A Sacred Space for Women : Hymnody in Emma Hale Smith's Theology
Journal of Religious History
Religious History Association
Emma Smith oversaw the compilation of the first Mormon hymnal in 1835 and then prepared a second hymnal in 1841. This article contextualises and discusses Smith's significant assignment, and considers how a woman's hymn selections influenced early Mormonism. It also considers what Smith's hymnals reveal about her own life story and what her life story reveals about her hymn selections. While Smith's first hymnal highlights the emphasis she placed on immediately establishing a city of Zion in preparation for the millennial reign of a triumphal Christ, her second hymnal underscores the need to develop and foster a personal relationship with a merciful Saviour. Smith's 1835 hymnal emphasises being a Zion people immediately, whereas her 1841 hymnal, compiled in the context of intense personal and collective trials and religious persecution, highlights the importance of striving to become a more Zion-like people over time. The different doctrinal emphases reflects their respective Mormon cultures at the time of compilation, and captures how the church responded to and grappled with its failure to establish Zion immediately. As a compiler of hymns, Smith clearly plays a significant role in Mormon history, while also demonstrating how women could impact their particular religious communities.