In records of early endowments in Nauvoo there is documentation that Emma received sacred ordinances from Joseph, and she administered them under Joseph’s direction to many other women. 12 One of Emma’s duties as the Prophet’s wife was to supervise the women’s part of the ordinances. Joseph and Emma were sealed for time and all eternity and received their sacred priesthood ordinances in 1843. (See D&C 132:45–46.) Joseph taught that restoration of these ordinances paved the way for all families of the earth to be together in eternity. (See Mal. 4:5, 7; D&C 132:4–7, 21–31.)
I believe it is in the context of these ordinances that we may best understand and appreciate what Emma wrote shortly before Joseph was killed: “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.”
Emma also wrote, “I desire the spirit of God to know and understand myself, I desire a fruitful, active mind, that I may be able to comprehend the designs of God, when revealed through his servants without doubting.”
Her great trial came when the prophet revealed to Emma that they would be required to live the ancient law of Abraham—plural marriage. Emma suffered deeply hurt feelings because of it. While she agreed with this doctrine at times, at other times she opposed it. Years later, Emma is purported to have denied that any such doctrine was ever introduced by her husband. In later years, Emma apparently never spoke of the sacred ordinances they had received. She would have been under covenant not to do so.
Careful and prayerful study was essential to my understanding that Joseph received true authority from the Lord and that there were those who tried to misuse authority, or take authority upon themselves in respect to this matter. In D&C 132:45, the Lord said, “For I have conferred upon you [Joseph] the keys and power of the priesthood, wherein I restore all things.” On 5 October 1843, the Prophet gave instructions “to try those persons who were preaching, teaching, or practicing the doctrine of plurality of wives; for, according to the law, I hold the keys of this power in the last days; for there is never but one on the earth at a time on whom the power and its keys are conferred; and I have constantly said no man shall have but one wife at a time, unless the Lord directs otherwise.” 15 This point is confirmed in the Book of Mormon, Jacob 2:27, where we read, “There shall not any man among you have save it be one wife.” But in verse 30, we read, “If I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things.” [Jacob 2:30]
Both the truth of scripture and the source of conflicting opinions was clear to me. I concluded that if Joseph was a prophet, and I knew that he was, then the doctrines he revealed were true and that succeeding prophets have also been given authority according to their times. Hence, I knew that in 1890, Wilford Woodruff was inspired, as prophet, seer, and revelator, to issue the Manifesto ending the practice of plural marriage in the Church. (see OD—1.)