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1.2.3 March 31, 1842

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March 31, 1842 • Thursday

Minutes of the Proceedings

of the

Third Meeting of the Society1

Lodge Room March 30th [31st] 1842.2

Meeting opened with Singing—

Prayer by Prest. Joseph Smith—

The house full to overflowing.

Prest. J. Smith arose— spoke of the organization of the Society— said he was deeply interested that it might be built up to the Most High in an acceptable manner— that its rules must be observed— that none should be received into the Society but those who were worthy— propos’d that the Society go into a close examination of every candidate— that they were going too fast—3 that the Society should grow up by degrees— should commence with a few individuals— thus have a select Society of the virtuous and those who will walk circumspectly— commended them for their zeal but said sometimes their zeal was not according to knowledge—4 One principal object of the Institution, was to purge out iniquity— said they must be extremely careful in all their examinations or the consequences would be serious

Said all difficulties which might & would cross our way must be surmounted, though the soul be tried, the heart faint, and hands hang down— must not retrace our steps— that there must be decision of character aside from sympathy— that when instructed we must obey that voice, observe the Constitution5 that the blessings of heaven may rest down upon us— all must act in concert or nothing can be done— that the Society should move according to the ancient Priesthood, hence there should be a select Society separate from all the evils of the world, choice, virtuou[s] and holy— Said he was going to make of this Society a kingdom of priests an in Enoch’s day— as in Pauls day—6 that it is the privilege of each member to live long [p. 22] and enjoy health— Prest. Smith propos’d that the ladies [gentlemen] withdraw, that the Society might proceed to business— that those wishing to join should have their names presented at the next meeting.——

Prest. J. Smith withdrew—

Prest. E. [Emma] Smith rose & said she would like to hear from those appointed to enquire into the case of Clarissa M. [Marvel]7

Mrs. [Diantha] Billings said— we visited her, questioned her closely— she appear’d like an innocent girl—

Mrs Markam [Hannah Markham] corroborated the statement of Mrs. Billings.

Prest. E. S. said, We are call’d upon to find the origin of the report—

Mrs. Billings refer’d to Mrs. Winchester, with whom C. M. had resided—

Mrs. W. Had heard C. M. speak of Prest. J. Smith & family in the most respectful manner.

Councillor [Sarah] Cleveland propos’d that the rumor be trac’d out— and the innocent clear’d—

Mrs. Gribble said Laura Jones & Hannah Burgess have reported against C. M.

Councillor [Elizabeth Ann] Whitney motion’d that 2 persons be appointed to see L. Jones & H. B. carried unanly.

Councillor C. motioned that Mrs. Allred and Mrs. [Elizabeth Davis] Durfee be appointed to see them and cite them to appear at the next meeting.

Mrs. Durfee objected.

Prest. E. S. said we were going to learn new things— our way was straight— said we wanted none in this society but those who could and would walk straight and were determined to do good and not evil— said that Mrs. Durfee must serve unless she could provide [p. 23] a better person to officiate in her stead—

Councillor Cleveland remark’d that they had put their shoulder to the wheel and exhorted them to do with their might— we have entered into this work in the name of the Lord let us boldly go forward——

After appropriate remarks Prest. E. Smith, said she had an Article to read which would test the ability of the members in keeping secrets; as it was for the benefit of the Society, and that alone——

Read the Article.—8 Then gave strictures on female propriety and dignity &c. &c.

Mother [Lucy Mack] Smith rose and said she was glad the time had come that iniquity could be detected and reproach thrown off from the heads of the church— We come into the church to be sav’d— that we may live in peace and sit down in the kingdom of heaven— If we listen to, and circulate every evil report we shall idly spend the time which should be appropriated to the reading the Scriptures, the Book of Mormon— we must remember the words of Alma— pray much at morning, noon and night—9 feed the poor &c.—10 She said she was old— could not meet with the Society but few times more— and wish’d to leave her testimony that the Book of Mormon is the book of God— that Joseph is a man of God, a prophet of the Lord set apart to lead the people— If we observe his words it will be well with us; if we live righteously on earth, it will be well with us in Eternity——

Councillor Cleveland arose and address’d mother Smith, returning thanks for her testimony, and counsel— express’d many good wishes; that she [p. 24] might receive much comfort and consolation in this Society— that the Lord would lengthen her days— that she may cheer the Society with her presence, aid it by her counsels and prayrs long before she shall take her departure to sit down by the side of her beloved Partner.11

Mrs. [Mercy] Thompson made mention of a lone widow with one child, late from England, without friends, in want of a home.

Mrs. [Sarah] Brown proposed to take her in

Mrs. [Elizabeth] Jones laid before the Society her expectations of soon journeying to Ohio, to visit friends who were moving in the higher classes of Society; and requested the prayers of this Society that her testimony may be instrumental of good. &c.

Motioned by Councillor Cleveland and seconded by the President, that Mrs. Jones have a recommend from this Society— carried unanimly..

Upon Motion of Councillor Cleveland, the meeting adjourn’d to thursday, 15th 14th of April 2. o.clock.

The following is a copy of the recommend, to for Mrs. Jones

The Female Relief Society of Nauvoo, recommends Mrs. Elizabeth Jones, as a member of said Society, in good standing;— and she is hereby Authorized to receive all such donations as friends abroad shall feel disposed to put into her hands, to be appropriated to the Fund of the Institution; for the benefit of the poor, the widow, and the fatherless.12

By Order of the Board.13

Eliza R. Snow, Secretary. [p. 25]

Footnotes

  1. [1]text: Double underline in original.

  2. [2]The date should read March 31, 1842. That date aligns with Thursday, when Relief Society meetings were generally held during this period. Joseph Smith’s journal records that he spoke to the Relief Society in the afternoon of Thursday, March 31. Extracts from the minutes of this meeting were published with significant modifications in the Deseret News, September 5, 1855. (Joseph Smith, Journal, Mar. 31, 1842, in JSP, J2:48; Document 2.2.)

  3. [3]In addition to the twenty charter members at the March 17, 1842, founding meeting, seven other women joined that first day and forty-eight more women joined on March 24, 1842. No new members were admitted at this March 31 meeting. At Joseph Smith’s request, twenty new names were held over and presented at the next meeting on April 14, 1842.

  4. [4]See Romans 10:2.

  5. [5]Joseph Smith stated that the society’s presidency should “serve as a constitution” and that the society’s minutes “will be precedents for you to act upon— your Constitutio[n] and law.” (Document 1.2, entry for Mar. 17, 1842.)

  6. [6]See Exodus 19:6; and Revelation 1:6. Joseph Smith’s remarks at this meeting associate women with the “ancient Priesthood.” The January 6, 1842, entry in Joseph Smith’s journal, apparently dictated by Smith, stated that God was initiating the restoration of “the ancient order of his Kingdom,” which would prepare “the earth for the return of his glory . . . and a kingdom of Priests & Kings to God & the Lamb forever. on Mount Zion.”a Most early Latter-day Saints understood this connection between priesthood and women as a part of temple worship. For example, Bathsheba W. Smith, a founding member of the Relief Society and one of the small vanguard of men and women who received temple ordinances from Joseph Smith prior to the completion of the temple at Nauvoo, recalled in a 1905 address that Joseph Smith “wanted to make us, as the women were in Paul’s day, ‘A kingdom of priestesses.’” She then explained, “We have that ceremony in our [temple] endowments as Joseph taught.”b At the August 13, 1843, Relief Society meeting, Nauvoo temple building committee member Reynolds Cahoon explicitly tied the women’s organization to the temple, saying, “This Society is raisd by the Lord to prepare us for the great blessings which are for us in the House of the Lord in the Temple.”c Eliza R. Snow, who had long ministered to women in temple rituals, also taught of the connection between Relief Society, priesthood restoration, and heavenly destiny in an 1875 address in which she appealed to women to join the Relief Society “for your own cultivation, to elevate to prepare you to become queens and priestesses, to prepare you to become suitable companions to your husbands, to become as anciently, holy women of God.”d Elsewhere, Snow promised faithful women they would “become Queens of Queens, and Priestesses unto the Most High God.”e On May 4, 1842, five weeks after this March 31 Relief Society meeting, Joseph Smith introduced temple ceremonies to nine trusted male associates gathered in the assembly room above his store.f (a. Joseph Smith, Journal, Jan. 6, 1842, in JSP, J2:26. b. “Pioneer Stake,” Woman’s Exponent, July and Aug. 1905, 34:14. c. Document 1.2, entry for Aug. 13, 1843. d. Gunnison Ward, Gunnison Stake, Gunnison Ward Relief Society Minutes and Records, 1872–1949, CHL, June 28, 1875, p. 27. e. Eliza R. Snow, “An Address,” Woman’s Exponent, Sept. 15, 1873, 2:63. f. Joseph Smith, Journal, May 4, 1842, in JSP, J2:53; Historian’s Office, Joseph Smith History, Draft Notes, ca. 1839–1856, CHL, May 4, 1842.)

  7. [7]At the prior meeting of the Relief Society, Marvel had been accused of slander against Joseph Smith. (Document 1.2, entry for Mar. 24, 1842.)

  8. [8]The March 31, 1842, entry in the journal of Joseph Smith, as recorded by his clerk Willard Richards, notes with respect to this article or epistle: “In council at his office with. Elders [Brigham] Young. [John] Taylor &c. & wrote an Epistle to the Female Relief Soci[e]ty and spake to the Socity in the afternoon.” This epistle is recorded in the Nauvoo Relief Society Minute Book following the minutes for September 28, 1842. It warns women against unnamed men who claim authority from Joseph Smith or other church leaders to “deceive and debauch the innocent.” On April 10, 1842, Joseph Smith publicly denounced such deceptions: “Preached in the grove after Elder Wm Law. had spoken. a[nd] pronounced a curse upon all Adulterers & fornicators & unvirtuous persons. & those who had made use of his name to carry on their iniquitous designs.” (Joseph Smith, Journal, Mar. 31 and Apr. 10, 1842, in JSP, J2:48, 50.)

  9. [9]See Alma 37:37.

  10. [10]See Mosiah 4:26.

  11. [11]Joseph Smith Sr. (1771–1840), husband of Lucy Mack Smith and father of Joseph Smith. (“Joseph Smith Pedigree Chart,” The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed Apr. 6, 2015, http://www.josephsmithpapers.org.) 

  12. [12]A recommend or certificate such as this was evidence that the bearer had the authority to solicit funds on behalf of an organization. A photograph of an original Relief Society certificate appears in “An Interesting Old Document,” Relief Society Magazine 23, no. 6 (June 1936).

  13. [13]This is very likely a reference to the Relief Society presidency, as no other board existed within the Relief Society at this time.