Thursday, April 10, 2008

Emmeline Wells, part 2: Early Life and Conversion

Emmeline was born in Petersham, Massachusetts in 1829. She was an intelligent, thoughtful, and somewhat precocious child, known for her good memory and her love of nature and poetry. She received an excellent education for a woman at that time. In 1841, while she was studying at New Salem Academy, her mother encountered the Mormon missionaries and was baptized. Community members recruited Emmeline to persuade her mother to give up Mormonism, but didn't get what they had bargained for - Emmeline decided to be baptized as well.

When Emmeline decided to be baptized, she met with a lot of adversity from her friends at the academy, who tried to convince her to change her mind. I really enjoyed the passage from Representative Women of Deseret about this period in her life. The language is a bit over-the-top, as was characteristic of the time, but it hits on some important aspects of Emmeline's character:

On the 1st day of March, 1842, when a little group of Latter-Day Saints was assembled to perform the ordinance of baptism … zealous friends sent messengers down to ask her if she was sure she was acting of her own free will and choice, otherwise they would take her by force and she should never lack for means of higher education, but if she accepted the Mormon faith and gathered at Nauvoo she must renounce not only her friends but also all the advantages of literary culture she had so ardently hoped to attain, and be forever disgraced. Not knowing but that it was true that her hopes for further advancement must be resigned, she laid them on the altar of her faith, willing to yield up her future entirely to the will and care of her Creator … She told her mother and friends then what proved true afterwards, that the crisis was past, she had renounced all she had before looked forward to, henceforth she desired to dedicate herself entirely to the work in which she had enlisted.

I love Emmeline's faith here. "Literary culture" was very important to her, and the decision to leave it behind could not have been easy. Yet she knew that if she trusted in the Lord, He would take care of her. And He did. Emmeline was given many opportunities throughout her life to use her brains and talents, blessing many lives along the way. I love that in 1912, she received an honorary Doctor of Literature from BYU for her work in literature and writing - the first Utah woman to receive an honorary degree. I love that she was able to use her talents, as well as receive recognition for them.

Representative Women of Deseret, Augusta Joyce Crocheron
Women's Voices: An Untold History of the Latter-Day Saints, 1830-1900, Kenneth W. Godfrey, Audrey M. Godfrey, Jill Mulvay Derr
Emmeline B. Wells, Utah History Encyclopedia, Carol Cornwall Madsen

1 comment:

Sonya said...

She was an amazing woman. I too admire her faith! I added you to my regularly visited blogs. Thanks for inspiring us all :).