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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

Footnotes

  1. [1]Brigham Young dedicated Kanab, located in the arid southern Utah desert, in 1870, a few years after settlers had first grazed cattle there and built a fort. (Martha Sonntag Bradley, A History of Kane County, Utah Centennial County History Series [Salt Lake City: Utah State Historical Society, 1999], 60–62, 74.)

  2. [2]Snow recorded that she and Young had “traveled one thousand miles by team over jolting rocks and through bedded sand, occasionally camping out at night on long drives.” They returned to Salt Lake City in March 1881. (Eliza R. Snow, “Sketch of My Life,” in The Personal Writings of Eliza Roxcy Snow, ed. Maureen Ursenbach Beecher [Logan: Utah State University Press, 2000], 37; see also Jill Mulvay Derr, “Mrs. Smith Goes to Washington: Eliza R. Snow Smith’s Visit to Southern Utah, 1880–81,” in Honoring Juanita Brooks: A Compilation of 30 Annual Presentations from the Juanita Brooks Lecture Series, Dixie State University, ed. Douglas D. Alder [St. George, UT: Dixie State University, 2014], 475–510.)

  3. [3]Derr, “Mrs. Smith Goes to Washington,” 495–498.

  4. [4]Snow formed organizations throughout the Mormon settlements in the West. She remembered, “I have traveled from one end of Utah Territory to the other—into Nevada and Idaho in the interests of these organizations—have organized hundreds of the Young Ladies’ and Primary Associations since their introduction.” (Snow, “Sketch of My Life,” 37.)

  5. [5]The group camped for three nights on the way from St. George to Kanab, an eighty-mile trip. They also visited Long Valley, Orderville, Glendale, and Johnson—all in southern Utah—before returning to St. George. (Eliza R. Snow Smith, “Trip to Kanab,” Woman’s Exponent 9, no. 20 [Mar. 15, 1881]: 157.)

  6. [6]Kanab Utah Stake Relief Society Minutes and Records, vol. 1, 1878–1921, Dec. 6, 1878, 3, CHL. Elizabeth Little noted at the official welcome to Snow and Young, “A long cherished hope is realized in the happy event. Here, on the frontier of Utah, in comparative isolation, it is the first time that any of our representative ladies have visited us.” (M. Elizabeth Little, “A Welcome,” Woman’s Exponent 9, no. 21 [Apr. 1, 1881]: 165.)

  7. [7]Snow Smith, “Trip to Kanab,” 157; M. Elizabeth Little, “Kanab Relief Society,” Woman’s Exponent 9, no. 21 (Apr. 1, 1881): 165–166. The Kanab Relief Society was established on November 12, 1873, and the Kanab Stake Relief Society held its first quarterly conference on December 6, 1878. (Kanab Ward, Kanab Stake, Relief Society Minutes and Records, Minute Book A, 1873–1883, Nov. 12, 1873, 3–4, CHL; Kanab Utah Stake Relief Society Minutes and Records, Dec. 6, 1878, 1–4.)

  8. [8]Snow and Young stayed with Minerva Snow during their time in St. George, and she accompanied them on their trip to Kane County. (Derr, “Mrs. Smith Goes to Washington,” 483, 491.)

  9. [9]Little, “A Welcome,” 165.

  10. [10]Emmeline B. Wells, “Salt Lake Stake Relief Society Conference,” Woman’s Exponent 9, no. 3 (July 1, 1880): 21–22.

  11. [11]Derr, “Mrs. Smith Goes to Washington,” 479–482.

  12. [12]Young spoke after Snow, encouraging women to accept and honor the principle of plural marriage and never to speak disrespectfully of their husbands. “My sisters,” Young said, “we have had a feast of correct principles.” (Little, “Kanab Relief Society,” 166.)

  13. [13]Minerva Snow spoke after Young and encouraged the women: “We should overcome our failings. What are the little trials of this life to the great blessings that are before us if we are faithful?” (Little, “Kanab Relief Society,” 166.)

  14. [14]The bulk of this discourse was paraphrased by Elizabeth Little, who took the minutes, but in these last two sentences, Little is apparently quoting Snow directly. Snow told the Santa Clara Relief Society on November 27, 1880, that “the young ladies of Zion are greater than the queens of the earth. We can become what we desire.” (Santa Clara Ward, Saint George Stake, Relief Society Minutes and Records, vol. 3, 1873–1893, Nov. 27, 1880, 47, CHL.)

  15. [15]Little’s report of the meeting was sent to Emmeline B. Wells in Salt Lake City and printed in the Woman’s Exponent. There is no report of the February 13, 1881, meeting in the Kanab Ward Relief Society minutes or the Kanab Stake Relief Society minutes, but the minutes of the next meeting make reference to the visit and to Snow’s speech. (Kanab Ward Relief Society Minutes, Mar. 3, 1881, 165.)