Hey listeners, I know many of you turn the show off after the main segment is over, but there’s something I need to discuss with you in the C segment so please stick around after the history this week if you normally tune out. With that out of the way, let’s get to the show.
Ep 173 – Emma’s My Hero
On this episode, we check in with Emma and her slipping grasp on power. She kicks out of the Nauvoo Mansion the Partridge sisters, the Lawrence sisters, and Jane Manning James to hopefully cut down on the rumors circulating the city. Orsimus F. Bostwick files a public complaint against Hyrum Sidekick-Abiff Smith and claims “half a bushel of meal” will get him any prostitute he wants in Nauvoo. An anonymous poem is published about Celestial Marriage. W. W. Phelps responds with “The Voice of Innocence from Nauvoo” and it’s read to the first meeting of the Relief Society of 1844. Emma chastises her counselors telling them to keep an eye on their daughters.
Come to the March for the Children!!!
March for the Children Oct. 5, 2019
The Voice of Innocence from Nauvoo
Buckeye’s Laments by Gary Bergera
Buckeye’s Lamentation for Want of More Wives poem
Joseph hiding polygamy
Nauvoo Relief Society minutes
Music by Jason Comeau http://aloststateofmind.com/
Show Artwork http://weirdmormonshit.com/
Legal Counsel http://patorrez.com/
Emma’s vacillation between toleration and revile towards polygamy complicated the practice and hampered its proliferation. Tensions grew and fizzled out when she was reminded how powerless she was to stop the practice.
According to her biographers Linda Newell and Valeen Avery in Mormon Enigma p. 169:
Although Emma’s open opposition to plural marriage had ceased since receiving her second anointing, the presence of some of Joseph’s young wives under her roof nagged at her. She continued to confront Joseph with the issue.
Emma had been dealing with Jo’s libertine proclivities for well over a decade by this point but two tenants of the Nauvoo Mansion exemplified the most frustrating parts of day-to-day life in polygamy, Emily and Eliza Partridge. They were 18 and 20, young and vivacious; Emma was nearly 40 years old with 4 kids and frequent bouts of illness that rendered her bedridden and unable to attend to the socially expected duties of the massive new Nauvoo Mansion with its many guests. The extent to which Emma was aware of how prolific polygamy was at this time will remain a historical mystery forever, but some of her interactions reveal she had some kind of idea of how deep the practice ran. Her melancholy and disengagement from the Relief Society through 1843 and into early 44 may point to some apprehensions about how much it had become a rumor mill. Maybe she had grown detached from her closest friends in the Relief Society leadership, all of whom had been sealed to Joseph by early 1844.
Emma’s time was increasingly occupied with business matters in Nauvoo. Joseph was a terrible businessman and Bloody Brigham had only really stepped up to the plate to offer his adept accounting and business skills to help with immigration of European converts. Jo’s time was completely monopolized with political and public relations matters and giving the occasional sermon to keep the church at large in check. Emma was left with administrating the Red Brick Store, the Nauvoo Mansion, land acquisition and sales on behalf of the church, and sharing letter exchanges with prominent and wealthy members and gentiles.
With so much on her plate, overwhelming stress spread her quite thin and led to internment in the home for repeated bouts of mysterious illnesses. There were also likely a lot of nasty infections going around Nauvoo with polygamy becoming more widespread so any time Emma did gain Jo’s undivided attention and affection, she ran a legitimate risk of catching infections from her walking cesspool of a husband. Emma was bound to deal with the mess Jo made of the church and family finances. She was capable, but finances were far from her specialty. This would have put her under even more stress.
Where she did have some control over her life was in the Nauvoo Mansion, which included half a dozen of Jo’s younger wives as tenants. On particularly stressful days or when some interaction between Jo and his teenage wives would set her off, Emma would attempt to exert some semblance of her waning power.
Emily Partridge was the only plural wife who recounted the events. She said that interviews with Joseph, her sister, herself, and Emma occurred frequently. “She sent for us one day to come to her room. Joseph was present looking like a martyr. (those baby blue puppy eyes, how can you be mad at god’s chosen messenger?) Emma said some very hard things. Joseph should give us up or blood would flow. She would rather her blood would run pure than be poluted in this manner.” Emily did not say precisely that Emma threatened suicide, but perhaps Joseph’s fear that Emma had reached the point of taking such a drastic step prompted this final confrontation. Emily “felt indignant towards Joseph for submitting to Emma… His countenance was the perfect picture of despair.” Emily wrote, “[Emma] insisted that we should promise to break our [marriage] covenants that we had made before God. Joseph asked her if we made her the promise she required, if she would cease to trouble us, and not persist in our marrying someone else. She mad e the promise. Joseph came to us and shook hands with us and the understanding was that all was ended between us. I for one meant to keep this promise I was forced to make.”
Emily and Eliza Partridge were the perfect microcosm of the troubles of patriarchal polygyny and Emma juxtaposed to these young women made her feel somehow less than. In her own home, with her husband of 17 years, Emma had to compete with Emily and Eliza for her own husband’s attention all while trying to keep rumors and accusations at bay. She wanted Emily and Eliza to get married to somebody to keep up appearances and stop people from whispering about those Partridge girls living in the prophet’s home. Less than a year prior to this interaction where Emma forced Eliza and Emily to break their marriage with Jo, Emma had taken Emily and Eliza’s hands and literally given them to Jo in the greatest show of acquiescence and pacification to Jo’s incessant pleading for more wives. Now, in January 1844, Emma had flipped again on tolerating the Partridge sisters and wanted the whole thing ended. Emily saying she intended to keep the promise she made to Emma that the marriage was over, leads one to believe that it was ended to keep up appearances to Emma, but that Jo and Emily maintained their relationship in secret away from Emma.
The interaction between Jo and Emily after this fight is quite revealing, all remembered by Emily long after the events.
“How do you feel, Emily?”
“I feel as anybody would under the circumstances.”
“You know my hands are tied,” Joseph responded.
Emily said he looked as if he would “sink into the earth”; her “heart was melted” and her anger left. But before she had time to speak Joseph was gone. Emma entered as he went out.
“Emily, what did Joseph say to you?” she asked.
“He asked me how I felt.”
“You might as well tell me,” Emma said. “I am determined that a stop shall be put to these things and I want you to tell me what he says to you.”
“I shall not tell you,” … “He can say what he pleases to me, and I shall not report it to you, there has been mischief enough made by doing that. I am sick of these things as you can be.”
Emily remembers her reaction to this line as “[Emma] gloried in my spunk.” But, we don’t know how Emma actually felt when Emily’s teenage insubordination to her superior sister-wife was so boldly stated right to her face. I would postulate that Emma was probably furious. Emily refused to obey Emma’s wishes which just exemplified Emma’s slipping power over her life and the lives of those who looked up to her.
Emily later remembered of this time, from Mormon Enigma:
The situation became intolerable for both Emma and the two sisters. Emily stated, “Emma could not rest till she had got us out of the house and then she was not satisfied, but wanted us to leave the city. She offered to give us money to pay our expenses if we would go. We consulted Joseph, he said we might make a visit to some of our relatives, who were living up the river two or three hundred miles. So we agreed to go, and she gave us ten dollars. Joseph said it was insufficient and for us not to go so we gave it up and returned the money to Emma.”
The rumors about Jo and the Partridge sisters were so oppressive that Emma knew even if the marriages were called off, the rumors wouldn’t stop until the sisters were no longer in the house. She resolved to send the Partridge sisters out of town to assuage the rumors. She could deal with the Lawrence sisters and Jane Manning James after she dealt with the bad optics of the Partridge sisters. The Lawrence sisters were explainable. They were orphans and Jo and Emma were their wards. Them living in the Nauvoo Mansion wasn’t as suspect as the Partridge sisters because they had no real reason to be living there. The Partridge sisters were proper marrying age, both single, their parents were close friends of Jo and Emma before Edward had died back in 1840. Jo and Emma had watched them grow up from when they first met Emily and Eliza in 1831 when they were like 5 and 8 years old respectively. But, just like Helen Mar Kimball, they weren’t allowed to court young men their age because they were betrothed to the prophet. This raised suspicion.
By late January 1844, Emma prevailed. The Partridge sisters were moved into the home of “a respectable family”. The Sarah and Maria Lawrence were also moved to another home as well and Jane Manning James moved out of the home saying “they broke up the Mansion” due to these disagreements over polygamy.
This breaking up of the Nauvoo Mansion in January and February of 1844 marks Emma’s more hardline stance against polygamy from which she would never return for the rest of Jo’s life. Writing in lockstep with the vilification of Emma in the Utah Territory, John Taylor, not yet prophet, wrote about Emma.
Emma Smith, at first professed having faith in the revelation on celestial marriage, but afterwards forsook it, using her influence to pervert the minds of the sisters and set them against it. She tried it with my wife… [Leonora] told me many things Emma Smith had told her. When I met Joseph I said, ‘Brother Joseph, do you know that sister Emma has been talking thus and so to my wife, and telling her such and such things, and said that you have denied the revelation yourself?’
Jo apparently replied:
“Brother Taylor, Sister Emma would dethrone Jehovah himself, if she could, for the accomplishment of her purposes.”
Consider when this was written and who it came from. This was written by John Taylor in 1876, a mere 3 years before Emma died in Nauvoo and her power in the RLDS was at its height. This was one year before Bloody Brigham suffered his long-overdue death and the smear campaign against Emma was complete and absolute. She was the enemy of everything the Great Basin church stood for and John Taylor was in line to be prophet. It was the cultural norm to paint Emma in the most horrible and malignant light. I’d be willing to bet those words never came out of Jo’s mouth because it’s rhetoric so similar to other reminiscences about Emma by other Utah Mormons around this same time, especially by Jo’s surviving wives. But, did Emma try to persuade Leonora Taylor to oppose the practice? Yeah, maybe, who knows, Emma was the bogeywoman in Utah so maybe she did, maybe she didn’t, it doesn’t really matter at the end of the day because the Utah Mormons believed she did.
There are, however, contemporary sources that reveal she was in a tough place with celestial marriage. The later reminiscences from Utah Mormons are propaganda, but contemporary sources paint a picture not dissimilar, but more sympathetic and deeper towards Emma. A visitor from anti-Mormon haven of Carthage talked about her sister visiting Nauvoo.
[My sister] went into the hotel parlor… to await the call to breakfast. Ten or twelve young women were assembled here, laughing and talking. Mrs. Emma Smith presently joined them, and recognizing my sister, whom she had met before, entered into conversation with her. Upon my sister asking, “Mrs. Smith, where does your church get this doctrine of spiritual wives?” her face flushed scarlet, and her eyes blazed as she replied, “Straight from hell, madam.” Some of the young women blushed too, others giggled, and still others were stolid and indifferent.
Yeah, because of course that was an inappropriate question that made everybody uncomfortable. But, of course, that account was published in 1916 when Eudocia Marsh was probably in her 80s remembering something her sister told her about from 65 years ago and Mormon polygamy was still a common topic of conversation throughout America. If this interaction actually occurred anything like it was reported, it was most likely in late 1843 or early 44 before most of the younger women were removed from the Nauvoo Mansion at Emma’s request.
What the passage does reveal is the inner conflict with Emma, the trouble within the Nauvoo Mansion with her sister-wives, polygamy’s counter-Victorian tabooism, and how hard it was to keep secrets regardless of how good of Masons the women of the Relief Society were.
Linda Newell and Val Avery’s excellent book, Mormon Enigma, juxtaposes these antagonistic reports of Emma with other versions which are far more sympathetic, many from women who were similarly caught up, unwillingly, in the cogs of Utah polygamy.
Emma was not alone in opposing plural marriage. Lucy A. Young, married to Brigham’s brother Phineas, wrote, “With a sad heart I found all the married people at liberty to chose new companions if they so desired. There was marrying and giving in marriage for the first wife was expected to give others to her husband unless she rebelled as I did. There were queens and queens of Queens in those days but I lost my queenship by not giving my husband the women he desired but he got them all the same.”…
Aroet Hale observed Emma’s and Joseph’s conflict over the issue and later recorded:
[A] grate meny of the Saints in these Days think that the Prophet wife Emma Hale Smith was a bad Woman and She tride to Poison the Prophet. Their never was a more Dutiful woman than Emma Smith was to her husband till after the Prophet had made publick the revelation of Seelestial marriage. He begun to take to himselve Other Wives. This proved a grate trial to her. How meny women is there in Our day after 30 or 40 years… that it Dose not try to the Hartsbare. The propet Joseph Said that She was a good woman & that he would svae her if he had to go into the bowels of Hell to get her. Emma wood & did go before Judges Rules and Governors to Plead for her Husband. She would have Lade her life down for him.
Jo had so deeply given to his reptilian nature of rampant procreation that he would never attempt to scale back the doctrine and practice of polygamy. He wouldn’t budge on the question of whether or not polygamy was a Mormon tenet, but he would budge on how much he exposed Emma to it. However, she was playing her own cards right in getting his younger wives to move out. When everybody lived in the Nauvoo Mansion, Jo could be absent from Emma’s presence for 10 minutes and another teenage rape would happen in the house unbeknownst to Emma. He could spend any amount of time in the rooms of any of his wives and Emma had very little control over the situation. Emma even made frequent trips to St. Louis for supplies for the Red Brick Store and other businesses she controlled as Jo’s safety net. During these week-long trips, who knows what went on in the Mansion in her absence.
However, this changed when Jane Manning James, the Lawrence sisters, and the Partridge sisters were moved to other homes. Emma remained as Jo’s only wife in the house after that period. Now, she could keep closer tabs on him. I don’t want to make it sound like she was policing him, but that’s kind of what this was. She didn’t want him to be sleeping with his dozens of wives, he wanted to sleep with his dozens of wives. Those two concepts kind of don’t work together. But, Jo living with only Emma in the Nauvoo Mansion was a lot better for public optics. It was a lot harder to silence sex-ring rumors when half a dozen underage girls are living in the Mansion with Jo and Emma. But Pandora had so thoroughly escaped the box by this point in early 1844 that Jo and Emma living alone in the Mansion was merely a brief sanctuary away from the troubles caused by polygamy in the outside world.
Two of these troubles came in the form of an anonymous poem and a guy named Orsimus F. Bostwick. First, the anonymous poem, often attributed to William Law, but its authorship remains uncertain. This poem was published in the Warsaw Message, the paper that came after the death of the Warsaw Signal and the Warsaw Signal was birthed from after Thomas C. Sharp took back over editing duties.
BUCKEYE''S LAMENTATION FOR WANT OF MORE WIVES.
I once thought I had knowledge great,
But now I find ''tis small;
I once thought I''d Religion, too,
But I find I''ve none at all.
For I have got but one lone wife,
And can obtain no more;
And the doctrine is, I can''t be saved,
Unless I''ve half a score!
The narrow gate that Peter kept,
In ages long ago,
Is locked and barred since he gave up
The keys to beardless JOE.
And Joe proclaims it is too small,
And causes great delay,
And that he has permission got
To open the broad way.
The narrow gate did well enough
When Peter, James,and John,
Did lead the saints on Zion-ward,
In single file along:
When bachelors, like good old Paul,
Could win the glorious prize,
And maids, without a marriage rite,
Reach "mansions in the skies."
But we have other teaching now,
Of greater glories far;
How a single glory''s nothing more
Than some lone twinkling star.
A two-fold glory''s like the moon,
That shines so sweet at night,
Reflecting from her gracious lord
Whatever he thinks right.
A tenfold glory-that''s the prize!
Without it you''re undone!
But with it you will shine as bright
As the bright shining sun.
There you may reign''"like mighty Gods,
Creating worlds so fair;-
At least a world for every wife
That you take with you there.
The man that has got ten fair wives,
Ten worlds he may create;
And he that has got less than this,
Will find a bitter fate.
The one or two that he may have,
He''d be deprived of then;
And they''ll be given as talents were
To him who has got ten.
And ''tis so here, in this sad life-
Such ills you must endure-
Some priest or king, may claim your wife
Because that you are poor.
A revelation he may get-
Refuse it if you dare!
And you''ll be damned perpetually
By our good Lord the Mayor!
But if that you yield willingly,
Your daughters and your wives,
In spiritual marriage to our POPE,
He''ll bless you all your Lives;
He''ll seal you up,
be darned you can''t,
No matter what you do-
If that you only stick to him,
He swears HE''LL take you through.
He''ll lead you on to the broad gate,
Which he has opened wide-
In solid column you shall march,
And enter side by side.
And no delay you''ll meet with there,
But "forward march" you shall:-
For he''s not only our Lord MAYOR
But Lord LEUTENANT-RAL.
This is the secret doctrine taught
By Joeand the red rams-
Although inpublic they deny-
But then ''tis all a sham.
They fear the indignation just,
Of those who have come here,
With hands thats clean and honest hearts,
To serve the Lord infear.
Thus, all the twelve do slyly teach,
And slyly practice, too;
And even the sage Patriarch,
Wont have untied his shoe:
For sure, ''twould be quite impolite,
If not a great disgrace,
To have a widow sister fair
* Spit* in a Prophet''s face!
But Joe at snaring beats them all,
And at the rest does laugh;
For widows poor, and orphan girls,
He can ensnare with chaff,
He sets his snares around for all,-
And very seldom fails
To catch some thoughtless Partridges,
* Snow*-birds or Knight-ingales!
But there are hundred other birds
He never can make sing;
Who wont be driven nor draged to hell,
By prophet, priest nor king:
Whose sires have bled in days gone by,
For their dear country''s cause;
And who will still maintain its rights,
Its Liberty and Laws!
B.Y. & O. H.
This was Buckeye’s Lamentation, published in the 7 February 1844 edition of the Warsaw Message. The next major 1844 expose came from Orsimus Bostwick, who made scathing accusations about Hyrum Sidekick-Abiff Smith and prostitution. Bostwick claimed that “he could take a half bushel of meal and get what accommodation he wanted with almost any woman in the city.”
To respond to these newest fires set around Nauvoo, Jo put William Wines Double-dub Phelps to work to write “A Voice of Innocence from Nauvoo.” This was a propaganda pamphlet that was presented to the Relief Society, which Emma called to order on March 9, the first such meeting in 1844. The entire pamphlet was read to the gathering of over 1,000 sisters. This is so painfully cringy, but we’re going to read it top to bottom and discuss it as we go because this was an important pamphlet in Nauvoo polygamy history.
The corruption of wickedness which manifested itself in such horrible deformity on the trial of Orsemus F. Bostwick last week, for slandering President Hyrum Smith and the Widows of the City of Nauvoo, has awakened all the kindly feelings of female benevolence, compassion and pity, for the softer sex to spread forth the mantle of charity to shield the characters of the virtuous mothers, wives and daughters of Nauvoo, from the blasting breath and poisonous touch of debauchees, vagabonds, and rakes, who have jammed themselves into our city to offer strange fire at the shrines of infamy, disgrace and degradation; as they and their kindred spirits have done in all the great cities throughout the world: corrupting their way: on the earth, and bringing woman, poor defenceless woman, to wretchedness and ruin.
As such ignoble blood now begins to stain the peaceable habitations of the Saints, and taint the pure air of the only City in the world that pretends, to work righteousness in Union, as the sine qua non, for happiness, glory and salvation: and, as such ungodly wretches, burning or smarting with the sting of their own shame, have doubtless, transported with them; some of the miserable dupes of their licentiousness, for the purpose of defiling the fame of this goodly city: mildewing the honesty of our mothers: blasting the chastity of widows and wives, and corrupting the virtue of our unsuspecting daughters, it becomes US in defence of our rights, for the glory of our mothers13 fathers; for the honor of our Mothers; for the happiness of our husbands; and for the well fare of our dear children, to rebuke such an outrage upon the sanctity of Society; to thwart such a death blow at the hallowed marriage covenant: and to ward off such poisoned daggers from the hearts of our innocent daughters, for blast them of <for the honor of> Nauvoo; and write in <with> indellible Ink, upon every such villain: Vitare perditoris!14 Beware of the Wretch! and, so put in every virtuous woman’s hand a rod, to scourge such tormentors of domestic felicity, with vengeance throughout the world: Curse the man that preys upon female virtue! Curse the man that slanders a woman: Let the righteous indignation of insulted innocence, and virtue spurn him from society; Let the dignity of the Mother’s of Israel kick the blood thirsty pimp from the pale of social communion. Let the widows and wives who tread in the foot steps of their queenly mother Eve, drive such fag ends of creation, as was Cain, to the Land of Nod,15 and let the timid daughters of Nauvoo, dread such [p. ] Canker worms16 more than the pestilence that walketh in darkness, and spurn <shun> them as the serpent on the land and the shark in the Sea. My God! My God! is there not female virtue and valor enough in this City to let such mean men die of the rot:— that the Sexton may carry their putrid bodies beyond the limits of the City for food, for Vultures and Eagles? Refuse them female courtesy: deny them the pleasure of family correspondence and family intercourse: curse the Woman that speaks to such rotten flesh <if she knows who they are>: Curse the man that will harbor them; and Curse the Lawyer that will stoop from the dignity of his profession, to plead for them: The Apologer is as mean as the Murderer!
Female virtue is a pearl of great price,17 and should glitter in the abodes of men; as in the Mansions of bliss for the glory and honor of him, whose image she bears and whose help meet she is, and every attempt of man to seduce that virtue, is, next to murder, a robbery that cannot be restored. If woman swerves from the rules of righteousness:
“Ruin ensues, reproach and shame;
And one false step bedims her fame.
In vain the loss she may deplore
In vain review her life before;”
With tears she must in anguish be
Till God says, “Set that captive free”.18
Many of the distinguished females of Nauvoo, have waded to their present habitations through persecution, sorrow, and death, robbed and ravished** **<insulted>, and bereaved of husbands and children by the combined powers, of priests and spiritual wickedness in high places,19 but none of these piercing calamities of man touch the heart of woman with such severe poignancy, as the envenomed Slander of O. F. Bostwick. that “he could take a half bushel of meal <obtain his vile purposes> and get what accommodation he wanted20 with almost any woman in the City”21
Wo to the Wretch that can thus follow the blood stained Mobbers of Missouri, in their hellish career, and dreul <deal> his slander about the streets of Nauvoo, as he may imagine with impunity! Wo to the Man, or Lawyer, that filthifies himself by (licking that dreul as he attempts to) advocate<ing> such <the> a rotten hearted raven’s rights, <or recommend him to the Sympathies of any being but Satan>22 to the sympathies of any being but Satan! [p. ]
Has any man a Mother in this City? honor says, clear such rubbish from her door:
Has any man a Wife? benevolence whispers trap such beasts of the field that they may not wrong the flock, nor kill the lambs. Has any Man a Widowed Mother? humanity seems to caution him—thy Mother is in danger, protect her, from the Stench of such Carrion! Has any Man, Daughters? the voice of reason compels him to exclaim: There is a Wolf in the path, Beware! Has any Man, Sisters? the blood of his kindred says, evil be to him that evil thinks:23 and Let the whole virtuous female population of the City, with one voice, declare that the Seducer of female Chastity, the Slanderer of Female Character, or the Defamer of the Character of the Heads of the Church or the canker worms of our husband’s heaven, <peace;>24 the prostitute, or their pimps, whether in the character, of elites lawyer, doctor, or cisisbeo,25 shall have no place in our houses, in our affections, or in our Society.
Resolved unanimously that Joseph Smith, the Mayor of the City, be tendered our thanks for the able and manly manner in which he defended injured innocence in the late trial of O.F. Bostwick for slandering president Hyrum Smith “and almost all the women of the City.”
Resolved unanimously that we view with unqualified disapprobation and scorn the conduct of any man or woman, whether in word or deed, that reflects dishonor, upon the poor persecuted mothers, widows, wives and daughters of the Saints of Nauvoo: they have borne aspersions, slanders and hardships enough: forbearance has ceased to be a virtue, and retaliation, like the “dagger or the bowl”26 ought to close the lips of such cowardly aspersions** <assassins>**—27
Resolved unanimously that while we render credence to the doctrines of Paul, that neither the man is without the28 woman; neither is woman without the man in the Lord,29 yet we raise our voices and hands against John C. Bennett’s “Spiritual Wife System,” as a scheme of profligates to seduce women; and they that harp upon it, wish to make it popular for the convenience of their own cupidity:** **wherefore, while the marriage bed, undefiled is honorable, let polygamy, bigamy, fornication, adultery, and prostitution, be frowned out of the hearts of honest men to drop in the gulf of fallen nature, <“>where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched!<”>30 and <let> all the Saints say
Amen! [p. ]
After the pamphlet was read to all in attendance, a vote was called. The vote, according to the Relief Society Minutes, kept by Eliza R. Snow, my personal historical crush, was called by Jo asked “who would be willing to receeve the principles of vurtue, keep the commandments of God, and uphold the Presidentess in putting <down> iniquity. After that, Emma stood up and “said [it was] her determination… to do her Duty Effectully—in puting down transgresion.”
Then Emma’s first counselor, Elizabeth Ann Whitney, called a vote and “requested the Sisters to Pray that Sister Emma might be supported, to teach us the principles of Righteousness expressed her fears, that Jugement would bgin at the house of God”. After which, Emma stood again to respond to the support of the Relief Society and “said it was high time for Mothers to wach over their Daughters & exhort them to keep the path of virtue”
Mothers, watch over your daughters. That’s an important line. Emma was aware of polygamy. Undoubtedly, she knew that her secretary, Eliza R. Snow, was her sister wife but that line was a laser-sighted tactical strike at her counselors because their teenage daughters were also her sister-wives.
Emma had a lot of jobs she probably never wanted. Her primary job was to pick up the pieces from the constant messes her husband made. One of those jobs was to keep a lid on the rumors, and it was a tough and unenviable job. That was one of the main purposes of the Relief Society and its very first actionable items the society tackled when it was originally formed 2 years almost to the day prior to this meeting. The Relief Society was capable of keeping women in line, as much as it was used to groom younger women to accept the doctrine of celestial marriage, but it was also a factory of rumors, which couldn’t be controlled with how many people were members.
The Relief Society meeting where this was read marked the penultimate meeting of the group. The final meeting under Emma’s administration is a subject of a future episode. The decline in Relief Society engagement, Emma’s marked absence during the meetings of 1843, her further ostracization from the inner-most group of Mormon elites; all of these factors point to a deliberate and calculated isolation of the Elect Lady because she wasn’t on board with the new and everlasting covenant.
Emma’s grasp on power in her own home was a pattern which carried into her loss of control of the Relief Society. It met throughout 1843 many times without her as her time became increasingly occupied with other affairs and keeping peace in the home with half a dozen teenage sister-wives and her own health deteriorating. She was slowly becoming an island because she didn’t go full-tilt into believing polygamy was totally from god because Jo says it is. Jo simply didn’t have the same level of control over Emma that he did over more than ten thousand citizens of Nauvoo. In many ways, Emma was Jo’s greatest weakness and he hers. Emma had an ability to ground her husband the way nobody else could. Jo had a way of pushing Emma beyond all her limits and proving to herself and anybody around her that she was tenacious and capable of withstanding the hurricane of controversy brought on by her husband.
What Emma could have achieved with her intelligence and ability to punch up against socially superior opponents is a subject of hypothetical thought-exercises. She was smart and capable, but in Victorian America, a smart and capable woman had roughly the same limited options of any other woman. Emma was able to accomplish so much because she wasn’t on equal footing with her fellow women of the time. By virtue of being the first lady of Mormonism, Emma was elevated to a post of authority that allowed her intelligence and abilities in secular and religious leadership positions to flourish. Her true opinions and inner thoughts about her situation and her husband are a subject of mystery. If it’s any indicator of her opinions, her husband and one of her best friends would be dead in 3 months’ time from this penultimate Relief Society meeting and she would remarry on Joseph’s birthday to a guy who never believed in Mormonism. I believe that was absolutely deliberate because she could have picked any of the other 364 less-significant days of the year to marry Lewis Bidamon, but she chose Jo’s birthday instead. We can put labels on Emma all day when we see so many different accounts about who she was or how she conducted herself, and most of those are true to some degree. But any summary of her will always be lacking. One thing is for certain, she was a survivor in every sense of the word. She was a survivor of an oppressive system contrived by her own husband and she absolutely made the best of the situation that was constantly running wildly out of her control. She thrived in adversity. She overcame overwhelming odds and waged battle in public fora with men far above her in social standing. She made a place for herself and occupied it with fierce tenacity. She was ruthless in defending her property, business interests, and family in the wake of the schism crisis. Whatever all these old-school church leaders want to call her, I’ll call Emma what resonates with me most, considering everything I know about her. Emma Hale Smith Bidamon is my hero.
5 years ago, after looking for months and finding nothing, I decided that there needed to be a resource of pure Mormon history in an accessible medium. Not historical journal articles or books that are longer than the Book of Mormon and harder to read, and certainly not a manifesto of anti-Mormon punchlines, I read those so you don’t have to. I’m talking about something that people who know nothing about Mormonism or its history can pick up, consume, and walk away educated. Naked Mormonism was born. I quickly learned, the trick to podcasting is consistency and over 5 years I’ve released only one episode late, and have taken only 1 sick week from the show because it’s hard to research, script, and record with the flu. Since it began, this research endeavor has significantly grown. When the show began, I was, tortoise-like, churning out an episode every 2 weeks. Then, you, the listeners, decided to hire me full-time and I went to weekly. I jumped on to cohost MyBookofMormon podcast to read the D&C with historical context, because it’s so boring without context, and I started and subsequently rebooted the Glass Box Podcast to take on Mormon-related headlines and keep Naked Mormonism pure history.
Through listener support, here at Ground Gnomes studios we churn out 18 shows a month with consistent quality standards. People have told me that I should put everything behind a paywall, but why? I’d much rather put everything out there for everybody to consume and drive my run-down 27-year-old car because I’m one of those lucky few people who gets to make a living through my passion. Podcasting for a living because of you amazing listeners affords me so many great opportunities to learn and teach about Mormonism and provides hours per week for related side-projects. Patrons, be sure to stick around after the credits today to hear about recently completed projects, projects in the works, and future projects I dream about at night. My point is, this labor of love fulfills me more than any 9-5 ever could. The gift of total freedom you listeners give me every week is priceless and it makes my life better than I can put into words to describe.
I feel like I’ve built up enough of a relationship with you to be vulnerable and honest for a minute. I received a couple of unpleasant letters in the mail. These letters came the week before starting this 3-week nearly 7,000-mile road trip to New York for JWHA, SLC for the Protect Every Child march (are you going to be there Oct 5th? Will I see you in the crowd? Information is in the show notes), and LA for the Opening Arguments live show. The details of these letters I received aren’t important to you, dear listener, but suffice it to say, I’m looking for solutions as every small business owner must. I can take out an old IRA from my truck-driving days, but that’s always a stupid decision in the long run. Or, I can make a vulnerable and honest petition to all of you and essentially ask for a pay-raise.
Here’s my sales pitch. What are you getting when you financially support this podcast? First off, you’re getting a bunch of extra paid content. If you enjoy this show, sign up for a buck a show and you get more Mormon history. That’s the extended editions of every episode which includes cursings and loud laughter that I’ve removed from this show to make it safe for work and sensitive TBM ears. You also get the NaMo book club where we read old Mormon history books with my commentary. We just finished John Bennett’s 1842 expose and Pratt’s 1839 History of the Late Persecution and we’re just starting Mormonism Unvailed, the first and most influential anti-Mormon book that’s just a bucket of laughs. When you join the NaMo family you also get invites for the NaMo Home Evenings, our live hangouts with special guests where you can ask questions or just come hang out with us. We also do episodes about how to talk to missionaries and the best ways to navigate those conversations. It’s a ton of extra content available to you at your leisure. These audio entertainment products you purchase are what you get out of the transaction.
But, let’s talk for a minute about what that money really does on the back end here at Ground Gnomes Studios. What you’re really doing with that money is generating a body of research by funding my education. Look, I could go to school for a history degree. If it were reasonable to shut down the podcast, live in Seattle making minimum wage from a part-time job, and get a history degree, it would allow me to eventually get a job working in the archive department of a historical society and pay off those student loans in 30-years’ time. That’s a safe and reasonable path. However, I hope by this point in time I’ve amply illustrated to all of you that the path I’m blazing, and all of you are giving me the tools and faculties TO blaze, isn’t safe and reasonable, but it’s my passion and I’m hell-bent determined to make a career from independent Mormon history research.
At the end of the day, I write historical essays for a living and my forthcoming, and long-ago promised, book on psychedelics in early Mormonism is my dissertation. The way I do this podcast isn’t smart in a business sense, but it’s ethical and it’s the way I want to run it. What do I mean by that? Allow me another minute to explain.
I’ve done ads in the past but they only generate a pittance in exchange for an immense amount of annoyance to the listeners, and myself, and I’ve recently turned down any new ad prospects for those reasons. I’d much rather spend that ad time thanking those of you by name who support the show directly which is why we do patron shoutouts every episode; that’s the adspace on Naked Mormonism.
Every dollar of that money is funneled back into the show to make more of a better product for those willing to purchase it. It’s funded a live benefit show on the demise of Joseph Smith and over a dozen public presentations and live shows about Mormon history. But that money also has a tangible impact on the field of Mormon history. By the end of next week’s episode, I’ll have given just a hair under $2,700 in speaking fees to guests of the podcast who work in academia. I don’t know of any other podcasts that pay speaking fees and it’s a dumb business model for the current podcast market, but I believe it’s an ethical business model and I’m determined to make it work. Every Mormon historian is hungry, yours truly included, and the field is pretty lean unless you work for the church; and the corporate church with its billions in assets and holdings, and its entire departments of history researchers, is our current greatest competitor in the marketplace of Mormon history. Needless to say, it’s not a fair fight. Independent Mormon history is a lot of work that will never make anybody, who doesn’t work for the church, rich.
So, that’s the state of affairs and a window into the cogs of the machine of Ground Gnomes Studios. What can you, as the listener, do about it? First off, you can give me a small portion of your hard-earned money through patreon.com/nakedmormonism. A dollar an episode unlocks all the extra content I mentioned earlier in that patron-exclusive feed and funds better and more content creation. If you’re in a financial position that you simply won’t feel that 4 dollars a month, that’s just one cup of coffee, hopefully I’ve made the case that the product you get, and, more importantly, the body of research you’re funding, is a great investment. Hopefully a buck a show is negligible to you, but means the world to me.
Just like our new patrons this week: making for +- $X
We also had an incredibly generous one-time donation from Jay Mumford, one of the earliest listeners of the show. Thank you for everything, Jay, especially your proNOUNciation corrections.
I’ve always read new patrons but the actual numbers fluctuate so I’m going to start reading how much of a change it is from the previous week’s show just so I’m a bit more transparent about finances on the show, in case seeing that actual dollar amount on the patreon page isn’t enough transparency. We’ll try it for a few weeks anyway.
What if you don’t want to go through the hassle of making an account and signing up on patreon to support this show and all the content creators you love? Well, a one-time donation is great and that can be given through paypal to BryceBlankenagel@gmail.com, but once again, patreon.com/nakedmormonism is truly the best method.
So, what if you love the show and you want to help, but you’re a starving student or on a fixed income and you’re already running negative every month so 4 dollars just exacerbates the problem? Well you can still contribute by reviewing the show. iTunes rankings are huge when people search for podcasts and most podcatchers utilize the itunes search engine when people are looking for a new show. Reviews are the single-most important metric iTunes search engine uses when showing results. Good reviews mean the iTunes algorithm gods shine their loving face on your show and exhibit it to the podcast-listening world. Bad reviews invoke their wrath and the show quickly dies in obscurity, never to surface to the recommended lists ever again. Your financial support goes a long way. iTunes reviews live on forever and they literally take the sum total of 9 seconds to log in, search for Naked Mormonism, click the little 5-star icon, and close the app. It’s that easy and it helps more than you can imagine. Stitcher, or any other podcast app, those are usually more technical for reviews and the reviews don’t count for as much, but a high review there is super helpful as well.
What if you’re somebody who can’t support the show financially, and you don’t want to take the 9 seconds from your day to review the show? Well you can still help. Tag me or Naked Mormonism in twitter, facebook, or reddit threads about Mormon history and you’ll draw me from my lair to comment and often provide links to resources or podcast episodes I’ve done on topics. Organic, word-of-mouth growth is the most effective way to spread the word.
What if you’re a listener who can’t support the show financially, doesn’t want to take the time to leave a review, and you’re taking the advice of the prophet or Eli Bosnick and you’re doing a social media fast? You listen to this podcast, so I bet you listen to other podcasts. Send a message to hosts of other podcasts and tell them you think I’d be an awesome guest to have on their show. I put a significant amount of prep work in whenever I’m invited onto a podcast and I’ve only ever turned down one request because he has an alt-right platform and the conversation had little chance of going anywhere. I’m willing and equipped to talk just about anything Mormon-related on any podcast in any amount of depth and thoroughness. If you want a collab between me and some of your other favorite podcasts, let them know and put us in touch and we’ll take it from there.
I don’t like doing these hard-sell pitches. I was really good at selling batteries in my old job. Those sales skills didn’t exactly translate to this market because I’m no longer selling somebody else’s product, I’m selling my own intellectual property that I put out there for free to begin with. So… that’s… uh… yeah… the business model of podcasting is a strange one. Today’s sales pitch isn’t to guilt you into giving me money. If that’s what you’re looking for, join the church, they’ll be happy to guilt you into giving up 10% of your income. This has simply been my way, as a skeptic, of reasoning with you to persuade you to believe that it’s a good idea to invest a fraction of a percent of your income to a massive research and content-creation endeavor at a time when that support is desperately needed due to unforeseen circumstances. I dream of the day when the Ground Gnomes media empire can employ more than three people and produces dozens of hours of content from multiple content creators every week, youtube shows, podcasts, blog posts, all backed up by a team of independent historians. Until Ground Gnomes Studios grows to that level, we’re making due with what we have and we’re staying hungry to keep our senses heightened and alert. If you can’t give your money through patreon.com/nakedmormonism, I respectfully ask that you give a little of your effort to help spread the word. If you can’t give either of those, you still gave me the most precious resource you have, your time. You still hit the download button and listened to the end of this belabored, but much-needed sales-pitch, and I want to thank you for that. I’ll be out of the studio for the next three weeks for New York, SLC, and LA, but I lined up some great shows for y’all in the meantime and we’ll thank new patrons once I get back to the studio.
Thank you for sticking around and thank you so much for lending me your ear.
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