The first stake Relief Society meeting took place on October 30, 1877, in the Weber Stake. Three months earlier, Brigham Young had appointed Jane S. Richards to preside over the stake Relief Society organization and instructed that the Relief Society should hold its first quarterly conference in October.1 At the October meeting, Richards presided and Eliza R. Snow called for a vote to sustain Richards as president.2 Young had hoped to attend the meeting but had died on August 29.
Prominent members of Salt Lake Relief Societies joined the Ogden women that day because this organization of the Relief Society on a stake level was a momentous occasion. Snow, Mary Isabella Horne, Presendia L. Kimball, Emmeline B. Wells, and Sarah M. Kimball each spoke from the pulpit. Richards initially chose Horne and Snow as her counselors, though she later selected women from her own stake as counselors, Harriet C. Brown and Sarah A. Herrick, who had served as her counselors in the Ogden Ward Relief Society presidency.3 In 1880 Eliza R. Snow became the first official general Relief Society president; as evidenced by her involvement here with the Weber Stake Relief Society, she was already exercising some supervisory authority over all the Relief Societies in the church.4 The Salt Lake visitors addressed the congregation and expressed their feelings about the church and their vision for the Relief Society. This first quarterly stake Relief Society meeting provided a template for future meetings, which generally offered women a forum to present reports and history, share new information and insights, and feel fellowship. Stake Relief Society conferences brought together women who usually met in their smaller and sometimes isolated ward societies, and also acquainted them with the women from Salt Lake City who provided central Relief Society leadership and oversight.
The minutes of the October 30 conference are reproduced below from the Weber Stake Relief Society Minute Book.
Minutes of the first Conference
of the Relief Society of Weber Stake.
Held in the Tabernacle, Ogden City—Oct. 30th 1877.
There were present on the stand, Apostle F. [Franklin] D. Richards—Pres. D. [David] H. Peery—Sisters E. [Eliza] R. Snow—Sarah Kimball—M. I. Horn [Mary Isabella Horne]—E. [Emmeline] B. Wells—L. [Louisa] G. Richards—Zina Y. Williams, of Salt Lake, and Harriet Snow of Brigham City also a number of Bishops— The Tabernacle was well filled, notwithstanding the unfavorable weather— President Jane S. Richards presided.
Meeting opened by singing—‘O, my Father’— Prayer by Bish. P. [Pleasant] G. Taylor of Harrisville— Singing—[‘]How firm a foundation’.5
Pres. Jane S. Richards said, Beloved sisters, I am very thankful to see so many here to day. As you are aware, we have met according to the appointment made at the time President Young was with us in July— It was his counsel that the Relief Societies of Weber Co. meet in three months from that time, and report their labors.6 We will now hear the reports—
Sec. A. [Amelia] M. Frodsham then read the reports of the Relief Societies, and Miss Hattie [Harriet C.] Brown read reports of the Retrenchment Societies.7
Sister M. I. Horn then addressed the congregation— She said, My Sisters, I am pleased to stand before you— I have been much interested in the reports— They show what you have been doing, that you are interested in caring for the poor, in assisting to build temples—in advancing silk culture &c.— It has been thought that woman had nothing to do, but attend to her duties at home, [p. 23] to care for and teach her children. But there is more than this. By attending to her public duties, her meetings &c.—She is better qualified to train her children for the great work that devolves upon them. God bless you Sisters. Let us answer to every call that is made upon us, and God will bless us.—
Pres. D. H. Peery said he felt fully paid for coming to meeting, in hearing the reports, and how much the Sisters had done. Was pleased with Sister Horn’s remarks— Thought home the place to educate and train the young in honesty and truthfulness. Felt that naturally the sisters had more good in their hearts, than men. Through the influence of his wife he was led to embrace the gospel.8 Acknowledged God’s goodness in His dealings with him. Could see a beauty and grandeur in this work— Urged the Sister to lay up wheat—9 Invoked God’s blessing upon all.
Meeting was then adjourned until 2, o’clock— Singing—‘Lord dismiss us with thy blessing.’10 Benediction by Bish. Robert McQuarrie—
Meeting was called to order by Pres. Jane S. Richards— Singing—‘God moves in a mysterious way’— Prayer by Apostle F. D. Richards. Singing—‘Arise O glorious Zion’—11
Sister Precinda Kimball then addressed the Sisters— She said—I esteem it a great privilege to meet with you— Although we are strangers, we are all sisters— We are blest with the privilege of teaching the yong the principles of eternal life, and of bringing them up in the truth. Your reports are splendid. We are engaged in a great work, and we all desire to be prepared, that when we go behind the vail, we can enjoy the society of the martyrs and others gone before us, Those who have borne the heat and burden of the day, will pass off, and these young ladies will have to take their places. I hope mothers will teach there daughters virtue, and don’t cease to pray for them. I pray that peace and prosperity may abound with these my Sisters— Amen. [p. 24]
Sister E. B. Wells next spoke— She said—I must say I feel it a great pleasure to be here. I remember the first time I was here and the good instruction we received from President Young— If he could have heard the reports that have been read to day, and the good things that have been said, he would, no doubt, have been pleased— We have heard a little to day of the work that women can do, and are doing, and if so much good can be accomplished in one County, how very much may be done in all the Stakes of Zion— We have been called upon to store up grain; This is new work for women to engage in, but is an important one, and if we save comparatively little, it will be much better than to have it all carried away and sold—
I rejoice every day in the gospel and in the work of the women of Zion— The Lord has been very kind and good to us. And we ought to be very thankful that we have what thousands of women are denied, that is, the right of Suffrage—12 The women of the world wonder how we obtained this— I tell them the Lord helped us—
We desire reports of the grain on hand in each County—that we mak[e] a report for our grain meeting, and we would like as many of our sister as can, to attend that meeting— We realize there is a vast amount of labor to be done—And we wish to learn the best method of keeping wheat from the moth, mice &c.— The sisters should meet and consult upon these things. There is no limit to the work before us— We want literature of our own, and we should embrace every opportunity for improving ourselves in writing and speaking,—attend to our meetings and keep the spirit of our religion with us— I believe in mothers attending to their homes and teaching their children— We have received very much good instruction— My prayer is that we strived to live by it.
Sister Sarah Kimball said—I am grateful [p. 25] for the privilege of standing before my sisters in this place. I hope I can say something to edify you. I can truly say, this is one of the richest meetings I have ever attended— To the few who are living of those associated with the first organization of this society, how great appears the contrast—13 Surely, Bro. Joseph, himself, could not fully realize and comprehend the greatness of the structure that would be built upon the foundation he—himself—laid—
When the Nauvoo Temple was about a foot from the ground, there was a great want of means— A few of the sisters thought they would organize themselves into a society of some kind, that they might be better able to assist the brethren in the work of building the temple— We met, drew up a constitution and Sister Snow showed it to Bro. Smith. He said the Lord accepts your offering—but you shall have something better— He then organized us into a Relief Society—Sister Emma Smith being elected president—(The Book of Covenants [Doctrine and Covenants] calls her elect lady, she was then elected.)14 We were seven in number, but Joseph said we should become a great society.15 We see his words fulfilled to day.
I remember being here some years ago.— Sister Richards was then sick. Sister Snow washed and annointed her, and told her if she would take charge of the Relief Society in Ogden—she should have health and the Lord would bless her.16 We can testify that her words have proved true— I ask the Lord to continue his blessing upon her and upon you all.
Sister Eliza R. Snow said—Sister Richards, who is virtually president of this Conference, asks me to speak. I am pleased with the reports, and am thankful to God, for without His assistance our efforts are vain— Union is strength. By unity, our energies, faith and perseverance accomplish much. But it is all by the blessing of God. We have not the wealth of the world, but we have faith [p. 26] bone and sinew. Father Smith17 said, faith is energy,— and so, also, energy must be faith; for the more energetic a person is, the more faith he has.
We believe that God has endowed us with every faculty that is necessary to enable us to become Goddesses in eternity; but we must also cultivate and improve ourselves. By revelation we know this work is true, and this faith lifts us out of much of the suffering of this life. Still we are inclined to the things of earth. We are gross, we stumble, we live in an atmosphere that is not pure: that weighs us down
I have been thinking what great things grow out of seemingly unimportant events— I consider this meeting a precedent of a great thing. Sister Richards invited President Young to come and talk to the sisters of Weber County. She did not think that Relief Society Conferences would be the result.— He said adjourn your meeting for three months— I think it a key to the Society.—18 He was with us then, now he has passed behind the vail— Let us carry out his instructions—
Woman stands in a responsible position—every one as counselor to her husband. What wisdom we should have! There is no time to waste, no time to talk over our pains and troubles; the more we dwell upon them, the more we wish to. When we arise and speak by the spirit of God, we give light to those around us— When we meet, let our countenances glow with the spirit, and not give way to sadness. If we acknowledge the hand of God in all things, we find consolation under all circumstances.
I am well aware that a great deal is donated that never reaches the books. President Joseph Smith said this society was organized to save souls.19 What have the sisters done to win back those who have gone astray?—to warm up the hearts of those who have grown cold in the gospel?— Another book is kept of your faith, your kindness, your good works [p. 27] and words. Another record is kept. Nothing is lost. Two years ago I called for reports from all the Relief Societies— From $90 to $100 thousand dollars had been disbursed—and we commenced by saving carpet rags—no other capital.20
In regard to laying up grain—it is a very important calling which has been placed upon the women of this Church, and we should be faithful and energetic.— Sister Snow then related some things seen in a vision by a young man, pertaining to laying up grain, the famine &.c.—21
Another duty, of great importance, which is required of us, is the culture of silk. Pres. Young told me to teach the sisters how to get rich. Wealth is here; we can draw it from the elements by our own labor and the blessing of God. The cultivation of mulberry trees would be better than green backs, for us, and for future generations. If we had attended to this twenty years ago, we might now be clothed in silk. We have specimens of silk that have been tested—said to be the best from the U.S.— There is wealth in it, if we will only labor and be patient.22
Speaking of Sister Richards—I wish to have a vote taken. You have led out in a new direction. This is a new thing. I motion that Sister Jane Richards preside over the Relief Society of this Stake of Zion.—and fill all the offices of an elect lady.23 The motion was seconded and a vote taken which was unanimous. Sister Snow said, Sister Richards has accepted the position, and has chosen M. I. Horn and E. R. Snow as counsellors. The vote for their acceptance was unanimous.
One thing more to those who have contributed to the “Women of Mormondom”— That work would not have been published, had it not been for the sisters.24 We must not slacken, but double our diligence, and none of us will lose our reward.
Sister Harriet Snow, of Brigham City, Said I am happy to see you all. I rejoice in the principles taught in our society. I love my sisters. Although [p. 28] strangers, we are working to accomplish the same good object. It gives me joy to meet with my sisters. I wonder how those get along that do not attend meeting
It is thought that woman cannot teach woman, but I have a broader view of such things. And I believe that if we cultivate the principles of our religion and take hold with a willing heart, we can accomplish any thing required of us; even the laying up of grain and the cultivation of Silk. Where there is a will; there is a way.
We should make our society as interesting as possible. The Relief Society was first organized by the Prophet Joseph; and we should honor the organization. If we attend our meetings punctually, our hearts will expand, and we shall be the means of doing great good. If we attend to our prayers, God will give us wisdom. I esteem these things, great privileges.
Sister L. G. Richards said—I am an advocate for the principles contained in the Gospel of Christ I feel that we should love them. This meeting is what Sister Snow calls a picnic. I like such meetings; the more baskets opened the better, for I like to hear my sisters. If we were prayerful and energetic, we would have more faith. W[e] should have more faith for our sick; and I feel that we need more patience with our faith.
I would counsel our young sisters to read the Book of Mormon. I have been very much interested in comparing that book with the Bible. We must seek for ourselves to get understanding. I wish to mention the importance of sustaining the Exponent.25 It goes to nearly all parts of the world, and is doing a great deal of good. I hope the sisters will take it, also lay up grain. I know that Polygamy is a great and glorious principle. I know the Lord orders every thing for the best. I feel to bless you all.
Sister Jane S. Richards then gave out the papers for the different societies, containing President [p. 29] Young’s sermon, in this Tabernacle, to the Relief Societies.26
A vote was taken to drop the word retrenchment from the name of the Young Ladies Association, and to insert in its place, Mutual Improvement.27
Sister Zina Young Williams said a few words. Felt to cry out for faith, that she might bring up her children as her beloved father had taught us; knew she could not go too often to the fountain of faith and wisdom; could see that by living our religion, day by day, we are doing a great work. God has given us the way and the means where by we may fit ourselves to be crowned in his kingdom. Asked the blessing of the Lord upon all.
Apostle F. D. Richards felt that he must say a word or two. A little over three months ago, President Young stood where I now stand. You remember how respectfully he asked, ‘Will you do these things, sisters’?— One of these things was the raising of silk, I want this society to draw up a memorial, and memorialize your Bishops: put it on your records; let them deny it, if they can28
The President talked wheat for twenty years, now the sisters have taken it in hand and are doing something. You should preserve his sermon, which has been printed, and a copy given to each society; and perpetuate his memory by doing the things he taught you. You will be blest in remembering his counsels.
I say, God will bless those sisters who help this work along. I would like to say a word about the Women of Mormondom. That book is going to have a wide circulation. There are calls from England besides those of the Church. It was one of Pres. Youngs last acts to approve of this work.
I pray God to bless you, and that the saints may increase in good works; that we might follow him as he followed Christ.
Moved and carried that this Conference be adjourned to the 31st day of Jan. 1878, in honor of Sister Richards, that being her birthday. [p. 30]
Sister Richards then said, I feel that we have had a good time. It has been a day of rejoicing to me; and of sorrow too; for when this meeting was appointed, we expected our beloved President, Brigham Young, to be here. Well, let us try to carry out his counsels. I know my sisters desire to do right. I am proud of them. My desires are, to do the best I can. I feel to say, God bless us all; and bless, especally, the sisters that have come to visit us.
Singing—‘May we who know the joyful sound.’29 Benediction by Bishop John Hart of West Weber.
Mrs. A. M. Frodsham, Sec.
Mrs. Jane S. Richards, Pres.
Prepared and read by Secretary A. M. Frodsham, at the first Relief Society Conference—31
The Female Relief Society of Ogden City, was organized Dec. 16th 1867;32 under the superintendency of Bishop Chauncy West and his counselors; with the following officers—: Sister Mary West President; Sisters Nancy Farr and Harriet C. Brown, Counselors. Sister Mary Ann West, Treasurer, and Sister Louise M. Hopkins, Secretary. Meetings were held monthly.
May 24th 1869, a cooperative mercantile Institution was formed by the Ladies of Weber Co. The officers elected, were, Mrs. Mary West, Pres. Harriet C. Brown Vice Pres.—Miss Rosalthe Canfield Secretary and Treasurer. Also a board of Directors.
A ladies mass meeting was held in the Tabernacle Mar. 17th 1870. Sister Mary West was elected by unanimous vote, to preside over the meeting. She stated the object of the meeting, which was to protest against the Cullom Bill.33 She expressed [p. 31] her sentiments in regard to unwise legislation, and spoke in defence of Plural Marriage.
June 9th 1870. Meetings of the Relief Society were suspended, on account of the presence of Small Pox in the City.
On the 27th day of Aug. 1870, our esteemed president, Sister Mary West, was called from mortality, after a brief though severe illness. Her health had been failing for years; but not until the death of her husband,34 did she really begin to succumb to the hand of disease. The great affliction which his loss occasioned her, seemed never abated to the day of her death; and, no doubt, hastened her final departure. She had filled her offices with honor, and her loss was deeply mourned by her numerous friends.
Oct. 27th 1870 a meeting of the Society was called, and Sister Harriet C. Brown was elected by unanimous vote, to take the place, vacated by the death of our beloved President, Sister Mary West. Sister Rosalthe Canfield was elected Treasurer, and Sister Amelia M. Frodsham Secretary. Subsequently, Sisters Martha Bingham and Sarah Herrick, were chosen Counselors.
Aug. 8th 1872, at a meeting held in the Tabernacle, (Sister Brown wishing to resign,) Sister Jane S. Richards was elected Pres. of the Society by a unanimous vote. She chose Sisters Harriet Brown and Sarah Herrick for her Counselors, and all were set apart for their offices.
Aug. 22nd 1872, it was decided to hold meetings semi monthly.
Oct. 17th 1872, Through the counsel of Sister Eliza R. Snow, and by approval of President Brigham Young, the word Female was dropped from the name of the Society, which was henceforth to be known as the Relief Society.35
Dec. 12th, 1872, Sister Rosalthe Canfield resigned as Treasurer, and Sister H. [Huldah] M. Ballantyne [p. 32] was elected to that office. At the same time, the 12th and 13th Districts were dropped from the Society, as they had been organized by themselves. Jan. 30th 1873 a vote was taken that the 14th district be known as the 12th The 3d district was also dropped from the Society, having been organized by itself.36
June 11th 1874, Sister H. M. Ballantyne resigned her office as treasurer and Sister E. [Elizabeth] Y. Stanford was elected to succeed her. Sister Stanford resigned May 27th 1875, and Sister Emily S. Richards was elected to that office.
From Sep. 28th 1876 to Jan. 31st 1877, meetings were again suspended on account of Small Pox.37 Since that time, by the desires and wishes of the sisters, meetings have been held weekly. All felt to render heart felt gratitude to God for His preserving care that had been over them, and to acknowledge His hand in all things. Many had been called to part with friends that were near and dear unto them, and all felt it a great privilege to be able to meet again and bear testimony to the work we are engaged in, and speak of the Goodness of God.
Much praise is due to the sisters of the society; for their energy and perseverence in assisting our President; also, for their untiring efforts in behalf of the sick and needy. May this energetic and kindly feeling never slacken. But may we ever feel to press onward in the cause we are engaged in, seeking to gain the prize that is for the faithful.
We now come to the financial part of our report. As near as we can estimate, four thousand nine hundred seventy six Dollars and five cents, ($4,976.05) has been received. This amount has been collected by the energy of the teachers and committies, and through the liberality of the saints, also by making rag carpets [p. 33] bed quilts and various other articles; and by giving dancing parties, tea parties, and social entertainments.
The means thus procured has been disbursed in the following manner. Towards building Ladies County Cooperative Store;38 Emmigration; Missionary purposes; Sending two sisters to the Medical lectures of Doctor Mary Barker, Salt Lake City—39 Taking care of Sister Peterson when she lost her arm, and helping to purchase an artificial one for her. Towards the culture of silk. Building and furnishing the Ogden City Relief Society Straw Store.40 For the raising of flax. For Endowment clothes used in time of small pox.41 Two shares for the Woman’s Book.42 Besides constantly donating to the wants of the sick and needy, and for other charitable purposes.
We have still on hand our interest in the Ladies County Cooperative Store. We own the Relief Society Straw Store, and the furniture in it, also some flax. Two shares in the Woman’s Book, and a few quilts. The sisters have made some quilts for the Temple, but the money donations they have given to their Bishops.43 Many sisters responded to the call for the culture of silk. Mulberry trees have been set out and some cocoons have been raised. There is on hand in money and wheat, at the rate of 90 cts per bushel, 172½ Bushels.
In holding meetings here today, we remember that we had our Beloved President Brigham Young with us at our last meeting, and in obedience to his counsel these meetings are held. May the Spirit of God rest upon each and every one of us, and help us to carry out his counsels.
Amela M. Frodsham
Emily S. Richards [p. 34]
Jane S. Richards—Pres.
Harriet C. Brown
Sarah Herrick Coun.