On this Day in Church History Emma Hale Smith died at the age of 74 (April 30, 1879)
On a foggy morning, I gazed at Nauvoo House from the banks of the Mississippi. I stared at the beautiful structure and pondered the image of Emma in her old age: sitting in her rocking chair each night and looking out the windows at the sunset with tears streaming down her face.
Ever since I read this article about her life, written by her great-great-granddaughter, the image of Emma crying each evening has haunted me. When she cried, no one dared approach her because they didn’t know how to comfort her. The depth of her sorrow and the length of her trials are unimaginable. Even after all she lived through with Joseph, after his death her troubles were really only just beginning.
I’ve thought a lot about Emma. I’ve been trying to figure out: what can I learn from her story?
One thing I can identify with is her tears. Of course I don’t comprehend all that she experienced, but I do understand that feeling of being utterly alone. That feeling of: no one knows exactly what I am going through.
The story does have a happy ending though. This is Emma’s experience before her death:
“Sister Elizabeth Revel, Emma’s nurse, explained that a few days earlier Emma had told her that Joseph came to her in a vision and said, “Emma, come with me, it is time for you to come with me.” “As Emma related it, she said, ‘I put on my bonnet and my shawl and went with him; I did not think that it was anything unusual. I went with him into a mansion, and he showed me through the different apartments of that beautiful mansion.’ And one room was the nursery. In that nursery was a babe in the cradle. She said, ‘I knew my babe, my Don Carlos that was taken from me.’ She sprang forward, caught the child up in her arms, and wept with joy over the child. When Emma recovered herself sufficient she turned to Joseph and said, ‘Joseph, where are the rest of my children.’ He said to her, ‘Emma, be patient and you shall have all of your children.’ Then she saw standing by his side a personage of light, even the Lord Jesus Christ.”1
In life we can focus on the hard things. The difficult things. It’s easy for us to tend toward re-telling the bad stories rather than the happy ones. Emma lived through many lows, but also many heavenly highs. In the end, her husband and her Savior received her with arms full of love and appreciation for all that she endured—the good and the bad.
Only Jesus Christ knows, truly knows, what we are experiencing in this life. He knows because he experienced it, too. He suffered our pains so he could soothe our pains. We are not alone in our trials.2
If there is one thing I can learn from Emma it is to be strong and faithful and never forget that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is with us, even through every sun-kissed, lonely tear.