Sunday, March 7, 2021

Doctrine and Covenants 23-26

Doctrine and Covenants 25 is the personal revelation given to Emma Smith, the wife of the prophet, but verse 16 of it states that this revelation is for everyone.  Three topics from this revelation have been chosen for this lesson.


"And the office of thy calling shall be for a comfort unto my servant, Joseph Smith, Jr., thy husband, in his afflictions, with consoling words, in the spirit of meekness" (D&C 25:5).

Joseph wrote in his journal, regarding a time in 1842 when he was in hiding and Emma had come to visit him, "With what unspeakable delight, and what transports of joy swelled my bosom, when I took by the hand, on that night, my beloved Emma--she that was my wife, even the wife of my youth, and the choice of my heart...Oh what a co-mingling of thought filled my mind for the moment, again she is here, even in the seventh trouble, undaunted, firm, and unwavering--unchangeable, affectionate Emma!" (History of the Church 5:107).

And Joseph kept this counsel as well, and was a comfort to his wife.  In her portrait she is wearing the string of gold beads that were a gift from Joseph.  After his death, she carried a lock of his hair in a locket she wore the rest of her life.  She lived to the age of 74 and exited this life with her arm extended, calling out, "Joseph!  Yes, yes, I'm coming"  (Susan Easton Black, Who's Who in the Doctrine and Covenants, 275).


"Continue in the spirit of meekness, and beware of pride.  Let thy soul delight in thy husband, and the glory which shall come upon him" (D&C 25:14).

Emma was 5 foot 9 inches, with dark hair and brown eyes.  She is always described as having been very beautiful (Black, 273).  She had a quick wit, as well.  She could manage a canoe (!) and was a skilled horseback rider.  She sang in her church choir as a girl.  She was exceptionally bright and studied for one year at a girls' school (Arnold K. Garr, et. al., Encyclopedia of Latter-day Saint History, p. 1111).  Emma was outstandingly beautiful, she was refined, she was educated, and she came from a comfortable home.

Joseph was 6 feet tall, weighed 180 lbs, and is always described as having a commanding presence about him, and being well-built and muscular, but seldom or never is he described as having been exceptionally handsome.  His family's financial status was generally along the poverty level.  His education was extremely limited.  Peter Burnett, who was an attorney for Joseph Smith, described him as follows:

His appearance was not prepossessing and his conversational powers were but ordinary.  You could tell at a glance that his education was very limited.  He was an awkward but vehement speaker.  In conversation, he was slow and used too many words to express his ideas and would not generally go directly to a point" (Peter H. Burnett, Recollections and Opinions of an Old Pioneer, p. 66-67, quoted in Latter-day History, p. 220).

Mr. Burnett wrote that despite all these drawbacks, "he was much more than an ordinary man," and described the power of his personality, his ideas, his kindness and his influence, but it is possible to see from his words that Emma might well have considered herself Joseph's superior.  Many other of the educated early saints did.  Some begged to see the plates as proof of Joseph's word, but although Emma had them right in her house, right under her bed, right in her wagon, right on her kitchen table, she said, "I never felt at liberty to look at them" (Black, 273).  How many of us could have the controversial golden plates sitting right in front of us with nothing but a cloth covering them, and not sneak a peak?  Emma could be trusted.

My brother, Gary J Wyatt, gave a talk in his ward in Kansas several years ago on pride.  He prepared an excellent little quiz to check on our personal state of pride:

  1. How easily are you offended?  Taking offense a sign of a soul centered on self.
  2. Do you have a difficult time forgiving others?  Expecting forgiveness from God and others while we offer none is the sign of a person who puts himself above others.
  3. Can you freely admit mistakes and confess sins?
  4. How threatened are you by the accomplishments and good fortune of others?  The converse is also telling:  Do you get a feeling of satisfaction and relief when someone else stumbles or has trouble and difficulties?
  5. How important is it to you that you get credit for the good that you do?  Everything we do should be with "an eye single to the glory of God."  There is no limit to what we can accomplish if we are not worried about getting credit for it.
  6. Do you enjoy reveling in self-pity?  Self-pity is simply another manifestation of the self-centeredness that defines the prideful self.  It puts one's needs above those of others.
  7. Do you enjoy gossip?  No behavior could more fully reflect a soul in pride's grip than the one who revels in gossip.
  8. Do you turn everything, from the simplest conversation, to more substantial and elaborate interactions with others, into a competition with winners and losers?  You know what I mean: one-upping, wanting to talk more than listen, etc.
"To paraphrase C.S. Lewis: The person who is looking down on others is one who cannot look up to God.  Our goal should be cooperation, not competition."


"Wherefore, lift up thy heart and rejoice..." (D&C 25:13).

We don't have much control over what happens to us, so how can we be expected to be joyful?  Yet rejoicing is a commandment.  By this we can know that it is a choice over which we have control, and that is exciting news!

"Wherefore, be of good cheer and do not fear," the Lord said to the suffering early saints, "for I the Lord am with you."

While Joseph was imprisoned in the Liberty Jail, Emma had to flee with her children and the other saints 200 miles to Illinois, much of that on foot.  The whole way, she carried his manuscripts, including the translation of the Bible, tied under her skirts to keep them safe.  She later wrote to Joseph, "No one but God knows the reflections of my mind and the feelings of my heart when I left our house and home, and almost all of everything that we possessed excepting our little children, and took my journey out of the State of Missouri, leaving you shut up in that lonesome prison" (Black, 275).

Of her eleven children, nine of whom she bore and two which she adopted, only five grew to adulthood.  She lost six children in infancy and childhood!  In addition to caring for the five living children, she continually cared for many ill.  She was homeless much of her early married life and had to rely upon the hospitality of others.  When she did get her own home, she returned that hospitality to many homeless Saints.  In fact, in Nauvoo, many sick Saints set up tents as a hospital ward in her front yard, with her as the nurse.

When Christ hung on the cross, he asked his disciple John to care for his mother after his death.  Joseph didn't have the opportunity to arrange for the care of his widowed mother before he died, but he didn't need to; Emma naturally took care of that.  She also cared for many of her relatives, and many of her second husband's relatives, including his mistress and illegitimate 4-year-old son when they became known and were destitute! (She cared for the boy until her death 11 years later.) Now that is a charitable woman!  (Tad Walsh, "Was Emma Smith an Elect Lady?" Deseret News, Nov. 7, 2008).

Emma saw trials of homelessness, multiple moves, mob action resulting in the death of one of her babies, the deaths of other children, the trials of polygamy, the murder of her beloved husband, poverty, criticism, exile, loss of almost all her earthly possessions, single parenthood (including giving birth after the death of her husband), a second marriage to a nonbeliever, infidelity on the part of her second husband, humiliation, mental illness in her family (the youngest child, David), abandonment after she and the church leadership had a falling out and she remained in Illinois with her mother-in-law, and extreme caregiver responsibilities (including hand-feeding Lucy Mack Smith for the last year of her life).

Yet, her mother-in-law wrote of her, "Although her strength was exhausted, still her spirits were the same, which, in fact, was always the case with her, even under the most trying circumstances.  I have never seen a woman in my life, who would endure every species of fatigue and hardship, from month to month, and from year to year, with that unflinching courage, zeal, and patience, which she has ever done" (Lucy Mack Smith, History of the Prophet Joseph Smith by His Mother, 190-91).

I am quite certain that Emma Smith was not happy and perky all the time (in fact, her granddaughter commented that she always retained a sadness in her smile), but if the Lord could advise Emma Smith to be of good cheer, He also expects us to be of good cheer in our trials which are almost undoubtedly less than hers.

Elder Marvin J. Ashton said, "If we can recall the Lord's promise, 'for I the Lord am with you'...we will find the strength to be of good cheer instead of becoming resentful, critical, or defeated"  (Marvin J. Ashton, "Be of Good Cheer," April 1986 General Conference).

The great Latter-day Saint parent educator, Glenn Latham, whose lectures we attended and whose books we read many times as my husband and I raised our children, wrote, "The father of a wayward son once told me, 'A parent can be no happier than his most unhappy child.'  After fifteen years of working with Mormon families in crisis, I have concluded that parental guilt, shame, and suffering for the 'sins' of their children have become modern Mormon icons...

"The admonition to 'be of good cheer' is particularly applicable to Mormon parents today who are fearing and distressed by the 'storms' that sweep over their families and threaten the very survival of their children.  'Being of good cheer' is certainly a better, more positive and constructive response than is unwarranted shame, unearned guilt, and useless suffering" (Glenn I. Latham, "Guilt, Shame and Suffering: Modern Mormon Icons," 1987).

 “We should honor the Savior's declaration to "be of good cheer." (Matthew 14:27) Indeed, it seems to me we may be more guilty of breaking that commandment than almost any other!”  (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, Created for Greater Things).

We don't have to be of good cheer all the time, after all, having love for others means empathy, which means suffering--even God weeps. (See Moses 7:28-40.) This is, in fact, one of the greatest revelations of the Restoration of the True Church: that the God of Nature suffers, both on the cross and when his children are hurt. He is not without empathy for us, as is the Protestant God "without body, parts, or passions." But we can be of good cheer even in troubling times and in troubling circumstances, because we know who wins: Christ has overcome the world! (John 16:33). If we cannot then be generally cheerful, hopeful, optimistic, happy, we must build up our faith and work to reach the measure of our creation, which is to have joy (2 Nephi 2:25). It's no easy task, and it's not accomplished overnight. Some people (myself included) may need professional help to overcome clinical depression or anxiety. But it is a commandment worth striving to follow, and along the way, we will see bits and pieces of joy. 

Joy is a journey as well as a destination. It is found in the state of oneness with God. (See 3 Nephi 28:10.) We achieve that state here and there throughout life as we do God's work, as we serve his children, as we are filled with the Holy Ghost, as we listen to His voice, as we seek His will, as we feel His powerful love for us, and for others through us. If you think back on the moments of greatest joy in your life, you will see this is the simple truth. 


"And it shall be given thee, also, to make a selection of sacred hymns, as it shall be given thee, which is pleasing unto me, to be had in my church. For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads" (D&C 25:11-12).

Emma did more than simply assemble hymns. She put together and published a lovely pocket-sized hymnbook. 

A Collection of Sacred Hymns for the Church of the Latter Day Saints replica 
sitting atop today's church hymnal

The hymns in this first volume did not contain titles or music, only words and meter. 

The person conducting the music in the meeting would choose, for example, Hymn #1, and then also choose a well-known tune with the correct meter (or number of pitches in the melody for the syllables in the verse). In this hymn, the meter is noted as "L.M.," or Long Meter, in which each line of the poem contains 8 syllables. A tune familiar to the saints and suitable to Long Meter would then be chosen and the congregation would sing the tune from memory with the words on the page. It may be a different tune each week. The tune to which we sing this hymn today, Bramwell, was written in 1937, so the saints would have never sung it the way we know it. (See Hymns of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 401.) On p. 408 of our present hymnbook, you can see a listing of the songs written in Long Meter (8888) to which you could sing "Know This That Every Soul is Free." It's kind of a fun experiment, to sing as the early Saints did.

The story of Emma's life is depicted beautifully in the docudrama, "Emma Smith: My Story," by Candlelight Media Group, available on YouTube. I highly recommend watching it as part of your at-home gospel and Church history study. It's a perfect Sunday afternoon activity and will increase your love for and understanding of this great lady.

(See also Gracia Jones, "My Great-Great-Grandmother, Emma Hale Smith," Ensign, August 1992)

Note: For any of you who may be trying to learn to play the hymns on a keyboard or piano, please feel free to use my "Guide to Learning Hymns Made Easy" or my "Graded List of LDS Hymns for Piano Students." 



T.C. said...

Thank you for your inspirational thoughts on this lesson. Because of it I have decided on a different approach and I start my lesson by sharing the beginning of the Relief Society.

I am using your quote by C.S. Lewis. Thank you :)

Anonymous said...

I love all your lessons and I use material from them for mine. Thank you so much for posting them. I really appreciate it!

Christi said...

Your thoughts and insights into these lessons is wonderful. Thank you so much for taking the time to post them. They are of great help to me.

4kidsandcrazy said...

Another wonderful lesson! Thanks for sharing your knowledge and insight.