The Prophet’s life was filled with the work of the kingdom. The word of the Lord to Joseph was: “…thou shalt devote all thy service in Zion; and in this thou shalt have strength.” But the very next words of the revelation promised difficulty: “Be patient in afflictions, for thou shalt have many” (D&C 24: 7-8 ).
Joseph and his wife Emma felt the awful weight of this prophecy in their family life. Their first three children died shortly after birth. They then adopted newborn twins, but ten months later one of the twins passed away as a result of exposure to the cold during an incident of mob violence. Joseph later remarked: “…in my leisure moments I have meditated upon the subject, and asked the question, why it is that infants, innocent children, are taken away from us….The strongest reasons that present themselves to the mind are these:….The Lord takes many away even in infancy, that they may escape…the sorrows and evils of this present world; they were too pure, too lovely, to live on earth; therefore, if rightly considered…we have reason to rejoice as they are delivered from evil, and we shall soon have them again” (History of the Church, vol. 4, p. 553).
On one occasion, Joseph spoke at the funeral of his niece. And “…pointing to the mother of [the] lifeless child, he said…‘[Agnes,] you will have the joy, the pleasure, and satisfaction of nurturing this child, after its resurrection, until it reaches the full stature of its spirit.” (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, pp. 454-56).
At another time, the Prophet taught: “…when [a righteous] mother is deprived of the pleasure and joy of rearing her babe to manhood or womanhood in this life, through the hand of death, that privilege will be renewed to her hereafter, and she will enjoy it to a fuller fruition than it would be possible for her to do here” (Ibid., p. 454). Why? Because the Lord showed Joseph in vision: “…all children who die before they arrive at the years of accountability are saved in the celestial kingdom of heaven” (D&C 137: 10). What comfort this had to have brought to Joseph and his wife, Emma; for of the nine children born to them and the other two adopted, only five lived past childhood.