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17

The Fruits of Our Labor

Salt Lake City Eleventh Ward Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association

Salt Lake City, Utah Territory

October 18, 1880


Lelia “Lillie” Tuckett Freeze (1855–1937) addressed the transition from youth to adulthood in her talk to young women on October 18, 1880. A little more than twenty years earlier, Brigham Young called her mother, Mercy Westwood Tuckett, on a two-year mission to perform in the theater company at the Bowery and at the Social Hall in Salt Lake City. Freeze performed with her mother in plays at Camp Floyd, the federal army camp located forty-five miles southwest of Salt Lake City, at the age of four. When the theater company disbanded, Tuckett relocated to Nevada and California to pursue her theatrical career, essentially abandoning her children and husband. At the age of five or six, Freeze moved with her grandmother to southern Utah; she walked three hundred miles from Salt Lake City to St. George and then walked back a year later. In 1865, Freeze returned to live with her father and siblings in the Salt Lake City Eleventh Ward. She enjoyed participating in ward theater productions, and she wrote for the Deseret News, the Woman’s Exponent, the Improvement Era, and the Young Woman’s Journal.1

Freeze started her association with church youth programs at age sixteen when she joined the Young Ladies’ Retrenchment Association of the Eleventh Ward in 1871, attending meetings in the home of Mary Ann Freeze, the first president. She served as a counselor from 1871 to 1881 and helped edit the Improvement Star, the manuscript newspaper of the Eleventh Ward Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association (YLMIA).2 In 1875, Lillie married James Freeze as a plural wife, joining the family of her friend Mary Ann, Freeze’s first wife.3 Lillie Freeze was named the first secretary of the Primary general board in June 1880, a position she held for five years. In October 1888, she became the first counselor to Primary general president Louie B. Felt; at the same time, she served on the YLMIA general board under Elmina S. Taylor.4 These leadership opportunities allowed her to share her experiences and encourage young people to embrace new, more progressive opportunities at the same time they held to core gospel principles.

As a counselor in the Eleventh Ward YLMIA, Freeze spoke often about the responsibilities of the youth and how they could fulfill them. On September 20, 1880, a month before she gave the discourse featured here, she urged the girls to improve their talents and to exert a positive influence on boys.5 A week later, she encouraged them to “obtain spiritual food, that we may be better prepared to perform our duties.”6 She gave the following sermon at the ninth anniversary of the association on October 18, 1880.7 Freeze’s speech was published in the Woman’s Exponent a month later.

It is now nine years since we began the task of remodeling ourselves,8 since we commenced to realize the existence of our spiritual beings—that life was not given us that we might eat, sleep, make money, and die, but we began to learn the necessity of cultivating the mind, administering to the needs of an immortal soul, and training the heart in the ways of obedience to God and the light of inspiration. We caught a glimpse of a higher and more noble object of living.

Much has been done, but the field of labor seems to be but just opened. How many of the little girls who, years ago, flocked to the feast of their minds and souls, weekly prepared for them in our little meetings, are now happy wives (notwithstanding the fact that a large number entered the order of celestial marriage)9 and are devoted mothers, all the better qualified to discharge the holy duties of motherhood and consequently are benefactors to society?10

From our ranks have gone to new fields of labor, and will still go, women whose names will be honored as far as the sound of the gospel can reach. The seeds of their success and honor were planted when they made their first feeble attempt to speak in an organized capacity,11 and were cradled by a succession of untiring efforts, struggling hand to hand with the powers of darkness and the evil they were enabled to see in themselves. And they triumphed to a certain extent by fasting and mighty prayer, by singing and praising God, and count hours as only moments.

We scarcely stop to think seriously upon any subject but fashion.12 Many of our aspirations reach no further than the feather that floats over our heads. Our eyes see little but the failings of each other, and our ears are open to scandal and prejudice, while our lips are but the servants of our idle, giddy brain. We are too easily satisfied with ourselves and our labors. While the great work of life rolls on constantly, calling for earnest, busy laborers in the cause of humanity, we, in our wild mania after pleasure, rush blindfolded past every avenue of doing good, and every wide open door of improvement, while our hungry, starved spiritual natures must stand aside and wait the time when they will be allowed to plead their just cause without being forever silenced by the harsh, unfeeling voice of our own selfish natures. Now let us stop in this soul- and body-destroying course, and listen to the reasoning that will keep us in the ways of peace, honor, and everlasting life.

Oh! that we the daughters of Zion would claim our privilege in leading out in all that is pure and refining. God requires this at our hands. Let us cultivate more true modesty and less prudery.13 More sincere sisterly respect and charity for each other and indulge in less flattery, and let our daily intercourse at home and abroad be characteristic of pure nobility of soul. We can overcome our rough, uncouth ways, use only chaste and elegant language, and always manifest a respectful consideration for the feelings and opinions of others.14 Thus fortified we can trust ourselves in the company of the cultured without a book of etiquette in our pockets.15

Let us seek for that guide which would preserve unsullied a spotless reputation and prevent us from associating with the rude and wicked. Let us take pride in maintaining the principles of truth that shall stand when nations now prosperous have gone to decay, fearing no ridicule, dreading naught but the punishment of our offended Creator. Let us not cut ourselves short of an inheritance with our Heavenly Father by folly and disobedience. God requires of us all that we are able to do, and in the end our hearts will swell with everlasting joy and gratitude, surpassing all mortal comprehension.

Footnotes

  1. [1]“Death Closes Rich Career of Church Worker, Mother,” Deseret News, Mar. 24, 1937; Andrew Jenson, Latter-day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia: A Compilation of Biographical Sketches of Prominent Men and Women in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 4 vols. (Salt Lake City: Andrew Jenson History Co., 1901–1936), 4:284; Susa Young Gates, History of the Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1911), 149–150.

  2. [2]Eleventh Ward YWMIA Minutes and Records, vol. 1, 1871–1877, Oct. 18, 1871, 1, CHL; Jenson, LDS Biographical Encyclopedia, 4:284; Eleventh Ward YWMIA Minutes and Records, vol. 2, 1878–1889, Feb. 21, 1881, 195; Oct. 24, 1881, 227. For more on the manuscript newspaper, see chapter 19 herein.

  3. [3]Gates, History of the Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association, 151. Mary Ann Freeze recorded in her diary on their wedding day: “This has been a most eventful day to us all, as we have had an addition made to our family in the shape of a new wife. We have all been at the Endowment House to witness the ceremony, and I had the pleasure of giving the bride away.” James Freeze eventually had four plural wives. (Mary Ann Burnham Freeze, Diary, June 14, 1875, BYU; Jenson, LDS Biographical Encyclopedia, 4:260.)

  4. [4]Elmina S. Taylor, general president of the YLMIA, thought it would be an advantage to both associations to have Freeze act as an officer on both the Primary and YLMIA general boards and represent both while traveling. (Gates, History of the Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association, 151; “Death Closes Rich Career”; Jenson, LDS Biographical Encyclopedia, 4:284.)

  5. [5]Freeze was concerned about the use of tobacco among local boys. (Eleventh Ward YWMIA Minutes and Records, Sept. 20, 1880, 171–172.)

  6. [6]Eleventh Ward YWMIA Minutes and Records, Sept. 27, 1880, 174.

  7. [7]Also present and speaking were Elmina S. Taylor, first YLMIA general president; Mary Isabella Horne, first Salt Lake Stake Relief Society president and president of the Retrenchment Association; Sarah M. Kimball, president of the Salt Lake City Fifteenth Ward Relief Society and secretary of the first general Relief Society presidency; Serepta M. Heywood, counselor in the Salt Lake City Seventeenth Ward Relief Society presidency; Hannah Tapfield King, president of the Seventeenth Ward Relief Society; Clara Cannon, second counselor in the Primary general presidency; and Elizabeth Howard, president of the Big Cottonwood Ward Relief Society and counselor to Horne in the Retrenchment Association. (Eleventh Ward YWMIA Minutes and Records, Oct. 18, 1880, 174–175.)

  8. [8]The Salt Lake City Eleventh Ward Junior Retrenchment Association was organized in 1870. Freeze joined almost immediately. (Gates, History of the Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association, 150–151.)

  9. [9]Nineteenth-century Latter-day Saints generally used the term “celestial marriage” to refer to plural marriage.

  10. [10]Articles and editorials in church-sponsored magazines often highlighted girls’ responsibility to prepare for marriage and motherhood. (See, for example, L. W. E., “Young Ladies’ Associations,” Contributor 1, no. 7 [Apr. 1880]: 167.)

  11. [11]A fear of public speaking persisted among the young women, even ten years after their first gathering. A month before this October meeting in 1880, Eleventh Ward YLMIA counselor Louie White “spoke about the timidity which we were possessed of when we tried to arise and speak. Said we should try to conquer that feeling, for it was our duty to speak of the goodness of God. Said none were too young to do this.” (Eleventh Ward YWMIA Minutes and Records, Sept. 20, 1880, 172.)

  12. [12]In July 1877, the Eleventh Ward YLMIA adopted resolutions, including one “that we will not follow after the foolish and disgusting fashions of the world, but will dress in a plain, neat, and becoming manner, strictly avoiding all extravagance, and devote the means saved thereby to the upbuilding of the kingdom of God.” (Eleventh Ward YWMIA Minutes and Records, July 1877, 497.)

  13. [13]An 1899 dictionary defined modesty as “a sense of propriety; freedom from arrogance, boldness, or presumption; unobtrusiveness, bashfulness, diffidence; bashful reserve. … Moderation; freedom from excess, extravagance, or exaggeration. Chastity; purity of manners; decency; freedom from lewdness or unchastity.” Prudery, by contrast, meant “affected or excessive niceness or preciseness; coyness.” (Robert Hunter and Charles Morris, eds., Universal Dictionary of the English Language [New York: Peter Fenelon Collier, 1899], 3168, 3794.)

  14. [14]The Eleventh Ward YLMIA also decreed “that we will cease to speak evil of each other or of any of the Lord’s anointed.” (Eleventh Ward YWMIA Minutes and Records, July 1877, 497.)

  15. [15]Freeze later wrote articles for the Young Woman’s Journal on etiquette. (See Lillie T. Freeze, “Chapter on Etiquette,” Young Woman’s Journal 3, nos. 6 and 8 [Mar. and May 1892]: 280–282, 382–383.)