Christmas With Joseph & Emma
submitted by Donna Cuillard
I did this for a Christmas program last year. We passed the parts out and had lots of narrators so that many people coule be involved. They each came up front to the mic when it was their turn to read.
Format adapted from:
Ballam, Michael; Christmas With Joseph & Emma,
Additional Church Historical dates & events from:
Roberts, B. H. “History of the Church” (HC)
Additional on history of Christmas Hymns from:
Collins, Ace “Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas”
Christmas With Joseph & Emma
Christmas Eve of 1818 is at hand. Pastor Joseph Mohr of St. Nicholas Church in Oberndorf, Austria decides that he needs a carol for the Christmas Eve service. The little poem he had written two years earlier while serving at the pilgrim church in Mariapfarr just might work. He hurries off to see his friend, Franz Gruber, a schoolteacher who also served as the church’s organist and choirmaster. In a few short hours, Franz comes up with the beautiful melody to go along with the words to the little poem which Joseph has entitled, Stille Nacht or Silent Night.
While Joseph & Franz are penning this beautiful hymn on the other side of the world, Abraham Lincoln is 9 years of age and living in the wilds of Kentucky, and a young boy named Joseph Smith is 13 years of age and living on farm in Manchester, NY. Joseph was born Dec. 23, 1805 in Sharon, Vermont, and he would begin an extraordinary portion of the history of the world that would touch multitudes of our Heavenly Father’s children on both sides of the veil.
Many of the carols & traditions that are so familiar to us were either born or became popular during the life of Joseph Smith. When Joseph is 14 yrs of age, in the spring of 1820, he goes into a grove of trees near his parents’ log home in Manchester Twp., just south of Palmyra, NY to seek help from Heavenly Father. During this prayer, God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, visit and instruct him. This event marks the opening of the dispensation of the fullness of times.
We don’t have too much recorded about how Joseph & his family celebrated Christmas. Joseph’s childhood Christmases would have been simple: Food served from their own harvest, homemade gifts, simple decorations gathered from the woods and readings from the Bible.
One thing we do know for sure is that there was a common practice among the Smith family of getting together and singing carols. One of the most popular, especially in the German area of upstate New York where Joseph lived, was “Silent Night”.
“Silent Night” – All – Hymn #204- All verses
Narrator #2 –
Joseph Smith and Emma Hale are married in January of 1827. Joseph has met Emma while working in Harmony, Pennsylvania, where Emma’s parents Isaac & Elizabeth Hale own a country inn. Joseph & Emma’s marriage is one of unusual blessings, hardships, sorrows and challenges.
“As my father’s worldly circumstances were very limited, we were under the necessity of laboring with our hands, hiring out by day’s work and otherwise as we could get opportunity. During the time that I was thus employed, I was put to board with Mr. Isaac Hale. It was there I first saw my wife (his daughter), Emma Hale. On the 18th of January, 1827, we were married, while I was yet employed in the service of Mr. Stoal.
Owing to my continuing to assert that I had seen a vision, persecution still followed me, and my wife’s father’s family were very much opposed to our being married. I was, therefore, under the necessity of taking her elsewhere; so we went and were married at the house of Squire Tarbell, in South Bainbridge, New York. Immediately after my marriage, we went to my father’s, and I farmed with him that season.” HC 1:17 Joseph’s parents, Joseph Sr. & Luck Mack Smith, welcome them into their busy household – Joseph has six younger brothers & sisters ranging in age from 8 – 16. Joseph & Emma live in the dining room which also doubles as the family’s eating area. Joseph’s brother Hyrum has just recently married Jerusha Barden and they have set up housekeeping nearby.
This year another hymn becomes very popular that we still sing today and is found as hymn #205 in our hymnal – “Once In Royal David’s City” Piano Solo
1827 is an important year for Joseph and for the restoration of the Gospel because it is this year on Sept. 22 that the plates are delivered to Joseph. In the introduction to the Book of Mormon we find Joseph’s testimony of this important event.
“At Length the time arrived for obtaining the plates, the Urim and Thummim, and the breastplate. On the twenty-second day of September, one thousand eight hundred and twenty-seven, having gone as usual at the end of another year to the place where they were deposited, the same heavenly messenger delivered them up to me with this charge: That I should be responsible for them; that if I should let them go carelessly, or through any neglect of mine, I should be cut off; but that if I would use all my endeavors to preserve them, until he, the messenger, should call for them, they should be protected.” ~Book of Mormon, Testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith.
By December of this year Emma is expecting their first child and is not well.
Because of the inciting riots and challenges with persecutors, it becomes evident that they can no longer remain in Palmyra. In December, Emma’s brother Alva comes with his team and loads up this new family, including the plates which are buried in a barrel of beans, and takes them to the home of Emma’s parents in Harmony, Pennsylvania.
Christmas of 1827 finds Joseph & Emma living in a hunting cabin there on the property of Emma’s parents in a small place that had been used as a tanning shed. Emma is busy with domestic affairs such as weaving and candle making, and she is also functioning as a scribe for Joseph as he begins the translating of the Plates. In April Martin Harris comes to their home and begins to serve as a scribe. Emma’s baby is shortly due. By Christmas of 1828 Joseph and Emma have buried their first-born son and Martin has lost the manuscript with which he had been entrusted.
In April of 1829, a young schoolteacher, Oliver Cowdery, comes to town and begins helping Joseph with the translation process. In the coming months would also come the restoration of the Aaronic and Melchezidek Priesthood and the restoration of the ordinance of Baptism.
On April 6, 1830, the Church is officially organized. This same year Emma’s father withdraws his support for Emma because of their religious beliefs and she bids farewell to her parents never to see them again on this earth. This same year Joseph decides to move west to Kirtland, Ohio.
The words of an old English hymn speak of an angel of the Lord coming down to earth bringing peace and joy. This hymn must surely have given the Smith family comfort at this time.
“While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks” – All – Hymn #211 – Verse 1 only
The following year in 1831 Emma is expecting another baby. She and Joseph are taking a sleigh trip near Kirtland and have an accident but they are unharmed. There near Kirtland, Emma gives birth on April 30th to twins who die shortly after their birth. They are named Thaddeus & Louisa. This loss causes a great sorrow for Joseph & Emma. While they are grieving, they hear of the death of their friend Julia Murdock, who has also given birth to twins. Their father, John Murdock, is beside himself with grief. Besides the twins, he has 5 small children to care for. He takes the tiny, motherless twins to Emma, and she and Joseph adopt them to raise as their own. They are named Joseph & Julia Murdock.
On February 16, 1832, while Joseph is translating, he receives, by revelation, Section 76 of the Doctrine & Covenants. From this revelation Joseph learns of the degrees of Glory and receives a vision of the Savior. Of this experience Joseph writes:
And while we meditated upon these things, the Lord touched the eyes of our understandings and they were opened, and the glory of the Lord shone round about. And we beheld the glory of the Son, on the right hand of the Father, and received of his fullness; And saw the holy angels, and them who are sanctified before his throne, worshipping God, and the Lamb, who worship him forever and ever. And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives! For we saw him; even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father – That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are
begotten sons and daughters unto God.”
Five weeks later, on the night of the 24th of March 1832, a mob of angry men brake into Joseph & Emma’s home. Joseph & Emma have been up late tending the two sick eleven-month old twins who have the measles. When the mob drags Joseph outside, the sick baby, Joseph Murdock, is exposed to the cold. The Prophet is taken, tarred and feathered and turned lose. A few days later, little Joseph Murdock dies from exposure. Joseph & Emma now lay away their fourth little one.
On June the 5th of 1833 George A. Smith hauls the first load of stone for the building of the Kirtland Temple, on the 18th of December Joseph’s Father, Joseph Smith Sr. is ordained Patriarch of the Church and by the middle of December the walls of the Temple are rising in Kirtland.
An old English Hymn, “The First Noel”, which had been sung for generations first appears in print this year and gains popularity as it is circulated around the world. Originally written as a folk song, this song was sung by peasants in England as they would light the yule log.
“The First Noel” – Family- Hymn #213
Persecution in Missouri increases and on the 10th of December 1833 Joseph writes to the exiled Saints in Missouri, “Beloved Brethren . . . . When we learn your sufferings, it awakens every sympathy of our hearts; it weighs us down; we cannot refrain from tears, yet we are not able to realize, only in part, your sufferings. And I often hear the brethren saying, they wish they were with you, that they might bear a part of your sufferings; and I myself should have been with you, had not God prevented it in the order of His providence, that the yolk of affliction might be less grievous upon you. Finally, brethren the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all until His coming in His kingdom. Amen, Joseph Smith Jun.” (HC1:453-456)
In 1834, Joseph is deeply concerned for the welfare of the members who are being mobbed and plundered in Missouri. In February he travels throughout the branches of the Church in New York and Ohio, calling for volunteers to go to Missouri in the spring to assist the besieged Saints who have been driven out of Jackson County. Joseph leads a company of men, with 20 loaded baggage wagons, westward toward Missouri – a journey of about 900 miles. This company becomes known as “Zion’s Camp”.
May 5, 1834: “Having gathered and prepared clothing and other necessaries to carry to our brethren and sisters, who had been robbed and plundered of nearly all their effects, I started with the remainder of the Company from Kirtland to Missouri. My company from Kirtland consisted of about one hundred men, mostly young men, nearly all Elders, Priests, Teachers or Deacons. As our wagons were nearly filled with baggage, we had mostly to travel on foot. We purchased flour and meal, baked our own bread, and cooked our own food, generally, which was good, though sometimes scanty; and sometimes we had Johnny-cake or corndodger, instead of flour bread. Every night before retiring to rest, at the sound of the trumpet, we bowed before the Lord in the several tents, and presented our thank-offerings with prayer and supplication; and at the sound of the morning trumpet, about four o’clock, every man was again on his knees before the Lord, imploring His blessing for the day.
May 27 – Notwithstanding our enemies were continually breathing threats of violence, we did not fear, neither did we hesitate to prosecute our journey, for God was with us, and His angels went before us, and the faith of our little band was unwavering. We know that angels were our companions, for we saw them.” Abstracted from: HC II:63-73
In February of 1836 the collection of sacred hymns and the Doctrine & Covenants are printed and on March 27, 1836, the Kirtland Temple is dedicated. One of the hymns in that original hymnal is “Joy To The World”. It is not a newly-composed hymn, but some of the words are edited by W.W. Phelps, Joseph’s personal secretary. The words “Heaven & Nature Sing”, are replaced by the words “and Saints and Angels sing”. Emma puts the edited version into the hymnbook and the Saints begin to sing the hymn as we know it today.
“Joy To The World” – All – Hymn #201 – All 4 verses
In 1837 the persecution in Missouri intensifies. In the summer Joseph & Hyrum
go there and other Church leaders follow in September. Hyrum leaves at home
his beloved wife Jerusha, about to give birth, and their four little ones –
Lovina age 10; John age 4; Hyrum jr. age 3; & little Jerusha age 17 months.
Following the birth of little Sarah, Jerusha becomes ill with pneumonia, and
she dies on the 13th of October 1837, just 11 days after giving birth. It
would be some time before Hyrum would be notified of the tragedy and mid December
before he would return home to care for his little ones.
This same year a baby boy named William Dix was born in England. William
would grow to become a writer embracing a wide range of topics. A near-fatal
illness robbed him of his strength and confined him to bed for many months.
As he lay near death, he often reflected on his faith. Reading the Bible he
reaffirmed his faith not only in Christ the Savior but also in the power of God
to move in the lives of the common people. During this time he wrote many
poems. Perhaps his best-known, which he entitled The Manger Throne, would later
be paired with the music to the ancient English folk song, Greensleeve. This
has become one of our favorite and most moving Christmas hymns.
Greensleeves: Piano Duet
The following month on the 11th of January 1838, Emma’s father, Isaac Hale
dies. Even though he has never reconciled with Emma and Joseph, he provides
for her in his Will if she ever desires to leave Joseph and return home.
Mounting persecution is the watchword of the year 1838 and early in January
it becomes evident that Joseph and Emma will have to leave Kirtland. For
safety reasons, they leave in darkness. Assisted by Joseph’s brother, Don Carlos,
they begin the 900 mile trek to Far West. Emma is in the fourth month of
pregnancy and is traveling with Julia not quite 7, young Joseph who is 5, &
Freddie age 18 months. After 9 days they arrive at the Mississippi River. On Feb
15, Emma and the children cross the frozen river on foot because it is not safe
to ride in the wagon . The entire journey takes two grueling months. In a
wagon and on foot, in the dead of winter, they travel across Ohio, Indiana,
Illinois, Iowa and Missouri. They arrive in Far West in March and there would
begin an important era in the history of the Church. Their baby, Alexander Hale
Smith is born on June 2 in the abandoned log cabin in which they live.
Persecution continues and on the 27th of October in the year of 1838 Lilburn
Boggs, governor of Missouri issues an extermination order to drive the Saints
out of Missouri. When the extermination order is made public, anti-Mormon
volunteers immediately begin to gather at Richmond. They begin their path of
destruction on the 30th of October with an attack on a small community a few
miles east of Far West called Haun’s Mill. The militia rides into Haun’s Mill
and an old man carrying a white flag greets them. He is answered by a deadly
barrage of rifle fire. Women and children escape across the river and into the
woods. Men and boys barricade themselves in the blacksmith’s shop. The
mobbers stick their gun barrels between the logs and begin firing. When they are
finished, the militia has accomplished a full-scale massacre with 1600 rounds of
ammunition fired at forty people.
A Christmas Hymn, recently written and circulated across the Country speaks
of Shepherds Far Away and must surely have reminded the Smith family of the
distance separating them from their loved ones.
“Far, Far, Away On Judea’s Plains – All – Hymn #212 – All verses Christmas with Joseph & Emma – second half of script. Every time there is
something that Joseph Smith wrote or said, our Joseph read that part.
Format adapted from:
Ballam, Michael; Christmas With Joseph & Emma,
Additional Church Historical dates & events from:
Roberts, B. H. “History of the Church” (HC)
Additional on history of Christmas Hymns from:
Collins, Ace “Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas”
Script continues from first e-mail:
Joseph fortifies Far West, but the militia surrounds the city. Joseph, Hyrum
and others are taken prisoner; bound and left lying on the ground through the
night where they suffer exposure from a driving rainstorm. This begins a
period of several months’ incarceration for Joseph & Hyrum and several others;
first in Richmond and later in Liberty. When Joseph’s father hears of the
capture of his two sons, he collapses from the emotional shock.
By Christmas, Joseph is still in jail and Emma visits him 3 times. From
Liberty jail Joseph writes to Emma:
“Dear Emma . . . We are prisoners in chains for Christ’s sake and for no
other causes . . . Oh, God grant that I may have the privilege of seeing once
more my lovely family, in the enjoyment of the sweets of liberty and solace of
life; to press them to my bosom and kiss their lovely cheeks would fill my heart
with unspeakable gratitude. Tell the children that I am alive and that I
shall come and see them before long. Comfort their hearts all you can, and try
to be comforted yourself all you can. We are in good spirits and rejoice that
we are counted worthy to be persecuted for Christ’s sake. Tell little Joseph,
Father loves him with a perfect love; tell little Frederick, father loves him
with all his heart – he is a lovely boy. Julia is a lovely little girl; I
love her also, she is a promising child; tell her Father wants her to remember
him. Oh, my affectionate Emma, I want you to remember that I am a true and
faithful friend to you and the children forever. My heart is entwined around
yours forever and ever; oh, may God bless you all. I am your husband and am in
bonds and tribulations. . . Joseph, Jun.”
Jesse, Dean C., The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, Deseret Book, 1984 pp
This Christmas in Far West would be a simple & sad one. Joseph & Hyrum are
still in jail and many of the remaining brethren have been forced into hiding to
avoid illegal warrants. Crops are unharvested, their homes pillaged. Tools,
dishes, even quilts have been stolen. As the Church grows new converts
bring with them their musical and holiday heritage. Even in the midst of such
poverty and persecution the Saints would find peace in remembering and honoring
the birth of the Savior.
“Here We Come A-Caroling” is an old English wassail song, or a song to wish
good health. In days of yore, the Christmas spirit often made the rich a
little more generous than usual, and bands of beggars and orphans used to dance
their way through the snowy streets of England, offering to sing good cheer and
to tell good fortune if the householder would give them a drink from his
wassail bowl, or a penny, or a pork pie, or better yet, let them stand for a few
minutes beside the warmth of his hearth. The wassail bowl itself was a hearty
combination of hot cider and spices. Surely the Saints, themselves living in
poverty and without even the simplest of comforts, would have found peace in
this ancient carol.
Here We Come A Wassailing – Piano Duet
In Far West, the brethren immediately make preparations for the forced
evacuation of the City. A committee is organized to supervise the removal. It is
decided that the first families to be moved would be those of the Presidency
and the other prisoners. From February first every effort is made to get every
man, woman, and child who wants to leave Missouri, out of the state.
In February of 1839 the Saints are on the move once again – being driven from
Missouri into Illinois. Traveling across the muddy plains, in a wagon driven
by Stephen Markham, Emma & her children cover the 150 miles across Missouri in
nine days and arrive at the Mississippi River, opposite Quincy, Illinois on
the 15th of February. Almost one year after Emma had crossed the frozen
Mississippi heading west, she now faces the return journey. Nine days of travel
through the bitter cold, rain, and sleet have brought her face-to-face once again
with the ice-choked Mississippi. They arrive at the banks just south of the
rapids where the river is a little less than a mile wide. Crossing the ice on
foot, she carries eight-month-old Alexander in her arms; two-year-old Frederick
clings to her neck, and little Joseph & Julia hold onto her skirts. Under
her skirts she is wearing a muslin apron carrying a large portion of Joseph’s
important papers. Her clothes have become wet from rain and sleet and are now
almost completely frozen.
Joseph & the other prisoners still in jail, suffer greatly from living in
filthy, cramped circumstances. The damp cold and miserable dimness of the
closed-up building is overwhelming. The prisoners are chained together.
While imprisoned in Liberty jail, the Prophet receives many revelations,
which bring him peace, comfort, and instruction. Some of which are contained in D
& C Sections 121-123.
My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall
be but a small moment; And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee
on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes. Thy friends do stand by thee,
and they shall hail thee again with warm hearts and friendly hands. (D&C
For there is a time appointed for every man, according as his works shall be.
God shall give unto you knowledge by his Holy Spirit, yea, by the
unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost, that has not been revealed since the world was until
now; Which our forefathers have awaited with anxious expectation to be
revealed in the last times, which their minds were pointed to by the angels, as held
in reserve for the fullness of their glory. (D&C121:25-27)
In the summer of 1839 the Saints purchase a piece of land called Commerce,
situated in the middle of a swamp in Illinois. This city soon comes to be
called Nauvoo, and it becomes the place of gathering for the Saints. There they
experience widespread sickness. The boggy terrain breeds mosquitoes, the climate
is humid and many people contract malaria. The sick and dying are lying all
along the banks of the river because most had no homes as yet. Joseph & Emma
move out of their house into the yard so that the sick may be cared for in
their home. On the morning of the 22nd of July 1839, Joseph arises from his
sickbed and commences to administer to the sick and commands them in the name of
the Lord Jesus Christ to arise and be made whole.
He walks up and down the river and heals the sick that lay in his path.
“In consequence of the persecution of the Saints in Missouri, and the
exposures to which they were subjected, many of them were taken sick soon after their
arrival at Commerce, afterwards called Nauvoo; and as there was but a small
number of dwellings for them to occupy, I had filled my house and tent with
them, and through constantly attending to their wants, I soon fell sick myself.
After being confined to my house several days, and while meditating upon my
situation, I had a great desire to attend to the duties of my office. On the
morning of the 22nd of July 1839, I arose from my bed and commenced to
administer to the sick in my own house and door-yard, and I commanded them in the name
of the Lord Jesus Christ to arise and be made whole; and the sick were healed
upon every side. Among this number was Henry G. Sherwood, who was nigh unto
death. I stood in the font door of his tent and commanded him in the name of
Jesus Christ to arise and come out of his tent, and he obeyed and was healed.
There were many sick whom I could not visit, so I counseled the Twelve to
go and visit and heal them, and many were healed under their hands.”
(Pronoun adapted from H. C. IV pg 3-5.)
On the 13th of March 1840, Emma gives birth to another child. They name him
Don Carlos after Joseph’s brother they so dearly love. Joseph’s father has
never fully recovered from the collapse he suffered when Joseph & Hyrum were
captured in Far West and in September he dies. The Church mourns his passing.
Missionary work increases and as the Gospel spreads abroad Saints from across
the world gather to Nauvoo bringing with them their talents necessary to
build the new city.
By Christmas of 1840, Felix Mendenhall has written a carol that is familiar
to us – Hark the Herald Angels Sing. It is written in praise of John
Guttenberg, the publisher of the first printed Bible with movable press. This hymn
becomes popular across the world and the message – Joyful all ye nations rise –
filled the hearts of the Saints as their beautiful city of Nauvoo grows and
begins to prosper.
“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing – Laurel Class – Hymn #209
On the 6th of April 1841 the Temple site is dedicated in Nauvoo and the
southeast cornerstone is laid. On the 7th of August, Joseph’s beloved brother, Don
Carlos, dies suddenly after a brief bout with pneumonia. He is 26 yrs old and
leaves 3 small daughters. Joseph & Emma barely finish with funeral
arrangements when, to their anguish, their own little 13 month-old-baby of the same name
dies within a week. The following month on the 25th of September, Hyrum
Smith jr., Hyrum’s 7 yr old son, also dies in Nauvoo.
During this time the Saints are anxiously awaiting the Ordinances of the
Temple that would come forth in Nauvoo wherein ordinances for the dead could be
performed by proxy in the Temple. In the face of so many deaths, this doctrine
gives them great solace.
In 1841 there are brief periods of joy: parties and guests and missionary
work is progressing with great speed. This year an ancient carol written in the
17th century, Adeste Fidelis, gains new life as it is translated into English
and spreads across the world. This hymn echoes Joseph’s message to all the
world – “Oh Come all Ye Faithful”. This song is popular in the colonies and
was sung in churches, in towns and in log cabins across the frontier.
“Oh, Come All Ye Faithful” – Hymn #202
On the 16th of March 1842, Joseph organizes the Relief Society and Emma is
made president. On the 27th of March Joseph preaches a sermon on baptism for
the dead, he baptizes 107 people in the Mississippi River, and 170 English
Saints reach Nauvoo from the British Isles. Several report in their journals that
Joseph comes to the dock himself to welcome and embrace them.
In August of 1842 Joseph is in exile once again. A small group of Joseph’s
friends bring Emma & Hyrum to visit him on an Island in the river where he has
been in hiding. Joseph writes:
“How glorious were my feelings when I met the faithful and friendly band, on
the night of the eleventh, on Thursday, on the island at the mouth of the
slough, and 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. Many were the
reverberations of my mind when I contemplated for a moment the many scenes we had
been called to pass through, the fatigues and the toils, the sorrows and
sufferings, and joys and consolations, from time to time, which had strewed our path
and crowned our board. Oh what a commingling of thought filled my mind for
the moment, again she is here, even in the seventh trouble – undaunted, firm,
and unwavering – unchangeable, affectionate Emma. There was Brother Hyrum who
next took me by the hand. Thought I to myself, Brother Hyrum, what a faithful
heart you have got! Oh may the Eternal Jehovah crown eternal blessings upon
your head, as a reward for the care you have had for my soul! O, how many are
the sorrows we have shared together.
While I call up in remembrance before the Lord these men, I would be doing
injustice to those who rowed me in the skiff up the river that night, after I
parted with the lovely group – who brought me to this my safe, and lonely, and
private retreat – Brother Jonathan Dunham, and the other, whose name I do not
know. Many were the thoughts that swelled my aching heart, while they were
toiling faithfully with their oars. They complained not of hardship and fatigue
to secure my safety. My heart would have been harder that a stone, If I had
not prayed for them with anxious and fervent desire. I did so. I hope to see
them again, that I may toil for them, and administer to their comfort also.
They shall not want for a friend while I live; my heart shall love those, and
my hands shall toil for those, who love and toil for me, and shall ever be
found faithful to my friends.” (HC 5:107-109)
December of 1842, after two months of illness, Joseph & Emma are regaining
their health and the family gathers for Christmas.
The third verse of the following hymn must surely have reflected the thoughts
& feelings of the Early Saints. Beaten, driven and exiled they had
repeatedly suffered the reality of, “There is no peace on earth”. And yet, in spite of
the persecution there has always burned brightly the sure knowledge that
“God is not dead nor doth he sleep.”
“I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day” – All – Hymn #214 – All 5 verses
The peace of this Christmas day is short lived. More charges are brought
against Joseph and the day after Christmas in 1842, he is served with papers
commanding him that he must attend a hearing in Springfield. That same day, at 9
am, Emma is delivered of a son who does not survive his birth. Joseph has to
leave the next day for his hearing.
On Christmas 1843 Joseph is home with family and they receive a great deal of
Orrin Porter Rockwell, Joseph’s long-tried and cruelly persecuted friend,
arrives from nearly a year’s imprisonment without conviction, in Missouri. This
is perhaps Joseph’s happiest Christmas in Nauvoo.
A hymn, written in 1816 in England, travels across the ocean and circulates
freely among the colonies during the early 1830’s. It is especially popular
among the Saints as they have personal knowledge of angels from the realms of
glory. This knowledge, born of testimonies carried deep into their souls by
the Holy Ghost, would help them endure what had been before and would help
prepare them for what lay ahead.
The last verse,
“Saints before the altar bending,
Watching long in hope and fear,
Suddenly the Lord, descending,
In His temple shall appear.”
Caused them to sing this hymn not only at Christmas, but also throughout the
“Angels From The Realms of Glory” – Quarter (which included our Joseph &
This would be the last Christmas Joseph would spend with his family. Within a
few short months on the 27th of June 1844, Joseph & Hyrum would seal their
testimonies with their blood. On the morning of the martyrdom Joseph writes to
“Carthage Jail the 27th of June 1844, at 20 minutes past eight a.m.
Dear Emma: The Governor continues his courtesies and permits us to see our
friends. I am very much resigned to my lot, knowing I am justified, and have
done the best that could be done. Give my love to the children and all my
friends and all who inquire after me; and as for treason, I know that I have not
committed any, and they cannot prove anything of the kind, so you need not have
any fears that anything can happen to us on that account.
May God bless you all. Amen” HC 6:605
First official word of the martyrdom arriving in Nauvoo is a message from
Willard Richards & John Taylor:
“Carthage Jail, 8:05 o’clock, p.m., June 27th, 1844.
Joseph and Hyrum are dead. Taylor wounded, not very badly. I am well. The
job was done in an instant, and the party fled towards Nauvoo instantly.” HC
Word of the martyrdom arrives in Nauvoo and brings with it sorrow and
anguish. Thousands of people view the bodies of Joseph & Hyrum.
Before the family can recover, Joseph & Hyrum’s younger Brother, Samuel, dies
from injuries he received while trying to outrun the mob on the night of the
martyrdom. He dies only 4 weeks after Joseph & Hyrum – leaving a pregnant
widow and 4 small children. In all, counting the widows of Joseph, Hyrum,
Samuel, Don Carlos, Joseph Smith Sr., and Joseph’s uncles who also died for the
cause, there were left – 7 Smith widows and of the numerous children left
fatherless, 24 are still young enough to be completely dependent upon their mothers.
In the year 1844, the year of the martyrdom, one of the most devout of all
Christmas Carols was penned in France. It is called, Contique de Noelle or “O,
Holy Night”. Where we say in English, O, Night Divine, the French say, Behold
The Redeemer. And this is the reason for Christmas – it is because of the
redeeming blood of Jesus Christ that we will all live again. And Joseph Smith,
the Prophet of the Restoration understood that completely.
“O Holy Night” – Solo
Narrator # 15 (Our Relief Society President read this part and then ended
with her sweet testimony).
The enemies of the Church thought the martyrdom would put and end to the
Church. But it is not the Gospel of Joseph Smith – it is the Gospel of Jesus
Christ and the work would continue on. The work of the Lord would spread across
the earth and the Gospel of Jesus Christ would bless all mankind, reaching down
through time and lifting us even here this evening. We are all recipients of
the sacrifices of the early Saints and the faith and devotion of the Prophet
From the Doctrine & Covenants we read:
“Joseph Smith the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus
only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived
in it.” D&C 135:3
In the hustle and bustle of the Season, may we each take time to pause and
reflect on the real reason for the holiday. May we each find a portion of peace
and comfort in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, in the promises of eternity and in
the atonement in our lives.
And so as we celebrate the season of His birth, we celebrate his Life and His
mission – we love Him, we worship Him – Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
“Angels We Have Heard On High” – All – Hymn #203 – All verses.