Mary Isabella Horne was elected the first president of the Salt Lake Stake Relief Society on December 22, 1877. She had already served for a decade as president of the Salt Lake City Fourteenth Ward Relief Society and was the president of the Ladies’ Cooperative Retrenchment Society, an office she continued to hold until 1904.1 Eliza R. Snow called a special meeting at the Fourteenth Ward assembly rooms to follow the example of the Weber Stake in organizing the Relief Society on a stake level.2 As chair of the meeting, Snow announced that “President Young had inaugurated a movement previous to his death, which she considered proper to carry out.” Snow then nominated Horne as the stake Relief Society president, which was accepted by a unanimous vote of the assembly.3 This established the second stake Relief Society organization. The actions of the Salt Lake Stake were particularly important given the stake’s centrality and large size; it comprised over thirty wards spread throughout Salt Lake County and was by far the largest stake in terms of membership. Within the first year of its organization, the stake Relief Society counted 2,283 officers and members throughout the stake.4
In the following letter published in the Woman’s Exponent, Horne and her counselors, Elmina S. Taylor and Serepta M. Heywood, reviewed the history of the Relief Society and announced that societies would meet quarterly as stakes to report on the activities of the different branches of the organization.5
To the Presidents and Members of the Relief Society of Salt Lake Stake of Zion, Greeting!
Beloved Sisters:— Through revelation from God the Prophet Joseph Smith organized the first Society of sisters in this last dispensation, saying to the people that the Priesthood was not firmly established on the earth, without an organization of this kind.6 He gave the sisters much valuable instruction, and predicted a great future for this organization.7 In consequence of the exodus from Nauvoo, this Society was broken up. After the Saints were located in these valleys of the mountains, President Brigham Young counseled the organization of branches of this Society, in all the Stakes of Zion;8 and as the kingdom of God progresses in a more complete organization throughout all the different Stakes of Zion, so by the counsel of our late President are the Relief Societies being organized with a Presidency over the several Stakes of Zion, to meet once in three months and have Reports read from the different branches of the Relief Society through the county. As we have been elected to preside over this county, we feel much need of the Spirit of God to enable us in our weakness to discharge our duties in this position. We feel truly thankful that through the blessing of our Heavenly Father, we, His handmaidens are called to be co-laborers with our brethren in building up the kingdom of God upon the earth, in assisting to build Temples, wherein we can receive blessings for time and eternity. In all the ordinances received in the House of the Lord, woman stands beside the man, both for the living and the dead, showing that the man is not without the woman nor the woman without the man in the Lord.9 Then what manner of women should we be? Faithful in performing all the duties devolving upon us as daughters of God. Sisters, do we appreciate the privileges we enjoy, and the relationship we sustain to God, to each other, and to His kingdom on the earth? We know there are very many faithful sisters, striving with all their might to do all that is required of them. To all such we say, God bless you, sisters! and give you strength to do all your hearts desire to do in righteousness.
We shall be pleased to visit the different Societies whenever it is convenient to the Societies for us to do so. We would say to the Presidents, Be diligent in laying before the sisters the necessity of doing all they can to promote the interests of Zion, by sustaining our institutions of home-industry, as well as our own literature. We are convinced that there are hundreds of dollars sent out of this country every year for trashy literature in which there is no profit. Sustain our own publications—the Woman’s Exponent, the only woman’s paper published in Zion, our church works, Sister E. R. Snow’s poems, and the Woman’s Book, the Life of Brigham Young10—all these works will give the youth a knowledge of what the Saints had to endure while trying to establish the gospel on the earth. Much will be required at the hands of the parents, for the teachings and examples they give their children.
May peace and the blessing of God be in the hearts and habitations of all who are interested in the work of the Lord, is the prayer of
M. Isabella Horne, President,
Elmina S. Taylor,
Serepta M. Heywood, Counselors.