The following Woman’s Exponent articles provide a report of the Relief Society Jubilee celebration held in the tabernacle in Salt Lake City on March 17, 1892.1 The celebration, commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo, was an event of momentous significance to Relief Society women. The Woman’s Exponent predicted, “The Jubilee to be celebrated this year will crystalize the works and efforts of the women of Zion into something of greater magnitude and more extensive proportions than the Society has hitherto assumed.”2 President Zina D. H. Young, her officers, and the Central Board of the Relief Society planned the event, which was intended to acknowledge the accomplishments of the society in the past and herald the possibilities of its future. All the officers and members of the Central Board except Emmeline B. Wells, corresponding secretary, and Romania B. Pratt, assistant secretary, had been members of the Nauvoo Relief Society, and they invoked the words and promises of Joseph Smith throughout the general celebration in Salt Lake City and in the various ward and stake commemorations throughout the territory.
Displays in the Salt Lake City tabernacle included a floral representation of the key “turned to women” in Nauvoo by Joseph Smith and life-size portraits of Joseph Smith, Eliza R. Snow, and the current president, Zina D. H. Young, all of them hung on the pipes of the great tabernacle organ. Some wondered whether to include a portrait of the first Relief Society president, Emma Smith. Her decision to dissociate herself from the church under Brigham Young’s leadership and to remain in Nauvoo when the Saints moved west caused some to doubt the propriety of acknowledging her in the celebration. When asked for his opinion, church president Wilford Woodruff responded that “any one who opposed it must be very narrow minded indeed,” and so her life-size portrait appeared with the others.3
On March 17, 1892, which fell on Thursday, the same day of the week as the date of organization in 1842, the tabernacle was decorated with flags, bunting, and flowers. Relief Society officers and general church authorities spoke for the program. To unify the celebration between the events in Salt Lake City and celebrations in congregations throughout the church, each participating congregation offered a commemorative prayer at high noon, corresponding with the prayer Joseph F. Smith, a counselor in the First Presidency, offered in the Salt Lake tabernacle.4
Emmeline Wells penned the closing “sentiment” of the Jubilee program. “What does this woman’s Jubilee signify? not only that fifty years ago this organization was founded by a Prophet of God, but that woman is becoming emancipated from error and superstition and darkness. That light has come into the world, and the Gospel has made her free, that the key of knowledge has been turned, and she has drank inspiration at the divine fountain.” Fifty years after its inception, the Relief Society continued to gain meaning and strength from its Nauvoo roots.
RELIEF SOCIETY JUBILEE.
Exercises at the Tabernacle.
The celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the first organization of the Relief Society March 17, 1842, was held in the Large Tabernacle in Salt Lake City March 17, 1892, and was largely attended by those resident in the City, many strangers and tourists were also present. The stands were handsomely ornamented with flowering plants principally Calla and Easter lilies. The large organ was draped with stars and stripes, the flags extending across and a large oil painting of Joseph the prophet hung high in the centre, below it an immense key made of the most beautiful flowers, underneath which was the picture life-size of Emma Smith the first President of the Relief Society and on her right a picture of Eliza R. Snow the second President, and on her left that of Zina D. H. Young the present President.
Prof. Evan Stephens Musical Director had charge of the Tabernacle Choir, who furnished the singing and Prof. J. [Joseph] J. Daynes accompanied on the organ, the music was specially fine. On the stand was Pres. Joseph F. Smith of the First Presidency, Apostles John Henry Smith and Abraham H. Cannon, President Angus M. Cannon, Dr. James E. Talmage, and of the officers of the Central Board of the Relief Society, President, Zina D. H. Young; Counselor Bathsheba W. Smith; Sarah M. Kimball, Secretary; Romania B. Pratt, Ass’t. Secretary; M. Isabella Horne, Treasurer; E. B. Wells Cor. Sec’y.—also Zina Y. W. Card.5
The exercises of this happy occasion opened with the choir singing that Grand Invocation by Eliza R. Snow,
[“]O, my Father thou that dwellest.”6
Prayer was offered by President Angus M Cannon. The choir and congregation joined in singing the hymn,
“How firm a foundation ye saints of the Lord.”7
A most feeling and eloquent address of greeting and welcome was then delivered by,
president zina d. h. young
My brethren and sisters and friends, I ask an interest in your faith and prayers on this great occasion, so that the spirit of the living God may direct the few words I may utter. I now in the presence of God and before my brethren and sisters, hail this welcome day of Jubilee which has been set apart for us—the sisters of the Relief Society to assemble together. O, that my words could be heard by all people, not only by you my brethren and sisters in this Tabernacle and throughout Utah, but that they might be heard and understood by all the people of this continent, and not only this continent but the continents of Europe, Asia, Africa and the Islands of the Sea.
This day we greet you and all our sisters who are everywhere celebrating this occasion in commemoration of the organization, by the Prophet Joseph Smith, of the Relief Society.
We praise God that our ears have been saluted with the glad tidings of salvation again restored to the earth, through the instrumentality of the Prophet Joseph. We rejoice in the principles of the Gospel revealed from heaven in this age; that the Father and the Son condescended to appear to Joseph, in answer to his fervent prayer for light and knowledge, and that our Heavenly Father pointed to His Son and said “hear ye Him.”8 These things cause us to lift up our hearts to God with thanksgiving and blessing. This is a glorious day in which we live. It is the dispensation of the fulness of times when all things spoken by all the holy prophets will be fulfilled. This is a great day for the sisters of the Relief Society. The daughters of Zion have met here this day, as also wherever they are organized, to celebrate this day, the fiftieth anniversary of our organization and to lift our hearts in praise to God. We rejoice at having some of our leading brethren with us today. We anticipate having a good time. The peaceful influence of the spirit of the Lord is with us; it is full of life and joy.
A word as to the duties and labors of the members of these organizations, of the Relief Society is appropriate at this time; as sisters of this organization we have been set apart for the purpose of comforting and consoling the sick and afflicted the poor and distressed, particularly those who love and fear God; to comfort one another in every trial of life, and cheer the depressed in spirit, on all occasions; this is our special mission, therefore keep this in remembrance. If we continue to do these things in the spirit thereof, the Lord, at the time when He comes to make up His jewels, will approve of us.
My sisters everywhere who have humbly embraced the Gospel and are true to it are my sisters. I greet them as such. I pray God to pour out His spirit upon all of you today, and from this time forth. This is a day never to be forgotten because of the goodness of God to us. I hope the Presidents and members of every Relief Society on earth will have such a good time today as will never be forgotten by them. This is my prayer and desire in their behalf. As sisters we have to work out and secure our salvation. Let us honor the Lord for permitting us to live in this dispensation, also honor Him for the glorious principles of truth, light and life which He has revealed to us through His inspired servants.
We pray and ask our Heavenly Father to bless these our sisters, that they may continue to visit the poor and needy and see that none suffer among us. I trust our object will be to improve in good works, that the sisters, in addition to what they have already done, will build houses wherein they can hold their Relief Society meetings and worship the Lord.9 I hope that the sisters, through the blessings of God will be enabled to do this; that they will continue to sustain the hands of their Bishops, and work unitedly; that they will not neglect their families, nor idle their time away, but look after their home affairs as well as attend to the duties I have named. Let us help our Presidents and each other and stand shoulder to shoulder.
We are blessed with glorious privileges, and have been. The franchise so gloriously given us, and enjoyed so long, has been taken from us without cause. It may be restored to us again; let us hope for this.10 Let us be pure and upright in our lives and do good continually; be true and humble all our days; may we be guided by the spirit of the Lord day by day. Sisters let us bring up our children in the fear of God. Ask him to give you a portion of His holy spirit to guide you in all things. Do not neglect these matters sisters. See that you perform your duties humbly and faithfully every one of you. If there is one mother present here who does not teach and instruct her children properly, in such a way as the Lord approves of, I plead with you to do so. Call your children around you in the absence of the father, and pray with them. Teach them how to pray and the proper manner in which they should do so, that your prayers and theirs may be heard and answered with blessings upon your heads. Warn the children of the evils that surround us. Lift up your warning voice against temptations now so prevalent in our midst that they may not become a prey to these evils, but grow up in holiness and in purity before the Lord.
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Above all things may we so live as to have the spirit of the Lord dwelling in us continually. Let me say to you sisters be true helpmeets to your husbands. Be one with them in all things in righteousness. Let your desires be to make home what it should be.
When Joseph received his first vision he was told that his name would be spoken of for good or for evil by all men; from that day to the present time, this has been verified.11 We this day with the saints of God everywhere, honor the name because of his intregrity to God and the principles of light and truth which he was the instrument of restoring to the earth for our salvation, and that of the whole human family if they will but accept the glad message.
May God grant that we may stand firm and faithful to the truth, walking in humility and purity before Him; may His blessing attend this people throughout the world on this great and grand occasion, and henceforth. You mothers and daughters of Israel we greet you and ask the blessings of our Heavenly Father upon you and upon all His people on earth. These are the desires of my heart and may God grant them is my prayer for Jesus sake. Amen.
Mrs. Zina Y. W. Card next read in a very clear and distinct voice the Revelation given to Emma Smith, through Joseph the Seer in Harmony, Penn., July 1830, and published in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, wherein Sister Emma is called an Elect Lady.12
apostle abraham h. cannon.
I feel pleased, my brethren and sisters, at having this opportunity of assembling with so worthy an association as the Relief Society. It must be a source of pleasure to our sisters to look back upon the work which has been accomplished since the organization, by the Prophet Joseph, of this Society, and it must fill the hearts of many Latter-day Saints with joy and gratitude to think of the stupendous work which the sisters, connected with these Associations, have done. The great help they have been to the Church of Jesus Christ we poor mortals cannot conceive. But we do know of much that they have [a]ccomplished13 in [p. 140] their mission. We know many homes to which they have carried comfort and blessing of various kinds; in which they have provided food for the hungry and clothed the naked, and have administered relief to those who were sick and afflicted, God has been with these sisters in their ministrations. By the power of faith and detection which has attended them, a great many marvelous cures have been effected among the people through their prayers and good works. It has been a testimony to those who have witnessed these things that the power of God is in the Church, and is bestowed upon all those who seek Him in faith and in humility.
The work which has already been done by the sisters and the great good accomplished will be almost forgotten in the magnitude of that which the future will develop, for as the Church shall grow and as the honest in heart from the nations of the earth shall be gathered, the field for the exercise of the talents of our sisters will be greatly enlarged, far beyond that of which we can now form a conception, God will put it into the hearts of those who stand at the head of this institution to organize reforms and adopt such measures as shall be of greater benefit to our sisters and to the brethren than in the past. Their hearts and sympathies will become greater in the work of God.
Now, it seems to me, from the opportunities offered our sisters, even in this day they can use an influence and exercise their talents for great good among this people.
We speak of charity, of relief which should be given to the poor, but it is mistaken charity to give to those who are able to earn their own living. Such charity means the encouragement of idleness among this people, who ought to be a nation of workers, and become proficient and industrious in the various occupations of life. Not only young women, young men and middle aged men, but our older sisters also should have some object in life and work for its accomplishment. They should not alone be taught to use their brains but also their hands for the accumulation of the material things of life which are essential to our welfare.
I remember when upon my mission to Germany of visiting some of the Industrial Schools which are there established for girls and young women.14 They were taught therein the art of cooking and other household duties. They received instructions in these things, and were made to understand, to a certain extent at least, the duties which would devolve upon them when they became wives and mothers. In these schools they were also taught to sew and to do all kinds of fancy work to which women’s hands should be accustomed. Other institutions are in existence for the good and benefit of the young. It is considered a disgrace by the people there for a young woman to grow up in ignorance of the things pertaining to her life here upon the earth. But how is it with us? Among us today we find there are many growing up with an idea that it is a disgrace to work. Some of our girls seem to think they are gaining great advantages in acquiring the accomplishments which are to be had at schools or home as the case may be, where they receive knowledge of these things, but they forget the duties which will hereafter devolve upon them as wives and mothers in Israel. All such are illy preparing themselves for the great responsibilities which the near future will devolve upon them.
In my estimation it is the duty of our sisters, who have had long experience to impress our daughters with the necessity of acquiring those things which will be a lasting benefit to them. Teach them the use of their hands, in economy, in the management ol [of] those things intrusted to their care, so that when they become wives they may not be such as will cause disunion in the household, neither cause a feeling of disappointment in the hearts of their husbands, but rather be fully capable of performing the duties of wives and mothers, and feel that they have something to live for in this life.
Here is a field, unlimited, for the exercise of the talent of our Relief Society as well as our Church schools. They should draw into their Associations every young woman they can find and teach them to love their fellow creatures here upon earth and administer to their wants. The sisters are capable of entering into the feelings of their sex; of sympathizing with them in their distress, and of providing for them the proper necessities in time of need. They should feel that they have a mission upon earth other than that of appearing well in society and of shining brilliantly, because some others do this.
Brethren and sisters I feel that God is with our sisters in their labors in these societies, I also feel in my heart to ask Him to bless and prosper them, and assist them to do their part in carrying forward His great work in these latter days. Amen.
An historical sketch prepared by Secretary Sarah M. Kimball, taken from the record of the Relief Society was read by Dr. James E. Talmage. The Tabernacle being such a very large building it was thought wise that the reading of written articles should be by young men who could be heard in all parts of the house,15 although the sketches were written by the ladies themselves.
the relief society.16
First organization of L. D. S. Relief Society, and instructions given by President Joseph Smith.
By invitation of the President of the Church, a number of sisters convened in the Masonic Lodge room, on the 17th of March 1842, President Joseph Smith, Elders John Taylor and Willard Richards were present.
President Smith stated that the meeting was called for the purpose of making more complete the organization of the Church, by organizing the women in the order of the Priesthood.17
John Taylor was called to the chair and Willard Richards acted as secretary. After singing and prayer, a vote was taken to know if all were satisfied with each sister present, and willing to acknowledge them in good fellowship and admit them to all the privileges of the institution about to be organized. All being satisfied, the names of those present were taken as follows:—
Emma Smith, Martha Knight, Elvira A. Cowles, Sarah M. Cleveland, Phebe Ann Hawkes, Margaret A. [Norris] Cook, Desdemona Ful[l]mer, Elizabeth Ann Whitney, Sarah M. Kimball, Elizabeth Jones, Leonora Taylor, Eliza R. Snow, Sophia Packard, Bathsheba W. Smith, Sophia Robinson, Phillinda Herrick [Merrick], Phebe M. Wheeler, Sophia R. Marks.18
Pres. Smith then explained some of the duties that would devolve on members of the Society, said they could provoke the brethren to good works, look after the needs of the poor, and perform charitable acts. Women must assist in correcting the morals and strengthening the virtues of the community. Said it is now in order for the sisters to elect a President to preside over the Society and let her choose two counselors to assist in the duties of her office. He would ordain them, and let them preside just as the Presidency presided over the Church, and if they needed his instruction they could ask and he would be pleased to give it from time to time. Let the Presidency serve as a constitution and their decisions become precedents for you to act upon.
If officers are wanted to carry out the designs of the institution, let them be appointed and set apart, as Teachers, Deacons &c., are among us.
Elizabeth A. Whitney moved, and Sophia Packard seconded the motion, that Emma Smith be elected President of the Society, the vote was put by the chairman and pronounced unanimous. The President Elect, made choice of Sarah M. Cleveland and Elizabeth Ann Whitney as her counselors.
Eliza R. Snow was appointed Secretary and Phebe M. Wheeler assistant Secretary and Elvira A. Cowles Treasurer.19
Pres. Joseph Smith read the Revelation to Emma Smith from the book of Doctrine and Covenants, and stated that she was ordained at the time the Revelation was given, to expound the Scriptures, to teach &c.
He then read Scriptures to show that an elect lady is one elected to preside. By request of President Joseph Smith, Apostle John Taylor ordained Sarah M. Cleveland and Elizabeth Ann Whitney, to be counselors to and assist President Emma Smith in the duties of her office, and share in the blessings pertaining thereto.
He then confirmed on Emma Smith her former ordination and blessed her to be a mother in Israel, a pattern of virtue and to possess all the qualifications necessary to enable her to preside with dignity and give such instruction, as may be requisite in her calling as an Elect Lady.
Elder Taylor vacated the chair and Pres. Emma Smith and counselors took the stand.
A lengthy discussion followed on the question, [“]What shall this Society be called?” Mrs. Cleveland and Whitney advocated the appropriateness of the name Relief Society. John Taylor and Joseph Smith spoke in favor of the word Benevolent, Emma Smith and E. R. Snow argued in favor of Mrs. Cleveland’s choice. The gentlemen withdrew their objection and a motion to adopt the name Relief Society was unanimously carried.
Pres. Joseph then said “I now declare this Society organized with the President and counselors. All who shall hereafter be admitted must be free from censure and admitted by vote.[”] Pres. Joseph Smith laid down a five dollar gold-piece to commence a Relief Society fund and said “What I do hereafter for charity, I shall do through this society.” Sarah M. Cleveland gave 12½ cts. Sarah M. Kimball, $1[.]00,20 Emma Smith, $1.00, Elizabeth Ann Whitney, 50 cts. Willard Richards, $1.00, John Taylor, $2.00.
At the 3rd, meeting of the Society, March 30th.21 President Joseph Smith said, the members of the Society must act in concert, or nothing can be accomplished. To move according to the ancient Priesthood this must be a select Society, separate from the evils of the world.
Sixth meeting April 28th. Pres. Joseph Smith said he was present to speak upon the Priesthood, as his instructions were intended only for members of the Society, he wished those not members to withdraw. After which he called attention to the 12th chapter of Corinthians, “Now concerning Spiritual Gifts &c.,” said the passage which reads, “No man can say that Jesus is the Lord but by the Holy Ghost should be translated no man can know &c.,[”] continued the reading of the chapter, and gave instructions respecting the different offices and the necessity of every individual, acting in the place allotted to him or her, and filling the office to which they were appointed.
Spoke of the disposition of some to consider the lower offices in the Church dishonorable and to look with jealous eyes on the position of others; said it was the nonsense of the human heart, to aspire to positions not appointed of God, that it was better for individuals to magnify their respective callings and wait patiently till God shall say to them “Come up higher,” said it was talked by members of the Society that some were not doing right in laying hands on the sick. If they had common sympathy, they would rejoice that the sick could be healed. The time has not been before when these things could be in their proper order. The Church is not now organized in its proper order and cannot be until the temple is completed. He referred to the commission given [p. 141] to the ancient Apostles, “Go ye into all the world &c.,” no matter who believes these signs, such as healing the sick, casting out devils, should follow all that believe, whether male or female.
If the sisters have faith to heal the sick, let them do so, and let the good work roll on. It is no sin for anybody to administer to the sick that has faith, or if the sick have faith to be healed by the administration.
Reproved those that were disposed to find fault, spoke at some length on the difficulties he had had to surmount, ever since the organization of the Church, on account of aspiring men, said the same aspiring disposition will be in this Society, and must be guarded against.
As he had the opportunity he would instruct the Society how to act according to the will of God. He did not know that he should have many opportunities of teaching them, they were going to be left to themselves, they would not long have him to instruct them, the Church would not have his instruction long and the world would not be troubled with him a great while, according to his prayer God had appointed him elsewhere. The congregation was melted to tears.22
He exhorted the sisters to sustain with their confidence, their faith, and their prayers, those whom God had appointed to lead. Said the keys are about to be given to you that you may be able to detect anything false, as readily as the Elders. If members of the Society become corrupt, you must deal with them, the sympathies of the heads of the Church have induced them to bear with those that were corrupt, in consequence of which all become contaminated, you must put down iniquity and by your good example provoke the Elders to good works.
If you do right, there is no danger of going too fast, resist evil and there is no danger, neither God, men, angels or devils can condemn those that resist everything that is evil. As well might the devil seek to dethrone Jehovah, as that soul that resists everything evil. You are now placed in a situation where you can act according to those sympathies which God has planted in your bosoms. If you live in accord with your privileges angels cannot be restrained from being your associates.
Women if they are pure and innocent can come into the presence of God. If we would come into the presence of God we must be pure. The devil has great power, his ways are deceptive. Do not be contentious, but let the weight of innocence be felt, which is more mighty than a millstone hung about the neck, meekness, love, purity these are the things that should magnify us.
Iniquity must be purged out, then the veil will be rent and the blessings of heaven will flow down.
After this instruction you will be more responsible, it is an honor to save yourselves, all are responsible for themselves. Then read the 13th chapter of Cor., “Though I speak with the tongue of men &c..” said do not be limited in your views with regard to your neighbors’ virtues, do not think yourselves more righteous than others. You must enlarge your souls towards others, if you would do like Jesus and carry your fellow creatures to Abraham’s bosom, He had manifested long suffering and we must do the same.
Said “Though one have the spirit of prophecy &c.,” though one should become mighty and do great things, overturn mountains, and then turn to do that which is evil, all former deeds would not save them, but they would go to destruction. As you increase in innocence, virtue and goodness, let your hearts expand, let them be enlarged towards others, you must be long-suffering, and bear with the faults and errors of mankind. How precious the souls of men! The Society is to get instruction through the order which God has established, through the medium of those appointed to lead, and I now turn the key to you in the name of God, and this Society shall rejoice and knowledge and intelligence shall flow down from this time, this is the beginning of better days for you.
When you go home never give a cross word, but let kindness, charity and love crown your works. Do not envy sinners, exercise mercy towards them.
Let your administrations be confined mostly to those around you. As far as knowledge is concerned, it may extend to all the world. But your administrations should be confined to the circle of your acquaintance, and more especially to the members of the Society. Those ordained to lead the Society are authorized to appoint officers as the circumstances shall require.
If any have a matter to reveal, let it be in your own tongue do not indulge too much in the gift of tongues, or the devil will take advantage.
You may speak in tongues for your comfort. But I lay this down as a rule, that if anything is taught by the gift of tongues, it is not to be received for doctrine.
Pres. Smith then gave instruction respecting women administering to the sick by the laying on of hands, said it was according to revelation, he never was placed in similar circumstances, and never had given the same instruction.
At the ninth Relief Society meeting, May 26th, the Prophet read the 14th chapter of Ezekiel, and said the Lord had declared by that prophet that the people should each one stand for themselves and depend on no man or men; in the state of corruption in the Jewish Church, that righteous persons could only deliver their own souls. Applied it to the present condition of the Church of Latter-day Saints. If the people depart from the Lord, they must fall, they were depending on the Prophet, hence there was darkness in their minds.
He had two things to recommend to the Society. Be guarded in your speech, no organized body can exist without giving heed to this caution. All organized bodies have their peculiar evils, weaknesses and difficulties, the object is to make those not so good equal with the good, and ever hold the keys of power which will influence to virtue and goodness.
When you chasten and reprove, never mention it again, then you will be established in power, virtue and holiness and the wrath of God will be turned away. God designs to save the people out of their sins. Jesus said “Ye shall do the works which ye see me do,” these are the grand key-words for the Society to act upon.
The tenth meeting was addressed by Bishop N. [Newel] K. Whitney, Pres. Joseph Smith being present.23
Eleventh meeting June 9th. Pres. J. Smith, “It grieves me that there is no fuller fellowship, if one member suffers all feel it, by union of feeling we obtain power with God, Christ said he came to call sinners to repentance and to save them, Christ was condemned by the righteous Jews because he took sinners in to his society, he took them upon the principle that they repent. Nothing is so much calculated to lead people to forsake sin, as to take them by the hand and watch over them with tenderness. The nearer we get to our Heavenly Father, the more we are disposed to look with compassion on perishing souls. I say to this society if you would have God have mercy on you, have mercy on each other. How mild the Savior dealt with Peter saying, “When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren,” at another time he said to him, “Lovest thou me? Feed my sheep.” The Society is not only to relieve the poor, but to save souls.
Sixteenth meeting held in the Grove August 31st, 1842. After relating recent difficulties he had encountered while being hunted by his enemies, he said the Relief Society has taken an active part in my welfare in petitioning the Governor in my behalf. These measures were necessary, and your influence helped to bring about my redemption from the hands of my enemies. I have come here to bless you. The Society has done well, their principles are to practice holiness. God loves you and your prayers shall avail much do not cease to let them ascend to God in my behalf. The enemy will never get weary. I expect he will array everything against me, expect a tremendous warfare. He that will war the Christian warfare will have the angels and all the powers of darkness continually arrayed against him.
A few things had been manifested to him during his absence, respecting baptism for the dead which he would communicate next Sabbeth i[f]24 nothing should occur to prevent it. He then offered a fervent prayer to God in behalf of the Society. After the transaction of some business in the adjustment of which Pres. Smith offered counsel. Said he had one more remark to make respecting baptism for the dead, which must suffice for the present and until he had lhe [the] opportunity to present the subject at a greater length.
All persons baptized for the dead must have a recorder present, that he may be an eye-witness to testify of it. It will be necessary in the Great Council that these things be testified of. It should be attended to from this time. If there is any lack it may be at the expense of our friends. This was the last R. S. meeting that Pres. Joseph Smith attended.
During the two years administration of Pres. Emma Smith and her associates, visiting sisters were appointed to search out the needy, to find work for the able-bodied to receive contributions and to report conditions.
The labors of the Society were extended to the four wards of the City.
1257 names were enrolled as members. The recorded receipts were $415.24.
An appropriate song composed expressly for the Jubilee by Emily H. Woodmansee, was beautifully rendered by the choir,
“O blest was the day when the Prophet and Seer.”25
prayer of pres. jos. f. smith, delivered at high noon, march 17, 1892.
I am sorry to announce that in consequence of President Woodruff having a severe cold, he did not feel able to attend this meeting and therefore desires to be excused.27 He also desires that the people would remember him in their prayers.
Agreeable to the wish of the Presidency of the Relief Society we will unite in prayer. I hope that all the people who are assembled here will lift up their hearts unto God, according to their desires, for blesslngs [blessings] upon the Relief Society throughout all the world, and upon the Church and those who have been called to preside, and to labor for the promulgation of the principles of truth. We will now unite in prayer:
O God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Jesus Christ thy Son, and in humility before thee we thy people have assembled here, on this interesting occasion, we desire to lift up our hearts in prayer and in supplication unto thee, and we desire, Heavenly Father, to draw near unto thee, in spirit and in truth, in humility and in faith, and we pray that thou wilt hear and answer our supplications. We are grateful unto thee O God, the Eternal Father, that we are permitted to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the establishment upon earth of this organization, which is called the Relief Society; and we humbly pray thee that in our hearts this day, we may feel that gratitude which is due to thee, that we have been permitted to pass through a half century, in comparative peace, that we have been preserved by thy powerful arm, from the hands of wicked men, and from those who have sought our destruction and overthrow. We thank thee [p. 142] Heavenly Father that we are permitted to meet unmolested from the powers of evil and from mobs, and from such things as were experienced in the early days of this Church. We thank thee that thou hast planted us safely and firmly in these fertile valleys, and that thou has given us the rich bounties of the earth, and the fatness of the soil for our good, our comfort, our prosperity and our happiness. While we have been surrounded by influences which were not calculated to lead our children in the paths of righteousness and truth, Thou hast preserved us from the designs of the destroyer, and from the powers of darkness. Thou hast given unto us a degree of light which has made our hearts to rejoice and helped us to serve thee. Thou hast given us those blessings we have asked for in righteousness, and power to overcome many of our weaknesses. Thou hast given us a desire to establish righteousness in the midst of the people. Thou hast given us a desire to establish thy Church in the earth, and to seek righteousness. We pray that these desires may continue from this time onward. That we may live with an eye single to thy glory and labor to establish thy work on earth, and bring to pass thy purposes. Wilt thou look upon us with much mercy. We invoke thy blessing at this time upon the aged mothers of the Relief Society. Many have passed away and those that remain who witnessed the establishment of that society by thy servant Joseph Smith, are few, aged, and feeble. Wilt thou continue thy mercies unto them and preserve their lives. Let thy spirit fill their hearts with joy and peace. Sanctify unto them every dispensation of thy providence, cause that their hearts may rejoice in thee and their faith be strengthened in thy promises. May thy word never fail. We pray thee from this time forth to preserve thy saints, and these aged mothers until they are satisfied with life. Wilt thou bless all those who are associated with them throughout the length and breadth of the land. Bless the Presidents, Counselors and members of the Relief Society throughout the earth, in Zion and in foreign lands, upon the islands of the sea, and wherever they are met together this day to celebrate this 50th anniversary. Wilt thou be with them by thy spirit to bless them, to cause their hearts to rejoice before thee. We ask thee to bless the mothers of Israel, and to bless their daughters and bless thy servants and all thy people. We would remember thine aged servant President Woodruff, who is [a]bsent28 from us on this occasion. Wilt thou cause that he may be restored to perfect health and strength. Continue the vigor of all his faculties; strengthen him in body and mind, and wilt thou make known unto him thy mind and thy will that he may be thy mouth-piece unto thy people and be a father in very deed unto thy Saints; wilt thou bless also with him his counselors and the quorum of the twelve apostles. Cause that the Presidency of thy Church and the twelve apostles shall be one in heart, one in spirit, one in purpose, one in their views for the building up of Zion and the bringing to pass of thy purposes. May thy servants and handmaidens be devoted to the establishment of the Church in righteousness upon the earth. O God, bless thy people with those mercies that they desire in righteousness. Sustain thy servants and people and preserve them from difficulties and the evils that surround them. May thy spirit direct them and thy power attend them in all they do. May they dedicate their lives unto thee and increase in knowledge. Grant every desire in righteousness unto thy people. Heal the sick, comfort those that mourn; look down in much mercy upon thy people. Have mercy upon the erring ones, call them from the error of their ways and bring them to a knowledge of thy truth that they may devote their lives unto thee. Help us to acknowledge thee in all things. Unite thy people. Bless the elements that surround us; and the soil, that it may be fertile. Bless thy people in their incoming and out-going. Grant, O Heavenly Father, that thy servants whom thou hast chosen to direct thy work may continue steadfast and faithful. Bless thou thy handmaidens who have assembled to commemorate this anniversary. May we understand thy will and keep thy commandments. Bless all thy people and the honorable of the earth everywhere. Fill their hearts with thy peace. Give unto us such things as we most need for we desire only such things as shall bring to pass thy purposes upon the earth. We humbly ask all these blessings in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
president joseph f. smith.
Following is a synopsis of his remarks:
“This relief Society, he said, has always had the hearty endorsement and the approval of the First Presidency since its first organization, fifty years ago. It had occurred to the speaker that it would be an excellent thing to erect a building or buildings, as the case might be, where there could be a hall for the Society to meet, and which would be in a measure self-sustaining. He did not know whether this matter had been considered yet. It had already been stated that the Prophet Joseph Smith had presented the Society with a building lot, and he did not see why the plan of building could not yet be carried out. It appeared to him to be an easy matter.29
“With regard to the gift of tongues, the speaker said, it was one very much liable to mislead. The adversary can easily take advantage of it. However, where the Spirit of the Lord directs it, it is a good thing. Sometimes, however, persons speak under the influence of a wrong spirit.
“In relation to laying on of hands by sisters, the speaker said it is a proper thing for mothers, who have received their blessings in the house of God to pray for their sick and to rebuke diseases. It is just as much the right of the mother as of the father, although he, holding the Priesthood, can do it by virtue of this, as well as in the name of the Lord. The women are not especially called upon to visit from house to house to administer to the sick, but they can do so properly, if called upon.
“The speaker was thankful for the opportunity of meeting with the Saints, and wished that the Lord might bless the work. He exhorted all to live their religion and do their duties faithfully.[”]
After The Days of Nauvoo.
By E. B. Wells.
Read by Apostle A. H. Cannon.
When the Saints left Nauvoo and during their journeyings, the Relief Society meetings were necessarily discontinued, though the sisters never lost sight of the institution, nor the promises made to them by Pres. Jos. Smith, but continued their benevolent work wherever and whenever an opportunity presented itself; they were always ready with willing hands and tender sympathies to perform deeds of love and charity, and many were in need of such kindly acts for those were the days of toil, and of suffering, of scarcity and of hardship.
Among the foremost heroines of that eventful time should be indelibly engraven the names of Vilate Kimball, Mary Ann Young and Elizabeth Ann Whitney, these Mothers in Israel30 with kindly deeds and loving words, inspired many a fainting heart with faith and courage, and ministered temporal and spiritual blessings, to hundreds of the daughters of Zion,31 whose paths were not strewn with roses, but were full of thorns and fiery trials. There were few gifts to bestow, but many lessons of patience and resignation to be learned in the school of experience.
Early in the settlement of the valley in 1851 and in 1852 the sisters had temporary societies in several wards and surrounding places, and though all were comparatively poor, yet they helped those in greater need, and fed and clothed the wandering Indians, whom we have ever thus tried to conciliate.32 In 1855 when in a more settled condition Pres. Young called upon the Bishops to organize a Relief Society in each ward and gave Sister Eliza R. Snow a mission to assist them in organizing and to take with her Sister Zina D. Young as her Counselor.33 Of some of these branches we have no record, but Bishop Abraham Hoagland of the 14th Ward in this City, organized a Relief Society Sept. 14, 1856 and appointed Sister Phebe W. Woodruff President; and she chose Sister M. I. Horne, and [Lucinda] Southworth her Counselors.34 About that time Bishop N. [Nathaniel] V. Jones also organized the 15th, ward and chose Sister Lydia Granger President, the 9th ward was organized with Sister [Harriet] Taft President, etc., other wards followed—but Johnson’s army coming here, and the move South, which occurred in 185835—interrupted the regularity of the work of the Society and it was not until after the return of the people to their homes, and when order was again restored that the Sooiety was perfectly organized; to bring about these organizations throughout the several Stakes of Zion Sister Eliza R. Snow, Sister Zina D. Young and other sisters associated with them, traveled and labored assiduously in all kinds of weather, and in all sorts of conveyances to assist in making a permanent success of this institution for the women of Zion.
One or two important events bearing upon woman’s work transpired during these years that should be mentioned in this connection. The enfranchisement of the women of Utah—which occurred in February 1870—the bill passed the Territorial Legislature and was signed by acting Gov. [Stephen A.] Mann, on the 7th of Feb. two days later the City election took place and the first ballot cast by women here was for Mayor of the City.36 In June 1872 a Woman’s paper was issued for the first time in the Rocky mountain region, the Woman’s Exponent.37
In October 1876—Pres. Young called upon the Sisters to store up grain against a day of famine, and in accordance with that call, fifty thousand bushels of wheat have been deposited in bins and granaries mostly owned by the Relief Society.38 Undoubtedly this is the first instance in the annals of history of women laying up stores of wheat.
To enumerate all that has been done by the Relief Society would take up too much valuable time; but the works have been those of love and charity and performed in the spirit of meekness and humility.
Central Organization in Utah.
By Sarah M. Kimball.
Read by Apostle A. H. Cannon.
A called meeting for the election of the Relief Society Officers was held in the Assembly Hall, Salt Lake City, June 19th, 1880. Pres. John Taylor, Sec. John Nuttal, and Stake Pres. Angus M. Cannon on the stand. On motion Eliza R. Snow was elected to preside over all the branches of the Relief Society in Zion. Zina D. Young and Elizabeth Ann Whitney were elected Counselors, Sarah M Kimball Sec. and M. Isabelle Horne Treas. (Sec. John Nuttal by Pres. Taylor’s request read from the Book of the Law of the Lord.)39
July 17th Pres. John Taylor met with the Relief Society in the 14th Ward Hall, gave instructions and ordained the President, Counselors and Secretary to their various positions.40
July 24th, 1880 the Relief Society took an active part in the grand celebration of Pionee[r] [p. 143] Day in the fiftieth year of the organization of the Church. Representatives of the Society occupied ten carriages, the first carriage carrying an elegant white silk banner with appropriate inscriptions.41
Feb. 1880 the Relief Society Secretary was notified that she was expected to furnish a general semi-annual stastistical and financial report of the Relief Society at the President’s Office ten days prior to the 6th of Apr. and Oct. The first general report is dated March 15th, 1881. It cembined [combined] the reports of sixteen stakes, and gave a membership of 12,288, disbursements for six months $3,468,31.42
Elizabeth Ann Whitney Counselor to Eliza R. Snow departed this life Feb. 15th, 1882 her honored name crowned with the blessing of Saints.43
In June 1882 the Deseret Hospital was established with Eliza R. Snow Pres. of the board of directors.44 Sept. 1882 Romania B. Pratt was appointed Assistant Secretary.
Jan 21st, 1884 a grand ovation was given in the Social Hall, in honor of the eightieth anniversary of the birth day of Eliza R. Snow.45
Apr. 1885 Annual Conference held at Logan Cache Co. Utah, Relief Society report included twenty-two stakes. Total number of members 16,358.46
Last general Relief Society report (Oct. 1887) during the administration of Eliza R Snow, members 17,002, branches 302 disbursements to charity for 6 months $7,689,80.47
Sister Snow in company with her brother Lorenzo Snow and others, made an extended European tour in 1872 and 3 visited Jerusalem and compiled her interesting book “Correspondence of Palestine Tourists.”48 Her Poems and other writings are much valued.49
She traveled extensively in the various Stakes of Zion always in the capacity of an instructor, was everywhere received as a loving friend and a wise counselor. As an organizer she was unexcelled. Our beloved Sister and President closed her mortal eyes in the Lion House,50 Salt Lake City, Utah, Dec. 5th, 1887 aged eighty-three years. Her comparatively long life was eventful beyond that of most women. This Jubilee day March 17th, 1892, the name of Eliza R. Snow will be reverently spoken in various Relief Society branches and in many lands.
Apostle John Henry Smith then read the paper of Mrs. B. W. Smith, and A. H. Cannon read the article of Mrs. M. I. Horne, both of which will be found in another part of the paper.51
E. B. Wells.
Read by Apostle A. H. Cannon.
The Relief Society celebrate to-day a Jubilee that reaches around the world. Never before that there is any record of has a woman’s Jubilee spread over such an extent of country. Throughout all the wards and settlements, in all the Stakes of Zion is this momentous event being commemorated by meeting and rejoicing together in praise and thanksgiving to God. And not only here but in other parts of the United States, North and South, in Canada and Mexico, on the Sandwich and Samoan Islands and New Zealand, in Great Britain, in Holland and the countries of Scandinavia, in Switzerland and Germany, in Asia Minor, Australia and Tasmania. What does this woman’s Jubilee signify? not only that fifty years ago this organization was founded by a Prophet of God, but that woman is becoming emancipated from error and superstition and darkness. That light has come into the world, and the Gospel has made her free, that the key of knowledge has been turned, and she has drank inspiration at the divine fountain.52
All humanity proclaims this the woman’s era. Everything important tends to emphasize the fact; the spirit of woman’s future destiny rests upon the sisters, and they obey the impulses of the times in which they live! the voice of the hour! the fulfillment of prophecy! They repeat the hallelujah of woman’s redemption; that has been echoed down the ages. The women of Zion in every land lift up their voices to-day in glad Hosannas for the deliverance that has been wrought out for them, and the blessings that have come through this great and grand organization established fifty years ago, and by means of which so much good has been accomplished, not only in works of charity and blessing, but in the development of the higher attributes of the human soul, that tend to purify, exalt snd [and] uplift the world. And while we celebrate this day of days let us cherish in sacred remembrance the memory of those who are not with us, but have gone on before; and especially should we all remember the three noble pioneer women, who immortalized their names, and reflected honor upon all their sex, by their undaunted courage in traversing the unknown desert plains with the first pioneers to this valley. Let the names of Clara Decker Young, Ellen Sanders Kimball, and Harriet Page Young be handed down to posterity, as the foremost Pilgrim mothers in pioneering Westward of the Rocky Mountains, and remember it was their fidelity to the truth, that gave them the faith and fortitude to endure.53 And after to-day what new awakening shall come to us who are still in the field of woman’s work? The refreshing reminiscences and remembrances of the past should inspire us with renewed zeal and courage for the future; and with a more divine consecration of our labors to the help of all humanity.
The choir then rendered in full voice and strength the celebrated English anthem “Daughter of Zion Awake from thy Sadness.”
This grand anniversary Jubilee exercises were closed with a solemn benediction of thanksgiving to God by Apostle John Henry Smith.
54ADDRESS OF BATHSHEBA W. SMITH
[Read by Apostle John Henry Smith at the Large Tabernacle Salt Lake City March 17, 1892.]55
My Dear Brothers and Sisters:
I rejoice that I have lived to see this day—the Jubilee of our Relief Society.
Fifty years ago this day our beloved Joseph Smith organized the Relief Society in Nouvoo [Nauvoo].
After the organization was perfected, and the president, Sister Emma Smith, and her Counselors, Sister Whitney and Sister Cleveland, had taken their seats upon the stand, 17 members were admitted.
Hundreds joined the Society within a year.
Bro. Joseph met with us many times and gave us much counsel and valuable instructions; he said “Every virtuous woman should belong to this Society. This Organization is not only for the purpose of administering to the sick and afflicted, the poor and the needy but it is to save souls. If the Sisters come before the Lord in humility and faith and lay hands upon the sick and the Lord heals them, none should find fault. If ye are pure in all things nothing on earth or in heaven can hinder the angels from associating with you.”56
At one meeting he said, he would not be with us much longer to instruct us.57 This made us all feel sad. His words soon came to pass and wrung our hearts with sorrow and grief for the great loss we had sustained in losing our dearly beloved Prophet—for a true prophet I know he was.58
It has been a “Labor of Love.”59 The sick and destitute have been blessed, the cast down have been comforted, and the Lord has filled our hearts with joy and peace.
Let us take renewed courage and be more united and earnest in this great work, and if any one has ill feelings towards another, banish them and make this a Jubilee in very deed.
May the choicest of Heaven’s blessings rest upon all Israel is my prayer in the name of Jesus. Amen.
60ADDRESS OF MRS. M. ISABELLA HORNE
[Read by Apostle Abraham H. Cannon at the Relief Society Jubilee in the Large Tabernacle, Salt Lake City, March 17, 1892.]61
My Brethren and Sisters:—My heart is filled with praise and gratitude to my Heavenly Father that he has spared my life to meet with you on this important occasion, to celebrate by a grand Jubilee all over the world, the Fiftieth Anniversary of the organization of the Relief Society by the Prophet Joseph Smith in the last dispensation of the fulness of times. I am thankful that I had the privilege of being associated with the first organization and of hearing instructions from the President, Emma Smith.62 She exhorted us to faithfulness in the discharge of our duties, and especially to humble ourselves and not ask God to humble us, as He might do it in a way that would not be very pleasant to us. These remarks made a lasting impression upon my mind.
After the martyrdom of our beloved Prophet and Patriarch, the Saints were permitted to [p. ] remain in Nauvoo till the Temple was completed, and many of us received our endowments in that House of the Lord.63 Soon after this the people were driven from their homes in the middle of winter during heavy snow storms and severe frost. I with my family crossed the Mississipi river in the month of February, 1846, and camped with the Saints on Sugar Creek. After that the river froze over and other companies crossed on the ice. Early in the Spring we commenced our weary journey through mud and storm to find a home among the savages in the Rocky Mountains. When we arrived at Council Bluffs a call was made upon Pres. Young by the Government for five hundred of our able-bodied men to go to the Mexican war, which prevented us from continuing our journey and necessitated our going into Winter Quarters, where we were seriously afflicted with that dreadful disease—scurvy. In June, 1847, the saints were organized into companies to follow the Pioneers, and I was with the first company that left Winter Quarters.64 The trials, hardships and privations that the people of God endured on that long and weary journey were great and can only be understood by those who experienced them.
Children were born on the way before we reached Council Bluffs, myself giving birth to a daughter at Pisgah, the company started forward on the third day after.
When our pilgrimage was over we found ourselves in a barren waste, inhabited by Indians. But we were glad to find a resting place where we could worship God without fearing our enemies were coming upon us. The weather was favorable for building, and the brethren immediately began to saw logs and erect small log houses, into which many of us moved without having either doors windows or floors.
Here again there were many difficulties to overcome. The ground was full of snakes which used to crawl around our houses, but these were soon killed or frightened away. The timber was so full of bugs that it was years before they were entirely subdued. The mice also were very numerous, running over us by day and by night, and destroying considerable clothing, etc., which caused great inconvenience and trouble. We were also obliged to live on short rations, digging roots to add to our store, in order to make our supplies last until something could be raised for food. During that winter many of the Mormon Battalion arrived, and we were under the necessity of sharing our food with them. We could put a little grease into a dish with a rag in it to make a light, and parch a little wheat to make our coffee, but when it came to making soap we were put to our wits’ end to get material to make enough to do our washing. I can hardly tell today how we did succeed. But the Lord opened our way and blessed us with cheerful, contented spirits and thankful hearts.
I well remember the first harvest home we celebrated. Apostles Parley P. Pratt and John Taylor called upon the sisters to prepare a feast.65 They prepared what food they could from their meagre store and set a long table in the Fort. Although the food was plain and everything was done in a humble way, our hearts flowed with thanksgiving to our Heavenly Father for the blessings conferred upon us. Our table decorations were sheaves of wheat and other things that had been raised. Although the crops were light we had enough to last us another year, and some to spare to our brethren and sisters that came the following year.
The second year of our being in the valley the crickets threatened to destroy our crops; men, women and children had to fight them, many were driven into the ditches of water and were piled where there was any obstruction, bushels and bushels. The Lord sent the quails to devour them and thus we were saved from starvation.66
In the spring of 1849 many of the people left the Fort where we first located and moved to their city lots. During the next few years our numbers rapidly increased, and many poor saints gathered. Pres. Young then found it advisable to again organize a Relief Society. You have heard a sketch read this morning of the organization of the Relief Society in this city both before and after the move, I had the honor of being chosen as First Counselor to our President Phebe Woodruff, and Sister Southworth as Second Counselor, in the first organization of the society in the Fourteenth Ward, where we worked faithfully for the relief of the poor, and made many useful articles of clothing which were given to the poor to make them comfortable for their journey during the Move. We were re-organized in the same ward by Bishop Hoagland in the year 1867, with myself as President, and Sisters Wilmirth East and Susan B. [Conrad] Wilkinson as counselors.67
The various branches of the Society have been in good working order from that day till the present, and their labors and the good that has been done cannot be written, and are only known by our Father in heaven.
In the year 1877 the Relief Society was organized in a Stake capacity, and I was selected to fill the office of President of the Salt Lake Stake, with Sisters Elmina S. Taylor and Sarepta Heywood as Counselors, Elizabeth Howard Sec., and B. W. Smith Treas.68 Sister Heywood discharged faithfully the duties of her office until her death, when Sister Helen M. Whitney was elected to fill the vacancy.69 The officers were set apart by Pres. Angus M. Cannon and Counselors. The first Quarterly Conference of the Relief Society of this Stake was held in March, 1878, and have been held regularly up to the present time.70
I have been a worker in the Society from the first, and have rejoiced in the work we were called upon to perform in looking after the poor, comforting the sick, watching by their bedsides, and preparing proper clothing for them when they passed away. A great many of our brethren and sisters have been respectably clothed for burial by the members of this society. Thousands of dollars have been collected and given to the poor, besides responding to other calls that have been made upon us. Pres. Young advised the sisters to build houses in which to hold meetings and perform their labors. Many branches have done this, and also built granaries in which to store their wheat, according to the counsel of President Young, who was always interested in the advancement and progress of the sisters.
In 1870 Pres. Young called me to fill an important home mission—that of organizing the sisters into what was then called the Retrenchment Association, its object being to lighten the labors of the women and give them more time to devote to mental and spiritual culture. It was some time before I could gain sufficient courage to perform this labor, but Sister Snow urged me to do my duty, so with fear and trembling I endeavored to do so. In the spring I invited about twelve presidents of branches of the Relief Society to meet with me in my own house. They were all willing to help in the work. We appointed a meeting in the Fifteenth Ward Hall and had a good meeting. It was then that a committee of three ladies, viz:, Mrs. [Harriet] Amelia Folsom Young, Bathsheba W. Smith and Sarah M. Kimball, were appointed to wait upon Acting Governor Mann and thank him for signing the bill giving the elective franchise to women. From that meeting we adjourned to the Fourteenth Ward Hall where an organization was effected with M. Isabella Horne as President, and Eliza R. Snow, Zina D. H. Young, Margaret T. Smoot, Phebe Woodruff, Bathsheba W. Smith and Sarah M. Kimball as her Counselors.71
After Sister Smoot moved to Provo, Sister Howard was chosen to fill her place and after Sister Woodruff passed away Sister Minerva W. Snow was chosen to fill the vacancy; since the death of Sister Eliza R. Snow, Sisters Elizabeth T. Webb and Elizabeth Stevenson have been added to our number.
Meetings have been held semi-monthly since that time, and much good instruction has been given, and many of the sisters have obtained a testimony of the truth of the Gospel and the divine mission of Joseph Smith, who had never thought much about religious matters before attending these meetings.
I feel thankful to my Heavenly Father that He inspired the Prophet Joseph to organize the Relief Society and thus open the door for the advancement of woman. May the good work continue. May we appreciate our privileges and go forth faithfully in the discharge of our duties as mothers in Israel is the earnest desire of your co-laborer in the kingdom of God.