FAQs

Another very complicated question with no easy answer. A short answer, a great effort was made to kill Joseph and Emma’s family ever since they married. After the death of Joseph Smith, Emma’s family was still under much threat. With her decision to remain in Nauvoo there was great concern that once all the Saints left any protection and preservation of her and her family would also leave. She and her family were well loved and much fear existed for her safety and that of her family. It actually took more courage for her to stay than to leave. Additionally, there were many, although some well meaning, lied or misrepresented issues to encourage her to leave. There were others who wanted to take advantage of the situation for personal gain such as acquiring Joseph Smith and Church property through much less than honorable and proper means. There were also many issues pertaining to doctrinal differences that were also misrepresented to her which created much anxiety and stress to her. Bear in mind, Joseph Smith and Emma had less fear of the mobs, than they did Latter-day Saints who betrayed their faith, damaged trust, and then aligned with the mobs. Most of their past experiences with severe persecution came from Mormons who left the faith many of which were in close leadership positions with Joseph. Who does Emma trust? But not only was this done to Emma it was also done to Brigham as he was fed much misinformation about Emma. Satan loves confusion and takes advantage by causing fear and mistrust. Today, we have better communication to sort through lies and deception but this was a time where Emma and Brigham had no fast communication to solve and much of the information they did get was through third parties. Gracia Jones state: “It is documented that Emma quarreled with some Church leaders over various aspects of settling Joseph’s estate and that hurt feelings resulted which were not resolved at the time. Yet through prayerful examination of materials, and through refraining from judging the people involved, I have come to peacefully understand that in the threatening atmosphere of persecution that prevailed at the time, some of Emma’s hesitation resulted because she feared for the lives of her children. She did not know whom to trust and there was no time and no peace for the natural healing of her grief to occur.”
Most of the time this question is asked it is in part referencing a blessing the Prophet Joseph Smith gave to his son, Joseph III in early 1844, a blessing to many purport to succeed him. This is inaccurate. It was well established there was a process in place for anyone to become President of the Church or part of the quorum of twelve apostles. A process that involved an ordination to obtain the “keys of the kingdom”. Brigham Young and the other apostles who already held those keys could authorize others to receive the keys given to them by Joseph. You cannot give keys to someone else if you don’t have the keys in the first place to give. The argument between those who founded the Reorganized Church as the legal succession to the one Joseph, the Prophet, established was never really based on keys or authority but on doctrinal differences. The document of Joseph III’s blessing was a blessing not an ordination. The blessing indicated Joseph III would have the ability to become an apostle by following the same process as all other apostles who obtained their keys to the kingdom. As a matter of fact, the recipient of the blessing, Joseph Smith III, himself testified in 1893, in the U.S. Circuit Court in Kansas City: “I did not state that I was ordained by my father: I did not make that statement. I was not ordained by my father as his successor: according to my understanding of the word ordain, I was not. I was blessed by him and designated, well in a sense chosen. …”
Alvin was born 15 Jun 1828 and died the same day. His death was during the time of the lost 116 pages of Joseph Smith’s translation of the Book of Mormon.Thaddeus Smith & Louisa Smith were born on 20 April 1831 in Kirtland and also died on the same day. During this same period of nime and nearby, John Murdock’s wife was also delivering twins but due to complications John lost his wife and he gave the twins to Emma to raise. The Murdock’s named the twins Julia and Joseph Murdock. John Murdock did not live long and Julia survived to adulthood. Julia Murdock was 13 at the time of her step father’s death. She married Elisha Dixon who unfortunately was killed when a boiler on his steamboat exploded. She later remarried John Middleton who became an alcoholic and abusive, Julia divorced this relationship and returned to live in Nauvoo. Later she developed breast cancer and died from that a few years after Emma’s death. She did not have children from either marriage. Thus, no posterity. Joseph Murdock died 19 Mar 1832 in Hiram, OH as a result of exposure to winter and the mobs. Joseph Smith was taking care of the sick infant, Joseph Murdock, when mobs came in and drug him out in the cold winter night to tar and feather him leaving little Joseph exposed to the winter elements. Joseph Smith III was born 6 Nov 1832 also in Kirtland. He married 3 times. First to Emmaline Griswold, then Bertha Madison and finally Ada Clark. The first two wives died one from an illness and the other from an accident. Ada survived Joseph III by about a year. Between all 3 wives he had a total of 18 children but even with that number his descendants had an extremely high mortality rate so they only number less than a thousand descendants. Joseph III was the first of Joseph Smith’s family on the records of the Church as his father did baptize him, but he was only 11 at the time of his father’s death. He took over the leadership of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints until his death on the 10 Dec 1914. The last years of his life he was blind. Frederick Granger Smith was born 20 Jun 1836 and though he lived to adulthood he died at an early age of 25 on 13 April 1862. He did marry but his wife left him and she took his only child Alice. Alice was the next descendant of the Prophet to be on the records of the Church as she was baptized. She did not remain active due to much anti-Mormon sentiment and she did not marry thus no children or posterity. Alexander Hale Smith was born 2 Jun 1838 in Far West, Missouri. He married, Elizabeth Agnes Kendall and they had 9 children. One of his children Ina Inez married an Australian so today almost 1/3 of Joseph Smith’s posterity live in Australia. Alexander died on 12 Aug 1909. Due to the untimely death of his brother, Frederick, he indicated in his journal he had a spiritual experience from which begins his support of his brother in the Reorganized Church. His posterity is the most numerous of Joseph Smith’s nearly 2400 descendants. Don Carlos Smith was born 13 Jun 1840 and died 15 Aug 1841 in Nauvoo. Don Carlos lives to be one year old before Emma and Joseph bury him. (As a side note, it’s shortly after this Emma becomes the President of the Relief Society). Finally, Joseph’s last child, David Hyrum, in which Joseph does not live long enough for him to see in life. David is born 18 Nov. 1844 so just 5 months after the martyrdom. David marries Clara Hartshorn and they have one child Elbert. David serves as a missionary for the Reorganized Church but does not get to complete his final mission due to illness. After returning home, his health declines and he spends the next 30 years of his life in a mental institution. Extracting his medical records and examined by our modern physicians we believe his illness may have been sugar related, hypoglycemia. David has 3 grandchildren; the first died at birth, the second believing his father’s illness might be hereditary elected to not have any children and the third son also fearing the hereditary impact of this illness elected to adopt.
Both the Church and Joseph Smith personally were heavily in debt at the time of the martyrdom. Joseph Smith did not have a Will but like today when the husband dies the surviving spouse is still entitled to a certain part of her husband’s assets as defined by law, even without a will; but Emma would still have to go through court probate to obtain these assets. One of the differences between laws then and today is in Emma’s day women did not have legal rights so decide the disposition of these assets which were still essentially determined by men. This made Emma feel very vulnerable due to experience with many taking advantage of her. There were some who betrayed her eroding ability to trust anyone. Also during this period, it was deemed improper or not gentlemanly to approach women especially widows so resolve financial issues. This impropriety did not seem to bother her creditors as she was harassed very soon after Joseph’s death, long before the Brethren even returned from their missions to help assist. Another complication was the Church assets. In these days nonprofit organizations such as the Church could not hold value of property greater than the value of 10 acres. So much of Church assets were intertwined with Joseph’s assets which is why the Courts wanted to assign administrators to Joseph’s estate. Hyrum did not have these issues so there was not as much a burden on his family. Emma; however, was now at the mercy of many others who had not her best interest at heart. Some administrators and Brigham Young paid most of the Church debts off but after the exodus there were still many financial issues that needed to be resolved which left Emma, on at least 3 different occasions, over the years, having to have some friends buy her property at auctions, so she could obtain her own home back using her dower money. Some came to her indicating the Brigham Young did not pay the debts off which was not correct. It took nearly the remainder of her life to pay off Joseph’s debts thereby preserving Joseph Smith’s name and reputation.
No. Two gentlemen, Zenas Gurley & Jason Briggs started the initial effort to creating the Reorganized Church. Joseph Smith III who later became the President of the Church was only 11 years old at the time of his father’s death. We believe Emma's feelings about her family pertaining to God was if the Lord wanted her family to be part of any Church organization He would have to call him as He did with her husband thus leaving the decision up to them.
Emma had her calling and election made sure and no action was made on her part that violated the conditions of a calling and election. Therefore, her election is made sure through the blood of the Lamb after all she could do. Michael Kennedy remembers a comment made by Elder Bruce R. McConkie in a conversation they had: Each person before they stand before the Lord will have to stand before the head of their dispensation and in our case that would be the Prophet Joseph Smith. There will be some who will be surprised to see Emma there standing at his side. I would not want to be one who made disparaging remarks about the choice of the Prophet’s eternal companion when I am face to face with the Prophet of God.
It is our belief due to much of the persecution Emma endured with her husband after his death she basically believed if the Lord wanted her family to be part of any Church organization He would have to call him as He did with her husband thus leaving the decision up to them. Joseph III, Alexander, and David each joined the Reorganized Church but contrary to some popular beliefs it was not an all at once unified decision between the three of them. Each had their own individual experiences that individually they believed was from God and as any loving mother would do she supported the decisions of their children. She did not encourage any of them to follow her husband’s footsteps rather far from it. Emma was greatly concerned that making these choices they may indeed follow their father and receive similar treatment, she did want any additional grieving. This period of time was still very much anti-Mormon sentiment even to the Reorganized Church.
After Joseph Smith was killed there was a hope the Mormons would leave allowing the takeover of well developed land, when that didn’t happen the vigilante bands started burning and harming those that lived in outliying areas of Nauvoo. These saints abandoned their property and fled to Nauvoo for protection. Illinois State legislature dissolved the Nauvoo Charter leaving the Saints further with no means of self protection. By the end of 1845 it became apparent there was going to be no peace between the Mormons and the angry mobs so the Church leaders organized a truce to abandon the City. Even after the “Mormon Exodus” the violence escalated to what became known as the Mormon War. Emma continued to live in Nauvoo, however, during the onset of the Mormon War she and her family were forced to flee Nauvoo to Fulton, Illinois.
Women during this period of time did not have legal rights. They were entitled to inherit the assests of their husbands but not the distribution of those assets. Emma needed someone to help her raise her family and help provide for them as well. Additionally, it was also deemed during this time period improper for a man to raise daughters alone. This was a problem Lewis Bidaman had with his daughters. They needed each other. Emma referred to their relationship as “affectionate”.
Not only did the mobs want Joseph Smith dead, but the entire Smith families including both Joseph and Hyrum’s family. Although Emma did not have the legal rights to decide the disposition of Joseph’s assets she did have control over it and there were many who were trying to wrestle that control away from her. There were also many with self-interest "helping" Emma leaving Emma with serious issues on how she was going to take care of her family. Emma was vulnerable and many were taking advantage of that. Most of the concern of the leaders of the Church who were being forced to leave Nauvoo were primarily concerned there would be no one left to help her through these issues in essence leaving her to the wolves. It took more faith for Emma to remain than to leave with the Saints.
Emma's primary source of revenue / income was the hospitality business through the Riverside Mansion and the Mansion House. The Nauvoo temple attracted many of her customers. As steamboats traveled up and down the Mississippi they would see the beautiful building which attracted them to port in Nauvoo. She would receive many of these visitors and provide one of the best hospitality services along the Mississippi with meals and overnight lodging including the care of livestock. Ultimately the temple was burned down. Whoever was that arsonist that burned the building down literally devastated her income and many other Nauvoo businesses.
Lucy publicly declared that she wished to go west if her family would go and pled to the Saints that should that be the case should she die they would bring her bones back to lie beside her husband in Nauvoo. Nevertheless, in all probability she would never have survived the trip as she was pretty arthritic at the time of the exodus making it impossible to even cross the street without assistance.