On July 19, 1888, a Relief Society meeting was held in Ogden to commemorate the eleventh anniversary of Brigham Young’s appointment of Jane Snyder Richards as the church’s first stake Relief Society president.1 The congregation heard several speeches during the lengthy meeting, including a brief address by Jane Richards and a more extended speech by her husband, Franklin D. Richards, which is featured below. Franklin and Jane Richards, who married in 1842 in Illinois, had moved to Ogden, Weber County, in 1869. Franklin Richards, ordained an apostle in 1849, also served for several years as the president of the Weber Stake. Jane Richards became president of the Ogden Ward Relief Society in 1872 and then president of the Weber Stake Relief Society in 1877.2 In addition to her stake duties, she was set apart as first counselor to Zina D. H. Young in the general Relief Society presidency on October 11, 1888.3
As is evident in the document below, Franklin Richards actively promoted women’s advancement, believing benefits would accrue to both women and the church when the women fully engaged in developing their talents. After Franklin Richards accompanied Jane Richards, Eliza R. Snow, and other female leaders to a Relief Society meeting in Ogden in April 1875, he reflected: “These Sisters teach many good things—and in a sphere which the Elders do not seem to occupy. I find it strengthens our hands to encourage them.”4
During his July 1888 address in Ogden, Franklin Richards read excerpts from an account of Joseph Smith’s April 28, 1842, discourse to the Nauvoo Relief Society, in which Smith lectured “on the pries[t]hood shewing how the Sisters would come in possession of the priviliges & blesings & gifts of the priesthood.”5 Richards’s explanation of the discourse centered on the blessings of the endowment (a ritual performed in temples), which, he assured the congregation, were accessible to both men and women. On July 30 Richards recorded in his journal that he “obtained of Brother John M. Whitaker a large share of Report of the proceedings on the 19th inst at Ogden anniversary meeting and spent much of the day revising and preparing it for Sister E. [Emmeline] B. Wells to publish in the Woman’s Exponent.”6 The full proceedings were printed in the Exponent in four installments between August 1 and September 15, 1888, with Whittaker identified as the reporter.
Report of the Relief Soicety Meeting held in the Ogden Tabernacle, July 19th, 1888, in Commemoration of the Last Public Visit and Instructions of President Brigham Young, on Invitation of President Jane S. Richards, to the Relief Society and Young Ladies’ Improvement Associations of the Weber Stake of Zion, just Eleven Years ago the 19th inst.
(reported by john m whittaker.)
7… President F. D. Richards spoke as follows:
Being called upon by the sisters to address you for a short time this afternoon, I wish to introduce my remarks by first saying, that Sister [Sarah] Herrick, who has just addressed you, is the Stake Prest. of the Y. L. M. I. A. for Weber County, which, perhaps, I should have stated at the opening of her remarks. She, therefore, spoke in behalf of the Young Ladies of this Stake.
One day this week, it was my privilege to be in company with our beloved President Woodruff, and with some other of the brethren who are associated with him in a state of obscurity, and who do not make their appearance in public assemblies.8 I made mention of this occasion, with an invitation, if it had been reasonable and consistent for them, to meet with us. And inasmuch as they felt that they could not, he bid me express his love and good wishes to the sisters of the Relief Society and the Young Ladies’ Associations, and any and all who might be present who love the work in which we are engaged, and said it would be impossible to attend, though he would like to have done so exceeding much. He referred to a very interesting party he attended here some [p. 52] years ago, given on the anniversary of Sister Eliza R. Snow Smith’s birthday, which many of the Saints present, no doubt, remember. He thought it was the best sister’s party he had ever attended.9
Our brethren, who are hidden from our society for the present, are always solicitous and anxious for the prosperity of the Church in all its various departments; and they watch over every part of the work of which God has made them overseers, with the deepest solicitude, prayerfulness of heart and with earnestness for its prosperity.
I realize that I am addressing representative ladies of the Weber Stake of Zion, presidents of the Relief Society and associations generally, and many others as well. I always feel anxious when I address my sisters to say something that shall encourage them in their work; because they naturally feel timid and backward and have a reluctance to assume public positions, or public duties, because some think they are making themselves too officious in public, and that ladies have no rights in public duties.
Some of the sisters feel intimidated in their meetings when the brethren are present; while others believe that if the brethren would attend and give them counsel and encouragement, they would be stronger and more able to launch out in the liberty of the spirit and discharge the duties incumbent upon them with a consciousness and heavenly assurance, that would result in the blessings of God upon their labors. It has been so from the beginning of this work that has been laid upon the sisters; it has been looked upon by some of them as being something out of their line and place. Every now and again we hear men speak tauntingly of the sisters and lightly of their public duties. instead of supporting and encouraging them. There are also some who look with jealousy upon the moves of the sisters as though they might come to possess some of the gifts, and are afraid they will get away with some of the blessings of the Gospel, which only men ought to possess. That is the way some look upon woman and her work. They don’t like to accord to them anything that will raise them up and make their talents to shine forth as the daughters of Eve and of Sarah. But have feelings of envy and jealousy; and instead of dealing open handedly with them, tell them to go forward and do all the good they can, it seems as though they would like to keep them back and not let them do anything,—more than is really necessary.
I am sorry to see this feeling. The brethren should understand and see that in so doing they are opposing themselves. Inasmuch as the sisters do not arrogate authority to themselves I think the brethren, by hindering them, withhold blessings from themselves; if they would work with the sisters they would be more abundantly blessed. The Presidents and Bishops would realize multiplied blessings upon their own heads. Is it not more honorable for a king to rule over a wealthy and noble race, than one reduced to poverty, ignorance and serfdom? Is it not more honorable to preside over a nation that is enlightened, intelligent and enterprising? Is it not much more glorious and honorable to preside over those who are full of faith, who are active in good works, and who are filled with the power of God? Certainly it is. When the sisters have the spirit of their work upon them, they will labor with an honest zeal in the midst of their societies, and it adds blessings thereto. There is no Bishop that encourages and supports an institution of this kind, but who realizes and must acknowledge that these sisters in their different callings, lessen his labors, make easy his calling and add to the efficiency of his Stake or ward. The Bishops who do this will be blessed and are blessed at all times.
When I arise to teach the sisters, I am benefitting the teachers and the authorities of the Church in Zion. I do not feel at any time to withhold or be reluctant in instructing or speaking well of them and their labors in the Church. I know that many are afraid to go ahead and do anything without instructions, for fear they may do wrong. And they thus are prevented from doing many things that would materially assist the cause, for fear they may do wrong.
Sisters, do right. Where you desire to launch out and do right, do so, and God will sanctify your labors to the good of your sisters, and also the good of the brethren; and you will make your husbands far more useful wives. You will have more obedient daughters, more dutiful children; children that are more affectionate, true, honorable, faithful, and who, in their turn, will make more honorable husbands and more dutiful wives.
I wish to say to you this afternoon, sisters of the Relief Society and of the Young Ladies’ Associations, that while it is expected of you that you will visit the sick, that you shall see to it that none of the brethren and sisters suffer from poverty or for the want of the necessaries of life, while it is your duty and privilege to minister to each other and those around you, and even when life has departed, you are to look after them and see that they have proper clothing and burial—I say, while you have these duties continually upon you, you have other privileges and rights, which are known to us and the people in general. It is pleasing to hear the Bishops report to the quarterly conferences the faithfulness of the Relief Society, and the aid they have derived from them, the relief they find by having them to call upon them for aid, and the efficient manner in which they respond to every need.
The Relief Society of Weber Stake raised between $500 and $600, and gave it as a donation to help finish the Logan Temple—a nice little item, which the building committee acknowledged with gratitude, and every name of those who donated was written in the records of the Temple.10
In looking over the lists, I find that there is considerable over $500 donated by the Weber societies towards finishing the Manti Temple.11 The donations from this Stake on the Manti Records, cover eighty pages, and over forty lines to a page, and has on each line the name of the person and the amount paid.
Sisters, tell it to your children at home, that in these records is contained over $100, paid by the little ones of the Primaries; and each boy or girl has their name written there, credited to a nickle, dime or quarter, as the case may be, and it shows who have contributed anything to assist in the completion of that beautiful building. These records will be placed in the Temple at Manti, and will be kept as a perpetual remembrance.
Besides this, the Relief Society of Weber Stake, during the past six years, or there about, since the Deseret Hospital12 was organized into an association, has contributed, as near as I can recollect, something over one thousand dollars to help maintain and conduct that charitable institution.13 Some months ago we made application to the Secretary to give us a statement of the number of cases, the kind of affliction, what number got well, what number died, the amount experded [expended], the amount received, etc., etc., in order that it may be known how it stands, what good it has done, and the status of the association at the present time, in order that it may receive the attention and encouragement it should have. I have been told repeatedly what you have a right to know, that Weber County has been second to none, or only one among the Stakes, who have donated for its support.
In all these lists there is contained in the records concerning the Manti Temple and other things, no less than 3,400 names from this Stake of Zion.
The sisters of the Relief Society at the present time, feel very much the loss of their President Sister Eliza R. Snow Smith. Sister Eliza having passed away, after an illness of more than a year, during which she was unable to attend public meetings. Sister Zina D. Young, her successor, is absent for a short time, but is expected home soon, when she will visit the different branches of the Society, attend to her duties and give advice, as Sister Eliza used to do.14
This is a great work. It is a vast auxiliary. It is one of those things spoken of in the Scriptures as “helps” to the government of the kingdom of God. Sisters, be diligent in all things, no matter how the brethren may look upon you. Your organization is just as important as any other in the Church, outside of the priesthood. It has been instituted by the highest authority on earth in this dispensation. It was appointed and established by the Prophet Joseph Smith, in Nauvoo. I am glad that there are some here to-day who were there at that meeting, and who listened to the instructions of the Prophet of God. Sister Eliza was Secretary at the time of the organization. Sister Emma Smith was the presiding officer of that institution, and she was blessed under the hands of Presidents Joseph Smith and John Taylor, to expound the Scriptures and administer to the Saints in this holy office and presidency.
I wish to make a few remarks concerning it and its significance, as it appears to me, for the encouragement of the sisters; and in doing so, I shall refer to some of the sayings of the Prophet Joseph in instituting it. In April, 1842, he made an appointment with the Relief Society in the city of Nauvoo. He attended that meeting and lectured to the sisters himself.15 There are several present here to-day, who were there and heard him speak, as did also myself. Here are Presendia L. Kimball, Bathsheba W. Smith, Jane S. Richards, and if I could mention them all, there would be quite a number here who were members of that Society.
The Prophet Joseph treated upon the gifts and blessings of the priesthood to be enjoyed by all those who believed, and also upon the character of the work devolved upon its members. And he read, concerning the blessings which he wanted them to understand, were theirs if they would live for them. He read a portion of the 16th chapter of St. Mark, where it says: “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be dammed. And these signs shall follow them that believe: In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover.”16
He [Joseph Smith] said, in relation to the females administering to the sick, that there could be no more wrong in it, than in performing any other ordinance of the Church if the Lord gave His sanction by healing the sick under the hands of the sisters.
I will read from the minutes which were taken on that occasion by Sister Eliza:17
He continued to read the chapter, and give instructions respecting the different offices, and the necessity of every individual acting in the sphere allotted him or her, and filling the several offices to which they were appointed.18
He said the reason of these remarks being made was, that some little foolish things were circulating in the society, against some sisters not doing right in laying hands on the sick. Said if the people had common sympathies they would rejoice that the sick could be healed; that the time had not been before that these things could be in their proper order; that the Church is not fully organized, in its proper order, and cannot be, until the Temple is completed, where places will be provided for the administration of the ordinances of the Priesthood.
Elder Richards here remarked: [p. 53]
This was just before he commenced giving endowments,19 and was hastening the work of the Temple to get ready for it; and he says, that
as he had this opportunity, he was going to instruct the ladies of this Society, and point out the way for them to conduct themselves, that they might act according to the will of God; that he did not know that he should have many opportunities of teaching them, as they were going to be left to themselves; they would not long have him to instruct them; that the Church would not have his instructions long, and the world would not be troubled with him a great while, and would not have his teachings.
He spoke of delivering the keys of the Priesthood to the Church, and said that the faithful members of the Relief Society should receive them in connection with their husbands,20 that Saints whose integrity has been tried and proved faithful, might know how to ask the Lord and receive an answer; for according to his prayers, God had appointed him elsewhere.
He exhorted the sisters always to concentrate their faith and prayers for, and place confidence in their husbands, whom God had appointed for them to honor, and in those faithful men whom God has placed at the head of the Church to lead His people; that we should arm and sustain them with our prayers; for the keys of the kingdom are about to be given to them, that they may be able to detect everything false; as well as to all the Elders who shall prove their integrity in due season.21
President Smith then gave instruction respecting the propriety of females administering to the sick by the prayer of faith, and laying on of hands, or the anointing with oil; and said it was according to revelation that the sick should be nursed with herbs and mild food, and not by the hand of an enemy. Who are better qualified to administer than our faithful and zealous sisters, whose hearts are full of faith, tenderness, sympathy, and compassion? No one. Said he was never placed in similar circumstances before, and never had given the same instruction; and closed his instructions by expressing his heartfelt satisfaction in improving this opportunity.
The Spirit of the Lord was poured out in a very powerful manner, never to be forgotten by those present on this interesting occasion.
Elder Richards continuing said: I ask any and everybody present who have received their endowments, whether he be a brother Apostle, Bishop, High Priest, Elder, or whatever office he may hold in the Church, “What blessings did you receive, what ordinance, what power, intelligence, sanctification or grace did you receive that your wife did not partake of with you?” I will answer, that there was one thing that our wives were not made special partakers of, and that was the ordination to the various orders of the priesthood which were conferred upon us. Aside from that, our sisters share with us any and all of the ordinances of the holy anointing, endowments, sealings, sanctifications and blessings that we have been made partakers of.
Now, I ask you: Is it possible that we have the holy priesthood and our wives have none of it? Do you not see, by what I have read, that Joseph desired to confer these keys of power upon them in connection with their husbands? I hold that a faithful wife has certain blessings, powers and rights, and is made partaker of certain gifts and blessings and promises with her husband, which she cannot be deprived of, except by transgression of the holy order of God. They shall enjoy what God said they should. And these signs shall follow them if they believe.22
Moses said, when some one told him that a certain man was prophesying in the camp, and the people thought he had no right to do so, Moses replied saying: “I would to God that all of the Lord’s people were prophets.”23 So I say: I wish all the sisters were so faithful that they were healers of the sick, through the power of God.24 Then would their children have a foundation to grow up from their youth in the fear and admonition of the Lord and in the power of His might. Sister Eliza R. Snow Smith learned some of these things from the Prophet Joseph Smith; and as he was the organizer of the Church of Christ, so she went through the Territory organizing Relief Societies, and did a wonderful work. She partook of the power of her distinguished husband.
Sisters, may the Lord bless you. Bishops, may the Lord bless us all and give us the spirit of liberality. The more we do for the sisters, the more they will do for us; and so may the Spirit of the Lord bless us all with the feeling of liberality to all, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.25