Friday, July 29, 2011

Five Things for Friday, 10th Edition

-1-

Two weeks ago I was in so much pain that I could hardly walk. I had shooting pains down the insides of my legs and excruciating hip and pubic bone pain. I've had back pain before when pregnant but this was awful. I honestly felt like I was splitting in half. I talked with my midwife and she thought that I might be developing something called "Symphysis pubis dysfunction" (SPD) which is where the cartilage that holds your pubic bone together starts to separate. Horrible sounding, huh? She suggested I go see a chiropractor and wear a support belt. I got the support belt but was a bit wary about going to see a chiropractor. For some reason I always assumed they were a bit quacky. I mean how can someone popping your back make you feel that much better? Yet I was in such pain that I finally scheduled an appointment with a chiropractor who specializes in pregnancy. It was such a good decision; she has helped me so much. I've had to go back several times in the last couple of weeks but finally I am feeling normal again. I still have some occasional pelvis pain, and I'm not going to be able to run or dance this pregnancy, but at least I don't feel like I'm splitting in half any more!

Oh, and if you (or someone you know) has back or joint pain during pregnancy I found this post about lecithin at Birth Faith and this one about cod liver oil at Mamas and Babies to be very helpful.
-2-

Last week I picked up two really great books from the library and have been excited to share them. The first is "Women's Rights in Old Testament Times" by James R. Baker.



Baker is a lawyer and a scholar of ancient history and uses 12 ancient codes and legal documents to paint a picture of what rights women may have had in Old Testament times and to clarify parts of their stories that are confusing or contradictory to modern readers. For example, he explains things like why Sarah banished Hagar,
the consequences of Laban tricking Jacob into "marrying" Leah, why Ruth laid at Boaz's feet, Tamar's sexual relations with her Father-in-law, and why Rahab is called a "prostitute" but is also one of the women in Christ's ancestry. His insights really shed a lot of light on women's stories in the Old Testament and if you are at all interested in increasing your understanding of these stories I'd recommend this book in a heart beat. You can also read it online here.

The other one I picked up was "Sisters at the Well: Women and the Life and Teachings of Jesus" by Jeni Broberg Holzapfel and Richard Neitzel Holzapfel.

I am only half way through this one but I really like it. The more I learn about New Testament culture the more impressed I am at what a renegade Jesus was, in the eyes of his Jewish contemporaries. His philosophies about and his treatment of women flew in the face of Jewish, Greek, and Roman culture and were really very radical for the time in which he lived. This book is fascinating to me because it illustrates, though numerous New Testament examples, how Christ's teachings bear strong testimony of that he is "no respecter of persons, male or female." (I've posted each of these books in my "You Might Like" sidebar if you want to find them later on).

-3-

Whenever someone asks Asher, my three-year-old, what we are going to name our new baby he promptly replies "dumpin the dirt". That is what he calls dump trucks, front end loaders and other construction equipment. I don't know where he got the idea that it would be a good name but he is pretty convinced that is what this baby's name is going to be! I hope that he isn't too disappointed when we don't come through on it.

-4-

My husband and I have officially decided that we are going to do home school pre-school for Asher this next fall. I don't know yet if that means we will keep home schooling him for other years, or if we will do the same with our other kids, but for right now this really feels like the right thing for our family. Yet, I have to admit that I feel grossly inadequate and am worried about being able to pull this off. Part of me worries that after a few weeks I'll give up and we'll be watching movies every morning instead. I know that lots of you are homeschooling families and and I would love to hear any advice you have for a family just wading into this new territory-- or any good curriculum suggestions or resources. I need all the help I can get!

-5-

I think I may have earned "The Worst Gardener Ever" award. I always start my garden off with such good intentions. When it is cool outside and the weeds are still dormant I love putting seeds in the ground and then watching them pop up. I have grand dreams of having a beautiful thriving garden. But then, about mid-summer it is hot outside, the weeds are multiplying like bacteria, and I am busy doing a thousand projects and going a thousand different places. My garden gets neglected, the weeds start to take over, and the last thing I want to do is pull them. Every year I end up with a garden that is more weeds than plants-- which is what I have this year. It is sort of discouraging. You can hardly see my onions because the weeds around them are too tall! Yet, I know that really it is my fault. I just want to be able to plant things and have them grow perfectly without any work. But I guess that it doesn't really work like that does it? I could probably glean some profound spiritual thought from that but I really should get off the computer now and go weed my garden... bummer.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Mary Knew

Maybe it is because I'm pregnant (23 weeks!) and this little baby is starting to kick me pretty ferociously, but this post I wrote back in 2008 has been on mind. I thought I'd share it again since it was one of my first posts.


"The Road to Bethlehem" by Joseph Brickley
Image Source


Our lesson in church today was on the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. As my husband and I were walking home after church we got into a discussion about if the prophet will know when Christ is going to come again. He mentioned the scripture in Mark 13: 32 that says, "But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father." Meaning that no one knows when the Lord will come again, not even the angels in heaven. But then I mentioned the scripture in Amos 3:7 that says, "Surely the Lord God will do nothing, until he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets". Meaning that God doesn't do anything without first revealing it unto his prophet on the earth.

We discussed these scriptures for awhile, but I wasn't feeling satisfied with any of the conclusions we came up with. I felt certain, deep down in my heart, that God's prophet would know when Christ was coming. When He came for the first time several prophets knew when he was coming, Samuel the Lamanite even knew the exact year. Mary and Joseph had an angel appear to them who announced His coming. Ding, Ding Ding! An answer came to me.

Mary knew that Jesus was coming. Both her and Joseph had been visited by an angel and she had been overshadowed by the Holy Ghost. When she conceived a child, she knew that she was carrying the Son of God. There could have been no doubt in both Mary and Joseph's hearts that Jesus Christ, their Redeemer, was coming to the Earth. Mary's pregnant belly was evidence enough. Yet, they also knew that it would take about nine months before He came. During that time Mary could feel Him getting bigger and stronger inside of her. She could feel Him begin to move and develop. She could feel her body change and prepare for labor, and as she rode to Bethlehem she must have known her time was close. Yet despite all these signs, she didn't know exactly what day or hour Jesus , her child, would come. All she knew was that He was coming and that His coming would be preceded by pain and suffering. And that after the pain would come a joy and a peace beyond all description.

I can't help but think that Jesus's Second Coming will be much like His first. We know He will not come again as a baby, rather He will come as a resurrected being in glory and power. Yet just as Mary could feel and see His first coming getting closer, the righteous will know with the same certainty that His second coming is close. They will see the earth growing ripe or pregnant in preparation for His coming, and they will anticipate with joy the coming of the Son of God. They know there will be pain, even for the righteous. Yet God has promised that, just as in childbirth, the pain will be followed by the most divine and consuming joy and peace.

I think that the prophet will know when Jesus Christ's second coming is going to be. No, he won't know the day or the hour, but he will know that the time is VERY near. He, like Mary, will watch the belly grow big and feel the first signs of labor; he will be prepared and ready to welcome the Son when He comes. Each of us need to be prepared and ready to meet our Savior when the day comes, whether in this life of the next. Remember that, "...if ye are prepared ye shall not fear. " (D&C 38:30)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Tabitha/Dorcus


"Discipleship" by Elspeth Young. Image Source

Acts 9: 36-42

Background: 1 Century AD

Not long after Saul's (Paul) miraculous conversion to the Christian church, and his acceptance into the fold by the Apostles, the church experienced a period of great growth and prosperity (Acts 9: 1-31). Peter, the prophet of the church, "passed throughout all quarters" to visit the Saints spread out through Judea (Acts 9: 32). His travels took him to Lydda where he healed a man name Aeneas who had been sick in bed with palsy for eight years. Then "... all that dwelt at Lydda and Saron...turned to the Lord" (Acts 9:35).

Facts About Her:
  • Her name, Tabitha, is Aramaic for "gazelle" and the Greek translation of her name is Dorcus. In the scriptures she is introduced as, " a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcus" (9:36);
  • She lived in Joppa and was a "woman full of good works and almsdeeds which she did" (9:36);
  • She was sick (we don't know how long for) and when she died the other disciples washed her body and laid her in an upper chamber (9: 37);
  • The disciples had heard that Peter was in Lydda (which is about 12 miles from Joppa). After Tabitha's death they sent two men to him to ask him to come them without delay (9:38);
  • When Peter arrived they took him to the upper chamber where her body was laid out and he found that "all the widows stood by him weeping, and shewing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them" (9: 39);
  • Peter sent them all away and then kneeled down and prayed, then "turning him to the body said, Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes; and when she saw Peter, she sat up" (9:40)
  • Peter then gave her his hand, lifted her up, and presented her to all the saints and the widows who were gathered (9:41);
  • The news spread throughout all of Joppa and "many believed in the Lord" (9:42).
Speculations About Her:
  • It seems strange that after Tabitha died that the other disciples would think it appropriate, and even urgent, that they notify Peter of her death and ask "that he would not delay to come to them. (9:38)" Such actions suggest that Peter must have been well acquainted with Tabitha and that she held some sort of position of respect in his life or in with in the Church.
  • It is also valuable to note that the books of Acts was written by Luke and that the audience he was writing to were Gentile Christians. Understanding this fact may help explain why he refers to her by both her Aramaic name (Tabitha) and her Greek name (Dorcus). Furthermore, the fact that she is recognized by both names may indicate that she was well known to the Gentiles and to the Jews and that she may have been involved in missionary work among the Gentiles.
  • In some ways she is also a symbol of Christ. Not only was she known for her good works, like Christ was, but she also was laid in an "upper chamber" when she died. Upper chambers were rooms in the house that were often reserved for special events like, births, blessings and deaths. Christ's last Passover supper with his apostles was held in an "upper chamber" and it is interesting that the account of Tabitha mentions twice that she was laid in an upper chamber. Also, she was probably dead for several days before Peter reached her (he had to walk the 12 miles from Lydda to Joppa) and so her being raised from the dead after having been dead for several days must have seemed very reminiscent to the Saints of Christ's resurrection.

Section of Healing of the Cripple and Raising of Tabitha by Masolino da Panicale, 1425.

My Thoughts:

I don't think it is any coincidence that Tabitha's story is sandwiched in between the story of Paul's conversion story (Acts 9: 1-31) and the story of Peter's revelation that the gospel should go forth to the Gentiles (Acts 10). In Joppa, and many other areas of Judea, there was great persecution of Christians and people had misconceptions about them and their practices, like assuming they were cannibals because they "ate and drank" the blood of Christ. Yet in Acts 9:42 we read that after Tabitha is raised from the dead, "many believed in the Lord". It is probably fair to assume that seeing a good, strong and kind woman be raise from the dead by one claiming authority from Christ did a lot to help the Christian image in Joppa and the surrounding areas. Furthermore, it wasn't long after Tabitha was raised from the dead that Peter received the direction from God that the gospel was to be preached not only to the Jews but also the Gentiles. The placement of Tabitha's story seems to indicate that she played an important part (not only by being raised from the dead but also for her good works and almsdeeds) in preparing the Jews and the Gentiles to receive the Gospel.

Her story also brings to mind the quote, which is attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, "Preach the gospel at all times, when necessary, use words." For all we know Tabitha never preached the gospel or never formally shared her testimony of Christ. Yet through her good works and almsdeeds (which were gifts of money or food given to the needy) she softened the hearts of those around her and prepared them to accept the gospel of Jesus Christ.

It is interesting that today missionary works often follows that same sort of pattern evidenced in Tabitha's story. In parts of the world that are hostile or indifferent to Christianity missionaries often "preach" the gospel through humanitarian efforts, charities, and one-on-one service to individuals and families. Often times these missionaries are forbidden by law or cultural custom to formally proselyte or teach the gospel. Yet through their service efforts people come to taste of the love of Christ and their hearts are softened and prepared to receive the Gospel when they finally do hear it. When it comes right down to it Tabitha was really one of first humanitarian service missionaries in the Christian church; also making her one of the first female missionaries we hear mentioned in the New Testament!

Questions to Think About:
  • Why would Peter, the prophet of the church, make the effort to come to Tabitha's deathbed? It is unlikely that the people asked him there with the intent for him to raise her from the dead. Why then did they ask him to come? Who do you think she was that Peter would take such interest in her?
  • Is there a woman in your life who reminds you of Tabitha? A woman whose good works bear testimony of her testimony of Christ?
  • In what ways are modern day missionaries still acting like Tabitha and preparing the way for the gospel to come forth to individuals, communities, or nations through their good works and service? Do you have any personal (or handed down) stories or examples of this?
  • Remembering that the intentioned audience of the books of Acts was early Gentile Christians how do you think that the story of Tabitha may have impacted them? Why would Luke include her story specifically for a Gentile audience?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Five Things for Friday, 9th Edition

-1-

I just wanted to announce that the winner of the CD "Joseph: A Nashville Tribute to the Prophet" is Becca from My Soul Delighteth.



Congrats Becca! This is a great CD and I hope you enjoy it.

-2-

Thank you everyone for all your kind comments and love you gave me in my miscarriage post. I am really feeling much better about everything. It bring me a lot of peace to think that perhaps unborn spirits also have their agency and that they might get to choose whether or not a certain body "counts" or if they choose to wait and come again later. I think that really when it comes right down to it I just need to trust the revelation that I got from the Spirit and trust that even though I don't understand everything now... that some day I will.

-3-

Today I stumbled across the most fantastic blog. It is called "A Year of FHE" (FHE stands for Family Home Evening) and has such a great compilation of resources for parents!



Every month she has a theme and then each week posts a lesson plan that goes along with the theme. For example, this moth the theme is "Pioneer Heroes" and there are lessons on Brigham Young, Eliza R. Snow, Saving the Pages, and Pioneer Life. Each lesson plan has songs, pictures, stories, scripture resources, activities, a treat idea, and a free printable coloring page! I just about did a back flip when I stumbled on this. It is really fantastic and such a blessing for people like me who struggle with ideas for Family Home Evening. Jump on over and take a look, but be warned there might just be enough to keep you occupied for hours!

-4-

Yesterday I received my quiet book from the quiet book swap that I hosted a few months ago. It turned out SO wonderful and I just wanted to thank all the wonderful women who helped contribute to it. I never, ever would have taken the time to make something this cute and wonderful for my kids. It just goes to show what wonderful things women can do when they work together. Here is a peek inside at the pages:


The cute cover



Weave the bedspread
(my kids LOVE that the little kids comes out of the bed)



Count the cupcakes and put them in the oven



Heart puzzle and Velcro the buttons on the snake



Bead counter and snap the apples on the tree



House with places for family pictures and count the coconuts



Tick Tac Toe and shape matching



Button the flowers and tie the Bear's bow

Thank you so much! Now I'm just worried that my kids are going to fight over it during church instead of being quiet :(

-5-

We spent the the last few days at my husband's family's property down in "middle of nowhere southern Utah" where his grandmother and grandfather grew up. It was a lot of fun and we got to stay in the historic pioneer log cabin that is still on the property and which is still in working order. As I snuggled my two little ones into the cots, opened the old fashioned windows, made my husband scoop the 8 (yikes) dead mice from out of the old oven, and stood on the porch in the evening looking out over the beautiful expanse of sagebrush and juniper trees I felt such gratitude swell in my heart for the strong men and women who came before me. I guess it was an appropriate feeling because this next week is the 24th of July,or Pioneer Day, which is a big holiday in Utah. Somehow it just felt right to be there this last weekend, living in the house they lived in, walking on the land they walked on, and living (sort of) like they did.

I hope that each of you, no matter where you live, get a chance to think about your ancestors this week and that you all have a very happy 24th of July!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Due Date

Last week would have been the due date of the baby I miscarried in December.

I'd heard from other women who'd had miscarriages that passing the lost baby's due date was hard, but I didn't realize quite how hard.

I thought that because I already had a new little life growing, thriving, and kicking inside of me that I wouldn't even care. But I did... deeply.

In the quiet moments of the past week I've found myself wondering what it would feel like to be holding my week old baby in my arms. Thinking about it makes my heart ache and I feel the painful gap, that I thought I had gotten over, throb open.

Don't get me wrong. I actually feel a lot of peace about the whole situation. I trust that God understands and sees things that I can not. He is in perfect control of the universe and it is He and He alone who is in charge of when children enter this world.

I trust that with my whole heart.

Yet, the hardest part of the last week has been not knowing for sure what happened to my baby. Since we don't have any clear revelation about when life enters the body or when the spirit and the body become inseparably connected I don't know if the baby I miscarried is still waiting up in heaven for his turn to come to earth or if the body I already created for him "counted" as his mortal experience. It seems so strange to me that God wouldn't have made such an important fact, as when human life really begins, more clear.

As I've read women's stories for our book, The Gift of Giving Life, I've seen that lots of women have different perspectives on miscarriages and what happens to the baby. Some women feel certain that the baby they miscarried, even if it was as early as 5 or 6 weeks, is still their baby and that those few weeks were all the mortal experience it needed. Other women wrote that they felt like the baby they had miscarried had chosen not to accept the body that was forming (perhaps because of birth defects) but would come back to them later as one of their other children or even a grandchild. And hands down, all the women who had had stillborn babies or babies born after 20 weeks wrote that they knew for certain that their baby was waiting for them in the next life.

As I've been reading these women stories my own heart started to ache a little bit. Where does my 12 week miscarried baby fit in? As I prayed after my miscarriage I felt a lot of peace and had the spirit whisper to me that for some reason this baby just wasn't ready to come to earth, but that I would see him again. I just assumed that meant that God would send him back to me, in the form of another child. Yet the last few weeks I've been wondering if perhaps I understood wrong; that perhaps the tiny little body I created for that baby was all he really needed and that someday when I die I will have a perfect, Celestial little son waiting to meet me.

The truth is I don't know, one way or the other, and it is hard.

My baby never took a breath, but then again neither do stillborn babies and yet we still consider them to have been "alive" and comfort mothers by telling them that they will have their baby in heaven.

I never felt my baby move, but he was moving and his heart was beating for several weeks. How is that possible if there wasn't a spirit attached to that body?

I didn't know the gender of my baby but in a priesthood blessing my husband gave me I was told it was a boy. Does that some how make him more "real" or does it just mean that maybe this little baby I am carrying now is the boy who should have come to me before?

I know these are hard, and even impossible, questions to answer but my heart can't help but ask them. I am struggling to understand these things and I would love to hear thoughts or ideas from other women who have had miscarriages or lost babies.

What do you think? When do the spirit and the body become united and when does a baby's body "count" as its mortal experience?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Book Release! For real.

I know I've been sort of the giveaway queen lately but we are excited to announce that November 1, 2011 is the official release date (baring unseen circumstances) for our book "The Gift of Giving Life: Rediscovering the Divine Nature of Pregnancy and Birth" by Felice Austin, Lani Axman, Heather Farrell and Robyn Allgood.

Link

(The real cover is still in the works)

We are really excited to see this book completed, it has surpassed our wildest expectations. We are so grateful to all the wonderful women who sent us their stories and who have helped contribute to the book in many different ways. This projects has been inspired and blessed every step of the way and we are so excited to finally get this book into the hands of LDS women!

To celebrate the book release we are giving away 10 free copies of the book! Go to the book's blog to find out how you can win one of the free copies!!!!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

One Final Gift and Giveaway

Thank you to everyone who participated in Emma Smith's birthday gift this week! I loved reading your testimonies and am so grateful you shared them. If you didn't get a chance to share yours on Emma's birthday find a chance to sometime before her next one!

To finish off Emma Smith's birthday celebration I have two final gifts but this time they are for you!

First, I had quite a few people ask for good sources of information about Emma Smith and her life. The only biography that I had read on Emma was "Mormon Enigma" by Linda King Newell but when I asked Shantel Gardner about it this is what she sent me back:
I do not like Mormon Enigma, it is good for geographical location and dates, but it has an obvious RLDS slant, and both Emma and Brigham Young are grossly misquoted. I also don't like how Emma is portrayed after Joseph dies and some facts about her poisoning Joseph are wrong.

Some good books on Emma I'd are:

"Emma and Joseph: Their Divine Mission" by Gracia Jones

"The Emma Smith We Know" by Darcy Kennedy

"Emma Smith: An Elect Lady"
by Susan Easton Black

"Judge Me Dear Reader: Emma Smith Tells her Own Story" by Erwin W. Wirkus,

or "Reflections of Emma: Joseph Smith's Wife" by Buddy Younggreen
Hope that helps those of you who would like to know more about Emma!

Second, I contacted the Nashville Tribute Band who wrote the song "Emma" that was featured in the video tribute I posted this week. It is one of my all-time favorite songs and I asked if they might be willing to give away a copy of their CD "Joseph: A Nashville Tribute to the Prophet" on which the "Emma" song is featured. They said yes!



This CD is really one of my all-time favorites. If you were to look at my iTunes you'd see that is they are the most played tracks. Not only is there the beautiful song about Emma, but there is also one about Hyrum (Joseph's older brother) and songs for every major event in Joseph's life. Oh, and don't worry, even though it says "Nashville" on the cover they aren't twangy or country-ish. Just beautiful and if you haven't heard them you can get a sneak peek here.

If you'd like to win a copy of Joseph: A Nashville Tribute to the Prophet you can enter the giveaway by doing one or all of the following things:
  1. Leave a comment letting me know something new that you learned about Emma Smith this week and why it was important to you;
  2. Mention this giveaway and link back to this post on either Facebook, Twitter, or on your own blog and leave me a comment letting me know you did;
  3. If you participated in Emma's birthday gift and bore testimony of the Book of Mormon on your blog, Facebook or somewhere else let me know and you can have an entry.
The giveaway will close at midnight on Wednesday July 20th.

Best wishes!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

My Testimony for Emma

Today is Emma Hale Smith's 207th birthday! I really appreciate everyone who has participated in her birthday celebration this week. It has been a really wonderful experience. I mentioned before that I'd like to give Emma a birthday present this year and that as I pondered on what she'd appreciate most I felt like she would want to hear people share their testimony of the Book of Mormon.

So Emma, here is my birthday present for you.
The first time I ever prayed to know if the Book of Mormon was true was when I was a Freshman at college. I'd read the Book of Mormon several times throughout my life and had always felt like I had a testimony of it. Yet I was now at a point in my life where I had to make lots of hard decisions and I felt like it was extremely important that I know, once and for all, if the Book of Mormon was really from God or if I had been deceived my whole life. So after re-reading through the whole Book of Mormon I fasted for a whole day-- my first 24 hour fast. When I was finished I knelt down at my desk chair to ask God if the book was correct-- I can still remember how the light poured in through the window and how nervous I was. I was scared that I would get an answer and that no matter what it was I would have to change the way I was living my life. I also think I was terrified that I might not get any answer at all. Yet I put my fears aside and I poured out my heart to God. I told Him what I was struggling with and that I really needed to know if the Book of Mormon was from Him. I didn't get an answer at first. In fact, I remember thinking that I should just get up off my knees because I was being ridiculous. Yet, then I had this beautiful sense of peace wash over me and a still small voice spoke to my soul saying, "Heather, you already knew it was true." The truth of those words enveloped me and I knew that I did know and that I had seen, first hand, how the wisdom and power of the Book of Mormon had blessed my life over and over-- I didn't need any further witness.

I haven't ever forgotten the feeling I had that day and it has changed the focus and direction of my life. I can confidently say that the Book of Mormon has been the most influential book in my life. Through it my testimony of the Bible has been strengthened and my love and understanding of my Savior Jesus Christ. If you haven't ever read the Book of Mormon, you are missing out on one of the world's greatest treasures.


Thank you Emma for all you did to help bring it to the light. I will be eternally grateful.


Always,

Heather

If you have written your own present for Emma on your blog PLEASE link up to it below. I would love to read it, and I'm sure others would too.

Happy Birthday Emma!




Friday, July 8, 2011

The Nauvoo Willow Tree

As I was getting ready for Emma Smith's birthday celebration I stumbled onto the story of Kimberly Jo Smith, a great- great granddaughter of Joseph an Emma Smith, and her conversion to the LDS church. I was so incredibly touched by what she wrote, especially when she wrote of seeing the portraits of Joseph and Emma Smith for the first time when she was 14 years-old. She wrote:

It is hard to describe the feeling I had at that moment except to say that for a brief period it seemed as if time stood still. My hearing did not pick up audible sounds around me. I felt as if there was no one else on earth except me and those two portraits. My attention was first drawn to the man in the portrait which hung on the left; the familiarity was deep and instant. The gentle, fair complexioned face housed eyes that seemed to hold stories in their backdrop hues of gray and piercing blue; knowledge in a face so fair, a history that spoke volumes which reached out and embraced me in unknown depths.

I felt a longing to get close to this man. I was drawn to know who he was, when and where he lived, and why his portrait was in Grandma’s house. What did it have to do with me? I felt a mixture of sadness and joy, and a feeling I can only describe as gut-wrenching, as I looked upon his gentle but unsettling smile.

Tears began to stream down my face as I looked to the portrait beside the man and searched the face of a lovely woman. She seemed to convey a noble bearing, with raven black hair, eyes large and round, their color a beautiful dark brown. Again feelings of admiration and sadness rose in me, so much so that I could not bear to look any longer and went to find my Grandmother.

I asked her who the people in the portraits were and she responded, “Those are your great-great grandparents, Joseph and Emma Smith. Joseph established the ‘true’ church.” The true church? I had no idea what she meant. I only knew that these two people, the man in particular, seemed very familiar to me. I was overcome with an immediate love for them that was precious. I felt an intense yearning to learn everything I could about them both. The fourteen years which followed were filled with many interesting paths, leading me on a quest for knowledge about my ancestors. Such paths and journeys are often the target of the adversary and his fiery darts, and mine was no exception.

Later in her life she would visit Nauvoo and had some intensely personal experiences there. Here is what she wrote about that experience:

In the summer of 1989 some family members and I traveled to Nauvoo, Illinois. It was the first visit for us all, which perplexed me. As I walked along on the guided tours and glimpsed the scenes before me, the beauty of the grounds, the solitude of the graves of my ancestors, I could not understand why it had all been kept from us.

Upon entering the Homestead everything took root in my heart. As my eyes adjusted to the dimness, I looked up and breathed in sharply. It was one of those moments that people identify with déjà vu. I felt as if I had been there before. I struggled with the emotions coursing through me, realizing it was more. It was as if I was having a memory that was not my own. As I breathed, thoughts and feelings about Joseph and Emma filled my heart. Tears fell down my face and I lagged behind the others so that I might absorb as much as possible.

I dealt with similar feelings before, but not so deep and personal. This was profound, intimate, filled with sorrow, yet held together with joy; a precious gift that seemed broken. I walked out of the Homestead with an assignment that came in whispers. Like when a friend is standing beside you urging you to read a particular book or visit a certain place because it was so rewarding. Only I could not see who was whispering to my heart. I only knew that there was a host of what felt like family and friends about me and an unmistakable presence that I had felt from childhood, a familiarity that had no name until that day, Joseph. It was evident to me that I needed to visit Nauvoo often to learn for myself the true history of my people, Joseph and Emma, and why I felt so drawn to them on such a deep and personal level.

She also said that while visiting Nauvoo she had an experience once by an old willow tree which sits directly behind the Nauvoo House, where Emma Smith spent her remaining years on this earth. She said that as she stood beneath that tree she had an experience that caused her to feel as if Emma had spent much time in mourning by that tree. As a result she wrote this beautiful song and tribute to Emma, her great-great grandmother.

I'd never heard this song before and it touched me deeply. The more I learn about Emma Smith the more I stand in awe of what she accomplished in her lifetime. She was truly an elect lady of God.


Thank you to the Adam Seth Smith blog for pulling all these links together.

Don't forget about the present for Emma this Sunday, July 1oth!

The Life of Emma Smith: Part 2 by Shantel Gardner

Today's post for Emma Smith's Birthday celebration is the second half of Shantel Gardner's posts on the life of Emma Smith. If you missed the first half make sure you go back and read it. I am so grateful that she was willing to share her expertise with us. Also don't forget about the present for Emma this Sunday, July 1oth!


The last picture taken of Emma Smith before her death in 1879.
Picture from the LDS Church Archives, used with permission

The last post left off with Emma arriving in Nauvoo, Illinois. Nauvoo was a time of unprecedented peace and prosperity for Emma but also a time of great trials. One of the hardest things Emma had to deal with in Nauvoo was polygamy, it was very hard for Emma to live. She hated it. She lived it as early as 1832 in Kirtland, Ohio but she would go back and forth between having a testimony and being strong and then she just couldn't do it. She said she was too jealous hearted. It was her Issac; her Abrahamic sacrifice (see D&C 132).

Emma never poisoned Joseph because she was jealous of his other wives, as some people accuse her of doing-- it was bad chicken. All the quotes you normally read about Brigham Young accusing her are actually misquoted. Also, she never pushed Eliza R. Snow down the stairs and they never fought over a ring. We are finding more and more documentation that she actually had a good relationship with Brigham Young rather than a bad one. Brigham sent Joseph the 3rd birthday and Christmas presents throughout his life and we have just recently uncovered a letter from Brigham Young that is that is a very kind and in which he offers to pay Emma's way to Salt Lake, and understanding why she would want to stay in Nauvoo. He harbored no hard feelings. The bulk of bad things being said between the two were penned by a lawyer who refused to defend Joseph and Hyrum at Carthage and who had a huge falling out with Brigham Young later and ended up leaving the church.



Hyrum Smith's martyrdom clothes. No one knows where Joseph's are.
Picture from the LDS Church Archives, used with permission




The box given to Joseph by his brother Alvin in which he stored the golden plates.
Picture from the LDS Church Archives, used with permission


Emma also gets a bad reputation because she chose not to move West with the Saints to Salt Lake City. The only comments we have from her about making that choice are, "I was to tired to go west", "I knew what I had here, I did not know what was waiting for me there" Once she had crossed the Mississippi, she was not crossing it again. Other than that we don't know why she didn't go because she did not keep a journal. She did care for Lucy Mack Smith, Joseph's mother, until she died. Emma and Joseph were a team, equal in the restoration and when he was done- so was she. The Lord let her rest. When the railroad came through in 1868 she made plans to go to Utah to visit family and Brigham, but she was too ill by that point. Joseph left behind a lot of debt when he died and she paid off the debts left in Nauvoo up until 10 years before she died.

Three years after Joseph's death Emma married Lewis Bidamon, mainly for protection, but from letters between them we know they did love each other. He was a military man. Late in their marriage he had an affair and had an illegitimate son. Emma cared for the boy and raised him, but also gave his mother Nancy Abercrombie a job at the Nauvoo house so she could be close to her son. She made Lewis promise to marry Nancy after Emma died, and he did.

Link
The Nauvoo House in Nauvoo, Illinois. Image source

She was an excellent mother. Joseph the 3rd talks about how the boys in Nauvoo that he would play with would get all muddy, and then get in trouble so they would be afraid to go home. So Emma would give them clean clothes, launder their muddy clothes, and send them home with a cookie. He said the boys got to where they would just roll in the mud to get a cookie. He also talked about being in the Nauvoo house basement and getting caught sneaking some sugar. Emma caught them. She starting laughing and chipped them each a piece of the sugar cone and sent them on their way. He remembered her kindness to children. Joseph was that way to.

It is also important to note that Emma did not start the Reorganized Church of Later-day Saints (RLDS also known as the Church of Christ) and that her sons did not start the RLDS Church. It was started by two men, one of them being William Marks. They asked Joseph the 3rd to lead the church three times and he turned them down. Finally in 1860 Joseph the 3rd said he had a spiritual experience that told him to go lead that church. Emma supported her son, but never joined the church. She put together a hymnal for them and attended off and on, but she never broke her covenants. I had a personal experience while speaking about Emma in Nauvoo that told me that yes, Joseph the 3rd was indeed directed by the spirit to lead that church. He did SO MUCH GOOD as the leader of the RLDS church. Because of him, we now have the Kirtland temple, we have all the land in Nauvoo, we know the location of Joseph and Hyrum's bodies, and he started a University. I personally believe that Emma and her children were directed to stay- the Lord knew what he was doing.

Today Hyrum Smith has 30,000 decedents and Joseph Smith has 1,100. Of these descendants 109 of these are now members of the LDS church. Satan killed Joseph, drug his wife's reputation through the mud, and then combed through the posterity with the intend to destroy them. If they had gone West maybe none of them would have survived and there would have been no posterity. There was still a bounty on all the of the Smith boys heads and they were threatened that they would all be killed if they stayed with the church. It was not an idle threat, they had already had several close calls. Can you imagine how scared Emma would have been? She had already lost her parents, six children, her husband, and three of his brothers. We only know a fraction of her heartache and what she had to face, both things of this world and things of the spirit world- good and bad. I cant even imagine. Nothing was truly hers, she had literally sacrificed all.

Out of Emma's 11 children 5 of them lived into adulthood. All the below pictures are from the LDS Church Archives and are used with permission.


Julia Murdock Smith died in Nauvoo of breast cancer in 1880



Joseph Smith the 3rd lead the reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Later-day Saints until his death in 1914.



Frederick Granger Williams Smith lived into adulthood and was married and had a baby named Alice. Fredrick had what we now think was TB (Consumption) and he would have spells. His wife left him one day and took the baby during one of his spells. Joseph the 3rd was riding by on his horse and felt prompted to stop, so he did. He found Fredrick almost dead on the floor in his parlor. He threw him on the back of his horse and took him to Emma. Emma could do nothing for him, and he died a short time later. So that was another son she buried.



Alexander Hale Smith (named after Emma's Father). The LDS church history department thinks that he most resembled his father Joseph. Joseph also had a full jaw and a cleft in his chin.



David Hyrum Smith. Emma was pregnant with him when Joseph was martyred. He was born 4 months after his father died. In mid-life David Hyrum checked himself into a mental institution where he died in 1904. We had a medical doctor look at his records and we think he actually had hypoglycemia and was not actually insane.


Emma holding David Hyrum after Joseph's death

Two weeks before she died Emma had a dream that Joseph came to her and she put on her bonnet and shawl. He took her to a beautiful mansion in which there were many apartments, he took her into a room and in the room there was a cradle. In the cradle was Don Carlos. She picked him up and held him. She turned to Joseph and asked "where are the others" he said "You will have them all if you are patient" then she turned and standing next to Joseph was the Savior. She was promised in her patriarchal blessing that she would see the Savior in this life. She died two weeks later on April 30, 1879, the anniversary of her twins death, saying "Joseph, Joseph" and her hand outstretched. Identical to the way in which Brigham Young died.

She is with Joseph. I know it.


Image Source

Shantel Gardner lives in Minnesota with Joel, her husband of 15 years, and their five children. She has dedicated years of her personal study to Church history research, with a special interest in Joseph and Emma. She is a committee member of the Joseph Smith Jr. and Emma Hale Smith Historical Society and is assisting with ongoing projects. She is herself a descendant through Joseph’s family line. Shantel has a background in theatre and was a Deseret Cultural Arts Award finalist in 2009 for her play called “Brother Joseph”. She has also written other plays for the Cultural Arts department of the Church. Since 2005, Shantel has been invited to speak about Emma Smith across the country. She is currently pursuing a degree in Religious Studies at the University of Minnesota.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Video Tribute for Emma

This is the best vignette on Emma Smith I've EVER seen. Take a moment to watch it, you won't regret it, but just make sure you have a tissue nearby.
What an incredible woman.



Don't forget about the present for Emma this Sunday, July 1oth!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Life of Emma Smith: Part 1 by Shantel Gardner

I am pleased to have Shantel Gardner, a descendant of Emma and Joseph Smith, share today's post for Emma Smith's Birthday celebration. Shantel has spent years studying Emma and I've loved reading her insights into Emma's life. She shares so many little tidbits about Emma that I've never heard before. Hope you enjoy it and don't forget about the present for Emma this Sunday, July 1oth!


"Sister Emma" by David Lindsley

Image Source


Emma Hale was born July 10, 1804 in Harmony, Pennsylvania. In her early years her family would have been quite poor and it wasn't until her father bought an inn and starting running it when she was older that they would have had the money to own horses and boats. She was a very skilled horsewoman and loved to canoe on the river. She was sent away to boarding school for a year and so she was qualified to be a teacher. She was 5'9" and described as "big boned". In fact when the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Later-days Saints (RLDS) hunted for the graves of Joseph and Hyrum, years after their deaths, they also found Emma's grave. They were surprised to find her as big in stature as Joseph. She had dark brown hair, brown eyes, and an olive complexion. A man staying at her father's inn said she was beautiful and "well-turned" which is very old-fashioned expression for having a good figure. Even though her father did not consider himself to be a Christian she was religious from a very young age and when she was six-years-old father once found her praying on his behalf and it moved him so much that he later embraced Christianity. She is usually depicted as praying in a barn but further research has shows that she was mostly like in the woods praying-- just like Joseph did. This was important event to Emma, it was one of her first personal experiences with the Lord answering a prayer.

Joseph Smith was about 6 feet tall and had brownish-blonde hair and bright blue eyes. He was considered very handsome. He said that when he saw Emma it was love at first sight. There is an account given by Newell Knight that when his older brother Alvin died Joseph went to the Lord and asked him who would help him get the plates, now that Alvin was gone, and the Lord told him "you will know". When Joseph first saw Emma, the spirit confirmed to him that it was her and that she was to help him get the plates and translate them. Joseph asked her father for her hand three times and he said no every time. So they eloped.


"Emma's Hymns" by Liz Lemon Swindle

Women had nothing in the 1820's, no voting rights, no property rights, no access to education easily, they could not divorce, and the very identity of a woman was based on who her male counterpart was. Abuse and neglect was common and a woman's chances of survival greatly diminished depending on who she married. Emma was raised differently than most women of the day. She was educated, outspoken, she had opinions and she voiced them. She could hold her own in a conversation with a man, and that was highly unusual. Her father took careful measures to make sure Emma had more advantages than most women, and the idea that she was going to marry a dirt farmer of no consequence, who was claiming to see angels and translating gold records, was terrifying to him. She had a quick wit, which is one of the things that attracted Joseph to her, but I really have sympathy for her father. The chances for her happiness and well being were, in his mind, gone if she married Joseph. In fact he once told Joseph, "You have stolen my daughter and married her, I would have rather have seen her to her grave." As a result of their elopement Emma's father disowned her. Even though Emma and Joseph would later live with the Hale family for a period of time Emma's family never embraced the gospel and her relationship with them was always strained. When she left with Joseph to go to Ohio she left her family behind... never to see them again. This was a huge sacrifice for her but only one of the numerous ones she made for the restoration.

Emma's father was right in some regard because Emma and Joseph never had it easy. They lost their first son, whom they named Alvin, in June of 1828 and would gone on to loose five more in the coming years. In addition, Joseph was arrested and involved in over 225 court cases during their marriage. Even so, Emma was baptized on June 28, 1830 in Colesville, New York along with several other saints, including Newell Knight. On the day of the baptism Newell Knight's farm and fields were burned and Joseph was arrested for "disorderly conduct". As a result Emma had to wait two months before she could be confirmed. After Joseph returned he confirmed her and it was during her confirmation that he received section 25 of the D&C which specifically speaks about Emma's mission and role in the gospel.


My Beloved Emma by Liz Lemon Swindle
Image Source


Due to persecution Joseph and Emma moved with the church to Kirkland, Ohio in April 1831. It was there that Emma gave birth to twins-- Thaddeus and Louisa-- who died soon after birth. John Murdock, another member of the church, lost his wife in childbirth that same day and since he already had children to look after he gave his newborn twins to Joseph and Emma to care for. Joseph and Emma named them Joseph and Julia and Emma told John Murdock to never see the twins or tell them that he was their father. One of the twins, Joseph, died several months later when in Hiram, Ohio the door was left open during a mob raid in which Joseph Smith was tared and feathered. Emma was devastated but felt like she giving little Joseph back to his mother.



Not long after little Joseph's death Joseph and Newell Whitney had to travel to Missouri on church business. Joseph sent Emma up to Kirtland from Hiram to stay with the Whitney while he was gone. She was pregnant again and had Julia. When she arrived in Kirtland and knocked at the door of Elizabeth Whitney Elizabeth's aunt, Sarah Whitney who was strongly anti-Mormon, answered the door and told Emma that Elizabeth was sick and that there was no room for her there. She sent Emma away without Elizabeth's knowledge. As a result Emma was homeless in Kirtland for three months, staying with different families for one or two days, while waiting for Joseph to return.

Eventually persecution drove the Saints out of Kirtland and Emma traveled 900 miles by herself with small children to Far West, Missouri. In Far West the Saints faced further persecution and Emma's home was ransacked three times and she lost everything. When she and her family were forced to flee Far West all she had was one blanket for her and her children to share. She took Joseph's manuscripts of his translation of the Bible and placed them in sacks under the layers of her petticoats. She was afraid that she would be raped (which had happened to many LDS women in Far West) and wanted to make sure that the manuscript would not be discovered. With the manuscript hidden away she and her children walked across the frozen Missouri river, with ice breaking beneath her feet, to safety in Quincy, Illinois.

Link
"Of One Heart, Emma on the Ice" by Liz Lemon Swindle
Image Source


In 1839 The Saints finally found refuge in a swampy part of Missouri they named Nauvoo. Emma was a midwife and learned how to use herbs and medicines from her mother. People would come from all over to have her help them with various illnesses. Her skills came in handy in Nauvoo because malaria was rampant and many people died from it.


Emma Nursing the Sick in Nauvoo

Among those who died from malaria was Emma's youngest son Don Carlos (named after another of Joseph's brothers) who died when he was only 14 months old. Emma said that out of all the babies she lost Don Carlos was the hardest for her to loose.

Nauvoo would be Emma's home for the remainder of her life, but her life there is often the topic of much confusion. Part 2 of my post will address some of the misconceptions and myths that surround her later life.

Shantel Gardner lives in Minnesota with Joel, her husband of 15 years, and their five children. She has dedicated years of her personal study to Church history research, with a special interest in Joseph and Emma. She is a committee member of the Joseph Smith Jr. and Emma Hale Smith Historical Society and is assisting with ongoing projects. She is herself a descendant through Joseph’s family line. Shantel has a background in theatre and was a Deseret Cultural Arts Award finalist in 2009 for her play called “Brother Joseph”. She has also written other plays for the Cultural Arts department of the Church. Since 2005, Shantel has been invited to speak about Emma Smith across the country. She is currently pursuing a degree in Religious Studies at the University of Minnesota.

Monday, July 4, 2011

A Happy Birthday for Emma Smith



This Sunday, July 10th, is Emma Smith's, the wife of the prophet Joseph Smith, 207th birthday. Since she is one of the only women mentioned in the scriptures whose birthday we know I thought that it would be nice to have a birthday celebration for her the next few days on my blog. Before and after her birthday I will be hosting posts about her life. Her life is so often the center of confusion and controversy and I hope that the posts this week will give you a better perspective on the life and mission of this amazing woman.

In addition, I really want to give Emma a birthday present-- it has been a long time since she had one-- and as I thought about what she might most appreciate the thought came powerfully to me that what she would want for her birthday is to hear people, 200 years after she was gone, bear testimony of the Book of Mormon. Emma literally sacrificed everything she had, her family, her home, her children, her physical comfort, her health and even her husband, to help bring forth the Book of Mormon and the restored Church of Jesus Christ of Later-day Saints. I can't imagine that anything would bring her more joy than to know that her sacrifices weren't in vain and that the Book of Mormon has been one of the most powerful forces on the earth for bringing millions of people to their Savior Jesus Christ.

So next Sunday, July 10th, I invite everyone to give Emma Smith a birthday present by bearing their testimony of the Book of Mormon on Facebook, Twitter, or on your blog. It would be incredible if we could flood the internet that day with testimonies for her.

If you'd like to spread the word about this gift then please join the Facebook event and share it with your friends and family. Also, if you join the Facebook event I will also send you a reminder about when to post, but if you aren't able to do it on Sunday please feel free to do it later. I know she will still appreciate the gift.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Five Things for Friday, 8th Edition

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I've discovered two really wonderful things. The first one is The General Conference Book Club hosted over at Diapers and Divinity. The idea is that each week the "book club" reads a talk from General Conference and then discusses it together online. What a great idea! I am going to try to join up in this as much as I can because I find that sometimes I have a hard time motivating myself to go back and re-read the conference addresses.

The second one is Sisters at the Well which has resources to help women (or men) put together scriptures study groups. Here is what they provide (for free!):
Each year’s study covers one book or section of scripture so that the sisters can have the experience of studying the word of God in more depth than it is possible to do in a gospel doctrine class that must cover one of the Standard Works in a year. The lessons are designed to provide guided study materials for personal study. Sisters meet together weekly or every other week to discuss together the insights they gleaned from their personal study. The notes are to be read after answering the questions. They are not intended as source material for answers. The scriptures are the only source we use for answering the study guide questions. We want you to learn to search the scriptures for yourself.
This is really a great resource and if you can't pull together a group of women who want to study the scriptures together you could always do it by yourself. Really, how cool would it be though to have a group of women who regularly got together to study the scriptures in depth together-- now that would be POWER!

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I think that I might be growing a somewhat peculiar child inside of me because, much to my surprise, I have been craving eggplant like a wild woman this pregnancy. Granted, I like eggplant but I realized that this craving might be just a bit over the top when I looked out in my garden and saw that I have planted EIGHT eggplants. Does anyone really need that much eggplant? I hope that in August this baby still wants eggplant because I am going to be swimming in it! Anyone have any good recipes?



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I ended up being able to attend the LDS Holistic Living Conference and it was really wonderful. The best part though was getting to meet some of my blogging buddies and readers. I think that is the best part of writing a blog-- meeting new people that you'd never normally get to meet. It was especially fun to bump into Katrina of Musings of a Redhead. We've been trying to get together for months but it never worked and out and then we ran into each other! She is just as sweet in person and she is on her blog. If you haven't seen her project "At Mother's Breast" I'd hop on over and take a look. She takes the most incredible photos!

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I won an iPad at a banquet I went to with my husband a few months ago. I never win anything and so I was super excited. When they called my number I got so excited I forgot my ticket at my seat and had to go back for it, and then I dropped it four or five times on my way up to claim my prize. I was certainly good comic relief! So far the iPad has been claimed by my three-year-old and I think it mostly gets used for playing matching games and creating coloring pages. I am really wanting to get some good apps on it but I am overwhelmed by all the choices. Can any other iPad users out there give me some good ideas for apps--- for toddlers as well as adults?


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We took our kids out to a local historical farm awhile ago, you know the type where they have an old farm house with a wood burning stove, hay rides, people dressed up in old fashioned clothes, cows that you can milk, and farm animals you can pet and watch. It was really fun and my kids loved it but I couldn't think how strange it is that in our modern world we are so distanced from where our food supply comes from that farms seem quaint and entertaining. The whole time we were there I just kept imagining how ridiculous the whole scene would seem to original occupants of the historic farm house. These people are paying money to milk a cow! They are taking pictures of the pigs and the chickens like they are exotic animals! They don't know what a root cellar is for! My children live in such a different world than their grandparents did. It makes me wonder what things I have in my house now will one day end up on a "historic farm" for my grandchildren to marvel at!