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Our Mission

Salt Lake City Eleventh Ward Young Men’s and Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Associations

Salt Lake City, Utah Territory

January 1879

Mary Ann Freeze

Mary Ann Freeze. Circa 1880s. Freeze joined the Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association general board in 1898. She worked at the Salt Lake temple as well as the Bureau of Information on Temple Square. She also participated in the Utah Women’s Press Club. Photograph by Fox and Symons. (Church History Library, Salt Lake City.)

Mary Ann Burnham Freeze (1845–1912) spoke at a combined meeting of young women and young men of the Salt Lake City Eleventh Ward in January 1879 with a specific message: each individual has worth and purpose. Experience helped Freeze formulate her own life mission. Her father, James Burnham, died just four days before her birth in Nauvoo, Illinois. Her tenacious mother, Mary A. Huntly Burnham, worked for six years to finance the trip across the plains, then led her children to Bountiful, Utah Territory. Freeze wrote of her youth: “My girlhood days were not as happy as might have been, on account of our exceeding poverty, but I have many times since thought that it was for my greatest good that I was reared in want and loneliness; that it was a means of keeping me humble, the good spirit thereby finding a receptacle in my heart, giving me a desire to seek after truth and learn of the things of God.”1

Throughout her life, Freeze worked with youth in family, professional, and ecclesiastical settings.2 She taught school in Richmond, Utah Territory, and married the principal, James Freeze, in 1863 at the age of seventeen. The Eleventh Ward Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association (YLMIA) was organized under the direction of Zina D. H. Young on October 18, 1871, with the intent to encourage church activity among younger Latter-day Saints. At the age of twenty-six, Freeze was appointed president. At the first meeting, she confided, “This is a new business to me; still I wish to advance and answer to every call. By speaking, we gain confidence and improve in our language; also by speaking new ideas are elicited. Let us exert ourselves to bring more of the girls to our meetings. As Sister Eliza R. Snow says, let us retrench in our ignorance and assist each other to conquer our failings. By comforting others, we not only do them good, but we also comfort ourselves, and this principle will appear more plain and beautiful.”3 Susa Young Gates later described the Eleventh Ward YLMIA as “one of the strongest and best organizations in the city.”4

In 1878, Freeze was named president of the first stake YLMIA.5 She reported that she and her counselors “have visited the Associations as far as practicable, have enjoyed the spirit of our mission and feel assured we have been instrumental in the hands of God of doing much good.”6 By the time she gave the following talk in January 1879, she had grown confident in her role as a leader of the youth. Years later, Freeze served on the general board of the YLMIA. YLMIA general president Elmina S. Taylor said of Freeze, “When she visits [the young women] she takes with her the Spirit of God, and the spirit of humility, and the spirit of love. She tells the girls their duties, she inspires in them a desire to serve God, and as his handmaidens, to try to make themselves better day by day.”7

My young brothers and sisters, we were all sent here on the earth for a purpose, and we all have a mission to perform. It is the duty of each of us to understand that mission. We have been told by many of our great men that the noblest spirits were reserved to come forth in this our day because of the great and mighty work to be accomplished in preparing for the second coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.8 I wonder how many of us realize that ours is one of those noble spirits, and do we ever ask ourselves the question, “Are we honoring and striving to bring our bodies into subjection to that pure and noble spirit that inhabits it, which ever invites to deeds of virtue and holiness, and would check us when prompted to do any evil or wrong?” How our hearts should swell with gratitude to God that for us was reserved this great privilege, which so many of our forefathers longed to enjoy but were denied.

How little we realized these great gospel truths until these organizations were instituted for the growth and development of the young.9 Now we begin to know who we are, from where we came, and what will be our future destiny, if we are faithful to God and obey all his commands; and let us not think for a moment that we can do too much good the little time we stay, for it will be only through the utmost diligence on our part that we can earn a place in the celestial kingdom.10 We must not only be able to say, “We have done harm to no one,” but we must be able to say, “We have done all in our power for the furtherance and advancement of the Zion of God on the earth, being prompt in every good word and work.” Let us attend faithfully to all our meetings and seek knowledge from every available source, for knowledge is power, and the more we possess the more capable we will be in assisting in the great latter-day work.

We all desire to be good and useful, so let us put our good desire into execution, for it is in our power so to do. It is probable that we covenanted with our Heavenly Father before we came here that we would be energetic in the cause of righteousness, if he would grant us the great and inestimable privilege of having a body on the earth; for we could then see how great the blessings to be thus obtained, which could be obtained in no other way. We cannot now see as we could then, but we have the holy gospel to lead and guide us into all truth and teach us our duty from time to time; we are also blessed with a living priesthood, through which we can receive the word of God, so we are not left to grope in the dark. These associations were organized through that living priesthood and consequently are from heaven; and any young man or woman who will faithfully attend these meetings, taking part as they may be called upon by those who preside, will advance with rapid strides, will know their mission, and will become great and mighty pillars in the church of God upon the earth; and finally be crowned in the presence of God and the Lamb, while those who take no part, or taking part shrink from duty, will also reap the reward of the deeds done in the body, and will receive only what they have justly earned. May we who are here this evening put on the whole armor of righteousness,11 and battle bravely to overcome sin, and establish a reign of peace on the earth; and that we may receive all the glory we are capacitated to enjoy is the prayer of your sister.

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Our Mission, At the Pulpit, accessed June 25, 2024