The Church Historian's Press


Church of Christ organized

The Church of Christ (later renamed the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) was organized in Fayette, New York.

Emma Smith designated “Elect Lady”

A revelation (now found in section 25 of the Doctrine and Covenants) to Joseph Smith regarding his wife, Emma Hale Smith, called her an “Elect Lady” and instructed her to “expound Scriptures & exhort the Church.”

Female Relief Society of Nauvoo organized

The Female Relief Society of Nauvoo was organized in Nauvoo, Illinois. Emma Smith was elected president. Other officers appointed that day were Sarah M. Kingsley Cleveland and Elizabeth Ann Smith Whitney, counselors; Eliza R. Snow, secretary; Phebe M. Bartholomew Wheeler, assistant secretary; and Elvira A. Cowles, treasurer.

Final Nauvoo Relief Society meeting held

The final meeting of the Nauvoo Relief Society was held.

Joseph and Hyrum Smith murdered

Joseph and Hyrum Smith were murdered in Carthage, Illinois.

Brigham Young expresses opposition

In discourses to priesthood quorums, Brigham Young, president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, expressed his opposition to further Relief Society meetings.

Trek west begins

Latter-day Saints began the westward journey from Illinois to the Salt Lake Valley.

Saints arrive in Salt Lake Valley

The first group of Latter-day Saints arrived in the Salt Lake Valley.

Female Council of Health organized

The Female Council of Health was organized in Salt Lake City by this date.

Women organize Indian relief effort

Latter-day Saint women in Salt Lake City independently organized a society to make clothing for American Indian women and children. 

Brigham Young advises women to organize

Brigham Young, president of the church, advised Latter-day Saint women to organize into societies within local wards to assist American Indians and others in need.

Local Relief Societies formed

Roughly two dozen local Relief Societies were formed in Salt Lake City and elsewhere in Utah Territory.

“Utah War” disrupts church operations

The “Utah War”—the threat of armed conflict between Latter-day Saints and the United States government—disrupted church operations. Most Relief Societies ceased functioning.

Brigham Young reestablishes Relief Society

Brigham Young called for the reestablishment of the Relief Society in local wards. Roughly a dozen wards responded within the next four months.

Eliza R. Snow commissioned to help reestablish Relief Society

Brigham Young called again for the organization of ward Relief Societies. Around this same time, Young commissioned Eliza R. Snow, one of his plural wives, to assist in reestablishing local societies. Through writing, speaking to local wards, and other efforts, she emphasized the importance of the Relief Society and provided guidance on how societies should be organized.

First Relief Society hall built

The first separate Relief Society hall, to be used for both business and worship, was dedicated in the Salt Lake City Fifteenth Ward.

Mary Isabella Horne invited to lead simplification effort

Brigham Young invited Mary Isabella Hales Horne, president of the Salt Lake City Fourteenth Ward Relief Society, to lead Latter-day Saint women in an effort to simplify meal preparation and apparel.

Women protest Cullom Bill

Women of the Salt Lake City Fifteenth Ward met to protest the Cullom Bill, proposed federal legislation designed to punish polygamists and limit the church’s power. In the next three months, thousands of other Latter-day Saint women met in similar protest (or “indignation”) meetings.

First Ladies’ Cooperative Retrenchment Meeting held

Mary Isabella Horne convened the first Ladies’ Cooperative Retrenchment Meeting and was appointed president of the meeting. 

Suffrage granted to Utah women

Stephen A. Mann, territorial secretary and acting governor of Utah Territory, signed into law an act conferring woman suffrage in Utah. Utah became the second state or territory (after Wyoming Territory) to grant woman suffrage. A week later, Latter-day Saint women delivered to Mann a formal expression of thanks for signing the woman suffrage bill.

Young Ladies’ Retrenchment Association formed

Brigham Young’s daughters, with the aid of Eliza R. Snow, organized themselves as the First Young Ladies’ Department of the Ladies’ Cooperative Retrenchment Association. This and other departments for young women soon became known as the Young Ladies’ Retrenchment Association. In 1877, the association was officially renamed the Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association, or Y.L.M.I.A.

Mary Isabella Horne accepted as Retrenchment Association president

Mary Isabella Horne was “unanimously accepted” as president of the Ladies’ Cooperative Retrenchment Association. This society and its department for young women were collectively called the Senior and Junior Cooperative Retrenchment Association for a time, and later General Retrenchment or Ladies’ Semi-Monthly Meeting.

Woman’s Exponent inaugurated

The first issue of the Woman’s Exponent was published.

Latter-day Saint women participate in World’s Fair

Items donated by Latter-day Saint women in Utah Territory were exhibited at the Women’s Pavilion in the World’s Fair in Philadelphia.

Women appointed to lead grain-storage efforts

Brigham Young appointed Latter-day Saint women to lead the church’s grain-storage efforts.

First stake Relief Society formed

Brigham Young appointed Jane Snyder Richards as president of the Weber Stake Relief Society—the first stake Relief Society organization in the church.

First stake Relief Society meeting held

The first stake Relief Society meeting was held by the Weber Stake in Ogden, Utah Territory.

First Primary organized

The first Primary Association was organized in Farmington, Utah Territory, under the leadership of Aurelia Spencer Rogers.

Emma Smith Bidamon dies

Emma Hale Smith Bidamon died in Nauvoo.

Thistle Valley Relief Society formed

By this time, American Indian and white women had formed a Relief Society in Thistle Valley, Utah Territory.

General presidencies sustained

At a quarterly conference of the Salt Lake Stake Relief Society, general presidencies were sustained for the Relief Society, Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association, and Primary Association. Eliza R. Snow was sustained as Relief Society general president, Elmina S. Taylor as Y.L.M.I.A. general president, and Louie B. Felt as Primary general president.

Relief Society general presidency set apart

John Taylor, president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, set apart the newly sustained Relief Society general presidency.

Three hundred local Relief Societies operating

Approximately three hundred local Relief Societies were in operation by this time.

Deseret Hospital dedicated

Deseret Hospital, an institution founded by Latter-day Saint women, was dedicated in Salt Lake City.

Women protest Edmunds Act

Two thousand Latter-day Saint women assembled in Salt Lake City to protest the recently enacted Edmunds Act, a federal law designed to bring an end to the Latter-day Saints’ practice of polygamy.

Eliza R. Snow dies

Eliza R. Snow died in Salt Lake City.

Zina D. H. Young sustained

Zina D. H. Young was sustained as general president of the Relief Society at the church’s general conference.

First general Relief Society conference held

The first annual general Relief Society conference was held in Salt Lake City.

Manifesto issued

The Manifesto—a statement announcing the church’s intention to end the practice of polygamy—was read and accepted in the church’s general conference.

Relief Society reaches membership of 16,741

By the end of the year, the Relief Society reported a membership of 16,741 in 368 branches, including branches in the United States, Canada, England, Scotland, Germany, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, the Sandwich (Hawaiian) and Samoan Islands, Australia, and New Zealand.

Latter-day Saint women join National Council of Women

The Relief Society and Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association became two of the ten original member organizations of the National Council of Women.

Relief Society Jubilee celebrated

Church members celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the Relief Society in a churchwide Jubilee.