On June 25th (2009) Mormon Times published an article titled “Healing the rift between Brigham and Emma.” The article discusses current efforts toward removing tensions and prejudices that exist between the families descended from Brigham Young and Joseph Smith. One step in this effort was a 2007 written “Healing Document” delivered to the Joseph Smith Jr. Family Organization by the Brigham Young Family Association. The document was written in response to a request from Michael Kennedy, president of the Joseph Smith Jr. Family Organization.
According to Mormon Times, Mr. Kennedy said,
“Brigham Young never would have said any of the things he did had he had the correct information. And so I figured that maybe, if he were alive, he would come before Emma and apologize.”
The article doesn’t provide any specific things Brigham Young said about Emma Smith, so to fill in the gap, here are a few notable occasions when Brigham spoke about Emma:
“According to [Edmund C.] Briggs, Young blamed Emma for the establishment of the Reorganized Church and said so in graphic terms. ‘Emma Bidamon is a wicked, wicked, wicked woman and always was and she is at the bottom of this whole matter…Joseph [III] is led by his mother and is now acting under the direction of Emma'” (Avery, From Mission to Madness, 73, quoting Journal of Edmund C. Briggs, August 11, 1863).
“Brigham Young describes a ‘secret council,’…at which he said Joseph accused Emma of [poisoning Joseph] and ‘called upon her to deny it if she could…He told her that she was a child of hell, and literally the most wicked woman on this earth, that there was not one more wicked than she. …I [Brigham Young] have witnesses all around, who can testify that I am now telling the truth. Twice she undertook to kill him'” (Newell and Avery, Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith, 164, quoting Brigham Young address, October 7, 1866, in General Conference).
“[Joseph Smith’s son] Alexander and Brigham Young’s conversation grew more heated. Brigham accused Emma of stealing the family portraits and Joseph’s ring–all items that Emma undoubtedly had a widow’s right to possess. Then in front of her sons Brigham called her ‘a liar, the damndest liar that ever lived'” (Avery, From Mission to Madness, 99, quoting Inez Smith, “Biography of Alexander Hale Smith–Part 6”).
“I never saw a day in the world that I would not almost worship that woman, Emma Smith, if she would be a saint instead of being a devil. …Emma is naturally a very smart woman; she is subtle and ingenious… She has made her children inherit lies. To my certain knowledge Emma Smith is one of the damnedest liars I know of on this earth; yet there is no good thing I would refuse to do for her, if she would only be a righteous woman” (Newell and Avery, Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith, 284, quoting Brigham Young address, October 1, 1866).
Emma, of course, heard of the way Brigham spoke about her. Several years later she wrote to her son Joseph regarding the mission trip to Utah that had been undertaken by her other sons, Alexander and David,
“I tried before they left here to give them an idea of what they might expect of Brigham and all of his ites, but I suppose the impression was hardly sufficient to guard their feelings from such unexpected falsehoods and impious profanity as Brigham is capable of. …I do not like to have my children’s feelings abused, but I do like that Brigham shows to all, both Saint and sinner, that there is not the least particle of friendship existing between him and myself” (Newell and Avery, Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith, 285, letter from Emma written August, 1869).
According to the Mormon Times article, Mary Ellen Elggren, the person responsible for drafting the 2007 Healing Document, believes all is now well between Brigham and Emma. Ms. Elggren said,
“The last words out of Emma’s mouth when she died were ‘Joseph.’ And the last words out of Brigham’s mouth, and he died before Emma, were ‘Joseph.’ Joseph came and got each of them. They have settled their differences.”