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Sarah M. Kimball and Eliza R. Snow, “Duty of Officers of F R Society,” circa May 1868

Sarah M. Kimball and Eliza R. Snow, “Duty of Officers of F R Society,” [ca. May 1868]; Fifteenth Ward, Salt Lake Stake, Relief Society Minutes, Mar. 1868–May 1869, undated entry, pp. 36–39, CHL (LR 2848 32).

See images of the original document at

Sarah M. Granger Kimball was a founding member of the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo and of its predecessor, the nascent sewing society that precipitated Joseph Smith’s official organization of Latter-day Saint women in 1842.1 Kimball was “essentially an organizer,” wrote an early historian of the Relief Society who had known Kimball. “Many Relief Society enterprises were conceived by her fertile brain and afterwards adopted by that wise leader, Eliza R. Snow.” A Relief Society had functioned in the Salt Lake City Fifteenth Ward from 1855 to 1858, and Kimball served as its president for about one year until spring 1858, when operations halted because of the massive evacuation of northern Utah settlements during the Utah War.2 She was called again as president when the Fifteenth Ward Relief Society reorganized in January 1868 and served in that capacity until her death in 1898.3 Kimball recommenced her labors by noting “she had had some experience in the Practical Workings of the F[emale] R[elief] S[ociety] and felt that considerable good had been accomplished through it and she had been Blessed in Labouring in connection with the Society.”4

Kimball composed the document featured below with Snow, her longtime friend, in the early months of 1868. Though the title of the featured document indicates it was written by Kimball and revised by Snow, this version has no substantive revisions, meaning an earlier draft must have once existed.

“Duty of Officers,” a description of Relief Society officers and their responsibilities, includes offices established in the first meeting of the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo: president and two counselors, secretary, assistant secretary, and treasurer. Joseph Smith further had invited the members of the society to create additional offices as needed: “If any Officers are wanted to carry out the designs of the Institution, let them be appointed and set apart, as Deacons, Teachers &c. are among us.”5 Nauvoo women added additional officers when they set up the first Relief Society visiting committees in July 1843.6 In this document Kimball and Snow gave individual members of the visiting committees the enduring title of teacher, and they further expanded the organizational structure by designating other officers. “Duty of Officers,” which exists today as a bound gathering of pages, was copied probably in May 1868 with revisions into the Fifteenth Ward Relief Society’s bound minute book, and a number of additional revisions were then marked on that document under Kimball’s direction.7 Significant differences between the featured document and the later copy are identified in footnotes below.

The Fifteenth Ward boundaries ran from South Temple Street on the north to 300 South Street and from present-day 300 West Street to as far west as the Jordan River.8

Duties of Relief society officers

Duties of Relief Society officers. Eliza R. Snow and Sarah M. Kimball composed this document to expand the structure of the Salt Lake City Fifteenth Ward Relief Society. They created additional offices to meet the increasing scope of Relief Society endeavors. In Nauvoo, Joseph Smith had invited the Relief Society presidency to appoint officers as needed to “carry out the designs of the Institution.” Snow drew upon “Duty of Officers” as she visited and corresponded with local Relief Societies throughout the church. (Church History Library, Salt Lake City.)

Duty of Officers of F R Society.9

Written by S M Kimball, revised by E R Snow.10

1st It is the duty of the Presidentess11 to have the general oversight of the affairs and interest of the Society—it is her duty to preside and instruct.



It is their duty to counsel with the Pres. and to seek to sustain and assist her—It is also their duty to preside and transact business in her absence.



It is the Secretarys duty to take minutes of all general meetings. and a synopsis of all Committee reports—to furnish the Pres. with orders and receipts,12 to make out bills of Merchandise and consignment. To conduct business correspondence, &c &c. Her book must contain the general record and history of the Society.13



It is her duty to hold the funds of the Society [p. [36]] Subject to the orders of the Pres—to minute all receipts and disbursements and to report when required.14


Presidentess and counsil of Teachers.15

It is their duty to preserve order—to preside and instruct in the meetings of that quorum and to see that each teacher16 performs the duties of her office properly.

Secretary of Teachers quorum should take minutes of their meetings and hand a copy to the Secretary of Society.



It is the duty of Teachers18 to visit their respective blocks once a month. to inquire after the prosperity and happiness of the members, It is their duty to speak words of wisdom of consolation and peace. It is also their duty to know that the sick are properly taken care of, and if any are in need of assistance from the society—it is the Teachers duty to report to the Pres of their quorum. It is also their duty to receive donations in behalf of the Society, and bring the same to the general meetings, &c &c. [p. [37]]19



It is their duty to open the Hall—adjust seats and to see that the room is in proper order to receive the members—to provide fresh21 water if necessary—to attend to lights and fire—in short to make everything as pleasant and agreeable as possible for the meetings,



It is their duty to do such errands as the business of the meetings may require.


Superintendents of work.

They attend to arranging, distributing and putting up the work with all the etc thereunto belonging.22


Board of Apprezers.

It is their duty to prize articles and see that they are properly labelled.


Commission Merchantess.23

She receives such articles as are to be sold or exchanged and is Subject to such rules as govern commission business. [p. [38]]


Duty of all

It is the duty if all to uphold the and officers, to sustain the reputation of the Society, and to hold each others characters sacred—To be just and truthful in all their sayings and doings—To do all in their power to promote happiness at home. and to use every laudible means to extend the influence of the Society [p. [39]]24


  1. [1]See Document 4.10.

  2. [2]Susa Young Gates, “Relief Society Beginnings in Utah,” Relief Society Magazine, Apr. 1922, 187–188. For more on the impact of the Utah War on Relief Society operations, see the introduction to Part 2.

  3. [3]The society was reorganized by Bishop Robert T. Burton on January 2, 1868; Kimball and some of the former officers resumed their previous positions. (Fifteenth Ward, Salt Lake Stake, Fifteenth Ward Relief Society Annual Message, 1873, CHL.)

  4. [4]Fifteenth Ward, Riverside Stake, Fifteenth Ward Relief Society Minutes and Records, 1868–1968, CHL, vol. 1, Jan. 2, 1868.

  5. [5]Document 1.2, entry for Mar. 17, 1842.

  6. [6]Document 1.2, entry for July 28, 1843.

  7. [7]Fifteenth Ward, Riverside Stake, Relief Society Minutes and Records, “Relief Society Duties,” vol. 1, pp. 42–43. An inserted slip of paper in the volume outlines duties for two additional officers, auditor and historian; see 289n157 herein.

  8. [8]Brandon S. Plewe, “The Emergence of Modern Stakes and Wards,” in Mapping Mormonism: An Atlas of Latter-day Saint History, ed. Brandon S. Plewe (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 2012), 102.

  9. [9]In the later revised version in the bound record book in the Fifteenth Ward Minutes (hereafter “later version”), the title is struck through and replaced with “Relief Society duties.”

  10. [10]In the later version, the phrase about Snow having revised the document is struck through.

  11. [11]The use of the “-ess” suffix to form distinctively female nouns, such as “presidentess” (here) and “deaconess” and “merchantess” (below), underscored the gender of the officers, though these forms were not used universally.

  12. [12]In the later version, “furnish the Pres.” is struck through and then written back in, “such” is added before “orders,” and “as required” is added after “receipts,”.

  13. [13]In the later version, the final sentence of this paragraph is crossed out and a new sentence is added: “A corresponding sec. may be Elected.”

  14. [14]In the later version, an additional sentence is added at this point: “She should furnish coppy to Auditor of Accts.”

  15. [15]In the later version, “Teachers” is struck through and replaced by “Committee.”

  16. [16]In the later version, “teacher” is struck through and “member of committee” inserted.

  17. [17]In the later version, “Teachers” is overwritten by “Committee.”

  18. [18]In the later version, this line reads, “It is their duty to visit the members on their respective blocks …”.

  19. [19]In the later version, the phrase after “Society,” is revised to read as follows: “and deposite the same with the Treasurer &c &c.”

  20. [20]In the later version, “Deaconesses” is replaced by “Deacons.” Teacher (an office mentioned earlier in the document) and deacon are offices in the Aaronic Priesthood. No records show the conferral of the Aaronic Priesthood upon women, including women who served in the Relief Society offices of teacher and deaconess (or deacon). The term “deaconess” was never widely adopted, but “teacher” continued as the title for society members assigned to visit women living in specific sections or districts of their wards. (See, for example, Doctrine and Covenants 84:30; for an example of the interchangeable use of “teacher” and “visiting teacher,” see Handbook of the Relief Society of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints [Salt Lake City: General Board of the Relief Society, 1931], 148–149.)

  21. [21]The word “fresh” is not included in the later version.

  22. [22]In the later version, “thereunto belonging” is struck through.

  23. [23]The later version has “Merchant.”

  24. [24]Two scraps of paper, pinned together and inserted into the bound volume in which the later version is copied, include information about two additional offices: “Auditor’s work to examine and attest Society accounts” and “Society Historian Should survey the past and present condition of the Society and make a faithful record that will be worthy of preservation and useful for reference.”