Two Stories of Lucys History
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Her failure—and it is seen as a failure—to come west with Brigham Young, the fact that her history ends in , and the comparative seclusion and illness of her last decade are erased from Utah Mormon consciousness. Almost universally overlooked is the perhaps unconscious way that Lucy Mack Smith has functioned as a model of domestic spirituality, a model drawn directly from her New England culture about proper behavior for pious women, but one that extends unbroken to the present day.
But it is also important to recognize the message she was communicating by introducing herself as the daughter and sister of unquestioned patriots.
Anderson, New England, Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls. He prayed sincerely for mercy and received a sign: All of his rheumatic pain disappeared for a blessed night Oh how I loved my neighbors.
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How I loved my enemies—I could pray for them. Everything appeared delightful. Given the religious focus of her memoir, it is remarkable that Lucy does not quote from this affecting spiritual biography. Rather, she selects only those [p. Similarly, she stresses the Revolutionary War service of her teenage brother, Stephen. Rather, she was painting a picture of her family as impeccably loyal to the institutions and values of the young American Republic.
This stance also reveals that Lucy Mack Smith envisioned a shape and organization to her narrative from the very beginning. That shape is a prophetic lament for the corruption of her country as shown by its rejection of the prophets and patriarchs—her husband and sons.
She starts with the godly ideal of patriotic sacrifice and virtue and ends with its betrayal.
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In a lengthy and somewhat disjointed letter that she dictated on 23 January to William Smith, then in the East, she lamented:. And in a final peroration that Coray and therefore Pratt severely condensed, she denounces the United States for tyranny:. Oh, for a lodge in some vast Wilderness some boundless contiguity of shade where rumor of oppression and […] might never reach me more let me leave the […] of bones of my fathers and brothers who and the bones of my martyrd children and go to a land where never man dwelt fare well my country.
This approach is the same strategy that the Mormons had used earlier in failed attempts to claim their legal rights. As Clark V. Eliza R. See Appendix. Clearly, in writing this appeal against tyranny, Lucy was drawing on conventions well-known to her American audience. A woman became a wife by virtue of her dependence, her solemnly vowed commitment to her husband …. One can be dependent, however, without being either servile or helpless. To use an imperfect but nonetheless suggestive analogy, colonial wives were dependent upon patriarchal families in somewhat the same way seventeenth-century ministers were dependent upon their congregations.
They owned neither their place of employment nor even the tools of their trade. No matter how diligently they worked, they did not expect to inherit the land upon which they lived … Skilled service was their major contribution, secure support their primary compensation … They could not resign their position, but then neither could they be fired. Upon the death of a husband they were entitled to maintenance for life … Almost any task was suitable for a woman as long as it furthered the good of her family and was acceptable to her husband.
This approach was both fluid and fixed. It allowed for varied behavior without really challenging the patriarchal order of society … Because wives remained close to the house, they were often at the communication center … given responsibility for conveying directions, pacifying creditors, and perhaps even making some decisions about the disposition of labor. Lucy, with suitable expressions of modest demurral, shows herself capable, resourceful, and even charismatic in her forays into the public sphere.
When Joseph Sr. In all of these activities, she defers to male authority. In her lengthy quest for a church, she goes to male ministers and preachers. She acts only as a representative of her husband and son in the financial negotiations on the farm. She prophesies only in private and only about members of her own family.
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She gives the names and birth dates of her seven [p. Although the Relief Society was an institutional form in which Mormon women could expand their participation in church life, Lucy does not mention it in her history even though she attended several meetings, spoke occasionally, and bore her testimony at least once.
She was received by vote as a member of the society on 24 March , the first meeting after its organization on 17 March.
Snow, the secretary. Lucy gave the closing prayer at this meeting. At this point, Lucy had been a widow for eighteen months and, despite the misgivings about her health expressed a month earlier, was obviously well enough to attend meetings regularly, as the minutes show. Lucy Millikin contributed a quarter on 19 April However, there is no record that Lucy Mack Smith ever made a contribution. Given her generous heart, this inability, which seems to point to diminished financial standing, must have pinched her as much as the poverty itself.
Psychiatrist Robert D. Anderson has argued, in a provocative extended analysis, that the Book of Mormon can best be explained as Joseph Jr. How convincing are these arguments? Robert Anderson is not breaking totally new ground in his evaluation. As early as , C. Jess Groesbeck had hypothesized that both Lucy and Joseph Sr.
He has continued this interpretation of the Smith family. In the summer of , he asserted that Joseph Sr. In William D. He, like Anderson, sees these traumatic events being reworked psychically to emerge as [p.
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While both Anderson and Groesbeck are trained psychiatrists Anderson is a Freudian, Groesbeck a Jungian , I still hesitate to agree that the evidence of family dysfunction is conclusive. The extended manifestations of Joseph Jr. There is considerable, though uneven, evidence that Joseph Sr. Was Joseph Sr.
Joseph Sr. Can we assume that they were all telling the truth? Probably not. Can we assume that they were all lying? Robert Anderson makes the telling point that the simplest explanation for seven-year-old Joseph Jr.
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The most conclusive piece of evidence about Joseph Sr. As the meeting continues and he gives Hyrum the first blessing, Joseph Sr. The envy of knaves and fools was heaped upon him, … all the days of his life. He was of noble stature, and possessed a high, and holy, and exalted, and a virtuous mind … He never did a mean act that might be said was ungenerous, in his life, to my knowledge.
Since the evidence is shaky that Joseph Sr. Marquardt and Walters point out that Hyrum and Joseph Sr. LaMar Petersen, compiler of Hearts Made Glad, a light-hearted, uncritical, but quite thorough compendium of reports about alcohol and the Smith family, takes a reasonable position about his own anecdotes:. Some of the numerous anecdotes—but certainly not all—may have been prompted by malice.