S A I N T S: “ANOTHER FAILED PROPHECY”
“Emma endured an agonizing labor and gave birth to a boy. The baby was frail and sickly and did not live long. The ordeal left Emma physically drained and emotionally devastated, and for a time it seemed she might die too.”
Saints – Volume 1: The Standard of Truth 1815-1846 (Salt Lake City, UT: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 4 September 2018), 51.
Prior to the birth of their first son, several people asked the young Prophet if he knew who would be translating the plates into English. Before accepting the job, Joseph told the curious that the translation would be done by his firstborn son while he was yet a child.
Unfortunately, the child died at birth on 15 June 1828 and was disfigured with birth defects. In 1831, their next born son also died at birth, a year after the publication of the Book of Mormon. His first surviving son was born in 1832 and with his mother, founded a church in opposition to the LDS faith when it was taken over by Brigham Young.
“Smith probably said the plates would be shown to a few chosen individuals at some future time because Hale asked ‘who was to be the first who would be allowed to see [them]?’ Perhaps sensitive to Emma’s feelings, Isaac reported only that Smith said it was to be ‘a young child.’ Other residents of Harmony were less reserved. Sophia Lewis, the wife of Levi Lewis, who was a relative of Isaac Hale’s wife, remembered that Smith said ‘the book of plates could not be opened under penalty of death by any other person but his (Smith’s) first-born, which was to be a male’ (Sophia Lewis, Statement, 1834; in ‘Mormonism,’ Susquehanna Register and Northern Pennsylvanian 9; 1 May 1834).
“Joshua McKune, who married Esther Lewis, a niece of Isaac Hale’s wife, said Smith ‘told him that (Smith’s) first-born child was to translate the characters, and hieroglyphics, upon the plates into our language at the age of three years’ (Joshua McKune, Statement, 1834; in ‘Mormonism,’ Susquehanna Register and Northern Pennsylvanian 9; 1 May 1834).
“By this time, Emma was three to four months pregnant. While Smith correctly predicted the infant’s sex, he did not foresee that the child would die shortly after birth.”
Dan Vogel, Joseph Smith: The Making of a Prophet (Salt Lake City, UT: Signature Books, 15 April 2004), 111-112.
There can be little doubt as to why the church wouldn’t want to include this unsuccessful prediction in their new narrative. They included Moroni’s request for Alvin (failed), followed by a more nebulous reply from the angel of “you will know,” which was apparently Samuel Lawrence (failed), and ultimately switched to Emma.
The chaos surrounding every aspect of this tale prior to the translation of the Book of Mormon should be enough to scare away even the strongest investigator… if they were only allowed to know about it.
RE-rewrite: “Joseph predicted the Book of Mormon would be translated by his firstborn son when 3-years old. Soon thereafter, Emma endured an agonizing labor and gave birth to a boy. The baby was frail and sickly and did not live long. The ordeal left Emma physically drained and emotionally devastated, and for a time it seemed she might die too. Because of this loss, Joseph knew the task of translation would be left up to him.”