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All of Their Descendants Share the Same Heritage

Emma and Joseph shared a common Heritage, being descended from no less than seven passengers on the historic ship, Mayflower. These Mayflower passengers are: John Tilley, Joan Hurst Tilley, Elizabeth Tilley, John Howland, Edward Fuller, Mrs. John Fuller, Samuel Fuller. 

In sundrie of thee stormes the winds were so fierce and ye seas so high as they could not beare a knote of sale, but were forced to hull for  diverce days togither. And in one of them, as they thus lay at hull in a mighty storme, a lustie young man (called John Howland), coming upon some occasion above ye gratings, was, with a seele of ye shippe, throwne into ye sea; but it pleased God [that] he caught hold of ye tope-saile hallards which hung over-board, and rane out at length; yet he held his hould (though he was sundrie fadomes under water) till he was hald up by ye rope to ye water, and then with a boat hooke and other means got into ye shipe again and his life was saved; and though he was something ill with it, yet he lived many years after, and became a profitable member of both church and commonewealth.”[4]

John Howland overboard John Howland survives storm after being tossed into the sea taking nearly 3 hours before rescue.

John Fiske, in his Beginnings of New England, reported that the Plymouth settlers were “. . . drawn from the sturdiest part of English stock. In all history there has been no other instance of colonization so exclusively effected by picked and chosen men.”[1] William Stoughton, in his election sermon of 1668, said, “God sifted a whole nation that he might send choice grain over into the wilderness.”[2] The compelling motive of these pilgrims coming was to gain freedom of worship for themselves according to their own interpretation of the teachings of the Bible.

Edward Johnson, in his Wandering-Working Providence of Zion’s Savior in New England, said, “The Lord Christ intends to achieve greater matter by this little handful than the world is aware of.”[3]

Although they probably never knew it, both Joseph Smith and Emma Hale could have traced their lineage back to a common ancestor, John Howland, whose life was miraculously spared during the stormy Atlantic crossing of the Mayflower in 1620.

In Bradford’s History of Plymouth Plantation 1606-1646, the story of this dramatic event is recorded in charming old English. The spelling is retained here to give the reader a feeling for the language of the time. Some explanations have been added in [ ] brackets to clarify meaning.

In fact, John Howland married Elizabeth Tilley, one of the few survivors of the first terrible winter in Plymouth colony.  Had John Howland not survived his fall into the ocean from the intrepid Mayflower, many hundreds and even thousands of individuals would not have been born to fulfill their outstanding service to the new American nation, or to the world in which we live today.  One cannot help marveling at the twist of destiny that brought these pilgrims through their ordeals to produce two separate family lines, which converge eight generations later, bringing two very distant cousins, Joseph Smith and Emma Hale, together as contemporaries, and key participants in one of the most significant events to take place in the history of the world—the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Who is Emma Hale?

David Hyrum 5 months after his birth David Hyrum 5 months after his birth

Born 10 July 1804, in Harmony, Pennsylvania, Emma was the seventh child and third daughter in a family of nine children (five boys and five girls), born to Isaac and Elizabeth Lewis Hale.  Her mother was a sister of a respected Methodist minister, Nathaniel Hale.  Her father, a well-established farmer and a skilled hunter, was also a veteran of the Revolutionary War.  The Hales, by their industry, enjoyed many cultural and social advantages.  Emma was well educated for a girl of her day, and was also a skilled horsewoman.  She was well accomplished in the womanly arts of spinning, weaving, and sewing.  She was fond of her brothers and sisters, and throughout her tempestuous life she tried to maintain contact with them.  She and her father enjoyed an especially close bond since she was a little girl.  According to Michael Bartlett Morse, husband to Emma’s sister, Tryael, Isaac overheard six-year-old Emma praying for him and was so moved by her childish faith, that he forsook deism and embraced Christianity.  The Hale family members were faithful worshipers in the Methodist faith in Harmony, through Emma’s growing-up years.

Emma’s family did not understand her devotion to Joseph Smith and the religious movement he founded.  Due to her marriage to him, and her loyalty to his mission, she never saw her parents again in this life, but she maintained correspondence with her siblings over the years.  Years later, some of her siblings moved to Illinois, living within 150 miles of Nauvoo; in the 1840s they reconnected with Emma and Joseph, and amicable interaction developed between them.  Members of Emma’s family who settled in Lee County, Illinois:

  • Tryael Hale and Michael Morse and their children.
  • Jesse and Mary Elizabeth McKune Hale and some of their children.
  • David and Rhoda Jane Skinner Hale, and their family.
  • Alva and Clara Root Rouse Hale, and their family
  • Elizabeth Hale and Benjamin Wasson, (alt spelling, Wassen) and their family.
  • Clara Wasson, daughter of Elizabeth and Benjamin Wasson
  • Lorenzo Wasson married in Nauvoo, 1843, Marietta Crocker (she died) and Lorenzo then married Aurelia Gaylord, in about 1846, in Amboy township, Lee, Illinois.
  • Emma’s Uncle Nathaniel Lewis and some of his children moved to Amboy, Lee, Illinois: he died there in 1860.

Who is Joseph Smith?

Joseph Smith was born to Joseph and Lucy Mack Smith, on 23 December 1805, in Sharon, Vermont. The Smiths lived for a time on a farm near Sharon, then move to several areas before settling in Norwich, Vermont, where they obtained another farm and strove to make a living from it.  Three years in a row the weather was so cold they could not harvest a crop, so they were forced to look for a better location.  In 1816, when Joseph was ten years old, his father moved the family to the small town of Palmyra, in upstate New York.  Eventually he purchased land and built a log house in the nearby community of Farmington, which later became Manchester.

The Smiths were soon caught up in the religious revivals that were sweeping through the area at that time.  They frequently attended camp meetings where they made a little extra money selling refreshments among the hundreds of people who gathered for the revival meetings.  After listening to sermons given by various traveling preachers of Baptist, Methodist, or Presbyterian persuasion, the family was caught up in the question of which religion they should join.  Joseph Smith Sr., held himself aloof from all churches, but Mother Lucy, Sophronia, and Hyrum joined the Presbyterian Church.  Fourteen-year-old Joseph sincerely wanted to know which of all the contending denominations was right and which he should join in order to receive salvation and forgiveness for his sins.

While reading the Bible, Joseph came across the words, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally and unbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering.”[5]  The words struck deep into his heart, and he concluded that he would do as the scripture advised.

One morning, early in the spring of 1820, intent on finding out the truth for himself, Joseph set out across the meadow behind the log cabin.  Entering the wood lot he found a grove of trees where he could be alone; there he knelt down to offer a heartfelt prayer to God.   As soon as he began to pray, a terrible darkness came over him.  He felt as though he were being smothered—crushed by some invisible power.  In horror and despair, he called upon god for deliverance.  Suddenly, he saw a brilliant light descending out of heaven.  He said it was so bright he wondered that the leaves in the trees were not consumed.  In the shaft of light he saw two personages. One of them spoke to him saying, “Joseph, this is my Beloved Son, hear ye him.”[6]

Later, Joseph would refer to this experience as his “first vision” –the first of many face-to-face communications he claimed with heavenly beings, including his Heavenly Father, his Savior, Jesus Christ, and many prophets and apostles of old, who tutored him in his awesome responsibility of laying the foundation for the dispensation of the fullness of times.  In this first vision he was told not to join any of the contending religious groups. The Lord said, “They draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.”[7]  Joseph was told to wait and he would be given further instruction. He left the grove satisfied, as he had been assured that his sins were forgiven; and in a future time the Lord would have a work for him to do.

In due time, Joseph told his family of his experience; they believed him.  He also told a minister with whom he had become well acquainted.  This minister was enraged and told Joseph his vision came from the devil—that God did not talk to mortals in these latter days.  Soon Joseph and his family became subjects of ridicule and furious efforts to persuade Joseph to denounce his claim.  His response reveals his sincere conviction that what he had seen was real.


“I had seen a vision.  I have thought since, that I felt much like Paul, when he made his defense before King Agrippa, and related the account of the vision he had when he was a light, and heard a voice; but still there were but few who believed him; some said he was dishonest, others said he was mad; and he was ridiculed and reviled.  But all this did not destroy the reality of his vision. . . .  So it was with me.  I had actually seen a light, and in the midst of that light I saw two personages, and they did in reality speak to me; and though I was hated and persecuted for saying that I had seen a vision, yet it was true; and while they were persecuting me, reviling me, and speaking all manner of evil against me falsely for so saying, I was led to say in my heart:  Why persecute me for telling the truth?  I have actually seen a vision; and who am I that I can withstand god, or why does the world think to make me deny what I have actually seen?  For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that god knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it; at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God, and come under condemnation.”[8]

Over the next three years, Joseph worked on his father’s farm, and also as a laborer wherever he could to help earn a living for the family.  On the night of 21 September 1823, Joseph retired to his bed in the loft he shared with his younger brothers, determined in his heart that he would pray to know what the Lord might expect of him.  He said he fully expected to receive a vision, as he previously had, and so he prayed, anticipating an answer.  He was not disappointed.

As he prayed, a shaft of light suddenly came into the room, and there stood a glorious personage, an angel, who introduced himself as Moroni.  He told Joseph he had lived ages ago upon the American continent, and was now resurrected, and had been sent from God to give him the information he was seeking.  Moroni told Joseph God had a work for him to do; and that Joseph’s name “should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindred and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people.”[9]

Joseph learned that many centuries ago, Moroni had been charged to complete a sacred record which had been engraved on gold plates by his father, Mormon.  Moroni told Joseph this record contained “an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from whence they sprang. . . .  That the fullness of the everlasting Gospel was contained in it, as delivered by the Savior to the ancient inhabitants.”[10]  Moroni had been commanded to hide the record in the earth until the time came for it to come forth.  Moroni said Joseph was chosen to translate and publish this record in the latter days to re-establish the gospel on the earth, and he indicated that these things were about to take place.  Joseph was to be that prophet.

The vision was repeated two times, and before Moroni left him the last time, he told Joseph to relate this experience to his father.  Joseph feared that his father would not believe him so he ignored the angel’s directive and attempted to work in the field.  He felt ill and started back to the house, but fell to the ground.  There, Moroni came to him a fourth time telling him he must tell his father.  He also showed him in vision the place where the record was buried.

Joseph Smith and Moroni Joseph Smith fails to tell his father about his experience. Moroni tells his is father will believe him

Now the seventeen-year-old boy went to his father.  Father Smith listened to his son’s amazing experience, then urged him to go and do as the angel directed.  Joseph went to a place near the top of a large, bare hill, a few miles from the Smith farm.  He recognized the place as the one he had seen in vision.  Moroni met him there, showing him the golden plates and an instrument called the Urim and Thummim which he was told would be used for translating the record.  He forbad Joseph from taking the plates at that time.  Everything was returned to the stone box buried in the ground and hidden under a large stone which was pulled over the top.  This pattern was followed for the next four years, during which time the young prophet was given much instruction concerning his future work.  Each year he went, expecting to receive the plates, but he did not obtain them until the fall of 1827.

Emma and Joseph were married in January 1827.  They went to live with Joseph’s parents at Manchester, New York.  Joseph and Emma had been married about eight months when the time finally came for him to obtain the record.  Emma was with him the night he went to obtain the plates from the hill.  She did not ascend the hill with him, but waited at the bottom of the hill while Joseph went to receive the plates from the Angel Moroni.  She became his companion in the difficult task of keeping the record safe from those who wanted to take it away from them—she also became the first scribe when he made his first attempt to translate the record into English.  This record, when published, became The Book of Mormon.   For more than sixteen years of their lives they endured relentless persecution, privation, and at times serious poverty, but neither Emma, or Joseph, denied the truth of the work they were engaged in.

 By her marriage to Joseph, Emma had unwittingly become the wife of the man God had chosen to head the dispensation of the fullness of times.  No record has been found to reveal what Emma’s feelings were concerning Joseph’s prophetic gifts at the time of their marriage.  However, the record does show—by her constancy through trial—Emma’s steadfast conviction that he was a prophet of God.

A Prophet of God

Joseph Smith Teaching painting Joseph Smith teaching

The Bible dictionary defines a prophet as a forthteller as much as a foreteller.  During the career of Joseph Smith, there were moments of inspiration regarding the future, but his greatest energy went toward defining doctrine, restoring ordinances and lost scripture, adding thousands of words to the cannon of inspired religious writings. There is every indication that Emma shared Joseph’s values, and believed, as he did, that it was his lot to lay the foundation of the latter-day kingdom of God described by the prophet Daniel. See Daniel Chapter 2:28-45.

Joseph Smith made this comment in regard to the word, ‘Mormon’: “It has been stated that this word was derived from the Greek word, mormo. This is not the case. There is no Greek or Latin upon the plates from which I, through the grace of the Lord, translated the Book of Mormon. Let the language of the book speak for itself. . . .” he explained that the writers of the book said they wrote in characters, known among them as Reformed Egyptian, and that “none other people knoweth our language.” The word Mormon, Joseph said, “means literally more good.”[11]  Many times throughout his teachings he indicated he did not ask anyone to give up the good things they already believed, but to come, and gain more.

 Joseph Smith’s entire family stood beside him through all the persecution and trials heaped upon him by a world full of hostile mobs because of their rejection of his testimony that he had borne concerning the vision, his claim that he was commanded to translate and publish the Book of Mormon.   He accomplished this great work, not alone, but because many people believed and helped.

Smith Family Members who sustained Joseph unto death:

Joseph Smith Sr. Family Joseph Smith Sr Family depicted by Denielle Wagner

His father, Joseph Smith Sr., and two of his brothers, Hyrum and Samuel, were three of the eight witnesses who saw the gold plates and handled them and testified of the truth of their existence.[12]  His mother, Lucy Mack Smith bore testimony to her dying day the her son was indeed called of the Lord to bring forth the ancient record, The Book of Mormon; that it was the ‘voice from the dust’ spoken of by the prophet Ezekiel.  She wrote her book, History of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and left that printed testimony concerning the things he had done and the things her family had done in order to establish the restored gospel to the earth.[13]

 Three of his father’s brothers, Asael, Silas, and John, and their grown families united with the church Joseph founded and endured untold persecution and privation for the sake of the gospel.  Hyrum died with Joseph Smith at Carthage, Illinois, June 27, 1844, sealing the testimony with their blood.  Shortly before they were killed these two brothers spoke to the guards who were assigned to protect them while they were in protective custody at the jail in Carthage.[14]

 According to witnesses who heard them speak, Joseph said that he was not in that situation because of any evil acts of his, nor any wrong doing, but because he would not deny the testimony which he had born throughout his life that the work in which he was engaged was of God; that the Book of Mormon was true, that the ordinances he had restored were true, that the testimony he had born was true.

Hyrum’s sermon, recorded by one of the guards, John Long, was that Hyrum read from the Bible: Revelation chapter 6, verses 9 through 11.:

“And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held.

 “And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, doest thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?

“And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.”

He told them they should mark their Bible, for they were about to see this fulfilled.  Shortly after hearing these testimonies, John Long was dismissed from his duty, being replaced by the Carthage Greys, a group of the state Militia known to be avowed enemies Mormons.  Long went home and read to his family the words read by Hyrum; he marked his Bible, which has been passed down in his family from generation to generation along with his testimony of what he saw and heard that day. [13]

These men did not want to leave their families; they did not want to die.  But they chose to die rather than deny what they knew to be true.  At any time, Joseph, and Hyrum too, could have chosen to deny those things Joseph had been preaching from the time of that first vision, and the persecution would have stopped.  But Joseph did not deny it; nor did Hyrum, or Emma.  Like their shared ancestor, John Howland, who clung to the sail which trailed in the depths of the sea when he fell overboard in the storm, they clung to the truth which they had been charged to proclaim.   These men and those who stood by them in life have left a steadfast heritage of faith and devotion to duty; their example of courage stands as a remarkable legacy for all of their posterity.

Descendants of John and Elizabeth Tilley Howland, and Joseph and Emma Smith share a Choice Lineage.

Joseph F. McConkie (descendant of Hyrum Smith) said, “Kindred Spirits, though separated by time, are nonetheless still bound by purpose, for no great cause is accomplished in a generation. The hope, vision and faith of our noble forebears must become ours.  As we stand upon their shoulders, so in some future day others may be blessed to stand on ours.”


  1. John Fiske, The Beginnings of New England of the Puritans Theocracy in its Relation to Civil and Religious Liberty (Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin & Co.; Cambridge: The Rivertree Press, 1889).

  2. William Stoughton was pastor of the Old south church in Boston. The pastor traditionally presented a sermon on Election Day, and this quote comes from his sermon in 1668. Microfiche copies are found in the Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT.

  3. Edward Johnson, “Wonder-Working Providence of Sion’s Savior in New England,” in Original narratives of Early American History, ed. J. Franklin Jameson (New York: Charles Scribner’s sons, 1910).

  4. The Holy bible, (King James Version), James 1:5.

  5. Joseph Smith---History, 1:17, Pearl of Great Price

  6. Ibid, 1:19

  7. Ibid, 1:24-26

  8. Ibid, 1:27-33

  9. Ibid., 1:34

  10. Joseph Smith, HC, 5:399-400

  11. The Book of Mormon, see Testimony of Eight Witnesses

  12. Lucy Mack Smith dictated the manuscript for her history which has been published in several forms and is available today, “History of the Prophet Joseph Smith”.

  13. John Taylor, witness to the Martyrdom. Section 135 in the LDS Doctrine and Covenants, p. 281.

  14. Pamela Price, Story of John Long, November 2006 Vision Magazine, vol. 54, p.5. Independence, Missouri.