Missing Wives in the Presidents of the Church Manuals
Every two years when I get my new Teachings of the Presidents of the Church manual, I go to the index to find the pages that talk about the prophet’s wife. I always hope to see a few pages devoted to her. But, there’s never as much information as I’d like to read.
If the prophet was a polygamist, the wives are usually not mentioned anywhere in the manual. A more recent prophet’s manual will list the marriage and death dates of his wife. If we’re lucky, she might be mentioned in one of the chapters, but often, this is in the context of her death…
…which makes me pause and think, “Wait, the only thing worth mentioned about some of these women is their death?!”
This makes me sad. These women sacrificed just as much (and maybe more) as their husbands did. I want to know about their struggles, too. When I read about how the deaths of Joseph F. Smith’s nine children shaped him and how he taught the doctrine of the salvation of children, I can’t help but wonder how these childrens’ mothers also dealt with such loss.
I was really excited to see two stories about Phoebe Woodruff in this year’s manual (and she’s a polygamist wife, too!). As I read these two stories I get a glimpse of a woman of amazing strength, both physical and spiritual. I think I am particularly amazed because one of the stories has her about my age loosing her baby, who is about my baby’s age, while being pregnant with another baby and having a husband on a mission in the UK. That story makes me a little sheepish when I complain a. about my son and b. that my husband goes out of town too much!
However, even as I write that we should be able to know more about the prophets’ wives, I don’t think these are the only role models we should celebrate. As my Young Women struggle to find their identities as Mormon women, I want them to be able to see the variety of life choices that they have. I don’t want them to grow up thinking that a woman is defined by her husband.
I would love to have manuals that brought up great Mormon women every week instead of just a few times a year. So, I wonder…where can we find other female role models? How do you bring them into your Church lessons?
 See Brigham Young, John Taylor, and Joseph F. Smith manuals.
 Emma Ray Riggs McKay is the only wife of a prophet who has a story about her that doesn’t involve the death of herself or her child.