The world gives women little convincing direction for the process of achieving long-lasting happiness in womanhood. There are conflicting worldly advisers on every side, seeming to agree only that old ways are to be rejected and replaced by roles that discount the truths of eternity. In contrast, the lives of three women mentioned in the Doctrine and Covenants assure today’s woman of the Lord’s continuous approbation of her sacred responsibilities as a righteous daughter, sister, wife, and mother.
As a Daughter and Sister
The joyous unfolding of the great plan of salvation began for women when the earth was created. Adam was this earth’s first man, and Eve was the first woman. Since then Mother Eve’s faithful daughters have worshiped the true and living God and found happiness in mortality.
The Lord spoke to the Prophet Joseph Smith concerning one such exemplary daughter and sister, Vienna Jacques. 1 In many ways Vienna is a representative model of the many women who, by their words and actions, respect their sacred responsibilities. Vienna was a single woman in her early 40s when she first became acquainted with the Church. She was a devout Christian in Boston, Massachusetts, but she became dissatisfied with her religion and began seeking a church that evidenced the spiritual gifts described in the New Testament. Hearing of Joseph Smith and his newly published Book of Mormon, she requested a copy. At first reading she was not particularly inspired. One night, however, while she was praying, she saw a vision of the Book of Mormon and resolved to know of its truthfulness.
Her conversion was not instantaneous, but it came gradually through continual prayer and study of the scriptures. She read the Book of Mormon until she was convinced of its divinity. In 1831, 43-year-old Vienna traveled alone by canal boat and then by stagecoach to Kirtland, Ohio, to meet the Prophet. After being instructed by him, she accepted baptism. Upon returning to Boston, she was instrumental in the conversion of several family members. On 8 March 1833, after returning to Kirtland, she was instructed by revelation through the Prophet to give $1,400 and other valuables she had brought from the East to the Church and to settle in Jackson County, Missouri (see D&C 90:28–31).
Vienna Jacques donated all she had to the Lord’s Church. In return, she received funds from the bishop to maintain herself. This contribution from a single daughter and sister stands as a memorial to her faith, willingness to sacrifice, and love of God.
Concerning her generous offering, the Prophet Joseph Smith sent a letter to Vienna on 4 September 1833, in which he wrote: “I have often felt a whispering since I received your letter, like this: ‘Joseph, thou art indebted to thy God for the offering of thy Sister Vienna, which proved a savior of life as pertaining to thy pecuniary concerns. Therefore she should not be forgotten of thee, for the Lord hath done this, and thou shouldst remember her in all thy prayers and also by letter for she oftentimes calleth on the Lord.’” 2
In Missouri, Vienna was forced to abandon her deeded portion of land because of mob violence against the Saints in that region. Concerning her situation there, the Prophet penned these words of counsel: “I was aware when you left Kirtland that the Lord would chasten you, but I prayed fervently in the name of Jesus that you might live to receive your inheritance. … Therefore let your heart be comforted; live in strict obedience to the commandments of God, and walk humbly before Him, and He will exalt thee in His own due time. I will assure you that the Lord has respect unto the offering you made.” 3
Sister Jacques’s generous nature blessed the lives of many people. Elder Heber C. Kimball (1801–68) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles noted her service in his journal entry concerning illness in Zion’s Camp: “We had to exert ourselves considerable to attend to the sick, for they fell on every hand.” Then he added, “I received great kindness from … sister Vienna Jacques, who administered to my wants and also to my brethren—may the Lord reward … [her] kindness.” 4
Before being driven from Missouri, Vienna married Daniel Shearer, a widower. Together they fled to Nauvoo, Illinois. During the westward exodus to the Rockies, more hardship was added to her life when, for unknown reasons, her husband died. At age 60 she drove her own wagon across the plains and into the Salt Lake Valley on 2 October 1847. She was given a lot in the Salt Lake 12th Ward. She died at age 96, and her obituary read, “She was true to her covenants and esteemed the Gospel as a priceless treasure.” 5
Vienna Jacques was an exemplar of a righteous daughter and sister in her readiness to accept the laws of God, her devotion to the Lord, and her service to others.
As a Wife
The pivotal covenant that enables a righteous woman to reach her fullest potential is eternal marriage (see D&C 132:18–19). She desires to be married to a companion, an equal partner, who adheres to the Lord’s commands.
Emma Smith, the Prophet’s wife, is remembered as a woman who faithfully supported her husband. 6 Emma was a woman of great faith and courage whom the Lord addressed twice in the Doctrine and Covenants: section 25 and again in section 132. Section 25 manifests the will of the Lord to Emma yet gives wise counsel for all women, especially wives in Israel (see D&C 25:16).
Emma’s divine calling was to be the wife of a prophet. In this responsibility the Lord said, “The office of thy calling shall be for a comfort unto my servant, Joseph Smith, Jun., thy husband” (D&C 25:5). She was counseled to use “consoling words, in the spirit of meekness” with him (D&C 25:5). Emma was to cleave to her husband, Joseph, and to “go with him at the time of his going, and be unto him for a scribe” (D&C 25:6). She was promised that for faithfully fulfilling her calling as his wife, he would “support [her] in the church” (D&C 25:9).
In addition to these instructions, Emma was told to develop her talents and help establish the kingdom of God. Her talents and duties included serving as the Prophet’s scribe as he translated the Bible, expounding the scriptures, exhorting the Church, writing, learning, and selecting sacred hymns (see D&C 25:6–8, 11). The Lord cautioned her that while fulfilling these responsibilities, she was to “murmur not” and was to “lay aside the things of this world, and seek for the things of a better” (D&C 25:4, 10). She was also admonished to “beware of pride” (D&C 25:14). If Emma proved faithful, she would receive “a crown of righteousness” (D&C 25:15).
The Prophet Joseph Smith loved Emma, and she comforted him, she increased her talents, she helped establish the Church, and she fulfilled her responsibilities as a wife. In his love for her, Joseph pleaded with the Lord on her behalf in March 1836: “Have mercy, O Lord, upon [my] wife and children, that they may be exalted in thy presence, and preserved by thy fostering hand” (D&C 109:69).
In a revelation recorded in July 1843, the Lord again spoke to Emma and commanded her “to abide and cleave unto my servant Joseph, and to none else” (D&C 132:54). She is also encouraged to “forgive my servant Joseph his trespasses; and then shall she be forgiven her trespasses, wherein she has transgressed against me; and I, the Lord thy God, will bless her, and multiply her, and make her heart to rejoice” (D&C 132:56).
The Lord warned Emma that despite her position as a called wife and worker in the kingdom, she must faithfully endure or, as the Lord had told her, “where I am you cannot come” (D&C 25:15).
Throughout her life as a wife, Emma experienced hardship, sorrow, persecution, and severe tests. Despite this, she was faithful to the Lord’s invitation: “Let thy soul delight in thy husband, and the glory which shall come upon him” (D&C 25:14). Emma’s responsibilities were many, and by comparison her weaknesses were few. The lessons from the Lord’s revelations to Emma are clear: a wife is to cleave to her husband and comfort him, serve in the Lord’s kingdom, and endure faithfully to the end.
Just prior to his death, the Prophet Joseph Smith invited Emma to write out a blessing that she would want from him. She wrote in part, “I desire with all my heart to honor and respect my husband as my head, ever to live in his confidence and by acting in unison with him, retain the place which God has given me by his side.” 7
As a Mother
As a righteous wife begins to enjoy an eternal marriage relationship, she will anticipate with joy the opportunity of motherhood. As a mother, she will want her children sealed to her and her husband for all eternity by the sacred ordinances of the temple and the bonds of love (see D&C 138:48).
Although Lucy Mack Smith’s name is not in the Doctrine and Covenants, she is mentioned by her designated responsibility as mother of the Prophet Joseph Smith. 8 The Prophet, in describing his 1836 vision of eternal realms, wrote, “I saw Father Adam and Abraham; and my father and my mother; my brother Alvin, that has long since slept” (D&C 137:5).
Lucy Mack Smith’s feelings about her responsibilities as a mother are noted in the minutes of a Church conference held on 8 October 1845 in Nauvoo, Illinois. On that day, Lucy made the following remarks: “I raised up 11 children, 7 boys. We raised them in the fear of God. When they were two or three years old [I told them I wanted them] to love God with all their hearts. [I] want all you to do the same. God gives us our children and we are accountable.” 9
Within a year of her marriage, Lucy’s firstborn son was taken in death. Five years later, as the mother of two small children, she became ill and was told by doctors that she would die. She pleaded with the Lord to spare her life so that she might bring comfort to her children and husband. Lucy taught her children religious precepts. She especially encouraged them to study the Bible. Her son William recalled, “My mother … was a very pious woman and much interested in the welfare of her children, both here and hereafter, and made use of every means which her parental love could suggest, to get us engaged in seeking for our souls’ salvation.” 10
Lucy Mack Smith was also well acquainted with sorrow. Some particularly difficult experiences for her were the loss of the family farm in New York, the imprisonment of her husband and children, the death of her husband in 1840, the murder of two sons in 1844, and the death of her son Samuel 32 days later from complications arising from being chased on horseback by a mob. Of her six sons who lived to maturity, five had died by 1845.
Of her griefs, she said, “I often wonder to hear brethren and sisters murmur at the trifling inconveniences which they have to encounter … and I think to myself, salvation is worth as much now as it was in the beginning of the work. But I find that ‘all [would] like [to] purchase [it], [but] few the price will pay.’” 11
The Righteous Woman
The examples of womanhood found in the Doctrine and Covenants are the same as those found throughout ancient scripture. A woman’s willful rejection of these truths not only will affect her but may influence generations that follow. Each woman chooses whether to accept her divine responsibilities or to embrace the counterfeits. The righteous woman, recognizing the increasing peril of following the world’s destructive advice, adheres to the truths of the scriptures and modern prophetic counsel. The truths she learns will lead her to the commitment of being a faithful daughter, sister, wife, and mother. Such a commitment will lead her to greater happiness in mortality and joy in the eternal realms.
“It is important to gain some understanding of and appreciation for the wonderful endowments and callings God has given uniquely to women.” President James E. Faust of the First Presidency, “The Highest Place of Honor,” Ensign, May 1988, 36.
Vienna Jacques, daughter of Henry and Lucinda Jacques, was born on 10 June 1787 at Beverly, Essex County, Massachusetts.
Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith (1976), 26.
Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 26–27.
“Extracts from H. C. Kimball’s Journal,” as quoted in Jerrie W. Hurd, Our Sisters in the Latter-day Scriptures (1987), 65.
Woman’s Exponent, 1 Mar. 1884, 152.
Emma Hale Smith, daughter of Isaac Hale and Elizabeth Lewis, was born on 10 July 1804 at Harmony, Pennsylvania.
Quoted in Raymond T. Bailey, “Emma Hale: Wife of the Prophet Joseph Smith” (master’s thesis, Brigham Young University, 1952), 112–13.
Lucy Mack Smith, daughter of Solomon Mack and Lydia Gates, was born on 8 July 1776 at Gilsum, New Hampshire.
General Minutes Typescript Collection, Box 94, 3–4, Historical Department Archives.
Church History in the Fulness of Times (1989), 21–22.
The Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, ed. Scot Facer Proctor and Maurine Jensen Proctor (1996), xvii–xviii.