More Fun with Family History: Joseph Smith Proposed to My Great-Great-Great Grandmother

A picture of Cordelia

Ever since I’ve discovered that people have entered a whole slew of family stories into the records of some of my ancestors on, I just can’t stop reading them to find out more about where my roots came from. Because people, I’ve got some really funky roots. Here are a few of the things I’ve recently learned:

My great-great-great grandmother Cordelia Calistia Morley Cox lived an extremely interesting life. She was born in 1823. In 1830, her family converted to the brand new faith of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (Mormons). Her father, Isaac Morley, played a large role throughout church history, but hers is the life I find much more fascinating at the moment. For example, Joseph Smith proposed to her–asking her to be his plural wife. She wrote about it in her autobiography:

In the spring of 1844, plural marriage was introduced to me by my parents from Joseph Smith, asking their consent and a request to me to be his wife. Imagine, if you can, my feeling, to be a plural wife. Something I never thought I could ever be. I knew nothing of such religion and could not accept it, neither did I then. I told Joseph I had a sweetheart; his name was Whiting, and I expected to marry him. He, however, was left by the wayside. He could not endure the persecutions and hardships. I told the Prophet I thought him a wonderful man and leader, but I wanted to marry my sweetheart.

This later bit won’t make sense to non-Mormons, but it turns out she was later sealed to Joseph right after she was married to her husband in the temple for time only. Asked about it later on, she said:

In eternity I want the man that was the father of my children and was a good husband and father. I lived with him and loved him.

Even despite her misgivings about plural marriage, her husband eventually had three wives, and she was his third. The US government threatened to arrest him unless he separated from two of them, so Cordelia and her sister wife were sent to another property to fend for themselves–against her husband’s desires, might I add. (It’s not like he tried to ditch them. He was given no choice by the government. It was either support one wife and abandon two for a time, or go to prison and abandon all three. Nice choice.)

In any case, while Cordelia and Jemima (the other wife, who Cordelia said was closer to her than a real sister) were at the other property, Jemima was pregnant. When the time came for the baby to come, the only person there was Cordelia. Here’s the next snippet:

One evening I noticed that Jemima was trying to hide her distress. I then realized that the time had come. A terrible fear came over me; a thousand thoughts rushed through my mind. Uppermost was the thought, “What shall I do?” The answer was a knock at the door. I opened it, and there stood a woman, unexpected, who had come to offer her assistance. That night, 29 February 1852, the babe was born in that stable. As soon as everything had been taken care of, and the babe placed in its mother’s arms, the kindly woman left. Neither of us had seen her before, and neither of us ever saw or heard from her again. We have always felt that this was God-given aid, for who but God could have expressed such a keen sympathy or sent more needed help. He did not send to us an earthly doctor, who might appear curious enough to hurt us, but a woman, sympathetic, understanding, and capable.

She also wrote alternate words to the hymn “O My Father.” After reading them, I think I see where my feminist streak might have some roots:

Oh, My Mother thou that dwellest In the mansion up on high

Oft me thinks I still remember When you bade your child goodby.

How you clasped me to your bosom Bade me a true son to be

Once I left my Father’s mansion To dwell in mortality.

How you gave me words of counsel To guide aright my straying feet

How you taught by true example All of Father’s laws to keep.

While I strive in this probation How to learn the Gospel’s truth

May I merit your approval As I did in early youth.

[In heavens journals] Tis recorded You stood by Father’s side,

When the powers that are eternal Thou wast sealed his Goddess bride

How by love and truth and virtue And in time thou did’st become

Through your high exalted station Mother of the souls of men.

When of evil I’ve repented And my work on earth is done

Kindest Father, Loving Mother, Pray forgive your erring son.

When my pilgrimage is ended And the victor’s wreath I’ve won

Dearest Mother to your bosom Will you welcome home your son.

Yeah. Kind of amazing to me what this woman went through and how well she endured it all. Here’s a piece about mob violence she endured as a child:

I have seen hundreds of wicked men ride into town with their guns and bayonets on their shoulders, threatening to take whomever they pleased. Again they took father with about ten others. He begged the privilege of seeing his family before leaving. They gave him a few moments to see us. They had two guards go with him. He called us around him, told us to be good children, and he would come back as soon as he could. He took us one by one in his arms and kissed us good by. You cannot imagine the scene that followed. They were driven to Richmond, Missouri, by a strong guard on horses through the mud and water like so many hogs being driven to slaughter. They kept them well guarded day and night, with nothing but corn bread to eat and water to drink. They had no bed but the floor. They were kept in this condition for three weeks. They were then brought into court to have their trials. The lawyers worked hard to find them guilty of something, but failed. So they turned them out to go home as best they could. So inhumanely was father treated, that when he came back to us, we stared some time before we could recognize and call this gaunt man father. And so it was from year to year, persecution, which increased our faith in our Creator. We were compelled to leave our homes again.

And this is just one person, and a few of the stories of that one ancestor. Maybe this stuff isn’t interesting to you if you aren’t directly related to the woman, I don’t know. In that case, I suppose this is the blog equivalent of me sitting you down and showing you a series of pictures of my kids. But seeing as how I do that on a regular basis anyway, I thought this might be interesting to others, too. Here’s a biography of Cordelia that fills in more details.

Want to see if you have family histories recorded on the site, too? It’s easy. (Or at least it was for me, but remember–I’ve had family members doing family history work on both sides of my family for about 200 years. So I likely have a head start over a lot of you.) You go to and log in or create an account. Once you’ve found where you fit in and see your family tree (use the fan chart option–it’s much prettier and easy to use), click on a name in your tree. It will show you where and when they were born and died, but what you really want to look for is if there are any entires in “Memories.” If there are, click the hyperlink, and you’ll see what goodies you’ve got. It might be pictures, might be birth certificates, or it might be the mother lode: journals and autobiographies.

In any case, just thought I’d share with you. Please let me know if any of you find anything interesting in your family history. Just too much fun.

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