The Church Historian's Press The Church Historian's Press

12

Be Forbearing and Forgiving

Beaver Relief Society

Tabernacle, Beaver, Utah Territory

November 4, 1869


Jane Harper Neyman [Fisher] (1792–1880) addressed the Beaver Relief Society on November 4, 1869, speaking of human weakness and charity. Neyman was born and raised in western Pennsylvania. She was baptized in 1838, and she and her husband, William Neyman, moved in 1840 to Nauvoo, Illinois, where William died within a few months. Her second husband, Thomas G. Fisher, died soon after their March 1844 marriage. Neyman lost four other family members within the year.1

Neyman and her children suffered from poverty in Nauvoo. The Nauvoo Relief Society minutes record concern on April 28, 1842, for the “widow Neyman,” who was “destitute.”2 Emma Hale Smith requested an inquiry into the Neyman home, evidently because Neyman’s daughters Matilda and Margaret had been accused of sexual immorality with Chauncey Higbee.3 The Neyman sisters testified before the Nauvoo high council in May 1842 that Higbee had seduced them by falsely invoking the authority of Joseph Smith.4 The events must have caused a great deal of gossip; Jane Neyman’s obituary recorded that “Joseph Smith was her unvarying friend; he rebuked those who falsely slandered her.”5 Her daughter Mary Ann Nickerson joined the Nauvoo Relief Society on May 12, 1842, but when Jane Neyman applied for membership on July 14, 1842, an objection was raised, most likely because of the events with her other daughters, and she was not admitted.6

Neyman later traveled to Utah with her daughters Rachel Neyman and Mary Ann Nickerson. She nursed the sick during a cholera epidemic on the plains, “believing that if she did all in her power to save others, the Lord would spare her, and thus it proved,” according to her friend Louisa Barnes Pratt. Pratt explained, “In many instances, through her faith, was the power of God manifested in a marvelous manner.”7 The Neyman family settled in Beaver, Utah Territory, two hundred miles south of Salt Lake City, where Neyman served as the first president of the Relief Society when it was organized on January 11, 1868. When Neyman wrote a letter inviting “the honorable and benevolent ladies in Beaver” to form a Relief Society, she indicated that it would be “for the relief of the poor and afflicted among us; and for the mutual benefit of each other to encourage faithfulness in the cause of truth, and all the Christian graces; to visit the sick among our sex and administer to their wants both temporally and spiritually.”8 Her motto as president was “gather up the fragments, let nothing be lost.” She resigned as president on March 4, 1869, at age seventy-eight, “thinking the burden too great for her, being far advanced in life.”9 At a meeting on November 4, 1869, “fifteen new members were admitted, all recommended by responsible persons,” and Neyman spoke about charity and unity as necessary components of Relief Society membership, a common theme in nineteenth-century Mormon women’s teachings.10

Mother Neyman addressed the meeting on the subject of charity, encouraging all to be forbearing and forgiving, refraining as much as possible from scrutinizing the conduct of our neighbors, remembering always that we are human and must therefore err. It seemed to be the unanimous agreement of the Spirit that presided over the meeting that tattling and slander should die a natural death; that charity, which covereth a multitude of sins,11 which thinketh no evil, and suffereth long and is kind,12 should dig the grave and help to bury all the malice and envy which at any time had intruded upon our peace and harmony;13 and in their stead establish truth and integrity, twin sisters of charity, and then appoint the Mormon creed as a rear guard to repel the first attack of the enemy, that we might be timely warned to avoid an evil wherein our mutual confidence might be destroyed.14 All this, though not expressed in so many syllables, was in substance the same, no doubt the sentiments of all present. We hope our new members will understand what will be expected of them in this honorable sisterhood: that they will live above reproach and by guarding the doors of their lips keep themselves from censure.15