Eliza R. Snow and Sarah M. Kimball, “The Relief Society,” March 1, 1883
Eliza R. Snow and Sarah M. Kimball, “The Relief Society,” Woman’s Exponent (Salt Lake City, UT), Mar. 1, 1883, vol. 11, no. 19, pp. 148–149.
See images of the original document at lib.byu.edu, courtesy of Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT.
The following document is a March 1883 call from Eliza R. Snow and Sarah M. Kimball for local Relief Societies to send reports twice a year to Kimball as secretary of the Central Board of the Relief Society. Reports of local Relief Societies were already a part of stake Relief Society records.1 When Brigham Young formally organized the first stake Relief Society in Ogden, Utah, in July 1877, he suggested that the organization hold quarterly meetings.2 At the women’s next meeting on October 30, financial reports were “read dating back to the organization of each separate branch of the Society in that county. The condition of each Society in all special respects was also reported in writing.”3 As other stake Relief Society presidencies were formed, they adopted similar record-keeping practices.4
Shortly after Sarah M. Kimball was installed as secretary to the Central Board in 1880, she asked stake secretaries to send her statistical and financial reports of Relief Societies from April 1, 1876, to 1880. Secretaries were also to submit a semiannual report from that time forward.5 These reports were used by the Central Board to compile a general report of the organization for use in the semiannual general conferences of the church. While it appears these reports were not generally read over the pulpit at the conference, one exception comes from the April 1881 general conference. The Central Board report, read by George Q. Cannon of the First Presidency, noted that the Relief Society had over 12,000 members, 960 of whom subscribed to the Woman’s Exponent. The societies had donated $3,468 to the poor, $1,214 to temples, $1,617 to other buildings, and $689 to home industries. Assets on hand included $3,342 in cash; property worth $24,099; and 9,859 bushels of wheat. Cannon “passed a high encomium on the neat and comprehensive report the ladies had presented, and also on the labors that the sisters have so zealously performed.”6
Beginning in 1893, local reports were submitted annually rather than semiannually.7 Obtaining reports from every ward and branch proved to be a challenge. Mary Isabella Horne, who served as Salt Lake Stake Relief Society president and as treasurer in the general presidency, lamented in 1896 that only twenty-six of fifty Relief Societies in her stake had submitted their reports: “The failure of these wards to send in their reports makes one sorry and angry, for the Salt Lake Stake is looked upon as a pattern.”8 Local Relief Societies continued to submit annual reports to the general Relief Society presidency until at least 1975.9 General Relief Society reports appeared sporadically in the Woman’s Exponent and were consistently featured in the Relief Society Magazine between 1915 and 1970.10
THE RELIEF SOCIETY.
The Relief Society of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is expected to report semi-annually to the General Conferences in this city, held in April and October, its [p. 148] complete statistical and financial condition. In order to make this report properly, it is necesary to receive particulars of all organizations of the Relief Society in our own and foreign countries. Therefore, when such organizations exist that are not included in the several Stakes of Zion here at home (that report through the Stake Secretary) they should be reported separately in branches to the Secretary of the Central Board, Mrs. Sarah M. Kimball, Salt Lake City, Utah, Box 785, as soon as practicable, now and hereafter twice a year, in time for the general reports. As we are aware there are many of these branches of the Relief Society that have never reported at all, we would suggest that in the first report made they give date of organization and what Elders officiated in organizing; names of officers and such other data as relate thereto; that all may be recorded in perfect order, and in a thorough business-like manner. Hoping that this request may meet with a ready response, and ever praying for those engaged in this great and good work, we are your sisters in the Gospel,
Eliza R. Snow Smith, Pres.,
Sarah M. Kimball, Sec.,
Central Board Relief Society.