Saints Book Club Ch. 4

Chapter 4 of Saints has it all: buried treasure and golden plates, action and romance.

Joseph’s work in assisting with treasure seeking has been the subject of much controversy. This chapter smartly positions that employment in the context of Joseph meeting and courting Emma Hale. Whether Joseph was right to use his talents in pursuit of treasure seeking or not, God used his experience to put him where he needed to be to meet Emma.

I like how the chapter describes the romance between Emma and Joseph. You can see what each found so attractive in the other. Emma had grown up in relative wealth and privilege and I suspect that Joseph seemed so different. He was rugged and rough. He had a natural charm and was gregarious and humorous. Emma likely offered Joseph a sense of refinement and class that attracted him.

It was no surprise that Issac Hale did not approve of their relationship and marriage. Joseph was a poor hired laborer whose family had little property and little standing. Joseph must have appeared uneducated and superstitious. And the rumors of gold plates and angels would frighten any would be father in law.

Amidst this courtship, Joseph is charged with fraud for his work with Josiah Stowell. The charges are dismissed after Josiah testifies on his behalf. But I can’t imagine that those charges helped Joseph’s relationship with Isaac Hale.

When Joseph visits the Hill Cumorah again, he is warned that he is still using his skills to pursue financial gain and that he must quit working with money diggers. He is told that if he does not change his ways, he will not have another chance. This makes me wonder if there are moments in our lives where God gives us a similar warning and where we have to either step up and change of lose out on precious spiritual opportunities?

As a result of his experience, Joseph also receives revelation that Emma must come with him when he goes to get the plates. But that revelation does not help with the courtship which does not go well.

And yet, Emma makes the courageous, seemingly impulsive choice to marry Joseph and go live with Joseph’s parents. I really admire Emma’s strength and willingness to defy her parents and her social standing to follow her heart and the spirit.

Despite the earlier chastisement, Joseph is given yet another warning. He is told that he has “been negligent” and that the time was coming soon where he had to get ready to fulfill God’s commandments. I love how this story teaches us about God’s ongoing patience and willingness to continue to give us chance after chance.

This chapter also shows some of Joseph’s sense of humor. After he got the plates, he pretended to be forlorn and downcast to surprise Joseph Knight with the news that he got the plates:

But when he joined the others in the house, he made a sad face and ate his breakfast in silence. After he finished, he leaned his head forlornly on his hand. “I am disappointed,” he said to Joseph Knight.

“Well,” the older man said, “I am sorry.”

“I am greatly disappointed,” Joseph repeated, his expression changing to a smile. “It is ten times better than I expected!”

The chapter also once again shows Emma’s ingenuity and passion. At one point when she learns of a threat to take the plates, Emma rides for over an hour to warn Joseph. Her efforts help keep the plates safe. Emma’s critical role has been underappreciated and I am grateful that Saints shows more of her perspective here.

4 thoughts on “Saints Book Club Ch. 4

  1. One of the interesting things I learned in my studies was that Emma didn’t conceive her first child until around the time the plates were retrieved.

    If Emma and Joseph both saw retrieving the plates as a major goal of their union, then it makes sense that they would not have wanted to risk Emma being large with child for what would be a potentially dangerous task. And as women know, the “large with child” bit is often less problematic with the “slender but constantly ill” state that often characterizes early pregnancy.

  2. I know I’m skipping ahead, but if I wait I will forget to ask the question. I’ve just finished reading ch 30, in which they describe the Hawns Mill massacre. I expected them to tell the story of when Joseph Smith warned the leader of the Hawns Mill settlement (Mr Hawn maybe?) that they needed to abandon the settlement and gather to Far West. The story has been used in the past to teach the importance of following the prophet. But to my surprise they didn’t mention that account. Does anybody know why not?

  3. As I’ve been reading Saints I have also been a little disappointed that many of my favorite details from various events in church history were not mentioned. I console myself by remembering that if the history was to completely include all my favorite events, insights, and details, and those of everyone else, this history would not only be unimaginably huge for it’s authors and publishers, but also impossibly daunting for me as a potential customer to even considering reading it.
    It also helps to remember that this history is intended to a “Narrative History” that will be a resource adding to previous official and unofficial church histories. As such, before any event, incident, or issue is included, the questions – “Is this critical to moving the overall narrative forward and important to increasing the understanding of the reader of the related issues, personalities, or other important events?”. If answers to these questions are both yes then it probably belongs. If not it probably should not be in this history, especially if it is already covered in other readily available histories.
    It seems that a discussion of Saints in blog such as this may be a great place to share additional insights and interesting details that we may find in other resources related to our study of these volumes as they are released.

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