Lawrence Foster discusses Emma Smith's polygamy denial interview.

Lawrence Foster

Lawrence Foster, Women, Family, and Utopia: Communal Experiments of the Shakers, the Oneida Community, and the Mormons (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1991), 168

Syracuse University Press
Lawrence Foster, John C. Bennett, Emma Hale Smith, Joseph Smith, Jr., Joseph Smith III
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Shortly before Emma died in 1879, her eldest son, Joseph Smith III, then the head of the antipolygamous Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, talked with her and finally, for the first time in his life, directly broached the topic with his mother. The statement, printed after Emma's death as "Last Testimony of Sister Emma" in the Saints' Herald of October 1, 1879, raises more questions than it answers. Apparently the questions had been carefully prepared in advance, with ambiguities in wording that, whether deliberate or not, allowed for "deniability." Before asking her the question for the record, her son apologized for bringing up the matter.

Emma clearly faced conflicting loyalties to truth and to her sons. Her answers indicate that she chose her words carefully in an attempt to satisfy both. For example, when asked whether there had been a "revelation on polygamy" and about "spiritual wifery," she stated: "There was no revelation on either polygamy or spiritual wives," thus denying the old John C. Bennett terms. The question had not asked about "patriarchal marriage" or the "new and everlasting covenant" or any of the other code words for the system that early church leaders had used.

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