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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.