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Instruction delivered at the first meeting of the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo, Ill. on Thursday March 17, 1842 in the upper room of Joseph Smith's Red Brick Store
Sources: Nauvoo Relief Society Minutes (Eliza R. Snow minute book), Book of the Law of the Lord1 (Willard Richards) and Manuscript history of the Church

Relief Society Minutes Book of the Law of the Lord Manuscript History

Nauvoo Relief Society Minutes

A Report of the
Organization, and Proceedings of
The Female Relief Society of Nauvoo
Nauvoo Lodge Room
March 17th 1842.

Present. President Joseph Smith, John Taylor, Willard Richards, Emma Smith and others.

Elder John Taylor was call'd to the chair by Prest. Smith, and elder W. Richards appointed Secretary.

Meeting commence by singing "The Spirit of God like a fire is burning" &C. --- Prayer by elder Taylor

When it was mov'd by Prest. Smith and seconded by Mrs Cleveland, 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 prvileges of the Insitution about to be formed.

The names of those present, were then taken as follows

                           Mrs Emma Smith
Mrs Sarah M. Cleveland           Bathsheba W. Smith
       Phebe Ann Hawkes           Phebe M. Wheeler
       Elizabeth Jones                  Elvira A Coles
       Sophia Packard                 Margaret A Cook
       Philinda Marick                 Athalia Robinson
       Martha Knight                  Sarah M. Kimball
       Desdemona Fulmer           Eliza R. Snow
       Elizabeth Ann Whitney     Sophia Robinson
       Leonora Taylor                   Nancy Rigdon
           Sophia R. Marks

Prest. Smith, & Elders Taylor and Richards 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 Higbee
Thirza Cahoon
Kerzia A. Morrison
Miranda N. Hyde
Abigail Allred
Mary Snider
Sarah Granger

should be admitted; whose names were presented by Pres. Smith. Prest. Smith, & Elders Taylor & Richards returned and the meeting was address'd by Prest. [Joseph] Smith, to illustrate the object of the Society--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 ordain them to preside over the Society--and let them preside just as the Presidency, preside over the church; and if 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 Deacons, Teachers, &C. are among us.

¶ The minutes of your meetings will be precedents for you to act upon--your Constitution--and law.

¶ He then suggested the propriety of electing a Presidency to continue in the office during good behavior, or so long as they shall continue to fill the office with dignity &C. like the first Presidency of the Church.-

Assisted in organizing "The Female Relief Society of Nauvoo" in the "Lodge Room" Sister Emma Smith President, & SisterElizabeth Ann Whitney & Sarah M.Cleveland councillors, I Gave much instruction, read in the New Testament, Book of Doctrine & Covenants, concering 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 Socety, she having previously been ordained to expound the Scriptures, her councillors were ordained by Elder J Taylor & Emma was Blessed by the same.- I assisted in commencing the organization of "The Female Relief Society of Nauvoo" in the "Lodge Room." Sister Emma Smith, President, and Sisters Elizabeth Ann Whitney and Sarah M. Cleveland Counsellors. I gave much instruction, read in the New Testament, and Book of Doctrine and Covenants concerning the Elect Lady, and shewed that the elect meant to be elected to a certain work &c and that the revelation was then fulfilled by Sister Emma's election to the Presidency of the Society, she having previously been ordained to expound Scriptures Emma was blessed, and her counselors were ordained by EIder John Taylor.

Presidency Elected

¶ Motioned by Sister Whitney and seconded by Sister Packard that Mrs. Emma Smith be chosen President--passed unanimously.

¶ Mov'd by Prest. [Joseph] Smith, that Mrs. Smith proceed to choose her Counsellors, that they may be ordain'd 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 Presidentess Elect, then made choice of Mrs. Sarah M. Cleveland and Mrs. Elizabeth Ann Whitney for Counsellors--

¶ President [Joseph] Smith read the Revelation to Emma Smith, 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.--

¶ The 2d Epistle of John, 1st verse, was then read to show that respect was there had to the same thing; and that why she was called an Elect lady is because, elected to preside.

¶ Elder Taylor was then appointed to ordain the Counsellors-- he laid his hands on the head of Mrs Cleveland and ordain'd her to be a Counsellor to the Elect Lady, even Mrs. Emma Smith, to counsel and assist her in all things pertaining to her office &C.

¶ Elder T. then laid his hands on the head of Mrs. Whitney and ordain'd her to be a Counsellor to Mrs. Smith, and Prest of the Institution--with all the privileges pertaining to the office &C.

¶ He then laid his hands on the head of Mrs. Smith and blessed her, and confirm'd upon her all the blessings which had 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.

Parlementary Rules

¶ 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 anyone 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 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 Society.

¶ 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 - -

Name of the Society; Members to be Received by Vote

¶ It was then proposed that Elder Taylor vacate the chair.

¶ Prest. Emma Smith and her Counsellors took the chair, and

¶ Elder Taylor mov'd - secd by Prest. J. Smith that we go into an investigation respecting what this Society shall be call'd - which was

¶ carred unanimously

¶ Prest Smith continued instructions to the Chair to suggest to the members any thing the chair might wish, and which it might not be proper for the chair to put, or move &C.

¶ Mov'd by Counsellor Cleveland, and secon'd by Counsellor Whitney, that this Society be called The Nauvoo Female Relief Society.

¶ Elder Taylor offered an ammendment, 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 offered instruction on votes ---

¶ The motion was seconded by Counsellor Cleveland and unanimously carried, on the amendment by Elder Taylor.

¶ The Prest then suggested that she would like an argument with Elder Taylor on the words Relief and Benevolent.

¶ Prest J. Smith mov'd that the vote for amendment, be rescinded, which was carried--

¶ Motion for adjournment by Elder Richards, 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 Society was to relieve criminals from punishment &C. &C -- to relieve a murderer. which would not be a benevolent act-- --

¶ Prest. Emma Smith, 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 questions they ought to diliberate candidly and investigate all subjects.

¶ Counsellor Cleveland arose to remark concerning the question before the house, that we should not repeat 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.--

¶ Eliza R. Snow arose and said that she felt to concur with the President, 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 Zion, 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 recurrences--

¶ Prest. Emma Smith 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---

¶ Elder Taylor 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 - -

¶ Prest. 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 Society---

¶ Counsellor Whitney mov'd, that this Society be call'd The Nauvoo Female Relief Society-- secon'd by Counsellor Cleveland--

¶ E. R. Snow offer'd an amendment by way of transpostion of words, instead of The Nauvoo Female Relief Society -- it shall be called The Female Relief Society of Nauvoo. - - Seconded by Prest. J. Smith and carried--

¶ The previous question was then put-- Shall this Society be call'd The Female Relief Society of Nauvoo? --- carried unanimously.--

¶ Prest. 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 pric to commence the funds of the Institution.

¶ Prest Emma Smith requested that the gentlemen withdraw before they proceed to the choice of Secretary and Treasurer, as was mov'd by Prest J. Smith-.
Willard Richards, Sect.y

The gentelmen withdrew when it was Motioned and secon.d and unanimously pass'd that Eliza R. Snow be appointed Secretary, and Phebe M. Wheeler, Assistant Secretary----

Motioned, secon.d and carried that Elvira A. Coles be appointed Treasuerer--,

Prest. E. Smith 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 whould deal frankly with each other to watch over the morals - and be very careful the character and reputation of the members of the Insitution &C.

P. A. Hawkes-- Question- What shall we reply to interrogations relative to the object of the Society?

Prest. E. Smith replied for charitable purposes.

Mov'd and pass'd that Cynthia Ann Eldridge be admitted as a member of this Society--

Cou.l Sarah M. Cleveland donated to the fund of the Society ------- $ 12 1/2
Sarah M. Kimball do --------------------------------------------- 1.00
Prest. Emma Smith to ---------------------------------------------1.00
Coun.l E. Whitney do --------------------------------------------   .50

Prest. E. Smith 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--

Elder Richards appropriated to the fund of the
Society, the sum of --------------------$1,00
Elder Taylor do --------------------------2,00

Elder T. then arose and addressed the Society by saying that he is much gratified in seeing a meeting of this kind in Nauvoo--- 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 rejoiced to see this Institution organiz'd according to the Law of Heaven--- according to a revelation previously given to Mrs E. Smith 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 Insitution henceforth---

The choir sang "Come let us rejoice in the day of salvation &C.

Motion'd, that this meeting adjourn to next week, Thursday, ten o'clock. AM.

The meeting then arose and was dismissed by prayer by Elder Taylor.---

1. Excerpt taken from Dean Jessee, The Papers of Joseph Smith, Vol. 2 (Salt Lake City: Deseret, 1992): 371.

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