Emma Smith stood in a unique position to bear testimony of the early events of the Restoration.
In February 1879, a few months prior to her death, her son Joseph III interviewed her in order to obtain answers to some questions about church history.
The following excerpts from the transcript of this interview were published in The Saints' Herald, the RLDS paper in October, the same year.
It was thought advisable to secure from Mother Bidamon, (Sister Emma Smith), her testimony upon certain points upon which various opinions existed; and to do this, it was decided to present to her a few prominent questions, the answers to which might settle these differences.Question. Who performed the marriage ceremony for Joseph Smith and Emma Hale? When? Where?
Answer. I was married at South Bainbridge, New York; at the house of Squire Tarbell, by him, when I was in my 22d or 23d year. My certificate of marriage was lost many years ago, in some of the marches we were forced to make.
I was visiting at Mr. Stowell's who lived in Bainbridge, and saw your father there. I had no intention of marrying when I left home; but, during my visit at Mr. Stowell's, your father visited me there. My folks were bitterly opposed to him; and, being importuned by your father, sided by Mr. Stowell, who urged me to marry him, and preferring to marry him [than] to any other man I knew, I consented. We went to Squire Tarbell's and were married.
Afterward, when father found that I was married, he sent for us. The account in Mother Smith's history is substantially correct as to date and place. Your father bought your Uncle Jesse's [Hale] place, off father's farm, and we lived there until the Book of Mormon was translated; and I think published. I was not in Palmyra long.
Question. How many children did you lose, mother, before I was born?
Answer. There were three. I buried one in Pennsylvania, and a pair of twins in Ohio.
Question. Who were the twins that died?
Answer. They were not named.
Question. Who were the twins whom you took to raise?
Answer. I lost twins. Mrs. Murdock had twins and she died. Brother Murdock came to me and asked me to take them, and I took the babes. Joseph died at 11 months. They were both sick when your father was mobbed. The mob who tarred and feathered him, left the door open when they went out with him, the child relapsed and died. Julia lived, though weaker than the boy.
Question. Who were scribes for father when translating the Book of Mormon?
Answer. Myself, Oliver Cowdery, Martin Harris, and my brother Reuben Hale.
Question. Was Alva Hale one?
Answer. I think not. He may have written some; but if he did, I do not remember it.
Question. What of the truth of Mormonism?
Answer. I know Mormonism to be the truth; and believe the Church to have been established by divine direction. I have complete faith in it. In writing for your father I frequently wrote day after day, often sitting at the table close by him, he sitting with his face buried in his hat, with the stone in it, and dictating hour after hour with nothing between us.
Question. Had he not a book or manuscript from which he read, or dictated to you?
Answer. He had neither manuscript nor book to read from.
Question. Could he not have had, and you not know it?
Answer. If he had had anything of the kind he could not have concealed it from me.
Question. Are you sure that he had the plates at the time you were writing for him?
Answer. The plates often lay on the table without any attempt at concealment, wrapped in a small linen tablecloth, which I had given him to fold them in.
I once felt of the plates, as they thus lay on the table, tracing their outline and shape. They seemed to be pliable like thick paper, and would rustle with a metallic sound when the edges were moved by the thumb, as one does sometimes thumb the edges of a book.
Question. Where did father and Oliver Cowdery write?
Answer. Oliver Cowdery and your father wrote in the room where I was at work.
Question. Could not father have dictated the Book of Mormon to you, Oliver Cowdery and the others who wrote for him, after having first written it, or having first read it out of some book?
Answer. Joseph Smith [and for the first time she used his name direct, having usually used the words, "your father" or "my husband"] could neither write nor dictate a coherent and well-worded letter, let alone dictate a book like the Book of Mormon.
And, though I was an active participant in the scenes that transpired, and was present during the translation of the plates, and had cognizance of things as they transpired, it is marvelous to me, "a marvel and a wonder," as much so as to anyone else.
Question. I should suppose that you would have uncovered the plates and examined them?
Answer. I did not attempt to handle the plates, other than I have told you, nor uncover them to look at them. I was satisfied that it was the work of God, and therefore did not feel it to be necessary to do so;
Major Bidamon here suggested: Did Mr. Smith forbid your examining the plates?
Answer. I do not think he did. I knew that he had them, and was not specially curious about them. I moved them from place to place on the table, as it was necessary in doing my work.
Question. Mother, what is your belief about the authenticity, or origin, of the Book of Mormon?
Answer. My belief is that the Book of Mormon is of divine authenticity - I have not the slightest doubt of it. I am satisfied that no man could have dictated the writing of the manuscripts unless he was inspired; for, when acting as his scribe, your father would dictate to me hour after hour; and when returning after meals, or after interruptions, he could at once begin where he had left off, without either seeing the manuscript or having any portion of it read to him. This was a usual thing for him to do. It would have been improbable that a learned man could do this; and, for one so ignorant and unlearned as he was, it was simply impossible.
Question. What was the condition of feeling between you and father?
Answer. It was good.
Question. Were you in the habit of quarreling?
Answer. No. There was no necessity for any quarreling. He knew that I wished for nothing but what was right; and, as he wished for nothing else, we did not disagree. He usually gave some heed to what I had to say. It was quite a grievous thing to many that I had any influence with him.
These questions and the answers she had given to them were read to my mother by me [Joseph Smith III], the day before my leaving Nauvoo for home, and were affirmed by her. Major Bidamon stated that he had frequently conversed with her on the subject of the translation of the Book of Mormon, and her present answers were substantially what she had always stated in regard to it.
(edited by David Van Alstyne)
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