Two days after President Brigham Young publicly invited bishops to organize Relief Societies in their respective wards,1 Deseret News editor George Q. Cannon, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, published in the semiweekly edition of the News the following editorial encouraging bishops and female Saints to follow Young’s counsel.2 He republished the editorial eight days later in the weekly edition of the Deseret News, which also carried Young’s discourse in its entirety.3 The “Female Relief Societies” editorial emphasized not only the importance of helping the poor but also the opportunity presented to women to step forward and undertake a more active role within the church organization.
FEMALE RELIEF SOCIETIES.
4… Our land is a cold one in Winter; but for the number of our population, and the large proportion of laboring people there are here, we have comparatively few who are destitute. Hundreds of poor people have been brought here yearly, most of them entirely ignorant of the modes of obtaining a living in a new country, and in many instances they have had to adopt new employments.5 But, through the guidance and example of experienced men, they have been enabled to live, and, not unfrequently, surround themselves with the comforts and even the luxuries of life. The success which has attended the labors of the people is truly wonderful. But though prosperity generally prevails throughout our settlements, there are some helpless persons in every Ward who are dependent upon the Bishops for the necessaries of life. The care of the indigent at this season of the year forms no small portion of a Bishop’s labors and responsibilities. As a people we should be sensitively careful of our poor. Their prayers and cries ascend to the Lord, and the people whose hands are open to relieve their wants, are blessed of Him.
There is really no necessity for any person to suffer in this community for want of the necessaries of life. Our people believe too firmly in the Scripture that “he that hath pity upon the poor, lendeth to the Lord,”6 to knowingly permit any person to go destitute while they have anything to share with them. The Bishops have so many cares devolving upon them, so many duties to attend to, that it would not be surprising if, occasionally, some persons, who need assistance should escape their attention. If proper measures, however, were taken in the various Wards, the wants of all might be duly attended to. Many of the poor have heretofore, been dependent upon the Tithing Office for their support. It is now desirable that that Department should be relieved from their calls, that the work of cutting stone, &c., for the Temple may be prosecuted. The care of the poor, therefore, now devolves upon the Bishops.
President Young has suggested a plan which, if rightly carried out, can not fail to relieve the Bishops from the care which they otherwise will be likely to have in providing for the poor. He suggests the organization of Female Relief Societies in the various Wards, whose duty it will be to visit the sick and the helpless and the needy, and learn their wants, and, under their Bishops, collect the means necessary to relieve them.7 This suggestion must strike every one, who reflects upon the subject, as admirably adapted to meet the wants of the case. These duties would be accepted readily, we believe, by our sisters, if they were satisfied that it was the wish of their Bishops for them to attend to them. There are very many who, we feel assured, would take especial pleasure in the vocation. It would present a field of usefulness to them that they would gladly enter upon. Though women are precluded by their sex from going abroad as missionaries, and from performing many labors which fall to the lot of man, they are not, therefore, devoid of interest in the progress of the Work, or destitute of the desire to contribute, to the full extent of their ability, to the accomplishment of God’s purposes.8 In the sphere which the President proposes they should occupy, there is room for extended usefulness. Woman is peculiarly adapted to fill it. She is, by nature, kind and sympathetic, and the sight of suffering awakens the kindliest emotions within her breast, and until that suffering is alleviated she cannot rest.
Man has his calling—there are duties for which he is peculiarly fitted. But for this class of duties to which we allude he has not the adaptability possessed by woman. They seem to come particularly within her province, and we have no doubt, if the Bishops will act upon the suggestion of the President, and organize these societies, and call the sisters to their aid, they will find that they have an auxiliary force on which they can rely, and one, too, that will relieve them from duties which sometimes press heavily upon them. It is President Young’s wish that the Bishops take this suggestion into consideration, and that in the Wards of this City, and in the country Wards where such Societies can find employment, they will take early steps to organize them.