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18

Every Sister Should Come Forward

Kanab Relief Society

Schoolhouse, Kanab, Utah Territory

February 13, 1881


Eliza R. Snow

Eliza R. Snow. Circa 1875. Snow was a poet, a world traveler, and a renowned leader of Latter-day Saint women. She effectively linked the Nauvoo Relief Society to the resurgence of the organization in the Utah Territory by preserving the Nauvoo Relief Society Minute Book and traveling throughout Mormon settlements to help organize women and encourage them to speak. Photograph by Charles Carter. (Church History Library, Salt Lake City.)

On February 13, 1881, Eliza Roxcy Snow (1804–1887) spoke to women in Kanab, Utah Territory, three hundred miles south of Salt Lake City, about the individual quest for salvation.1 Three months earlier, Snow left Salt Lake with travel companion Zina D. H. Young for an extensive tour of Latter-day Saint settlements in southern Utah.2 They intended to participate in ordinances in the St. George temple, the only temple then functioning in the church.3 They also visited and organized Relief Societies, Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Associations (YLMIA), and Primaries throughout central and southern Utah.4

Snow and Young spent the second week of February in Kanab, about eighty miles east of St. George, just north of the Arizona border.5 Due in part to its isolation, the settlement did not often receive guests. Kanab Stake president John Nuttall had previously noted, “We have not the privilege of visits from the leading sisters of the north; it takes all their time to travel and visit those that are surrounded by outside influences.”6 While in Kanab, Snow and Young attended a ward picnic, established the Kanab ward and stake Primary organizations, met with the Kanab Relief Society and YLMIA, and organized a silk association.7 On Sunday, February 13, Snow, Young, and Minerva Snow, the stake Relief Society president in St. George, spoke to a combined meeting of the Relief Society and YLMIA.8

The women of Kanab welcomed their Salt Lake City visitors with a formal greeting, hailing them as “Lady Pioneers,” “Mothers in Israel,” and “Presidents of all the feminine portion of the human race.”9 In June 1880, Snow had been appointed general president of the Relief Society and had chosen Young as her first counselor.10 In that role, Snow had authority to oversee the women’s organizations of the church. Her personal relationships also contributed to her status in Latter-day Saint society. She had been a plural wife of Joseph Smith and, after his death, had married Brigham Young. Snow took Smith’s last name in 1880, after the death of Brigham Young in 1877, the death of Emma Smith in 1879, and her appointment as Relief Society general president in 1880.11 Snow believed and taught the women of Kanab that each woman is responsible for her own salvation.

Sister Snow Smith said the time was when we thought that our husbands would save us, independent of our own exertions. Now we understand that instead of depending entirely on our husbands for salvation and position, we have to work them out ourselves.12 The responsibility and labor that devolve upon women are becoming more important. If society is reformed, it is to a great extent because women are refined. And the well-being of her children depends much on her influence and example. These societies are to be helps to the bishops and take many cares from their hands. We are organized in ward and stake capacities, and it is necessary that every sister should come forward and take hold of this work for the benefit of their daughters. The Lord wants us to be a peculiar people. Felt that none of us draw as near to Father as we should. When we get the victory over ourselves, then we are saved. “I would say to my young sisters, never shrink from a duty.13 God has put the means in your hands to become queens and priestesses in his kingdom, if you will only live for it.”14