10. Joseph Smith Relief Society

relief society mormonThe Mormons were building a beautiful city in Nauvoo, and while most had what they needed, there were hundreds of people moving into Nauvoo each day from various countries who had joined the Church, and many of these families had spent all they had to get to Nauvoo. Most of the Saints gave freely of their substance to help those in need, but there was no organization, and sometimes the needs of others were not known.Some of the women began thinking about different ways to help, and they counseled with one another, and formed groups to complete charitable projects. One of the first groups organized to make shirts for the men working on the Nauvoo temple. More and more women got involved. One of them, Sarah M. Kimball, said that they, “decided to…form a ladies society” to help the poor. On March 4, 1842, “the neighboring sisters met in my parlor and organized.”1 At the time, the state required that benevolent societies have a constitution, bylaws and elected officers. Eliza R. Snow, who later became a President of the Relief Society, was asked to write both the constitution and bylaws. When she finished, she showed them to Joseph Smith the Prophet. When he saw them, he said they were, “the best he had ever seen,” but that he also wanted to “provide something better for [the women of Nauvoo] than a written constitution. I will organize the women under the priesthood after the pattern of the priesthood.”2The Relief Society was organized on March 17, 1842. Twenty women were in attendance.  Emma Smith, Joseph’s wife, was elected as the first President. Joseph Smith the Prophet was touched at the women’s great desire to come to the aid of those in need. He stood up and said, “All I shall have to give to the poor, I will give to the society” and he donated a five dollar coin. Others followed his example and donated money to the Relief Society to aid the poor.The purpose of the organization was the relief of the poor, the destitute, the widow and the orphan, and for the exercise of all benevolent purposes. The women worked tirelessly to find and help those in need. Widows and orphans were brought into others’ homes, and time, and service were given to many. As the Prophet watched the Relief Society work, he was again touched and stated, “it is natural for females to have feelings of charity. 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 up to your privileges, the angels cannot be restrained from being your associates.”3 With the promise of blessings for working to help the poor, the Relief Society pushed forward. It was suggested that each woman donate one cent per week to the Society to help buy glass and nails for the building of the Nauvoo Temple. Through this program a thousand dollars was raised for the temple. The Relief Society grew quickly, and by 1844, there were more than 1,300 women in the society. After the death of Joseph Smith, with the hardships of preparing to move west, the society diminished, but was revived in 1867 and has been a part of the Mormon Church ever since.See the next page in the timeline series.

Other Links:

1 Black, Susan Easton. Relief Society: Where it All Began. Pg. 1

2 Black, Susan Easton. Relief Society: Where it All Began. Pg. 2

3 Black, Susan Easton. Relief Society: Where it All Began. Pg. 5

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