While doing research for Joseph Smith’s Last Dream I learned of a remarkable account of Emma Smith’s own last dream. The dream is so beautiful and so helpful in clearing misunderstandings about Emma that I felt compelled to share it through a video.
Debate About the Dream
Despite the beauty of Emma’s dream, there are some who debate its validity for a number of reasons. As with many events in church history, this account was not recorded until many, many years after it had occurred. The story itself comes to us third-hand: Emma told it to her nurse, her nurse told it to Alexander, Alexander told it to RLDS youth who later published it for others to read.
With that in mind, Gracia N. Jones, an author and a direct descendent of Joseph and Emma Smith wrote this in her book:
“I have been asked whether it is possible Emma was delusional when she had this experience. It is natural to wonder about this, since it is uncommon for most of us to experience such a marvelous thing. I had to give it serious consideration. I’ve always accepted it at face value, feeling a tremendous joy in understanding the principles it teaches–and assurance of life hereafter and the promise that families can be together forever.
“These are things we all long to know and believe–and they are things that are absolutely impossible to prove in any empirical sense. One simply cannot prove a spiritual experience. It all must rest upon faith.
“However, as I pondered the question and the situation, I realized that most of the time, if one is trying to support an idea, they will used language and evidence that favors their opinion. In the case of Alexander Hale Smith, who told this story while speaking to a group of RLDS young people about six years before he died, he was not in an environment where he hoped to prove a point or be believed. He was simply sharing what, to him, was a sacred experience. At that time he did not even teach the doctrine of families being together for eternity, so theorizing that he used the story to prove a point is not very likely…
“…we can most likely assume he was not embellishing, but rather telling the story as it happened to him” (Jones, Gracia N. Emma and Lucy. American Fork, Utah: Covenant Communications, 2005. Print., pgs. 190-191).
And Ardis Parshall of Keepapitchinin.org, wrote this:
“As for the evaluations of Emma’s life and character: Emma is one of those people who has been abused by history, I think. Instead of wanting to know who the real woman was, people want to use her for political purposes: To some people…she was that awful woman who lied about polygamy and who kept Joseph’s children out of the Church. To others…she is depicted as a heroic goddess who could do no wrong. Both extremes are wrong, I think.”
Personally, I agree with Ardis’s middle-ground approach to Emma’s life: to demonize her would be wrong and to polish her up into some sort of brazen statue would be wrong. Seeing her (and her husband) as human–as people with struggles, hopes and dreams just as real as ours–is the best approach we can take, because it helps us relate to them and learn from them.
Emma Smith’s Life
Paul Thomas Smith, an author and a chief researcher of Emma Smith’s life, shares some of his thoughts and insights concerning the life Emma Hale Smith.
So I end where I started. This account of Emma Smith’s last dream is so beautiful and so helpful in clearing misunderstandings about Emma because it helps us to see her not as some distant, mysterious historical figure, but as a human being: as someone who had struggles, hopes and dreams just as real as ours.