ELIZABETH DAVIS DURFEE
When Elizabeth met
Jabez Durfee in 1834 she was a widow, having lost her first two husbands
in a shipwreck and sickness. Jabez was a widower, his wife having
passed away earlier that year. They combined their families, 10 children
between them, and were married in March of 1834 in Clay County, Missouri.
Elizabeth and Jabez
moved to Nauvoo in 1839. There, Elizabeth participated in the newly
established women’s organization, the Relief Society. On April 14,
1842 Elizabeth was administered to by Society President Emma Smith and
her two counselors. Later Elizabeth, “bore testimony to the great
blessing she received when administered to...by Prest. E.S. & Councillors
Cleveland and Whitney. she said she never realized more benefit thro’ any
administration-that she was heal’d, and thought the sisters had more faith
than the brethren”. In response to complaints about women giving
blessings, Joseph shared his approval saying, “If the sisters should
have faith to heal the sick let all hold their tongues...if God gave his
sanction by healing...there would be no...sin”.
In the Spring of 1842
Elizabeth, now fifty one, married Joseph Smith. Like Patty Sessions,
another one of Joseph’s relatively older wives, Elizabeth was a “Mother
in Israel” who helped introduce younger women into plural marriage.
In the Spring of 1843, nineteen-year-old Emily Partridge recalls being
approached by Joseph: “If you will not betray me, I will tell you something
for your benefit...[he] asked me if I would burn it if he would write me
a letter”. Emily declined Joseph’s letter thinking, “it was
not the proper thing to do”. Soon after, Elizabeth invited Emily
to her home. Emily remembers, “She introduced the subject of spiritual
wives as they called it in that day [and wondered] if there was any truth
in the report she heard...[I thought to myself] I could tell her something
that would make her open her eyes if I chose”. Emily kept quiet but
later noted, “I learned afterward that Mrs. Durfee was [already] a friend
to plurality and knew all about it”. On March 4th, Elizabeth
again met with Emily. Emily wrote, “Mrs. Durf- came to me one
day and said Joseph would like an opportunity to talk with me. I asked
her if she knew what he wanted. She said she thought he wanted me for a
wife...I was to meet him in the evening at Mr. Kimballs”. Aided
by Elizabeth's prompting, Emily met and married Joseph that evening.
After Joseph’s death
in 1844, Elizabeth separated from her first husband, Jabez, and soon married
Cornelius Lott. Lott’s daughter Melissa had also been a wife of Joseph
Smith. Elizabeth and Cornelius started west with the majority of the saints.
Elizabeth’s son, John remembers, “we went with [Brigham] as far as the
Missouri River and then we saw so much of their manner of doing business,
that we went back to Quincy”. Cornelius continued on to Utah, eventually
taking 5 plural wives. In Quincy, Elizabeth renewed her friendship
with “President” Emma Smith.