Born on August 8, 1784, at Framingham, Massachusetts, to Joseph Richards and Rhoda Howe, Rhoda was over twenty years older than Joseph Smith. In 1807 she fell in love and became engaged to Ebenezer Damon, but he died before the couple could wed. This left her heartbroken and constituted an emotional blow from which she never fully recovered.1 She and her brother, future apostle Willard Richards, were baptized in 1838 and followed the Saints to Nauvoo.
On June 12, 1843, Rhoda Richards was sealed to Joseph Smith.2 This marriage appears to have been an eternity-only sealing that did not include any physical intimacy or notable closeness.
She later recalled her life of loneliness: “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.”3 Her comments that Ebenezer was her “only love” and that she passed “companionless through life” support a limited relationship with Joseph Smith.
Rhoda immigrated to Utah and lived in Salt Lake City for the remainder of her life as a faithful Church member. On January 1, 1879, the sixty-fifth anniversary of Ebenezer Damon’s passing, Rhoda declared, “It was the first ‘Happy New Year’ she had known for sixty-six years. She said the snow looked exactly as it did the day ‘Mr. Damon’ was buried.”4
For additional insights see “Joseph Smith’s Plural Wives after the Martyrdom.”
- See Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1997), 561–62. (back)
- Joseph F. Smith affidavit books 1:17, CHL. (back)
- Edward W. Tullidge, The Women of Mormondom (New York City: n.p., 187), 7, 422. (back)
- Lula Greene Richards, “A Brief Life Sketch of Rhoda Richards.” 3. (back)