Friday, October 22, 2010

Would You Have Peeked at the Gold Plates?

I just finished reading “Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith” a biography of the wife of the Prophet Joseph Smith. I couldn’t put this book down.  It was such an incredible experience for me to read about LDS church history completely through the eyes of a woman-- that doesn't happen very often.

One of the stories that impressed me the most about Emma was her interactions with the gold plates from which Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon. In September of 1826, Joseph went for a meeting with the angel Moroni on the Hill Cumorah not far from his house. When he had met with the angel before he had been told that the time wasn’t right yet for him to have the plates. This time though Joseph recounted that the “personage told him he could have the record the following September if he brot with him the right person and indicated that Joseph would know who that was.” Joseph Knight, a friend in whom Joseph later confided the story, said the young man “looked into his glass and found it was Emma Hale Daughter of Mr. Hale of Pensulvany.” (pg. 10 of Mormon Enigma)  It is awesome to me that God wouldn't let Joseph have the plates until he had Emma. She was a necessary part of God's plan for the establishment of his church and the Joseph's work as a prophet. She was Joseph's "help-meet"-- his equal.

Evidently after Joseph’s meeting with Moroni he didn’t waste much time and he and Emma eloped on January 18th of 1827. In September of that same year Joseph again returned to the Hill Cumorah, this time with Emma driving the wagon. She waited for him as he climbed the hill and watched as he returned with a bundle wrapped in his coat. She didn’t see the plates but saw the outline of what Joseph told her was a gold book with ancient engravings on them. Over the next year or so those plates, and the translation of them, would become the center focus of Emma and Joseph’s life. She would eventually be chased out of her home, estranged from her father and mother, be bounced from home to home as a guest, loose multiple children, be debilitated by illness, chased by mobs, harassed and criticized, and eventually loose her husband because of those plates.

Yet despite everything Emma went through she never saw the gold plates because Joseph was never given permission by God to let her see them. Later in her life Emma recounted that, “They lay in a box under our bed for months but I never felt at liberty to look at them.”  She said they were sometimes on a table in her living room, “wrapped in a small linen table cloth, which I had given him to fold them in. I once felt of the plates, as they thus lay on the table, tracing their outline and shape. They seem to be pliable like thick paper, and would rustle with metallic sound when the edges were moved by the thumb, as one does sometimes thumb the edge of a book.”  Emma also mentioned that she lifted and moved the plates as she dusted around them but never looked at them.” (Pg. 25 in Mormon Enigma)  Emma claimed that she never had any desire to see them but in D&C 25:4 the Lord tells her "Murmur not because of the things which thou hast not seen, for they are withheld from thee and from the world, which is wisdom in me in a time to come."  So obviously Emma  did struggle somewhat with not being able to see or understand everything her husband did. 
Emma's integrity really impresses me and I marvel that despite her doubts and her struggles she still went forth with faith in things she had not seen. As I've thought about Emma dusting around the gold plates I can't help but imagine myself in the same situation. "Would I have peeked at the plates?” I’d like to think I wouldn’t have, but I don’t know if I could say I wouldn’t have. I have a hard time leaving the "hidden" bag of chocolate in my dresser alone. I don't know how I would have faired with a set of gold plates.  

The more I learn about Emma the more my heart is filled with love and admiration for her. Her life was truly a series of enigmas but really, given all she went through in her life, what an amazing woman!

I'm curious. Do you think you would have peeked at the God plates if you'd been Emma?


  1. No. I'll tell you why.

    Soon after my husband was called as a bishop he came home with a bunch of papers and things he needed to go through and get in order. They were personal, private things about members of the ward - reasons why they had to meet with the bishop etc. He told me what they were and that he needed some time to go through them. He left them in a folder on his desk in our room. Right on the very top. I was tempted to take a peek. VERY tempted. But I didn't. I KNEW it was not my place and I would feel extremely guilty. I did not want to have that on my conscience. After that first 'test' it wasn't an issue. I've never felt tempted again to look at anything my husband may have in his briefcase etc.

    I think Emma's experience was similar. After having passed the 'test' the first time it would become easier with each passing time. Feeling bad that others got to see them? Yes. But being tempted to see them? No.

  2. I think I definitely would have been tempted...I'd at least have prayed for it to be a right given to me...but oh to see them!!

  3. I'd say I probably wouldn't have peeked, but honestly, I'm sure if I was in the same situation, it would probably drive me up the walls dusting around it and what not that I probably would have caved during some point to maybe take a little sneak...just a little. But that's why I'm not Emma. :)

  4. I really love your blog, you have such great insight. I think I would have peeked. I'll be honest, I'm a snoopy person.

  5. i belong to the Joseph Smith and Emma Hale smith historical society, and i have given presentations about emma for years, and i can tell you that book is garbage. i can talk to youmore about it if you want to email me, but it is full of lies and her desendants are not happy about that book at all.

  6. i really like your blog, if i didnt i would not have bothered saying anything.

  7. Oi Heather...

    Gostaría sim de ter o script da recriação da 1ª reunião da sociedade de socorro...vou traduzir, e depois eu envio pra você!
    Quando precisar de mim e do meu blog para divulgar algum assunto interessante, é só me avisar.Rsrsrsrs...acredito que você terá no seu blog muitas seguidoras brasileiras,(Eu já sou uma delas) porque eu coloquei no meu blog um link do seu.

  8. I have very often wondered that exact question. I think I wouldn't have looked. But I think I would have resented that it wasn't offered to me, given what was asked of me. I think I would have asked what God would offer instead. I have much sympathy and admiration for Emma. She was a better woman than I.