John Taylor delivered an address in Ogden, Utah, on October 21, 1877, nine days before the first stake Relief Society conference was held there.1 Taylor had been present a few months earlier when Brigham Young organized the Weber Stake Relief Society, encouraged the women to hold quarterly conferences with reports from each local Relief Society organization in Weber County, and promised to return in October to open the first conference officially.2 President Young had died on August 29, 1877. As president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Taylor was now the church’s presiding authority. Taylor had converted to the church in 1836 in Canada and began serving as an apostle in 1838; he was officially sustained as president of the church in October 1880.
The October 20–21, 1877, conference was for the entire Weber Stake (men, women, and children in seventeen wards), and Taylor directed some of his remarks to the Relief Society. His remarks represent one of many times when he expressed his support for the Relief Society and established his own tie to the group by noting that he was one of three priesthood leaders in attendance when the society was first organized in Nauvoo on March 17, 1842. During his administration, Taylor helped make further refinements in the Relief Society organization; the tasks of defining the scope of the general Relief Society presidency, for instance, fell to him.3
On Saturday, October 20, Lester J. Herrick, a counselor in the Weber Stake presidency, reported on the success of the stake Relief Society: “They were busy in laying up wheat and he advised the Elders to assist them in this laudable purpose.” President Taylor addressed the congregation on Sunday afternoon “on various topics relating to the organization of the priesthood and the duties of all the various departments of the Church.”4 The following transcript is excerpted from the report of Taylor’s discourse made by George F. Gibbs for the semiweekly edition of the Deseret News, April 16, 1878.
PRESIDENT JOHN TAYLOR,
In the Ogden Tabernacle, on Sunday afternoon, October 21, 1877.
reported by george f. gibbs.
5… Now a few words to the sisters. They have their Relief Societies and Retrenchment Societies, and their Mutual Improvement Societies, all of which are very laudable and praiseworthy. You heard quoted this morning that the man was not without the woman, nor the woman without the man, in the Lord.6 Or in other words, it takes a woman and a man to make a man. Did you ever think about that, that without a union of the sexes we are not perfect? God has so ordained it. And therefore do we expect to have our wives in the future state? Yes. And do wives expect to have their husbands? Yes. Are we engaged in building up the kingdom of God? Yes. What have we to do? Why our sisters have to learn to manage their household affairs in a proper manner, and to train their daughters in such a manner as will prepare them to become mothers in Israel, competent to attend to the various duties and responsibilities which must sooner or later devolve upon them in the household, and also cultivate their nobler qualities calculated to elevate and exalt women in the estimation of God and man; and not only your daughters, but sons also; begin early to teach them meekness, kindness and gentleness, and withhold not from them such training as will give them an acquaintance with the common branches of education, and if possible afford them a knowledge of science, and of music, and everything that will have a tendency to lead their minds to find enjoyment in the development of the mind, but be sure and have for your base or foundation, the early cultivation of the virtues, and a due regard to their superiors, as well as reverence for God and sacred things. And what next? Teach others who lack the opportunity that your children may possess. Sisters, you are eminently constituted for this work. God has given you both the desire and ability to do it; you can enter into the sympathies of others, and you can better appreciate their feelings than we men can, and you are altogether more competent to minister in such affairs. Hence the prophet Joseph Smith, in his day, organized a Female Relief Society; some of you sisters now before me I remember seeing present on that occasion. Sister Emma Smith was President of that Society, Sister [Elizabeth] Whitney, now of Salt Lake City, was one of her Counselors, Sister [Sarah] Cleveland was the other Counselor, and Sister Eliza Snow was Secretary.7 This movement, under the auspices of the Relief Societies, was allowed to sleep for a while, but it has again began to awaken, and great good is being accomplished. And what do we want to teach our good sisters? I do not propose to go into details, but will merely say they should be things most elevating and useful. Teach them to cook aright, to dress aright, and to speak aright; also to govern their feelings and tongues, and unfold unto them the principles of the gospel. Let the elderly ladies teach the younger ones, leading them on in the paths of life, that we may have sisters growing up, whose goodness and praiseworthy principles will make them fit to associate with the angels of God. And if you persevere in this good work God will bless you and your efforts, let male and female operate together in the one great common cause. Sisters, let it be your daily study to make your homes comfortable, more and more pleasant and agreeable, in fact, a little heaven on earth. And brethren, let us treat our wives properly, and prepare proper places for them; be kind to them, and fee[l] to bless them all the day long. Do away with unkind or harsh words, and do not allow hard feelings to exist in your hearts, or find place in your habitations. Love one another, and by each trying to enhance the welfare of the other, that element will characterize the family circle, and your children will partake of the same feeling, and they in turn will imitate your good example, and perpetuate the things they learn at home. …