16 Comments

Emma Smith: My Story

I saw a sneak preview of the upcoming movie, “Emma Smith: My Story” at the LDS Film Festival in January. It is due to be released in about a week–April 11 here in Utah. I highly recommend it. It was commissioned by the Joseph Smith Historical Society, and has many of the same actors and actresses who appeared in “Legacy“, which used to show at the Joseph Smith Building. The producers even received permission to use some of the unused footage from Legacy. For those of you in Utah, I really encourage you to attend during the opening weekend. This makes a big impact on how long the film will run. It is a highly professional production, and it is a truly inspiring story.

It is highly historically accurate. A couple, perhaps controversial aspects of the film, were very interesting to me. One deals with Emma asking Joseph for a blessing. Joseph was in jail, and not able to do the blessing, so he told Emma to write a letter with what she wanted to be blessed with, and he would sign it. Now in the movie, this conversation takes place in person, but the scene is basically accurate. What are your responses to that? Would such a request be acceptable today?

In this letter, Emma talks about the “Curse of Eve.” I had never heard of this doctrine, but apparently it was fairly prevalent in the church in the 1830-40’s. Does anyone have more information on this?

The film briefly addresses polygamy, showing that it was extremely difficult for Emma. The film ends about the time of Joseph’s death, but does mention that Emma remarried a Lewis Bidamon, who had an affair while married to Emma. Emma ended up raising Bidamon’s child as her own. Her faithfulness, and forgiveness is unimaginable to me. She was a remarkable woman.

Some in the audience asked why the producers stopped at Joseph’s death, and didn’t cover more information. The producers response was “Do you have 2 more hours?” They didn’t rule out the possibility of covering Emma’s life after Joseph’s death, but they will definitely need this film to make money before they can think about a sequel. Anyway, I highly encourage you all to see it. It is an amazing film, and you’ll probably learn some things about church history that you weren’t aware of.

16 comments on “Emma Smith: My Story

  1. I would be interesting in reading the history of Emma’s complete life before seeing this important film.

    I can tell you that one of the reasons they do not tell of Emma’s life after Joseph’s death, is because she came to live in my home town of Burlington, WI. Emma became a follower of the true prophet of succession, James, J. Strang, along with other members of her family. I found it interesting that even the woman who played Emma Smith during a reenactment in Nauvoo did not know of this critical truth. Mormonism must stop hiding Emma’s life after Joseph’s death. She knew that James J. Strang followed the laws and angelic blessing of succession at the time of Joseph’s death. who better to hold stane to this truth than Joseph’s most intimate family members?

  2. (sorry)

    “Who better to stand as a testimony to this truth than Joseph’s most intimate family members?”

    J. Evans

  3. Here is an example directly related to the foundational claims of Mormonism. James Strang was a follower of Joseph Smith during the Nauvoo time period and claimed that he was Joseph’s designated successor. He actually gained a reasonable number of followers after Joseph’s death, including members of Joseph’s family. These included his wife Emma and his mother Lucy (they later left for the “Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints”). Like Joseph, Strang claimed to have found some additional hidden records, which he said were none other than the brass plates of Laban. He claimed to have translated them and called it “The Book of the Law of the Lord.” He also had seven men sign a statement that they had seen those plates, that the Book of the Law of the Lord was true, and so forth. As far as we know, they never recanted their testimony, either. Here it is:
    TESTIMONY.

    Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, to whom this Book of the Law of the Lord shall come, that James J. Strang has the plates of the ancient Book of the Law of the Lord given to Moses, from which he translated this law, and has shown them to us. We examined them with our eyes, and handled them with our hands. The engravings are beautiful antique workmanship, bearing a striking resemblance to the ancient oriental languages; and those from which the laws in this book were translated are eighteen in number, about seven inches and three-eights wide, by nine inches long, occasionally embellished with beautiful pictures.

    And we testify unto you all that the everlasting kingdom of God is established, in which this law shall be kept, till it brings in rest and everlasting righteousness to all the faithful.

    SAMUEL GRAHAM,
    SAMUEL P. BACON,
    WARREN POST,
    PHINEAS WRIGHT,
    ALBERT N. HOSMER
    EBENEZER PAGE,
    JEHIEL SAVAGE

  4. Thanks for the review Mormon Heretic – I have to say I was skeptical about this movie but your review is so positive that I think I will go see it. I guess it’s not supposed to be a documentary and should be viewed in that light.

    To Julie Evans, are you a Strangite? (excuse me if that is not what you call yourself). Or are you a member of the Community of Christ? Or something else? I agree with you that the picture Utah Mormons paint of Emma is pitifully inaccurate.

  5. Yes, Sanford, it is not a documentary, and tries to re-enact events mentioned in Emma and Joseph’s world. I must say that I was somewhat familiar that Emma and Joseph lost a few children at birth, but the movie made these losses more real to me, and I felt Emma’s pain.

    Julie, I am a dabbler in mormon history, and certainly no expert. I have read a book called “What Happened to the family of Joseph Smith”, by Jerald Johansen, and learned some interesting facts about the Smith family. (Such as Samuel died about a month after Joseph and Hyrum. Sam’s death was due to catching pneumonia, or something similar.)

    Anyway, I’m familiar that many members broke off into various sects: Hedrickites, Strangites, etc. I can’t say with 100% certainty, but it is my understanding that Emma pretty much remained neutral during this period. I know she sympathized with Strang, and the RLDS. She frequently attended RLDS services, but never had her name removed from the LDS church. She tried to support her son as RLDS prophet, but was never as active in any of the mormon offshoots as she had been when Joseph was alive. (Certainly, this is extremely understandable.) As I understand it, she never left Nauvoo, continued to run the Nauvoo House (hotel), entertained the Salt Lake missionaries, married Joseph Bidamon who was not a religious person (go figure), but stayed put in Nauvoo. I also know that she had some serious disagreements with Brigham Young, but Brigham still sent her money for the rest of her life.

    Perhaps you can direct me to something that shows Emma moved to Voree, Wisconsin, but from my research, she stayed in Nauvoo the whole time. If she left, it was probably a short term thing. She is buried next to Joseph in Nauvoo. I do believe that Joseph’s brother William were somewhat persuaded by Strang and Sidney Rigdon for a time, and he eventually became an apostle in the RLDS church, but my research indicates that none of the Smith Family left the Nauvoo area in any permanent way. I don’t believe William ever left the Nauvoo area either.

  6. I might add one other interesting tidbit. Apparently one of Joseph’s progeny left for Australia, and approximately 1/3 of his descendants live there now, unaware of their famous ancestor. (I found this out at the LDS film festival too.) They are planning on some sort of Smith family reunion.

  7. Correction: Emma married Lewis Bidamon, not Joseph Bidamon.

  8. Julie: I highly recommend Emma Smith: Mormon Enigma. It is scholarly, neutral in tone, and covers Emma’s life before, during and after her time with joseph.

  9. The film from which actors and footage were taken is not “Legacy” but “Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration”, which is currently playing at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building on Temple Square.

  10. Thanks for the clarification.

  11. When are they going to make a movie about the other 33 wives?

  12. Jon,

    All you need to do is put together a script, get some funding, and you don’t have to wait for “them.” I’d pay $5 just to see if you could put together a film as good as “they” did. (Your topic sounds interesting–just let me know when and where, and I’ll come and give you a movie review too.)

  13. The reason it doesn’t cover more of her life is because you would see the calling of her son, Joseph Smith III. You would find out that she refuted everyone who tied polygamy to her husband. You would find out the truth behind the gospel. If you mormons wanna wear your mormon underwear, its fine with me. As far as I go, I will remain a Restorationist highly interested in the prophetic succession which includes Joseph III. http://centerplace.org

  14. Michael,

    While you’re entitled to your opinions, please don’t be so mocking. I usually defend RLDS opinions, but your comments are downright offensive. You are welcome to disagree, just do so in a respectful way.

    I suspect the sequel (if there is one) will probably cover more of the RLDS portion of history, and I would love to see it. I read an interesting book called “What happened to the family of Joseph Smith?” by Jerald Johansen. The link is found below, and I highly recommend it, as it talks not only about the Smith family, but some of the people who broke off: Sidney Ridgon, Joseph III, etc.

    http://www.amazon.com/After-Martyrdom-Happened-Family-Joseph/dp/0882905961

    As for Emma refuting polygamy, you are correct in saying that she did refute it. However, there are many sources (including the one above) which show she was aware of at least some of Joseph’s polygamist marriages. I’m currently reading an advance copy of a book due out later this year called “Nauvoo Polygamy.” While polygamy is one of my least favorite topics, I do plan a future blog post on this topic. Of course, “Rough Stone Rolling” is also an excellent resource.

    I do find the history of the RLDS just as fascinating as LDS history. And if you have something polite to add regarding RLDS history, please do. I recently attended a conference with Apostle Susan Skoor of the RLDS faith. I don’t think she would be proud of your comments here.

  15. […] 6.       emma smith my story […]

  16. […] Emma Smith:  My Story. Dramatic re-enactments tells Emma’s side of the restoration. […]

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