Emma was born into a large family, the youngest of seven children. She married Joseph Smith Jr. on January 18, 1827. Polygamy was introduced into her marriage in the mid 1830s and she suffered from it for the remainer of her life. What was her relationship with polygamy? What was her relationship with Joseph? What did others think of her? What was she really like?
There are so many different aspects to the woman Emma Hale Smith. Please be patient as I gather the facts about this incredible woman. For the sake of listeners on Tik Tok, I have gathered up the sources for the accusation that Emma tried to poison Joseph Smith throughout their marriage.
Sunday November 5— 1843.—Rode out with my Mother297 &others for her health.
was taken suddenly sick at thedinner table. went to the door& vomited. <all dinner> jaws dislocated,— & raisedfresh blood.—— eve[r]y symptom of pois[o]n
Prayer meeting eve at the Hall overthe store. [[Joseph did not dress <nor Emma>]]—gave my clerk Dr Richads [Willard Richards] to tell Mr [Joseph] Cole. he must find some other Room for his school.
"In Joseph's da[y] she [Emma] tried to throw me, Br. Heber, Br. Willard Richards and the Twelve Apostles out of the Church, and tried to destroy the whole church and I know it.
"Joseph himself testified before high Heaven more than once that she had administered poison to him. There are men and women present today who can bear witness that more hell was never wrapped up in any human being than there is in her. She gave him too heavy a dose and he vomited it up and
was saved by faith."
To my certain knowledge, Emma Smith is one of the damnedest liars I know of on this earth; yet there is no good thing I would refuse to do for her, if she would only be a righteous woman; but she will continue in her wickedness. Not six months before the death of Joseph, he called his wife Emma into a secret council, and there he told her the truth, and called upon her to deny it if she could. He told her forthwith if she did not repent. He told her of the time she undertook to poison him, and he told her that she was a child of hell, and literally the most wicked woman on this earth, that there was not one more wicked than she. He told her where she got the poison, and how she put it in a cup of coffee; said he, "You got that poison from so and so, and I drank it, but you could not kill me.' When it entered his stomach eh went to the door and threw it off. He spoke to her in that council in a very severe manner, and she never said one word in reply. I have witnesses of this scene all around, who can testify that I am now telling the truth. Twice she undertook to kill him.
"a grate meny of the Saints in these Days think that the Prophet wife Emma Hale Smith was a bad Woman that she tried to Poison the Prophet. Their never was a more Dutiful woman than Emma Smith to her husband till after the Prophet had made publick the revelation on Seelestial marrige. He begun to take to himselve Other Wives. This proved a grate trial to her. How meny women is there in Our Day after 30 or 40 years . . . that it Dose not try to the Hartsbare. The prophet Joseph Said that She was a good woman. . . . Emma wood & did go before Judges Rulers and Govenors to Plead for her Husband. She would have Lade her life down for him"
Dec. 17, 1876. (St. George) 1 p.m. went to meeting. Bro Snow showed in a very plain manner that the revelation on Celestial Marriage was given by God to Joseph prior to his death... that when Emma, Joseph's first wife, heard of the revelation she sought the life of Joseph and tried to poison him but he was delivered by the power of God and demanded the written revelation from him that she might destroy it. Joseph knew her heart by the power of the Holy Ghost adn to please her, sent for the revelation but before carefully instructed Br. Wm. Clayton (Church Recorder) to make a correct copy of it that it might be preserved. He gave her the revelation and no sooner had she obtained it than she threw it in the fire and burned it thereby thinking to destroy Celestial Marriage
from the face of the earth...
"Although Emma's attempt to accept plural marriage brought temporary peace to the Smith household, neither Emma's resolve nor the peace lasted long. Emily Partridge commented that Joseph 'would walk the floor back and forth, with his hands clasped behind him (a way he had of placing his hands when his mind was deeply troubled), his countenance showing that he was weighed down with some terrible burden.'
"The strain in his private life, coupled with threats from marauders and dissension within the church and community, began to affect Joseph's health. On Sunday, November 5, Joseph became suddenly sick and vomited so hard that he dislocated his jaw and 'raised fresh blood.'
"His self-diagnosis was that he had every symptom of poisoning. But he was well enough in the evening to attend an Endowment Council meeting in the room over the red brick store.
"According to current medical literature, no poison available in 1844 was caustic enough to pool blood in the stomach so rapidly after ingestion as Joseph's symptoms indicate and still be so ineffective as to allow the victim to pursue normal activities within a few hours . . . .
"Twenty-two years later Brigham Young described a 'secret council,' . . . at which he said Joseph accused Emma of the poisoning and 'called upon her to deny it if she could . . . . He told her that she was a child of hell, and literally the most wicked woman on this earth, that there was not one more wicked than she. He told her where she got the poison, and how she put it in a cup of coffee; said he, 'You got that poison so and so, and I drank it, but you could not kill me.' When it entered his stomach he went to the door and threw it off. He spoke to her in that council in a very severe manner, and she never said one word in reply. I have witnesses all around, who can testify that I am now telling the truth. Twice she undertook to kill him.' [Young] did not elaborate on the alleged second occurrence, but in 1866 Brigham's rhetoric could well have been stronger that Joseph's actual words, for it came at a time when Brigham was particularly hostile toward Emma.
"Evidence suggests that Joseph indeed accused Emma of poisoning his coffee. His diary records that he and Emma did not participate in the Prayer Circle at that meeting . . . . This is particularly significant because members were asked not to join the Prayer Circle if they had feelings of antagonism toward anyone else in the group. Only unusual circumstances would have restrained them. Apparently Joseph believed at the time that Emma poisoned him, but strong evidence suggests that his self-diagnosis was mistaken and, therefore, so was his accusation of Emma."
"Five weeks later Joseph again experienced sudden nausea and vomiting. 'I awoke this morning in good health but was soon suddenly seized with a great dryness of the mouth and throat, and sickness of the stomach, and vomited freely . . . . I was never prostrated so low, in so short a time, before, but by evening was considerably revived.'
"He mentioned being 'somewhat out of health' on January 21, 'somewhat unwell' on April 2, and 'suddenly taken sick,' on April 28 . . . .
"Acute indigestion, food poisoning, ulcers, gallstones, and other diseases cause a reaction similar to Joseph's. Certainly Joseph's life was filled with the emotional tension and conflict that traditionally accompany ulcers. When he had his second attack of vomiting early in December, his diary states: 'My wife waited on me, assisted by my scribe, Willard Richards, and his brother Levi, who administered some herbs and mild drinks.' . . . In this instance Joseph portrayed Emma as a helper and nurse instead of the instigator of the attack .
"He apparently failed to correct the conclusions held by Brigham Young and John Taylor, for Emma remained forever suspect in their minds.
"Stories of poisoning drew in another suspect: Samuel Smith's daughter Mary later wrote to her cousin Ina Coolbrith that Eliza R. Snow poisoned Joseph. She said that while Eliza resided in her Uncle Joseph's house Emma fixed Joseph a cup of coffee and Eliza poured something in it, then Joseph drank and vomited. Eliza had not lived in the house for nearly a year.
"Desdemona Wadsworth Fullmer, a plural married to Joseph by Brigham Young in July, wrote an autobiography in 1868 and related a bizarre dream that may have been prompted by rumors of Emma poisoning Joseph. She stated: 'In the rise of polygamy [Emma] Smith was going to poison me. I told [the dream] to brother Joseph. He told me it was true. She would do it if she could.'
"The talk of poisoning may have prompted Emily Partridge to say of this period: 'There were times, one in particular that I was really afraid of my life.' . . . She was far more likely to fear retribution from Emma than Emma was to administer it. But circulation of poisoning stories gave rise to apprehension and suspicion directed toward Emma." [pg. 163-65]
For further reading: The Emma Smith Lore Reconsidered by Linda King Newell
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