When Emma Met Joseph
October 2004

“When Emma Met Joseph,” New Era, Oct. 2004, 16

Special Issue: Dating and Temple Marriage

When Emma Met Joseph

They were a striking couple. She was tall and thin and had black hair, brown eyes, and an olive complexion. She sang well and was educated to be a schoolteacher. He was tall, strong, and broad-shouldered. As a youth he learned to work hard on his father’s farm. They both liked to joke and have fun, but they could be serious when they needed to be.

Her name was Emma; his was Joseph. They married when she was 22 and he was 21. Despite trials and persecution, they stayed close through 17 years of marriage, until Joseph’s death in 1844.

Emma Hale, who had eight brothers and sisters, grew up in the untamed Susquehanna Valley in Pennsylvania. With her father, she enjoyed canoeing on the Susquehanna River and riding horses. Little did she know then that she would marry the great prophet of the Restoration.

In the fall of 1825, an acquaintance of the Hales, Josiah Stowell, hired young Joseph Smith and others to dig for silver. After a month of digging and finding nothing, Joseph persuaded Mr. Stowell to quit digging. While Joseph was working for Mr. Stowell, Joseph and his father boarded with the Hales. That’s when Emma met Joseph.

Over the next year, as Joseph and his father worked at various jobs in the area, Joseph and Emma talked in the evenings after work. She was an excellent cook and had a delightful sense of humor, which Joseph probably enjoyed.

Joseph soon decided to marry Emma. He told his parents: “I have been very lonely ever since Alvin died [three years before], and I have concluded to get married, and if you have no objections with my uniting myself in marriage with Miss Emma Hale, she would be my choice in preference to any other woman.”1 Joseph’s parents, pleased with his choice, invited Joseph and Emma to live with them after the marriage so they too could enjoy Emma’s company.

About 15 months after they first met, Joseph and Emma married, and Joseph worked that summer on his father’s farm. With this marriage, Emma saw many great events, such as Joseph’s translating the Book of Mormon and organizing the Church, and also many trials, such as the deaths of 6 of their 11 children.

Emma endured the trials well. Joseph’s mother said of Emma: “I have never seen a woman in my life, who would endure every species of fatigue and hardship, from month to month, and from year to year, with that unflinching courage, zeal, and patience, which she has ever done.”2

Joseph was often separated from his wife and children. But mobs and persecution couldn’t separate Joseph’s heart from his family. While away, he wrote letters of love and encouragement to them. In 1838, for instance, he wrote from Missouri, where he was being held prisoner: “O 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 an ever. …

“P.S. Write as often as you can, and if possible come and see me, and bring the children.”3

A few months later from the jail in Liberty, Missouri, Joseph wrote: “My dear Emma, I very well know your toils and sympathize with you. If God will spare my life once more to have the privilege of taking care of you, I will ease your care and endeavor to comfort your heart.”4

And the next year from Pennsylvania: “I feel very anxious to see you all once more in this world. … I pray God to spare you all until I get home. My dear Emma, my heart is entwined around you and those little ones. Tell all the children that I love them and will come home as soon as I can. Yours in the bonds of love, your husband.”5

Fortunately, before Joseph was killed, he and Emma were sealed for time and eternity in 1843 in Nauvoo, 16 years after they were married. This was the year Joseph received revelations from the Lord about eternal marriage (see D&C 131; D&C 132).

Joseph and Emma’s dedication to one another and to the gospel carried their marriage through years of trials and tribulations. And thanks to the Restoration, a temple sealing carried their marriage into eternity.


  1. Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith, ed. Preston Nibley (1958), 93.

  2. History of Joseph Smith, 191.

  3. Letter from Joseph Smith to Emma Smith, 12 Nov. 1838, Richmond, Missouri; Community of Christ Archives, Independence, Missouri.

  4. Letter from Joseph Smith to Emma Smith, 21 Mar. 1839, Liberty, Missouri; Bienecke Library, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut.

  5. Letter from Joseph Smith to Emma Smith, 20 Jan. 1840, Chester County, Pennsylvania; Chicago Historical Society, Chicago, Illinois.

Illustrated by Paul Mann