Minutes and Discourses, 17 March 1842

  • Source Note
  • Historical Introduction

Document Transcript

Lodge Room
March 17th 1842.
Present— Joseph Smith, , , and others.
was call’d to the chair by Prest. Smith, and elder appointed Secretary,
Meeting commenced by singing “The spirit of God like a fire is burning” &c.— Prayer by .
When it was mov’d by Prest. Smith and seconded by , that a vote be taken to know if all are satisfied with each female present; and are willing to acknowledge them in full fellowship, and admit them to the privileges of the Institution about to be formed.
The names of those present were then taken as follows
Mrs. Bathsheba W. [Bigler] Smith
Phebe Ann [Baldwin] Hawkes Phebe M. [Bartholomew] Wheeler
Elizabeth [Hughes] Jones
Sophia [Bundy] Packard Margaret A [Norris] Cook
Philinda [Eldredge] Merrick Athalia [Rigdon] Robinson
Sophia Robinson
Leonora [Cannon] Taylor
Sophia R. Marks
Prest. Smith, & Elders and [p. 6] withdrew while the females went into an investigation of the motion, and decided that all present, be admitted according to the motion, and that
Mrs. Sarah [Ward] Higbee
Kezia A. [Voorhees] Morrison
Abigail [McMurtrey] Allred
Mary [Heron] Snider
Sarah [Stiles] Granger [4 lines blank]
should be admitted; whose names were presented by Prest. Smith.
Prest. Smith, & & return’d and the meeting was address’d by Prest. Smith, to illustrate the object of the — that the Society of Sisters might provoke the brethren to good works in looking to the wants of the poor— searching after objects of charity, and in administering to their wants— to assist; by correcting the morals and strengthening the virtues of the female community, and save the Elders the trouble of rebuking; that they may give their time to other duties &c. in their public teaching.
Prest. Smith further remark’d that an organization to show them how to go to work would be sufficient. He propos’d that the Sisters elect a presiding officer to preside over them, and let that presiding officer choose two Counsellors to assist in the duties of her Office— that he would them to preside over the Society— and let them preside just as the Presidency, preside over the ; and if [p. 7] they need his instruction— ask him, he will give it from time to time.
Let this Presidency serve as a constitution— all their decisions be considered law; and acted upon as such.
If any Officers are wanted to carry out the designs of the Institution, let them be appointed and set apart, as , &c. are among us.
The minutes of your meetings will be precedents for you to act upon— your Constitutio[n] and law.
He then suggested the propriety of electing a Presidency to continue in office during good behavior, or so long as they shall continue to fill the office with dignity &c. like the of the .—
Motioned by and seconded by Sister Packard that Mrs. be chosen President— passed unanimously—
Mov’d by Prest. Smith, that proceed to choose her Counsellors, that they may be to preside over this Society, in taking care of the poor— administering to their wants, and attending to the various affairs of this Institution.
The , then made choice of Mrs. and Mrs. for Counsellors—
President Smith read the Revelation to , from the book of Doctrine and Covenants; and stated that she was ordain’d at the time, the Revelation was given, to expound the scriptures to all; and to teach the female part of community; and that not she alone, but others, may attain to the same blessings.— [p. 8]
The 2d Epistle of John, 1st verse, was then read to show that respect was then had to the same thing; and that why she was called an Elect lady is because, elected to preside.
was then appointed to the Counsellors— he laid his hands on the head of and ordain’d her to be a Counsellor to the Elect Lady, even Mrs. , to counsel, and assist her in all things pertaining to her office &c.
then laid his hands on the head of and ordain’d her to be a Counsellor to , the Prest. of the Institutio[n]— with all the privileges pertaining to the office &c.
He then laid his hands on the head of and blessed her, and confirm’d upon her all the blessings which have been confer’d on her, that she might be a mother in Israel and look to the wants of the needy, and be a pattern of virtue; and possess all the qualifications necessary for her to stand and preside and dignify her Office, to teach the females those principles requisite for their future usefulness.
Prest. Smith then resumed his remarks and gave instruction how to govern themselves in their meetings— when one wishes to speak, address the chair— and the chairman responds to the address.
Should two speak at once, the Chair shall decide who speaks first, if any one is dissatisfied, she appeals to the house—
When one has the floor, occupies as long as she pleases.
Proper manner of address is Mrs. Chairman [p. 9] or President and not Mr. Chairman &c.
A question can never be put until it has a second
When the subject for discussion has been fairly investigated; the Chairman will say, are you ready for the question? &c.
Whatever the majority of the house decide upon becomes a law to the .
Prest. Smith proceeded to give counsel— do not injure the character of any one— if members of the Society shall conduct improperly, deal with them, and keep all your doings within your own bosoms, and hold all characters sacred—
It was then propos’d that vacate the chair.
Prest. and her Counsellors took the chair, and
mov’d— secd by J. Smith that we go into an investigation respecting what this Society shall be call’d— which was
carried unanimously
Prest. Smith continued instructions to the Chair to suggest to the members anything the chair might wish, and which it might not be proper for the chair to put, or move &c.
Mov’d by , and secon’d by , that this Society be called The Nauvoo Female Relief Society.
offered an amendment, that it be called The Nauvoo Female Benevolent Society which would give a more definite and extended idea of the Institution— that Relief be struck out and Benevolent inserted.
Prest. Smith offer’d instruction on votes— [p. 10]
The motion was seconded by and unanimously carried, on the amendment by .
The then suggested that she would like an argument with on the words Relief and Benevolence.
J. Smith mov’d that the vote for amendment, be rescinded, which was carried—
Motion for adjournment by and objected by Prest. J. Smith.—
Prest. J. Smith— Benevolent is a popular term— and the term Relief is not known among popular Societies— Relief is more extended in its signification than Benevolent and might extend to the liberation of the culprit— and might be wrongly construed by our enemies to say that the was to relieve criminals from punishment &c. &c— to relieve a murderer, which would not be a benevolent act—
Prest. , said the popularity of the word benevolent is one great objection— no person can think of the word as associated with public Institutions, without thinking of the Washingtonian Benevolent Society which was one of the most corrupt Institutions of the day— do not wish to have it call’d after other Societies in the world—
Prest. J. Smith arose to state that he had no objection to the word Relief— that on question they ought to deliberate candidly and investigate all subjects.
arose to remark concerning the question before the house, that we should not regard [p. 11] the idle speech of our enemies— we design to act in the name of the Lord— to relieve the wants of the distressed, and do all the good we can.—
arose and said that she felt to concur with the , with regard to the word Benevolent, that many Societies with which it had been associated, were corrupt,— that the popular Institutions of the day should not be our guide— that as daughters of , we should set an example for all the world, rather than confine ourselves to the course which had been heretofore pursued— one objection to the word Relief is, that the idea associated with it is that of some great calamity— that we intend appropriating on some extraordinary occasions instead of meeting the common occurrences—
Prest. remark’d— we are going to do something extraordinary— when a boat is stuck on the rapids with a multitude of Mormons on board we shall consider that a loud call for relief— we expect extraordinary occasions and pressing calls—
arose and said— I shall have to concede the point— your arguments are so potent I cannot stand before them— I shall have to give way—
J. S. said I also shall have to concede the point, all I shall have to give to the poor, I shall give to this
mov’d, that this Society be call’d The Nauvoo Female Relief Society— second. by
offer’d an amendment by way of transposition of words, instead of The Nauvoo Female Relief Society, it shall be call’d The Female Relief Society of — Seconded by Prest. J. Smith and carried— [p. 12]
The previous question was then put— Shall this Society be call’d ?— carried unanimously.—
J. Smith— I now declare this Society organiz’d with President and Counsellors &c. according to Parliamentary usages— and all who shall hereafter be admitted into this Society must be free from censure and receiv’d by vote—
Prest. J. Smith offered $5.00
in gold piece to commence the funds of the Institution.
Prest. requested that the gentlemen withdraw before they proceed to the choice of Secretary and Treasurer, as was mov’d by Prest. J. Smith—
The gentlemen withdrew when it was Motioned and second. and unanimously pass’d that be appointed Secretary, and Phebe M. Wheeler, Assistant Secretary——
Motioned, second. and carried unanimly. that be appointed Treasurer—
Prest. then arose and proceeded to make appropriate remarks on the object of the Society— its duties to others also its relative duties to each other Viz. to seek out and relieve the distressed— that each member should be ambitious to do good— that the members should deal frankly with each other— to watch over the morals— and be very careful <​of​> the character and reputation— of the members of the Institution &c.
P. A. Hawkes— Question— What shall we reply to interrogatories relative to the object of this Society?
Prest. replied— for charitable purposes. [p. 13]
Mov’d and pass’d that Cynthia Ann [Howlett] Eldridge be admitted as a member of this
Coulr. donated to the fund of the Society $12½
d[itt]o 1.00
Prest. do 1.00
Counlr. do 50
Prest. said that Mrs. Merrick is a widow— is industrious— performs her work well, therefore recommend her to the patronage of such as wish to hire needlework— those who hire widows must be prompt to pay and inasmuch as some have defrauded the laboring widow of her wages, we must be upright and deal justly—
The business of the Society concluded— the gentlemen before mentioned return’d—,
appropriated to the fund of the Society, the sum of $1,00
do 2.00
then arose and address’d the Society by saying that he is much gratified in seeing a meeting of this kind in — his heart rejoices when he sees the most distinguished characters, stepping forth in such a cause, which is calculated to bring into exercise every virtue and give scope to the benevolent feelings of the female heart— he rejoices to see this Institution organiz’d according to the law of Heaven— according to a revelation previously given to Mrs appointing her to this important calling— and to see all things moving forward in such a glorious manner— his prayer is that the blessings of God and the peace of heaven may rest on this Institution henceforth——
The Choir then sang “Come let us rejoice in the [p. 14] day of salvation[”] &c.
Motion’d, that this meeting adjourn to next week, thursday, ten o’clock— A M.
The meeting then arose and was dismiss’d by prayer by .— [p. 15]


  1. 1

    Hymn 252, Collection of Sacred Hymns [1841], 274–276.  

    A Collection of Sacred Hymns, for the Church of the Latter Day Saints. Edited by Emma Smith. Kirtland, OH: F. G. Williams, 1835.

  2. 2

    TEXT: “Richa[page torn]ds”.  

  3. 3

    TEXT: “should be admitted;” possibly inserted.  

  4. 4

    An 1830 revelation identified Emma Smith as “an Elect Lady” and charged her with selecting hymns for a hymnal, preaching to church members, and writing as a scribe for her husband, JS. (Revelation, July 1830–C [D&C 25:3, 6–7, 11].)  

  5. 5

    Emma Smith was also told in a blessing from Joseph Smith Sr. in December 1834 that she would “have power to instruct [her] sex.” (Blessing from Joseph Smith Sr., 9 Dec. 1834.)  

  6. 6

    Richards, who served as secretary for the first part of the meeting, gave an expanded treatment of JS’s explanation about Emma’s role when inscribing JS’s journal entry for this same day: “read in the New Testament & Book of Doctrine & Covenants. concer[n]ing the Elect Lady. & Shewed that Elect meant to be Elected to a certain work &c, & that the revelation was then fulfilled by Sister Emma’s Election to the Presidency of the Society, she having previously been ordained to expound the Scriptures.” (JS, Journal, 17 Mar. 1842, underlining in original.)  

  7. 7

    See Judges 5:7; and 2 Samuel 20:19.  

  8. 8

    Allied with the broader Washingtonian Temperance Society, founded in 1840, Martha Washingtonian societies were composed of working- and lower-middle-class women who sought to reform inebriates and succor their families. According to historian Ruth M. Alexander, “As early as 1842, the Washingtonian movement showed signs of weakening as it was beset with internal disputes over its inexperienced leaders, lack of organization, alienation of elite temperance and religious leaders, and ‘lowclass’ social affairs.” (Alexander, “We Are Engaged as a Band of Sisters,” 775; Ginzberg, Women and the Work of Benevolence, 202–204.)  

    Alexander, Ruth M. “‘We Are Engaged as a Band of Sisters’: Class and Domesticity in the Washingtonian Temperance Movement, 1840–1850.” Journal of American History 75, no. 3 (Dec. 1988): 763–785.

    Ginzberg, Lori D. Women and the Work of Benevolence: Morality, Politics, and Class in the Nineteenth-Century United States. Yale Historical Publications Series. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1990.

  9. 9

    That is, the Mississippi River’s Des Moines rapids, an eleven-mile stretch of the Mississippi River above Keokuk, Iowa Territory, where the river dropped some twenty-two feet in elevation. The rapids were unnavigable during seasons of low water. (Hunter, Steamboats on the Western Rivers, 188.)  

    Hunter, Louis C. Steamboats on the Western Rivers: An Economic and Technological History. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1949.

  10. 10

    Hymn 263, Collection of Sacred Hymns [1841], 286–288.  

    A Collection of Sacred Hymns, for the Church of the Latter Day Saints. Edited by Emma Smith. Kirtland, OH: F. G. Williams, 1835.