Behold Thy Mother

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One of the most touching scenes I can imagine is that of Mary, Jesus’ mother, standing at her son’s feet, beholding His death as Jesus instructs John to care for her.  “Don’t just take care of her, care for her as I would,” I imagine him implying as He said the sacred words to his disciple, “Behold Thy Mother.”

I think we may fall short in our reverence for that Woman in the Mormon faith.  On this Mother’s Day, I praise and thank God for Jesus’ faithful Mother Mary.  I can’t imagine what she endured.

I am especially touched by this artistic rendition that shows those few disciples who stood by Him while he suffered the Cross.  The other Mary, who many of us believe was more than just a disciple, appears to be at her Master’s feet.  Completely devastated and yet completely there.  There is no fear in her love for Him.

John is also fearless for whatever reason.   While others fled and hid and were afraid, John, Jesus’ “beloved,” stood faithfully by and watched.  Oh what a privilege to even try to contemplate this kind of love, that “casteth out all fear” (Moroni 8:16).

And yet I imagine also that the pain, the irony and the contradictions were felt most acutely by them on that day.   After all, Joseph taught that Jesus experienced more irony and contradictions than any man.  I assume that any sincere follower of Christ, especially those who watched on the day of Crucifixion, also taste of such ironies and contradictions relative to their devotion.

This love between Mother and Son and between Husband and Wife and between Savior and Disciple is what inspires me this Mother’s Day morning.  Thank You Lord for showing us “How it is done.”  (Enos 1:7)

Joseph also demonstrated John-like love.  He too was fearless.  Parley said of Joseph:

‘It was Joseph Smith who taught me how to prize the endearing relationships of father and mother, husband and wife; of brother and sister, son and daughter.

‘It was from him that I learned that the wife of my bosom might be secured to me for time and all eternity; and that the refined sympathies and affections which endeared us to each other emanated from the fountain of divine eternal love. It was from him that I learned that we might cultivate these affections, and grow and increase in the same to all eternity. . . .

‘It was from him that I learned the true dignity and destiny of a son of God, clothed with an eternal priesthood, as the patriarch and sovereign of his [family]. It was from him that I learned that the highest dignity of womanhood was, to stand as a queen and priestess to her husband. . . .’ (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1968, pp. 297–98.)

I thank God for Joseph on this Mother’s Day as well.  Where would we be without his connection to heaven?

I don’t think we hear enough good spoken of Emma or Lucy in the church today.  I’m not trying to be critical.  It’s simply an honest observation.  It’s curious that these amazing women, who were clearly disciples of our Savior, who stood by Joseph and Hyrum, chose to not follow Brigham Young to Utah, or to come later for that matter.  I hope I would have honored Joseph by trying to care for them, even if it meant staying behind.

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Can you imagine the scene in the parlor where Joseph and Hyrum were displayed, lifeless, to be viewed one last time in mortality?  Lucy recorded in her own words as she came down the steps and saw her grandchildren clinging to her own sons’ necks:

“I was left desolate in my distress. I had reared six sons to manhood, and of them all, only one remained … as I entered the room and saw my murdered sons … it was too much; I sank back, crying to the Lord in the agony of my soul, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken this family!’ A voice replied, ‘I have taken them to myself, that they might have rest.’

“As I looked upon their peaceful, smiling countenances, I seemed almost to hear them say, ‘Mother, weep not for us, we have overcome the world by love; we carried to them the gospel, that their souls might be saved; they slew us for our testimony, and thus placed us beyond their power; their ascendancy is for a moment, ours is an eternal triumph’” (“History of Joseph Smith by His Mother,” my emphasis added).

Lucy, you amazing Mother, I bow my knee on your behalf this day and ask our Lord to bless you and Emma and your entire family, both living and dead.  Thank for your sacrifices for us often ungrateful members of the church!

I of course also think of my own mother this day.  She brought me into the world and has made many sacrifices for me and my siblings and others.  Her lot has not always been easy.  I have caused her great stress over the years.  And I am grateful to her for doing all show knows how to do on our behalf.  I don’t think my mother reads this blog, but in case she does, Mom, thank you.

My most heartfelt thoughts I leave of my wife.  She is my soul mate and my best friend.  I have watched her sacrifice her life for me and our children in ways that go beyond a calling or title.  She, like the Marys of old, stands by us in the darkest of hours.  Selfless.  Never complaining.  Always there.  I praise the God of Heaven and Earth for you on this day my love.  I cannot thank you or Him enough.  It is my greatest desire to be redeemed so that we may have some shred of hope of being together as a family after this life.  Thanks for standing by me and for not giving up on us.

One final thought on this Mother’s day from a true and faithful prophet of God on the sacred topic of families.  Joseph taught:

“The doctrine or sealing power of Elijah is as follows:—If you have power to seal on earth and in heaven, then we should be wise. The first thing you do, go and seal on earth your sons and daughters unto yourself, and yourself unto your fathers in eternal glory, and go ahead, and not go back, but use a little wisdom, and seal all you can, and when you get to heaven tell your Father that what you seal on earth should be sealed in heaven, according to his promise. I will walk through the gate of heaven and claim what I seal, and those that follow me and my counsel.” (Joseph Smith, TPJS Section 6, p. 340, my emphasis added)

It is my testimony that the greatest way to honor our mothers and our families is to seek to receive sealing power.  Receiving sealing power must be “individual.”  It requires more than just a temple marriage and “faithful” church service.  We cannot rely upon a church to magically cast a spell upon our families and expect nothing more will be required except to “endure to the end.”  Receiving true sealing power requires our very hearts and souls.  We must be stretched as was Abraham.

Let us here observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things, never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation; for from the first existence of man, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things: it was through this sacrifice, and this only, that God has ordained that men should enjoy eternal life; and it is through the medium of the sacrifice of all earthly things, that men do actually know that they are doing the things that are well pleasing in the sight of God. When a man has offered in sacrifice all that he has, for the truth’s sake, not even withholding his life, and believing before God that he has been called to make this sacrifice, because he seeks to do his will, he does know most assuredly, that God does and will accept his sacrifice & offering, & that he has not nor will not seek his face in vain. Under these circumstances, then, he can obtain the faith necessary for him to lay hold on eternal life.  It is in vain for persons to fancy to themselves that they are heirs with those, or can be heirs with them, who have offered their all in sacrifice, and by this means obtained faith in God and favor with him so as to obtain eternal life, unless they in like manner offer unto him the same sacrifice, and through that offering obtain the knowledge that they are accepted of him.  (Lectures on Faith)

May we honor Motherhood this day by working in all diligence to preserve our families and loved ones in the eternities.  God help us in this effort before it is everlastingly too late.

 

 

 

 

6 thoughts on “Behold Thy Mother

  1. Rob Smith

    Hey AB, good post. I would not have included Emma in this list of mothers to honor. I expect we should be careful in what we say about her, given that it is probably the case that Joseph did not cast her away. However, having no shortage of women that did the right thing, we have no reason to revise history to paint Emma as a woman she was not.

    She really made Joseph’s life a living hell. She made his practice of polygamy many times harder than it had to be. She probably even tried to kill him.

    Emma’s resurgence as an icon for LDS women came as a result of feminist revisionist history, starting in the 1970s. It is unclear why people latched onto her as a role model instead of, say, Lucy Mack Smith, Mary Fielding Smith, Eliza R. Snow, and others. One thing is for sure, the Emma Smith depicted in the church’s movies and pop “history” books is a fabrication when compared to contemporary historical sources.

  2. Lena Hansen

    Rob,
    I believe you have misjudged Emma. The things you say she did is gossip repeated motivated by jealously. G-d called her an “Elect Lady”, and she is Joseph’s sweetheart.
    Joseph himself denied that he practiced polygamy. He preached against it, and told others not to practice it. DNA evidence shows that Joseph only had children with Emma. Legal documents, at the time Joseph was alive, testified he did not practice polygamy. The gossipers who said that Joseph was a polygamist, made up tales, decades after the fact, to cover their own sins. To say that Joseph Smith was a polygamist is to “speak ill of the the Lords anointed”. Polygamy is a wicked practice established by Satan. The first documented polygamist was an evil man named Lamech a descendant of Cain. Polygamy has brought only grief to families who practice it.

  3. Rob

    Lena, God can praise a person or a people at one time and then, as a result of their rejection of him, call them quite other things.

    My comments are based on historical fact. I invite you to read Joseph Smith’s journals, which exist in undoctored form, as a start. They tell a very different story than the status quo. If you have not read Joseph Smith’s journals, history of the church, etc., than I would invite you to omit the use of the word “gossip” to describe history that you yourself have not read.

    I will not enter into a ton of commentary on polygamy, as my comment was about Emma. The facts are all out there, and I invite you to look into them. If you do and remain with the same position you currently have, you will have garnered context to make the weak arguments you pose strong enough to withstand at least a cursory analysis. However, you may find that you have trouble maintaining your current position when informed by the available facts. I suggest you start on Joseph Smith’s journals, then Brian Hales’ series on Joseph Smith’s polygamy. Come up with your own informed conclusion, don’t just parrot what other very biased people have said.

  4. Lena Hansen

    Hi Rob, So sorry to be late in my response, life happens and the two responses I wrote don’t show up. I think it is because of my links. I will try again without the links.

    I have been looking at Mormon polygamy since the 1980’s. Yes, I am really that old! At first I believed as you did. Well almost, I was never negative about Emma. I believed what others said about Joseph introducing polygamy to the church. I even wrote a semester research paper at BYU examining the different eras of polygamy.

    Later, I learned about the science of gathering historical data about a particular event, especially one that is controversial. When reputable historians, who are not swayed by their own biases and opinions, gather documents; they label the documents by their credibility. Documents such as newspapers, legal documents, letters and journals (written at the time in the hand of the author) are weighted as most credible.

    Other documents such as a remembrance written 2+ or 5+ or 10+ or 20+ years later are weighted less and less as time passes as to when the event occurred. Legal documents, that are only legal in the sense that testify as to the identity of the witness, rather than the actual testimony, are weighted less that legal documents that testify of the accuracy of the testimony. Journal entries written by a scribe, are also not weighted as heavily as they can be easily altered after the death of the one doing the dictating. Having established the groundwork, we can now analyze what you believe to be “historical fact”.

    The volume of work titled “The History of the Church” is especially problematic. It was a serialized work that began while Joseph was alive, but was reworked and added onto after Joseph died, by numerous individuals including, but not limited to: Willard Richards, William Clayton, George A Smith, BH Roberts. It was completed in 1902. It was written in Joseph’s voice, thus giving the impression to the reader that Joseph had written or at least authorized his “story”. Not reputable at all.

    Joseph Smith’s journals are a better source of his life, but he used scribes quite heavily. Vocabularies such as “washings and anointing’s” that are later interpreted as “sealings” show bias in the historian.

    As for Brian Hales, he has done a commendable job of
    Looking at just Joseph Smith and polygamy. He has put together three volumes of material on the subject of Joseph Smith’s polygamy and has gathered historical sources in that work. I do wonder about his objectivity. In 2011 I attended a Sunstone Conference where he stated that he believed the LDS church would be practicing polygamy in the near future.

    Hales is honest when he addresses the problem of “Authoritative Sources” in Volume 3 Chapter 6 he states,
    “Establishing the Prophet’s precise instructions is difficult due to a lack of contemporary accounts recording Joseph Smith’s specific teachings on these lofty topics. Furthermore, a challenge arises regarding which sources should be considered authoritative for defining his theology, ideology, and cosmology. Of course, the most authoritative of sources would be the Prophet himself, but his writings and recorded instructions on plural marriage are limited to the revelation on celestial and plural marriage, Doctrine and Covenants 132.”

    Later in chapter 6, Hales concludes,
    “Unfortunately, no accounts of a public discourse discussing plural marriage have been found.”

    So Hales’ sources are others said, rather than the Prophet Joseph himself. What we do have are numerous accounts of Joseph preaching against polygamy. Perhaps the most damming evidence is the 101 Section in the D&C when Joseph was alive, titled Marriage. This section later removed in 1876 and replaced by Section 132. Section 132 is problematic in that it “mysteriously” appeared 8 years after Joseph’s death, in Brigham Young’s handwriting. No contemporary accounts exist of 132 during Joseph’s life. Of course Brigham blamed Emma for “destroying the original, easy enough to do as she was ½ way across the continent!

    Joseph wasted precious moments at the end of his life preaching against polygamy as did his brothers Don Carlos, Samuel and Hyrum.

    Examples can be found at the Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy website.

    The best evidence against Joseph as a polygamist is the lack of DNA evidence. Of the 70% percent of the reported descendants of Joseph Smith, only children with Emma are his. 30% are unable to verified mainly because the children died without heirs.

    Rob, I suggest that you open your mind to other possibilities. Are you willing to rest your testimony on what others said Joseph said? A good place to start is Rock Waterman’s site Pure Mormonism: Why I am Abandoning Polygamy.

  5. Rob Smith

    Lena,
    Thanks for your detailed and kind-toned reply. I really appreciate both aspects.

    I don’t agree with Hales on many things. In general, as a scientist I don’t like relying on others’ interpretation of facts. Instead, I like to see the facts and draw my own conclusions. I have read “Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy.” I found the number of missing facts to be very suspect, given how much digging would be required to assemble those included. I do not disagree with any facts in JSFP. However, my conclusion is that the authors intentionally avoid facts that refute their conclusion.

    You are right about history of the church.

    I don’t quite understand what you are intimating with Joseph Smith’s journals. Are you saying the scribes, who wrote contemporaneously, somehow modified what Joseph actually said? Or that they were doctored later on? There are some tremendous stories in JSJ.

    It is interesting to note that William Marks, the stake president of Nauvoo, among others who founded the RLDS church, repeatedly said that Joseph Smith did practice polygamy, but later repented. This position only weakened their own, so it is odd that they would take it unless they really thought it was true. William Marks was also a very high (maybe second to Joseph, in fact, though I don’t recall) member of the council of 50. He was in the inner sanctum.

    It is interesting that the two charges in the Nauvoo Expositor, penned by Joseph’s councilor in the 1st presidency, were a) that Joseph had been crowned king of the world in a religious ceremony (which actually happened, council of 50) and b) that he was practicing polygamy. It is interesting to note that, according to many, the Higbees and the Laws incited the mob that killed Joseph because of these charges. It is interesting that men who knew Joseph best were willing to kill him over these two charges, if in fact they were false.

    And what of those who practiced polygamy during Joseph’s life? William Clayton, for example? If I’m not mistaken, hHis plural wife became pregnant prior to the martyrdom. This possess a serious issue that needs to be explained.

    If Joseph did not practice polygamy, the historical record we have today would be one of the greatest conspiracies of all time, not only for the number of people involved and contemporary journal entries needing to be doctored, for the sheer amount of research and consistency to align all dates and descriptions, but also for the fact that out of how many men not one broke ranks or stumbled in their story? How many were purportedly sealed to plural wives before the martyrdom? Though a small group of people, as a percentage of the leading councils of the church, it was quite a great number. If Joseph did not practice and authorize others to practice polygamy, you can pretty much throw out every apostle at the time as a liar, a scoundrel, and a wonderfully adept conman.

    On the topic of children, it has never made sense to me that any would expect a living descendant. Those who have read Joseph Smith’s journals realize how hectic and scrutinized his life was. Had he been married to even 100 women, it would have been very difficult to impregnate any of them, even if he was trying. Emma only consented to his polygamy for a very brief time. Thus, for most of the years of his practice, he had to keep it secret. How do you keep sexual encounters secret when you have a team of people following you from place to place during daylight hours, and you are in the company of Emma at night? Add to this the fact that a women can only become pregnant about 6 days out of the month. The only time he would have had opportunity for any sort of normal sex with anyone but Emma without her knowledge would have been when he had his wives living in the Nauvoo house under the guise of being maids. And, in fact, this was the situation when Eliza Snow allegedly became pregnant and was pushed down the steps by Emma. Even if he was having sex with all 27 alleged wives as often as circumstances would permit, it would have been very very unlikely for one of the wives to have had a child.

  6. Lena Hansen

    The Joseph Smith Journal entries say nothing about him practicing polygamy. Instead the entries about him were refuting polygamy. Later, historians have inferred because of what others have said, not from the original source, Joseph. This is why Hales and others can’t find direct evidence about Joseph practicing polygamy. Hales is at least a big enough man to admit it. If you had indeed read the Price’s works you would know most of what you call evidence is not. This includes the information about William Clayton and Eliza R Snow. The Eliza R Snow story was refuted years ago.

    A valuable lesson learned from childhood, “Don’t believe everything you hear.” That is what we have done. So eager have the LDS to believe evil about Joseph, somehow believing evil about others excuses their own sins. Rumors about Joseph and adultery were had early on. Rumors/gossip/hearsay is all they are. Moroni told Joseph his name would be “known for good and evil”. Gullible lot aren’t we to believe gossip and rumors and hearsay.

    Shortly after Joseph died, suddenly documentation and live births from the people who were secretly practicing polygamy appears. Suddenly what was so dangerous we had to keep it hidden is now not so dangerous once Joseph was killed?

    No Joseph polygamy descendants, hummm so remind what was the point then? LDS polygamists believe it’s all about the number of children; the higher the number of wives and children, the higher your place in the Kingdom. Once again Joseph “failed” where others “succeeded”? Give me a break!!

    So your source is the Nauvoo expositor?? That is stooping pretty low!
    Enemies of the church are whom you believe over Joseph?? So for you, anybody else’s word trumps what Joseph said??

    I’ll tell you something. I have a strong and irrefutable testimony of the gospel of Christ and the Book of Mormon and the things that Joseph really said. In order for me to have a strong testimony in the Book of Mormon I have to believe Joseph’s words. My testimony does not extend to Brigham or anybody else, and especially Joseph’s enemies. I believe Joseph the words of Joseph period. If he said he did not practice plural marriage, then he did not. I believe him because he is the Lords Anointed. He is the prophet of this dispensation. Be careful about speaking ill of Joseph.

    I agree with Denver Snuffer:

    “So as I begin the subject, I want to suggest interpreting the material while making attributions to Joseph Smith about his behavior, understanding, teaching, and doctrine I think should be extremely circumspect. I believe Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. We sing a hymn with the words, “Jesus anointed that Prophet and Seer.”4 If that hymn is right, and I think it is, then Joseph Smith would be included among those who are anointed by the Lord. We should be very careful of “evil speaking of the Lord’s anointed” because we can inadvertently incur God’s displeasure by doing so. I would not want to attribute to Joseph Smith sexual indiscretions he did not actually commit. It is risky to claim you know the heart of that man if you have not gone to the trouble of searching the subject enough to be fair when you make the attempt. I think this is something we all ought to be very careful about if we decide we are going to judge Joseph Smith” –Denver Snuffer “Plural Marriage” found on his website under Papers and Lectures

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