Two weeks after the organization of the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo on March 17, 1842, the Times and Seasons, the church newspaper in Nauvoo, published this editorial. The author both described the intended activities of the Relief Society for an audience that would have known little or nothing about it and offered an endorsement of the society. Though the editorial misstated the name of the organization and the date of its founding, this enthusiastic report may have contributed to the Relief Society’s rapid growth.
The Times and Seasons began publication in November 1839 and by this time was a semimonthly publication.1 In January 1842 Joseph Smith dictated a revelation that instructed the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to “take in hand the Editorial department of the Times and Seasons.”2 The quorum appointed John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff to edit the newspaper and “take charge of the whole establishment under the direction of Joseph the Seer.” Smith thus served as the newspaper’s editor, while Taylor did much of the writing and Woodruff assisted with the business aspects.3 Though this article on the Relief Society was attributed to the editor, Joseph Smith, it was likely authored primarily by Taylor who, along with Smith, had been present at the inaugural meeting of the Relief Society. Taylor’s wife, Leonora, was one of the society’s founding members.4
Most of this article was later copied into the Manuscript History of the Church and then published in the early twentieth century as part of the History of the Church, establishing it as a traditional account of the beginning of the Relief Society.5 The transcript below is taken from the original Times and Seasons publication.
LADIES’ RELIEF SOCIETY.
A society has lately been formed by the ladies of Nauvoo for the relief of the poor, the destitute, the widow and the orphan; and for the exercise of all benevolent purposes. The society is known by the name of the “Ladies’ Relief Society of the City of Nauvoo;” and was organized on Thursday the 24th of March A. D. 1842.6
The society is duly organized with a Presidentess or Chairwoman, and two Councillors, chosen by herself; a Treasurer and Secretary. Mrs. Emma Smith takes the Presidential chair, Mrs. Elizabeth Ann Whitney, and Mrs. Sarah M. Cleveland are her Councillors; Miss Elvira Cole [Cowles] is Treasuress, and our well known and talented poetess, Miss E[l]iza7 R. Snow Secretary.
There was a very numerous attendance at the organization of the society and also at their subsequent meetings of some of our most intelligent, humane, philanthropic, and respectable ladies; and we are well assured from a knowledge of those pure principles of benevolence that flow spontaneously from their humane, and philanthrophic bosoms, that with the resources they will have at command they will fly to the relief of the stranger, they will pour in oil and wine to the wounded heart of the distressed;8 they will dry up the tear of the orphan, and make the widow’s heart to rejoice.
Our Ladies have always been signalized for their acts of benevolence and kindness; but the cruel usage that they have received from the barbarians of Missouri, has hitherto prevented their extending the hand of charity in a conspicuous manner; yet in the midst of their persecutions, when the bread has been torn from their helpless offsprings by their cruel oppressors, they have always been ready to open their doors to the weary traveller, to divide their scanty pittance with the hungry; and from their robbed and impoverished wardrobes, to divide with the more needy and destitute; and now that they are living in a more genial soil, and among a less barbarous people, and possess facilities that they have not heretofore enjoyed, we feel convinced that with their concentrated efforts the condition of the sufferring poor, of the stranger and the fatherless will be ameliorated.
We had the privelege of being present at their organization, and were much pleased with their modus operandi, and the good order that prevailed; they are strictly parliamentary in their proceedings; and we believe that they will make pretty good democrats.9—Ed.