Rhoda was born and raised in Boston, the second of eleven children.  Her brother, Willard Richards, would later become an apostle in the church.  Rhoda’s niece Lula Richards Greene remembers Rhoda: “When grown she was a little below medium height, possessed a small trim figure and a face usually expressive of innocent fun and merriment. Her eyes were dark and brilliant...she was a girl and a women of rare beauty.”

In her twenties, Rhoda fell in love with and became engaged to Ebenezer Damon.  Ebenezer had a three-and-a-half-year old daughter, Susan, to whom Rhoda became attached.  Lula wrote, “Ebenezer Damon was a man of sterling worth and integrity whom Aunt Rhoda loved as such a woman loves but once in a life time.”  In December 1813 Ebenezer fell ill and was sick for several weeks.  Rhoda and her mother cared for him while he hovered near death and finally passed away.  Rhoda wrote, “As he was so comfortable the evening before we thought he would soon be up with us, it was the more suddin and dreadful.  My fond hopes were then blasted. For what. God only knows.”  On New Year’s Day Rhoda wrote in her diary, “Mr. Damons remains were deposited near the meeting house...Farewell to all joys, my comforts are fled. The friend of my choice is now numbered with the dead.”

Rhoda first heard about the Mormon church many years later when her cousin, and recent convert, Joseph Young visited her in 1835.  Joseph was a brother with future church leader Brigham Young.  Rhoda wrote, “My cousin...stood and preached to us...for about half an hour, finishing his discourse with, ‘There, Cousin Rhoda, I don’t know but I have tired you out!’”  Rhoda suggested they end with a prayer. “In an instant [Joseph] was on his knees, offering up a prayer. That was the first Mormon sermon and the first Mormon prayer I ever listened to.”  A year later Rhoda was baptized.

In the fall of 1842, Rhoda moved to Nauvoo and soon met Joseph Smith.  Her brother, Apostle Willard Richards, was a close associate of Joseph Smith and perhaps introduced Rhoda to Joseph. In the spring of 1843, Rhoda made her home in “the Prophets store.”  The following month, on June 12, Rhoda married Joseph Smith.  Her brother Willard performed the marriage.  Rhoda wrote, “In my young days I buried my first and only love, and true to that affiance [pledge], I have passed companionless through life; but am sure of having my proper place and standing in the resurrection, having been sealed to the prophet Joseph, according to the celestial law, by his own request, under the inspiration of divine revelation.”

Rhoda immigrated to Utah and lived in Salt Lake City for the remainder of her life.  On January 1, 1879, the sixty-fifth anniversary of Ebenezer Damon’s passing, Rhoda remembered, “it was the first ‘Happy New Year’ she had known for sixty-six years. She said the snow looked exactly as it did the day ‘Mr. Damon’ was buried.”  


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