Emily and Eliza were the daughters of Nauvoo Bishop, Edward Partridge.  When he died in 1840, Emily, sixteen, and Eliza, twenty, looked to “hire out” as maids to help support their family.  Emily recalls, “The first door that opened for us was to go to [President] Smiths, which we accepted.”  Emily said she was “a nurse girl, for they had a young baby...That is what I delighted in, tending babies...Joseph and Emma were very kind to us; they were almost like a father and mother, and I loved Emma and the children.”

After a year in the Smith home, Emily remembers: “...in the spring of 1842...Joseph said to me one day, ‘Emily, if you will not betray me, I will tell you something for your benefit.’ Of course I would keep his secret...he asked me if I would burn it if he would write me a letter. I began to think that was not the proper thing for me to do and I was about as miserable as I ever would wish to be...I went to my room and knelt down and asked my father in heaven to direct me...[At Joseph’s insistence] I could not speak to any one on earth...I received no comfort till I went back...to say I could not take a private letter from him.  He asked me if I wished the matter ended. I said I did.” Emily recalls, “he said no more to me [for many months].”

Soon after Emily refused Joseph’s letter, Elizabeth Durfee, who had married Joseph the previous year, invited Emily and Eliza to her home.  Emily recalls being tested, “She introduced the subject of spiritual wives as they called it in that day. She wondered if there was any truth in the report she heard. I thought I could tell her something that would make her open her eyes if I chose, but I did not choose to. I kept my own council and said nothing.”  Emily later learned “that Mrs. Durfee was a friend to plurality and knew all about it.”  On their walk home from Mrs. Durfee’s, Emily raised courage enough to mention Joseph’s offer to her sister: “[Eliza] felt very bad indeed for a short time, but it served to prepare her to receive the principles that were revealed soon after.”

Joseph approached Emily again on February 28, 1843, her nineteenth birthday.  Emily said, “He taught me this principle of plural marriage...but we called it celestial marriage, and he told me that this principle had been revealed to him but it was not generally known.”  A week later, “Mrs. Durf[ee] came to me...and said Joseph would like an opportunity to talk with me...I was to meet him in the evening at Mr. [Heber C.] Kimballs.”  Not wanting to incur any suspicion, Emily didn’t change from the dress she had been working in that day.  “When I got there nobody was at home but [the Kimball children] William and Hellen Kimball...I did not wait long before Br. Kimball and Joseph came in.”  Emily recalls that Heber and Joseph sent the Kimball children to a neighbor’s home, and pretended to send Emily away as well: “I started for home as fast as I could so as to get beyond being called back, for I still dreaded the interview. Soon I heard Br. Kimball call, ‘Emily, Emily’ rather low but loud enough for me to hear. I thought at first I would not go back and took no notice of his calling. But he kept calling and was about to overtake me so I stopped and went back with him.”

Back at the Kimball home, Joseph spoke to Emily: “I cannot tell all Joseph said, but he said the Lord had commanded [him] to enter into plural marriage and had given me to him and although I had got badly frightened he knew I would yet have him...Well I was married there and then. Joseph went home his way and I going my way alone. A strange way of getting married wasen’t it?”  Although they did not spend their wedding night together, Emily said she “slept with” Joseph on other occasions.  Joseph’s property caretaker in Macedonia, Benjamin Johnson, remembers the couple traveling there, “The prophet...Came and...ocupied the Same Room & Bed with...the Daughter of the Late Bishop Partridge”.

Four days after his marriage to Emily, Joseph married Emily’s sister, Eliza.  The details of the proposal and marriage are sparse.  Eliza kept a journal but later burned it because it was “too full”.  Years later she wrote, “While [living in Joseph’s house] he taught to us the plan of Celestial marriage and asked us to enter into that order with him. This was truly a great trial for me but I had the most implicit confidence in him as a Prophet of the Lord and [could] not but believe his words and as a matter of course accept the privilege of being sealed to him as a wife for time and all eternity.”  Of the marriages, Emily said, “neither of us knew about the other at the time, everything was so secret.”

About this time Joseph introduced select men to the endowment ceremony.  He taught that it was necessary for exaltation.  Women would also be receiving the endowment and Joseph wanted his wife, Emma, to be the “Elect Lady”: the first women to receive the endowment.  She would then disseminate it to the other women.  The endowment requires a wife to be obedient to her husband.  Because Emma was resisting plural marriage, Joseph would not let her participate in the endowment, thus risking her own exaltation as well as delaying ceremonial endowments for other women.  Carrying this burden, Emma agreed to let Joseph marry additional wives; provided she could select them.  Unaware of their marriage to Joseph months earlier, Emma selected her live-in helpers, Emily and Eliza.  Emily recalls, “I do not know why she gave us to him, unless she thought we were where she could watch us better...” Emily continued, “To save the family trouble Brother Joseph thought it best to have another ceremony performed...[Emma] had her feelings, and so we thought there was no use in saying anything about it so long as she had chosen us herself...Accordingly...we were sealed to JS a second time, in Emma’s presence.”  Within a week, Emma received her endowment.

But Emma’s surrender waned.  Emily remembers: “We remained in the family several months after this...She sent for us one day to come to her room. Joseph was present, looking like a martyr. Emma said some very hard things ...She would rather her blood would run...than be polluted in this manner...Joseph came to us and shook hands with us, and the understanding was that all was ended between us. I for one meant to keep this promise I was forced to make.”  Emily continued, “We looked upon the covenants we had made as sacred”.  Joseph arranged for Emily and Eliza to move out of the Smith home.  Emily wrote, “I do not remember [speaking to] Joseph but once...after I left the Mansion house and that was just before he started for Carthage."  Joseph was killed in Carthage on June 27, 1844.  

Speaking of Emma, Emily said, “I think Emma always regretted having any hand in getting us into such trying circumstances.  But she need not have blamed herself for that... for it would have been the same with or without her consent...I have never repented the act that made me a plural wife...of Joseph Smith and bound me to him for time and all eternity.”


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