Rhoda Richards Smith (sister of Willard Richards) was a plural wife of the Prophet Joseph Smith.
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My first knowledge of the Mormons was gained through my cousin, Joseph Young, though I had previously heard many strange things concerning them. I lay on a bed of sickness, unable to sit up, when Cousin Joseph came to visit at my father’s house. I remember distinctly how cautiously my mother broached the subject of the new religion to him. Said she, “Joseph, I have heard that some of the children of my sister, Abigail Young, have joined the Mormons. How is it?” Joseph replied, “It is true, Aunt Richards, and I am one of them!”
It was Sabbath day, and in the morning Cousin Joseph attended church with my parents; but in the afternoon he chose to remain with my brother William, and myself, at home. He remarked that he could not enjoy the meeting, and in reply I said, “I do not see why we might not have a meeting here.” My cousin was upon his feet in an instant, and stood and preached to us–my brother and myself–for about half an hour, finishing his discourse with, “There, Cousin Rhoda, I don’t know but I have tired you out!” When he sat down I remarked that meetings usually closed with prayer. In an instant he was on his knees, offering up a prayer. That was the first Mormon sermon and the first Mormon prayer I ever listened to.
I weighed his words and sentences well. It was enough. My soul was convinced of the truth. But I waited a year before being baptized. During that time I read the books of the church, and also saw and heard other elders, among whom was my cousin, Brigham Young, and my brothers, Phineas, Levi, and Willard; all of which served to strengthen my faith and brighten my understanding.
When myself and my sisters were only small girls, our excellent mother taught us how to work, and in such a wise manner did she conduct our home education that we always loved to work, and were never so happy as when we were most usefully employed. We knit our own and our brothers’ stockings, made our own clothes, braided and sewed straw hats and bonnets, carded, spun, wove, kept house, and did everything that girls and women of a self-sustaining community would need to do. The day that I was thirteen years old I wove thirteen yards of cloth; and in twenty months, during which time I celebrated my eightieth birthday, I carded twenty weight of cotton, spun two hundred and fifteen balls of candlewicking, and two hundred run of yarn, prepared for the weaver’s loom; besides doing my housework, knitting socks, and making shirts for “my boys” (some of the sons of my brothers). I merely make mention of these things as samples of what my life-work has been. I never was an idler, but have tried to be useful in my humble way, “doing what my hands found to do with my might.”
Marriage to the Prophet Joseph Smith
I now begin to feel the weight of years upon me, and can no longer do as I have done in former years for those around me; but, through the boundless mercies of God, I am still able to wash and iron my own clothes, do up my lace caps, and write my own letters. My memory is good, and as a general thing I feel well in body and mind. I have witnessed the death of many near and dear friends, both old and young. In my young days I buried my first and only love, and true to that affiance, 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.”
A short time after I was baptized and confirmed I was greatly afflicted with the raging of a cancer, about to break out in my face. I knew too well the symptoms, having had one removed previously. The agony of such an operation, only those who have passed through a like experience can ever imagine. The idea of again passing through a like physical suffering seemed almost more than humanity could endure. One Sabbath, after the close of the morning service, I spoke to the presiding elder, and acquainted him with my situation, requesting that I might be administered to, according to the pattern that God had given, that the cancer might be rebuked and my body healed. The elder called upon the sisters present to unite their faith and prayers in my behalf, and upon the brethren to come forward and lay their hands upon me, and bless me in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, according to my desire. It was done, and I went home completely healed, and rejoicing in the God of my salvation.
Many times have I since been healed by the same power, when, apparently, death had actually seized me as his prey. I would not have it understood, however, that I have been a weakly, sickly, useless individual all my life. Those who have known me can say quite to the contrary. Some of our ambitious little girls and working women would doubtless be interested in a simple sketch of some few things which I have accomplished by manual labor.
During the early years of my life I was much afflicted with sickness, but, through the mercies and blessings of my Heavenly Father, at the advanced age of nearly ninety-three, I live, and am privileged to bear my individual testimony, that for myself I know that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of the living God; and that the work which he, as an humble instrument in the hands of God, commenced in this, the evening of time, will not be cut short, save as the Lord himself, according to his promise, shall cut short his work in righteousness.