January 21, 2023

Joseph and Emma’s Twins in Kirtland Ohio

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Photo Credit: Liz Lemon Swindle

When Emma and Joseph Smith arrived in Kirtland Ohio Emma was seven months pregnant with twins. Their first child had died immediately after birth on June 15, 1828 in Harmony Pennsylvania during the time Martin Harris lost the Book of Mormon manuscript, it must have been unbearable for this young couple. They named their sweet little baby boy Alvin after Josephs older brother that he adored. It must have been worrisome for Emma to be traveling to Kirtland in the cold of February while she was seven months pregnant with twins.

While Emma was staying on Isaac Morleys Farm, Emma gave birth to twins, a boy and a girl, on April 30, 1831. These precious little babies only lived three hours. Now sweet Emma had lost three little babies that she desperately wanted to raise. It was another crushing blow for this young couple.

At the same time Emma lost her little babies a member named John Murdock had lost his wife in childbirth delivering twins. John approached Joseph and Emma and asked if they would be willing to care for the two little babies he was not able to care for without his wife. Joseph and Emma accepted the offer and named the babies Joseph and Julia Smith.

Joseph and Emma were tried again when tragedy struck this young couple with this new set of twins. A mob broke into the home of Joseph and Emma when Emma was sick and Joseph was taking care of the newborn babies.

Here is what happened in Joseph’s words:

”On the 24th of March[1832], the twins before mentioned, which had been sick of the measles for some time, caused us to be broken of our rest in taking care of them, especially my wife. In the evening I told her she had better retire to rest with one of the children, and I would watch with the sicker child. In the night she told me I had better lie down on the trundle bed, and I did so, and was soon after awakened by her screaming murder, when I found myself going out of the door, in the hands of about a dozen men; some of whose hands were in my hair, and some had hold of my shirt, drawers, and limbs. . . I made a desperate struggle, and I was forced out, to extricate myself, but only cleared one leg, with which I made a pass at one man, and he fell on the door steps. I was immediately overpowered again, and they swore. . . they would kill me if I did not be still, which quieted me. As they passed around the house with me, the fellow that I kicked came to me and thrust his hand, all covered with blood, into my face and with an exulting hoarse laugh, muttered ”. . .I’ll fix ye.“

They then seized me by the throat and held on till I lost my breath. After I came to, as they passed along with me, about thirty rods from the house, I saw Elder Rigdon stretched out on the ground, whither they had dragged him by his heels. I supposed he was dead. I began to plead with them saying “You will have mercy and spare my life, I hope.” To which they replied “. . . call on yer God for help, we’ll show ye no mercy” and the people began to show themselves in every direction; one coming from the orchard had a plank; and I expected they would kill me, and carry me off on the plank. They then turned to the right, and went on about thirty rods further; about sixty rods from the house, and thirty from where I saw Elder Rigdon, in the meadow, where they stopped and one said “…pull up his drawers, pull up his drawers, he will take cold.” Another replied: “Ain’t ye going to kill ’em?”. . . They held a council, and as I could occasionally overhear a word, I supposed it was to know whether or not it was best to kill me. They returned after a while when I learned that they had concluded not to kill me, but to beat and scratch me well, tear off my shirt, and drawers, and leave me naked. One cried “Simonds, Simonds, where’s the tar bucket?” “I don’t know,” answered one “where ‘tis Eli left it.” They rad back and fetched the bucket of tar, when one exclaimed . . . “Let us tar up his mouth;” and they tried to force the tar paddle into my mouth; I twisted my head around, so that they could not; and they cried out, “. . . hold up yer head and let us give ye some tar.” They then tried to force a vial into my mouth and broke it in my teeth. All my clothes were torn off me except my shirt collar; and one man fell on me and scratched my body with his nails like a mad cat, and then muttered out “. . . that’s the way the Holy Ghost falls on folks.”

Then they left me, and I attempted to rise, but fell again; I pulled the tar from my lips, so that I could breathe more freely, and after a while I began to recover, and raised myself up, whereupon I saw two lights. I made my way towards one of them and found it was Father Johnson’s. When I came to the door I was naked and the tar made me look as if I was covered in blood, and when my wife saw me she thought I was all crushed into pieces, and fainted. During the array abroad, the sisters of the neighborhood had collected at my room. I called for a blanket, and they threw me one and shut the door; I wrapped it around me and went in. . .

My friends spent the night in scraping and removing the tar, and washing and cleansing my body; so that by morning I was ready to be clothed again. This being the Sabbath morning, the people assembled for meeting at the usual hour of worship, and among them came also the mobbers. . . With my flesh all scarified and defaced, I preached to the congregation as usual, and in the afternoon of the same day baptized three individuals.”

There were many things that changed the night of the mob attack that effected Joseph Smith and Emma for the rest of their lives. The most tragic consequence of the mob that night was the death of the little baby Joseph was holding when the mob men came. When the mob men broke into the house, the door was left open and the sick baby was exposed to the cold, and he did not survive. He died four days later. The little baby Joseph was only eleven months old when he passed away!

There were also lasting consequences for Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon from that brutal mob attack. Many people believe something terrible happened to Sidney Rigdons brain that night. Many believe he may have suffered from PTSD for the rest of his life, because he was never quite the same as he was before the attack. Joseph Smith always spoke with a slight whistle from the attack that night, with the chip from the mob men trying to force tar into his mouth.

Places to Visit:

Historic Kirtland

Isaac Morley Farm

Isaac Morley Land Video by BYU


”Joseph Smith’s Kirtland, Eye Witness Accounts” By Karl Ricks Anderson (p.32-34)

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