Newel and Lydia
When the Lord said, “all things shall work together for good to them that walk uprightly,” he meant it.
Lydia Goldthwaite was born June 9, 1812 in Salem, Massachusetts. In time her father moved the family to western New York. She was the third of twelve children in a loving family. When she was 16 she met and married a handsome and charming fellow, Calvin Bailey, but he turned out to be an abusive drunk, and her marriage became “the story of a man’s cruelty and a woman’s suffering.”
In November 1830, Lydia gave birth to a little girl, Rosanna, who proved to be a blessing of comfort. Two years later she gave birth to a little boy named Edwin. He lived only a day, and Lydia nearly died as well. In these awful circumstances her husband announced that he was moving. When Lydia told him she was too weak to travel, he abandoned her, leaving her utterly destitute. Lydia moved home with her family. Then in January 1833, Rosanna, her little girl, died. Lydia was distraught and inconsolable. Then a family friend Eleazer Freeman Nickerson invited her to come to Canada and live with him and his wife to recover. It was while she was there that Lydia met Joseph Smith the Prophet, and heard him preach. As she listened, she saw “his face become white and a shining glow seemed to beam from every feature.”
October 27, 1833, with “trembling joy” Lydia was baptized. Two days later as Joseph was preparing to leave, he paced back and forth in deep thought. Finally, he spoke.
“Sister Lydia, great are your blessings. The Lord, your Savior, loves you, and will overrule all your past sorrows and afflictions for good unto you. Let your heart be comforted…You shall yet be a savior to your father’s house. Therefore be comforted, and let your heart rejoice, for the Lord has a great work for you to do. Be faithful and endure unto the end and all will be well.”
In time, Lydia joined the Saints in Kirtland. There she met Newel Knight, a widower. He “was tall, had light brown hair, a keen blue eye and a very energetic and determined manner.” Love grew between them, but when Newel proposed marriage Lydia tearfully declined. Notwithstanding her husband’s three year absence, Lydia still considered herself married.
Distressed, Newel took the matter to Hyrum Smith and Hyrum that very day took it Joseph, and Joseph said, “It is alright. She is his. The sooner they are married the better. Tell them no law shall hurt them. They need not fear either the law of God or man for it shall not touch them, and the Lord will bless them. This is the will of the Lord concerning the matter.
Newel went immediately to Lydia. Filled with joy, Lydia threw herself upon her knees and poured out her soul in thanks to God. Arrangements were made for the wedding the very next day. Hyrum mentioned he was going to invite a local justice of the peace to perform the ceremony, upon which Joseph said, “Stop, I will marry them myself.”
Tuesday November 24, 1835, Kirtland, Ohio, in a ceremony unique to himself, Joseph Smith the Prophet married Newel Knight and Lydia Bailey. Lydia noted that once again as he spoke “that strange brilliant light shone through his features.”
Not only were Lydia’s past sorrows made up for in this happy union, but this was the first marriage ever performed by the Prophet Joseph Smith.