On July 17, 1880, a month after John Taylor had nominated a new general Relief Society presidency,1 he attended a general meeting of women held in the Salt Lake City Fourteenth Ward assembly hall to set apart the newly sustained officers. The terms “set apart” and “ordain” were used interchangeably at this time. Taylor used both when setting apart officers on this occasion: “I set thee apart to preside over the Relief Societies in the Church” and “I confer on thee this power and authority and ordain thee to this office.”
Eliza R. Snow served seven years in her formal capacity as general president, establishing policies and procedures that would govern the society for years to come. Zina D. H. Young served as first counselor in the presidency until Snow’s death in 1887, after which she was appointed Relief Society general president.2 Second counselor Elizabeth Ann Whitney, who had also been a counselor to Emma Smith, died in 1882, leaving a vacancy in the presidency that was not filled during Snow’s administration.3 Sarah M. Kimball served as general secretary while maintaining her position as president of the Salt Lake City Fifteenth Ward Relief Society.4 Mary Isabella Horne was named Relief Society treasurer—a position she held until 1901—although she was not set apart on this occasion. Horne served concurrently as general treasurer, president of the Salt Lake Stake Relief Society, and president of the Retrenchment Association.5
The following transcript of the July 17 meeting comes from a handwritten report in a general Relief Society record book. A highly similar report of the meeting was published in the Woman’s Exponent in September 1880, but the Exponent report was probably derived from the handwritten report.6
Relief Society Report, Seting Apart Officers &c
Minutes of general meeting held in Fourteenth Ward Assembly Hall July 17th 1880 Pres M. Isabella Horne presiding,7 Choir sang, I’ll praise my maker while Ive breath,8 Prayer by Zina D. Young, Singing, O my Father,9 Minutes of Young Ladies Mutual Improvment Association of the third Ward read, also of the Primary Associations of the 18th and 11th Wards
Pres. Horne said I am pleased to meet with you and wish to explain that when Conference interferes with our regular semimonthly meetings they stand adjourned until the next regular meeting day. Pres Taylor is expected here this afternoon,
E. R. Snow said, this is our last meeting before the 24th of July, and we have some business to present relating to the celebration.10 Yesterday Sister Zina and I went to Bountiful and held sweet communion with the Relief Society there.11 In the afternoon the children assembled and their deportment and attention made an impressive appearence. About three hundred were present, their Conference was called unexpectedly. We were surprised at their ready answers to questions. Sister Roggers [Aurelia Spencer Rogers]12 told us that of those who attended the Association not one had died with Diphtheria or measles which had prevailed there the deaths had all been among those who did not attend the Primary Associtions. If any of the different Ward R. S. have made arrangments to ride in the procession on the approaching 24th they are requested to report at this meeting Arrangments have been made for Carriages for the Primary and Stake representatives13
Mrs. M. A. [Mary Ann] Freeze Pres. Young Ladies Mutual Improvement Stake organisation, said we will be represented in the procession by central and Stake Committees. We wish to honnor the occasion as it is one of importance and not likely to occur again in less than fifty years14
Zina D. Young refered to Home Industries being represented in procession said three carriages would be devoted to the silk department. [p. 9]
Sister Bathsheba Smith said, one carriage is to be adorned with ladies ornamental work and I hope the sisters will contribute of their handy work to make it creditable,
President Taylor having arrived and being invited to address the sisters said, I was not aware til last evening of this meeting, at least I had forgotten it and had arranged to leave this City this afternoon going north to attend meetings at Ogden of the Weber Stake Conference, I understand that one of the objects of this meeting is the ordination of officers of the Relief Society who were elected at your conference held on Saturday June 19th at Salt Lake Assembly Hall.15
On the occasion of the organization of the Relief Society, by the Prophet Joseph Smith at Nauvoo I was present Sister Emma Smith was elected president and Sister Elizabeth Ann Whitney and Sarah M. Cleveland her Counsellors. The Prophet Joseph then said that Sister Emma was named in the revelation recorded in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants concerning the Elect Lady, and furthermore that she had been ordained to expound the scriptures.16 By my request my Secretary Elder L. John Nuttall read to you relative to this meeting from the Book of the Law of the Lord at your conference held June 19th
ult, which explained what was then done.17
The ordination then given did not mean the confering of the Priesthood upon those sisters yet the sisters hold a portion of the Priesthood in connection with their husbands, (Sisters E. R. Snow and Bathsheba Smith, stated that they so understood it in Nauvoo and have always looked upon it in that light)
As I stated, at that meeting, that I was called upon by the Prophet Joseph and I did then ordain Sisters Whitney and Cleveland, and blessed Sister Emma and set her apart. I could not ordain these sisters to anything more, or greater powers than [p. 10] had been confered on Sister Emma who had previously been ordained to expound the scriptures, and Joseph said at that time, that being an Elect Lady had its significance and that the revelation was now fulfilled in Sister Emma being thus elected to preside over the Relief Society.
However after the organization of this society in Nauvoo much disturbance arose among the sisters. I do not want to be personal especially as Sister Emma is dead.18 But I think that some of those circumstances should be known. Sister Emma got severely tried in her mind about the doctrine of Plural Marriage and she made use of the position she held to try to pervert the minds of the sisters in relation to that doctrine. She tried to influence my first wife to make her believe that the revelation was not correct. Sister [Leonora] Taylor was much troubled thereat and asked me what it meant. Soon after, the Prophet Joseph was in my house, and I spoke to him in my wife’s presence, in relation to what Sister Emma had said, and Joseph replied, “Sister Emma would dethrone Jehovah to accomplish her purpose if she could.” Some of you sisters are acquainted with what I refer to and the prejudice that then existed.
After the death of the Prophet Joseph Smith, in concequence of the confusion that existed, President B Young thought it best to defer the operations of this organisation and the labors of the Society ceased, until he organised the sisters again
here in this City.19
Those influences then introduced and then operating were not right, the sisters in the various organisations since have accomplished much good and should not be deprived of their 〈rights and〉 privileges because others have done wrong
Pres. Taylor then set apart the Relief Society officers as follows.
Eliza Roxie Snow Smith, I lay my hand upon thy head in the name of Jesus and by authority of the holy priesthood I set thee apart to preside over the Relief Societies in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints, and I confer on thee this power and authority and ordain thee to this office that thou [p. 11] mayest have power to expound the scriptures and to bless elevate and strengthen thy sisters. The Lord is well pleased with thee, with thy diligence fidelity and zeal in the interest of thy sisters. He has blessed thee excedeingly and will continue to bless thee forever and ever; and I bless thee with all thine heart can desire in righteousness and I seal upon thee all former blessings confered upon thee by the holy priesthood, In the name of Jesus Amen.
Zina Diantha Young Smith20 I lay my hands upon thee in the name of Jesus and by authority of the holy priesthood, and ordain thee to be first counsellor to Eliza R. Snow, Honor thy calling which is an honorable one, sustain and assist thy President and thou shalt have joy in thy labors Thou shall be a wise counsellor the Lord is well pleased with thee and will sustain thee, and no man shall deprive thee of thy blessings thou shalt have the gift to heal the sick and thou shall be blessed in time and in Eternity; in the name of Jesus, Amen.21
Elizabeth Ann Smith Whitney, In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by virtue of my office and calling, in the holy priesthood, I bless thee and set thee apart to be secend counsillor to Eliza R Snow Smith. Thou hast been tried and found faithful and God has helped thee and thou shalt be blessed in thine old age; and thy name shall be honored through all generations; Thy heart shall be filled with peace and joy and thou shalt be a wise counsellor in thine old age. Thou shall continue to be esteemed as a Mother in Israel, and thou shall continue to be blessed as thou hast been, and when thou hast finished thy labors thou shalt have a place in the Celestial Kingdom of God. with thine husdband. Thou shalt be blessed with all the blessings and privileges pertaining to this office and calling, in the name of Jesus. Amen. [p. 12]
Sarah Melissa Granger Kimball. In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by virtue of the Holy Priesthood I set thee apart to the office of Secretary of the Relief Societies in Zion; to record important events and keep a faithful record. Thou shalt be quick to discern and a ready writer. Seek more earnestly for the Spirit of the Lord and thou shalt be blessed more than thou hast ever had power to conceive of. As thou hast been preserved in life, thou shalt continue to be preserved. I Seal upon the thy former blessings and thou shalt be honored in time and in eternity, and have a seat in the Celestial Kingdom of God, in the name of Jesus. Amen.
President Taylor then said, God bless the Treasurer Sister Horne, and bless her with every blessing that her heart desires in righteousness, and Sister Bathsheba Smith,22 And God bless all the faithful who love Israel and keep God’s commandments, do this and every promise heretofore made to you shall be fulfilled and more than has entered into your hearts to conceive of.
The President then took his leave to go by afternoon train to Ogden.
Sister Bathsheba Smith refered to the Prophet Joseph instructing the sisters to conduct their meetings in accordance with parliamentary usages23
Sister Whitney then sang one of her sweet songs of Zion in the language which was spoken and sung (the Prophet Joseph said) by our first parents in the Garden of Eden, Sister Snow explained that Joseph Smith told Mother Whitney, If she would use the gift with wisdom it should remain with her as long as she lived. Sister Zina then gave the interpretation. The theme of which was rejoicing and praise to the great Author and Giver of good.
Sister Phebe Woodruff being called on to speak said I am greatly pleased to see [p. 13] my sisters moveing in such order. My heart rejoices in what my eyes have witnessed, and my ears heard this day May we ever be humble and faithful.
Sister Snow called attention to the political Primary Meting to be held the following Wednesday.24 E. [Emmeline] B. Wells read a call from the central committee (political) and urged the sisters to attend the Primary meetings and feel interested enough in the election to vote. Stake Pres, M. I. Horne followed on the same subject.
Sister Louie Felt gave some instruction to to the Young Ladies relating to the celebration.
Stake Pres, A. [Angus] M. Cannon having come in was invited to speak. Said he was pleased and interested in what he had heard, particularly what was said in relation to voteing. He hoped the sisters would remember that Eterinal vigilence was the price of liberty. The sisters ought not to be unmindful of their political duties and privileges even though all seemed calm. If all would vote for those who fear God we would continue to be a free people.
Meeting adjourned for two weeks, Choir sang Doxology Benediction by Pres, A. M. Cannon [p. 14]