Emma Smith's "Last Testimony"

On October 1, 1879, (v. 26, No. 19, page 289), The Saints' Herald published an article titled "LAST TESTIMONY OF SISTER EMMA." The articles are reproduced at the end of this page.

The "Last Testimony" was an interview of the wife of Joseph Smith, Jr., who remarried after Joseph's death. Emma Smith Bidamon was interviewed by her son, Joseph Smith III (JSIII), who was then the President of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and Senior Editor of The Saints' Herald

JSIII visited his mother in Nauvoo from February 4-10, 1879. Emma died on April 30, 1879 (age 74). 

JSIII made notes of the questions he intended to ask as well as Emma's answers. The notes are written mostly in first-hand, but at least one sentence is second hand ("She thinks that he came then"). This indicates the notes are not entirely, if at all, a verbatim record of what Emma said. 

The entirety of the interview can be read out loud in an hour or two, which raises the question of what JSIII and his mother discussed for the rest of the week they were together.

The published interview generally follows the interview notes but in a different order and it includes content that is not in the notes. Presumably JSIII "expanded" his account based on his memory beyond his notes. The original notes, accompanied by the transcript, are shown below.

For a discussion of the credibility and reliability of the "Last Testimony," see the section at the end of this page.

Joseph Smith III's notes of his interview with his mother Emma.



When did the Pratts come in? What particulars in Mother S's History are defective, if any--

7. What were-the was the condition of the relation feeling between father and yourself?

8. Were you in the habit of quarrelling?

P. P. Pratt had united with the church, some time before, I Knew S. Rigdon, or heard of him. At the time the B of M. was translated there was no church organized, and Rigdon did not become acquainted with Joseph and me till after the church was

established in 1830. HOw long after that I do not Know, but it was some time

Sheriff Hadley, told me, at my last visit at Li-berty Jail, Mo. that all the authorities were waiting for, was for me to get out of the state. That as soon as I was out of the state the prisoners [would?] be let out. That there was no reason for detain-ing them, other than the unreasonable, outra-geous rabble that did it.

5 There was no revelation on either Polygamy, or plur Spiritual wives. There were some rumors of some-thing of the sort, of which I asked my husband. He assured me that all there was of it, that in a chat about plural wives, he had said, "well such a system might possibly be, if every body was agreed to it and would behave as they should, but they would not; and besides it was contrary to the will of heaven." No such thing as polygamy, or Spiritual wifery, was taught publicly or privately before my husband's death, that I have now, or ever had any knowledge of. He had no other wife but me; nor did he to my Knowledge ever have. He did not have im-proper relations with any woman that ever came to my Knowledge. At one time he came to me and asked me if I had heard cer-tain rumors about spiritual

marriages, or any thing of the Kind, and assured me that they were without foundation; that there was no such doctrine and never should be with his knowledge or consent. "I know that he had no other <wife or> wives than myself; in any sense; either spiritual or otherwise."

@ It was not Sidney Rigdon, for I did <not> see him for years after that. It was not a Presbyterian clergy man. I was visiting <at> Mr Stowell's who lived in Bainbridge and saw your father there. I had no intention of mary-ing then when I left home; but during my visit at Mr Stowell's, your Father visited me there. My folks were bitter-ly opposed to him; and as being impor-tuned by your father, aided by Mr Stowell, and preferring to marry him than any one I Knew, I consented, we went to Squire Tarbeill's and were married." Afterwards when father found I was married he sent for us. The statement in mother [Lucy] S[mith]'[s] history is substantially correct as to date and place.

I have the utmost faith

My belief is that the B of M. 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 mss unless he were inspired. For when acting as his scribe he would dictate <to me> hour after hour, and when returning after mealss or after interruptions, he would at once begin where he had left off, without either seeing the mss or having any portion of it read to him. This was a usual thing for him to do. It would have been impossible for improbable that a learned man could do this, and for so ignorant and unlearned as he was it was simply impossible.

Your father bought your uncle Jesse's place, off, father's farm. and we lived there till the B. of M. was translated and I think pub-lished. I was not in Palmyra, long.

6 I know Mormonism to be the truth, and <believe> the church to have been established by divine direction. I have complete faith in it.

(b) David Whitmer I believe to be an honest and truthful man. I think what he states may be relied on.

7 They were good.

9 No. There was no necessity for any quarrelling. He knew that i wished for 

nothing but what was right; and as he did not either wished 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.

(c) John Brassfield was one of the guards who watched J. Smith and others, who slept on his post, so soundly that the ones guarded escaped--he received favors for it after. J. Smith, H. Smith, Alex McCrae, S. Smith, Cabb [Caleb] Baldwin, L. Wight.

In writing for J. S. I frequently wrote for day after day, often he sitting at the table close by him, he sitting with his face bu-ried in his hat, with the stone in it and dictating hour after hour, with nothing between us. He had neither mss nor book to read from. If he had had any-thing of the Kind he could not have concealed it from me. The plates often lay on the table without any attempt at con-cealment, wrapped in a small linen <table> cloth, which I had given him to fold them in. I have felt of the plates, as they lay on the table, tracing their outline

and shape. They seemed to be pliable like st 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. O. Cowdery and J. S. wrote in the room where I was at work. J. S. could not neither write nor dictate a coherent and well worded letter, let alone a book like the Book of M.

(d) Baptized by O. Cowdery at Bain-bridge.

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 any body else. I did not attempt to handle the plates 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.

(e) I have been called apostate; but I have never apostatized fro nor forsaken the faith I at first accepted; but was called so because I would not accept their newfangled notion.

The Saints' Herald

October 1, 1879, v. 26, No. 19, page 289

"Last Testimony of Sister Emma"

available at https://catalog.churchofjesuschrist.org/assets/944ff277-298c-45e2-9005-75e0ae0faf90/0/0?lang=eng 

The Saints' Herald

Page 290

Discussion of credibility and reliability.

Some of Emma's testimony appears incomplete if not inaccurate. 

Much of the interview focuses on the question of polygamy. Regarding this aspect of the interview, several participants in plural marriage, living in Salt Lake City, Utah, when the "Last Testimony" was published, denounced the interview as false.

For a discussion of the credibility of the "Last Testimony" see https://www.ldshistoricalnarratives.com/2023/08/credibility-of-emma-smiths-last.html