Happy Birthday Relief Society!

The Nauvoo Female Relief Society had its founding meeting 175 years ago today. This necessary-to-complete-restoration organization has had a marked effect on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A comprehensive history of Relief Society still waits to be written but a number of important volumes are recently in the wind from the Church Historian’s Press and Alfred A. Knopf. Not in any order of importance, see

1. Jill Mulvay Derr, Carol Cornwall Madsen, Kate Holbrook, and Matthew J. Grow, eds., The First Fifty Years of Relief Society: Key Documents in Latter-day Saint Women’s History (Salt Lake City: The Church Historian’s Press, 2016).

2. Jennifer Reeder and Kate Holbrook, eds., At the Pulpit: 185 years of Discourses by Latter-day Saint Women (Salt Lake City: The Church Historian’s Press, 2017).

3. Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, A House Full of Females: Plural Marriage and Women’s Rights in Early Mormonism, 1835-1870 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2017).

May I also recommend you pursue the Relief Society meeting minutes of April 28, 1842 here. You’ll see two documents in parallel, the original minutes, and an edited version by church historian George A. Smith, put together 16 years later. The contrast is remarkably revealing if somewhat disappointing. The sisters did not give up however. They read and reread Joseph Smith’s commission from the original in the succeeding decades. It became a powerful totem for women in their spiritual service and leadership.

Yay Relief Society. Can’t wait for 200.

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