The assertive stance she took in making decisions for herself and the kids wasn’t well received and if her dislike towards Joseph’s philandering ways wasn’t well known before, it soon became a situation demanding the immediate attention of not only Brigham Young, but the entire church as well. The power struggle for Church control aside, the focus here isn’t so much on who got to rule Mormonism, but the way Smith looked upon her and other women as well. Testimonies from members speak to why there are two major forms of Mormonism today in that no less than Rigdon, Young, Joseph Smith III supporters, et al, all played their parts. To understand how or why it got to this point let’s take a look at where it came from.
It’s painfully obvious in Smith’s writings he enjoyed writing in Jacobean English and we see this not only in the Book of Mormon, but the Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price as well. In trying to sound “holy” and godlike, Smith employed his bible language style into the D&C as if it were God himself giving directives to the Mormon people.
When I was reading over D&C 132 I took a closer look at how Smith referred to Emma. In verses 52 – 56 we see that he called her a “handmaid”. Since he was using Jacobean English, the best place to find a definition for this is in Strong’s Concordance which has the transliteration for every single word in the 1611 KJV Bible.
Now before we go any further I want to pause and explain my purpose in this little investigation. I am totally sold out to Christ Jesus and Him crucified. I’ve not found any other place physically, mentally or spiritually that I’d rather be than in His redeeming arms. Being a firm follower of Jesus means I also accept His teachings and what God has told us to do as believers. It means I’ve accepted my place as a female believer and all it entails. This isn’t a platform to bash guys – that behavior is neither worthy of my time, nor glorifying to our Lord.
I must also share that at one time I was very much an advocate for women’s rights. It incensed me whenever I thought of any man asserting authority over a woman and my disgust towards that type of scenario placed me in a position of being a very bitter person.
As you can imagine when I got saved the Lord had a lot of work to do! Since then I’ve found over the past twenty years that He’s softened my heart and opened my eyes to the true meaning of what His purpose is for all of us – me included. Being a Christian and female doesn’t include that I’m advocating for a submissive female who’s always barefoot and pregnant and her place is always in the home because her husband said so. That isn’t true Christianity!
While I’m not a proponent of the Women’s Rights Movement today I’m also not of the opinion God intended for men to rule over women with an iron fist and treat them as sexual slaves. Alas, that is the position this man put Emma Smith in. I’ve not found anything in the Bible indicating the purpose of women was to provide tabernacles for spirit babies or to accept the fact my husband can have multiple wives. Lying about his behavior is another proof showing that he (Smith) wasn’t speaking for God.
The whole scenario breaks my heart for those still caught in the myriads of lies. I can still feel the desperateness of wanting to please the Mormon god while at the same time rebelling against the lies. And I still see the same thing in countless other stories when they leave Mormonism as well; men and women alike.
D&C 132:52, 54, 56; “And let mine handmaid, Emma Smith, receive all those that have been given unto my servant Joseph, and who are virtuous and pure before me; and those who are not pure, and have said they were pure, shall be destroyed, saith the Lord God. 54 And I command mine handmaid, Emma Smith, to abide and cleave unto my servant Joseph, and to none else. But if she will not abide this commandment she shall be destroyed, saith the Lord; for I am the Lord thy God, and will destroy her if she abide not in my law. 56 And again, verily I say, let mine handmaid forgive my servant Joseph his trespasses; and then shall she be forgiven her trespasses, wherein she has trespassed against me; and I, the Lord thy God, will bless her, and multiply her, and make her heart to rejoice.”
In Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible handmaid or handmaiden is defined as a maid or more specifically slave. Holman’s Bible Dictionary tells us that a maid is an unmarried woman, especially of the servant class and in the OT it refers to female slaves. Holman’s goes on to say it was used as an expression of deep humility like we see in Ruth 3:9 but is this how Joseph treated Emma? Did he treat her with respect and humility? His track record indicates anything but.
A few examples of Smith’s attitude towards women (and the attitude of other male leaders in early Mormonism) are listed below showing an utter disrespect for women. While trying to justify his insatiable appetite for sex, he used a few biblical sounding words and convinced other men this god’s true plan of salvation was the fulfillment of a polygamous lifestyle. And in the meantime this god’s new plan of operation was to conceal the extra wives from Emma as well as many others.
You’ll see that other women who married Smith did so without the consent or knowledge of Emma. This behavior would be known as adultery and lying.
You’ll also see how Smith kept the revelation from the general knowledge of believers and outsiders for more than a decade while marrying dozens of women. Again, this is adultery and lying.
Then there’s the threat of damnation and eternal misery for women who didn’t accept the new and everlasting covenant. We can also see the startling facts in the Reed Smoot Congressional Hearings when Joseph F. Smith testified the consent of women in the LDS Church amounts to nothing. Now is this the way the Lord intended for a marriage to be???
As Christians we have to wonder why God needs man to have multiple sexual partners to fulfill His law and we also need to ask for clarification from His word where it says this.
Is there a history of this teaching or commandment? Like we saw this past Easter in Jesus’ fulfillment of the Law and the many prophecies, where’s the paper trail for this?
Walter Martin made an interesting observation about Mormon behavior. While giving a talk on how to witness to Mormons he touched on their reactions when asked questions about their faith. They’re typically very defensive and the reason he said they do this is because of all the lies they’ve allowed to accumulate on their heart.
The behavior we experience with Mormons today is the same behavior they were exhibiting in the days of Smith. While the majority of LDS men aren’t in polygamous relationships today, their behavior towards their god, women, godhood and the authority they believe they hold is much the same.
While I don’t condone Emma Smith’s choices in worshipping a different god, I can’t say that I blame her for not wanting to go to Utah with Brigham and company. You can see her indignation about Joseph’s polygamy problem when she repeatedly kicked the young girls out of the house that Joseph kept marrying. Her husband’s wanton attitude towards her is self evident.
But why would Joseph Smith refer to Emma as a handmaiden? While we won’t ever know if he realized the true meaning of the Hebrew word for this, his behavior indicates he really had no care what the Lord thought of it.
The International Study Bible Encyclopedia gives several scriptural examples so I’m not listing them, but I highly encourage you to visit their website and look up the references! In essence they’ve concurred with the definitions from Strong’s and Holman’s while going into more depth of how this word is used.
From our condensed list of definitions above list where does Emma fit in or does she?
Could he have used it in the sense this is how she should refer to herself because she’s in the presence of a great man?
Or is it that she’s a bondservant?
And if so, then whose bondservant is she; God’s or Joseph’s?
Further insight about Joseph’s attitude towards her is given to us in verses 54 and 56 with the warning to Emma that if she didn’t accept the extra wives she’d be damned and if she had other men she’d be damned.
He then added that if she didn’t forgive Joseph she’d be damned, but it says nothing about Joseph needing to forgive Emma for her sins, rather he’ll be given nations, blessings, more wives and more kids if he obeys.
In other words whatever opinion she has is damnable and if she rejects her demeaned status as a slave to the sexual exploits of Mormonism she’s cut off from God. In a nutshell they’ve separated this group of women to control and use them at will. Their true identities that God purposed them to be are swallowed up in the manmade collusions of Mormonism.
The importance in showing the teachings of early Mormonism isn’t for quick sensationalism, but to show what they taught then is what was passed down to the next generation and so on. This type of teaching and philosophy didn’t die with the prophet that uttered the words, rather it was taught by the mothers to their daughters and the fathers to their sons.
The only thing that’s changed between then and now is how they phrased their message. You can still see it in the LDS’ Family Proclamation. The only difference is that they’re not practicing polygamy out in the open.
This behavior isn’t indicative of a true prophet of God and must be dismissed as the Lord told us to do in Deuteronomy 13:1-5.
Encyclopedia of Mormonism, pg. 1092; “In 1843, one year before his death, the Prophet Joseph Smith dictated a lengthy revelation on the doctrine of marriage for eternity (D&C 132; see –>Marriage: Eternal Marriage). This revelation also taught that under certain conditions a man might be authorized to have more than one wife. Though the revelation was first committed to writing on July 12, 1843, considerable evidence suggests that the principle of plural marriage was revealed to Joseph Smith more than a decade before in connection with his study of the Bible (see –>Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible), probably in early 1831.”
Historical Record, Vol. 5, pg 240; “I was married to Joseph Smith on the 4th of March 1843… My sister Eliza was also married to Joseph a few days later. This was done without the knowledge of Emma Smith.” – Emily Dow Partridge
Journal of Discourses 4:82; “It is the duty of a woman to be obedient to her husband, and unless she is, I would not give a damn for all her queenly right and authority; nor for her either, if she will quarrel, and lie about the work of God and the principle of plurality.” – Heber C. Kimball, Salt Lake City, November 9, 1856
Journal of Discourses 9:37-38; “Love your duties, sisters. Are you sealed to a good man? Yes, to a man of God. It is for you to bear fruit and bring forth, to the praise of God, the spirits that are born in yonder heavens and are to take tabernacles on the earth. You have the privilege of forming tabernacles for those spirits, instead of their being brought into this wicked world, that God may have a royal Priesthood, a royal people, on the earth. That is what plurality of wives is for, and not to gratify lustful desires. Sisters, do you wish to make yourselves happy? Then what is your duty? It is for you to bear children, in the name of the Lord, that are full of faith and the power of God,—to receive, conceive, bear, and bring forth in the name of Israel’s God, that you may have the honour of being the mothers of great and good men—of kings, princes, and potentates that shall yet live on the earth and govern and control the nations. Do you look forward to that? or are you tormenting yourselves by thinking that your husbands do not love you? I would not care whether they loved a particle or not; but I would cry out, like one of old, in the joy of my heart, “I have got a man from the Lord!” “Hallelujah! I am a mother—I have borne an image of God!”” – Brigham Young, Salt Lake City, April 7, 1861
Reed Smoot Case, v. 1, p. 201; “Senator Pettus. Have there been any past plural marriages without the consent of the first wife?
Mr. [Joseph F.] Smith. I do not know of any, unless it may have been Joseph Smith himself.
Senator Pettus. Is the language that you have read construed to mean that she is bound to consent?
Mr. Smith. The condition is that if she does not consent the Lord will destroy her, but I do not know how He will do it.
Senator Bailey. Is it not true that in the very next verse, if she refuses her consent her husband is exempt from the law which requires her consent?
Mr. Smith. Yes; he is exempt from the law which requires her consent.
Senator Bailey. She is commanded to consent, but if she does not, then he is exempt from the requirement?
Mr. Smith. Then he is at liberty to proceed without her consent, under the law.
Senator Beveridge. In other words, her consent amounts to nothing?
Mr. Smith. It amounts to nothing but her consent.”