At the fortieth anniversary of the founding of the Relief Society, Sarah M. Kimball gave the following account of the society’s origins.1 Kimball was well qualified to address the subject. As she recalled to a group of men and women gathered to celebrate the anniversary on March 17, 1882, her desire to contribute to the construction of the Nauvoo temple had helped lead to the organization of the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo and she had been one of its charter members. From 1842 to 1882 the Relief Society had remained a vital part of her life,2 and her years of Relief Society service reflected the organization’s accomplishments since its founding. She served for several decades as president of the Fifteenth Ward Relief Society in Salt Lake City, while serving for seven years as secretary of the Central Board under Eliza R. Snow.3 She was the first ward Relief Society president to have a separate Relief Society hall built for ward members.4 In 1877 the Fifteenth Ward Relief Society under her direction also completed a grain storage facility for wheat, “built of rock with tin roof, brick floor underlaid with concrete,” as part of their grain saving movement.5
March 17th 1882
Early Relief Society reminesence
Sister Geo. Godard [Elizabeth Goddard] invited a goodly no. of brethren and sisters to their pleasant home in 14th Ward S. L. City to selebrate the 40th (fortieth) Annaversary of the organisation of the Relief Society by the Prophet Joseph Smith.
The following brief account of the origin of the Society was given by Sarah M, Kimball.
March 1, 1842 The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints was poor in worldly goods and earnest in devotion to the labors required.— The Nauvoo Temple walls were about three feet high, Strong appeals were being made by the President of the Church and others for help to forward the work.
M,iss [Margaret] Cook a maiden lady Seemstress, one day in conversation with me on the subject of a recent appeal for provisions, clothing, beding and general supplies for the workmen and their families, remarked that she would be pleased to contribute needle work if it could be made available. I proffered material for her to make up, and suggested that others might feel as we did. We then agitated the subject of organising a Sewing Society. The object of which should be to aid in the erection of the Temple
About a dozen of the neighboring Sisters by invitation met in my parlor the following Thursday and the subject was further discused, and approved Sister Rigden [Phebe Rigdon] suggested that Sister E. R. Snow be invited to take part and to assist in getting up a Constitution and Bye-laws, the Speaker was delegated to wait on Miss Snow and solicit her aid which was cheerfully and efficiently rendered. A Constitution and bye laws was prepared and submitted to President Joseph Smith. He pronounced it the best constitution that he ever read, then remarked this is not what the sisters want, there is something better for them. I have desired to organise the Sisters in the order of the Priesthood I now have the key by which I can do it6 [p. 29]
The organisation of the Church of Christ was never perfect until the women were organised. He then said I want you (E. R. Snow) to tell the sisters who delegated you that their offering is accepted of the Lord, and will result in blessing to them. He further said I want the adjourned meeting to meet with me and a few of the brethren in the Masonic Hall on Thursday at 1. P. M. next,7 And I will organise you in the Order of the Priesthood after the pattern of the church. And I wish Emma to be nominated and elected President of the Organisation in fulfilment of the revelation in the Doctrine and Covenants which Says She is an Elect Lady.8 An Elect Lady is one who is elected9 [p. 30]