Write your own blessing and I’ll sign it.” As though it wasn’t an important work for him.
    In the movie, “Emma” they portray the scene in a romantic way, almost. He is very distraught with having to leave her and this is a special moment that they share where he is giving her a promise and some autonomy, it would seem.
    I’m not sure what I believe here, although I would like to believe the rosy picture. . .
    As far as the curse of Eve, I’m with Emma, actually.
    It makes a lot more sense considering the second-class status that women have had throughout history.
    It’s a little like when someone you know sees a picture of you and says, “Oh, you look great!” when you think it’s a really bad picture of you.
    And you think, “Do I really look like that?” I’d rather hear the truth that we’re in some kind of curse than assume that this is the kind of equality God has in mind for us.

  4. Violet says:

    Thanks for the post. Fascinating blessing. I too would be more interesting in the curse of eve.

  5. J. Stapley says:

    See Mormon Enigma, 2nd ed., pg 190-191; though I didn’t take the time to check whether the transcript in your post was accurate.

    The note describing the letter (30, pg. 344) states:

    The blessing is undated but external evidence suggests that she wrote it while Joseph was at Carthage. Juanita Brooks found this document in the possession of Ralph DeLong of Panguitch, Ut., in the 1930s. It had been part of the Joseph Smith’s papers, which Joseph Heywood, acting on behalf of the leaders of the church, took west. Somehow it remained in Heywood’s possession. Brooks described both the blessing and a letter from Emma to Joseph Heywood as being in the same handwriting. Raymond T. Bailey, in his 1952 Master’s thesis, “Emma Hale: Wife of the Prophet Joseph Smith,” said the “blessing was folded, and worn along the folds, but was repaired and the original sent in to the office of the Church Historian of the Latter-day Saint Church.” Apparently the document was misplaced, for only typescripts of both the letter and the blessing are there now. Edythe Houston Hindley, a descendant of Joseph Heywood, located the original letter from Emma Smith to Joseph Heywood dated 18 October 1844, and provided the authors with a photocopy. By authenticating the letter, which is, indeed, in Emma’s hand, there can be little doubt that the blessing Brooks described as being with it is also authentic. Brook’s description of the documents and typescripts of each can be found in the USHS.

  6. caroline says:

    Well, there are current versions of this going on. I wrote my baby’s baby blessing (with minor input from my husband.) He voiced it, but used “we” the whole time.

    I second J’s advice to go to Mormon Enigma. It would give you more context of where Emma is coming from at the time. She had been virulently fighting the spread of polygamy, and felt as if she was making major headway in getting Joseph to abandon the practice. She had even convinced him to kick out the 4 plural wives that had been living with them. But no doubt she was at times filled with doubt over her course, as this blessing seems to imply.

  7. CatherineWO says:

    I also highly recommend Mormon Egnigma for a better understanding of Emma Hale Smith.

    Also, for more commentary on Eve, read the essay “The Redemption of Eve” by Jolene Edmunds Rockwood, found in the book Sisters in Spirit edited by Maureen Ursenbach Beecher and Lavina Fielding Anderson [University of Illinois Press, 1987].

  8. Janna says:

    I love the idea that Emma wrote her own blessing, as I often wonder if some blessings come as a result of our willingness to ask (and then the faith to receive.)

    When I ask for a priesthood blessing, I tell the giver exactly what I want to be blessed with :). Certainly, I am open to alternative blessings and information – but, I go in with my own intent. My feeling is that the more information the giver has regarding my needs, the more they have to work with.

  9. Kiri Close says:

    touching, though sad.

  10. Kelly Ann says:

    thank you for sharing this.

  11. makakona says:

    LOVE this. i teach rs tomorrow, on emma’s endowment anniversary. the title of my lesson, which was chosen six months ago? “abundantly blessed.” jackpot! i hope i can pull off a really great lesson, though i have a lot of digging and structuring left to do.

  12. heart and mind says:

    Very interesting. I’m excited to put my copy of Mormon Enigma to use and read more about this.

    I too am teaching RS tomorrow, and even though my topic is a recent conference talk, mention of Emma’s endowment anniversary will be a great way to start my lesson.

  13. Dora says:

    Zenaida, I’m so glad that you posted on this. It’s been on my mind ever since I heard Claudia Bushman read it at a discussion, not realizing that I must have read it in Mormon Enigma.

    At first, I was a little indignant that Joseph was unable to exert himself to give Emma a blessing. However, as I listened to the text, I was awed at the introspection the document required, and that had Joseph simply given her the blessing, we would have that much less from Emma directly. It makes me far more motivated to seek, do and record …

    I particularly responded to her desire for discernment, and to live each day without regret.

  1. October 9, 2008

    […] heard this section of scripture referred to as the “Curse of Eve” until I heard of Emma Smith’s blessing that she wrote for herself. I haven’t yet decided if I agree with that description of this […]

  2. June 15, 2014

    […] In the evening, we gathered in the Red Brick Store’s upper room. Among the speakers there, Carol Lynn Pearson shared a story about one of Emma Hale Smith’s final interactions with her husband, the Prophet Joseph Smith.  On the day that Joseph was to go to Carthage Jail, Emma felt the need for a blessing. With all of the goings on, Joseph didn’t feel he had the time so he told her to write out the best blessing that she could think of, and that he would sign in on his return.   Emma did just that.  She wrote it out, but because of Joseph’s death, it was never signed.  It is beautiful though.  Emma desired wisdom, strength, and the ability to understand the will of God, things I think we all desire.  (Read the whole thing here: http://www.the-exponent.com/emmas-blessing/) […]

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