The Relief Society (RS) is a philanthropic and educational women's organization and an official auxiliary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). It was founded in 1842 in Nauvoo, Illinois, USA and has approximately 6 million members in over 170 countries and territories. The Relief Society is often referred to by the church and others as "one of the oldest and largest women's organizations in the world."
The motto of the Relief Society, taken from 1 Corinthians 13:8, is "Charity never faileth". The official purpose of Relief Society is to "prepare women for the blessings of eternal life by helping them increase their faith and personal righteousness, strengthen families and homes, and help those in need. Relief Society accomplishes these purposes through Sunday gospel instruction, other Relief Society meetings, visiting teaching, and welfare and compassionate service."
In the spring of 1842 Sarah Granger Kimball and her seamstress, Margaret A. Cook, discussed combining their efforts to sew clothing for workers constructing the Latter Day Saints' Nauvoo Temple. They determined to invite their neighbors to assist by creating a Ladies' Society. Kimball asked Eliza R. Snow to write a constitution and by-laws for the organization for submission to President of the Church Joseph Smith for review.
Twenty women gathered on Thursday, March 17, 1842 in the second-story meeting room over Smith's Red Brick Store in Nauvoo. Smith, John Taylor, and Willard Richards sat on the platform at the upper end of the room with the women facing them. "The Spirit of God Like a Fire Is Burning" was sung, and Taylor opened the meeting with prayer. The women in attendance at the initial meeting were: Emma Hale Smith, Sarah M. Cleveland, Phebe Ann Hawkes, Elizabeth Jones, Sophia Packard, Philinda Merrick, Martha McBride Knight, Desdemona Fulmer, Elizabeth Ann Whitney, Leonora Taylor, Bathsheba W. Smith, Phebe M. Wheeler, Elvira A. Coles (Cowles; later Elivira A. C. Holmes), Margaret A. Cook, Athalia Robinson, Sarah Granger Kimball, Eliza R. Snow, Sophia Robinson, Nancy Rigdon and Sophia R. Marks. Additionally, eight other women not present that day were admitted to membership: Sarah Higbee, Thirza Cahoon, Keziah A. Morrison, Marinda N. Hyde, Abigail Allred, Mary Snider, Sarah S. Granger, and Cynthia Ann Eldredge.
It was proposed that the organization go by the name Benevolent Society and with no opposition the vote carried. However, Emma Smith made a point of objection. She convinced the attendees that the term "relief" would better reflect the purpose of the organization, for they were "going to do something extraordinary," distinct from the popular benevolent institutions of the day
Smith also proposed that the women elect a presiding officer who would choose two counselors to assist her. Emma Hale Smith was elected unanimously as president. She chose Sarah M. Cleveland and Elizabeth Ann Whitney as her two counselors. John Taylor was appointed to ordain the women and he did so.
Relief Society Magazine
The Relief Society Magazine, including the Relief Society Bulletin of 1914, was the official publication of the Relief Society of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) from 1915 to 1970. It succeeded the earlier, and privately owned, Woman's Exponent, which was begun in 1872. The magazine was an important publishing outlet for Utah women, and was run by women editors. The founding editor, Susa Young Gates, edited the magazine from 1915 to 1922.
The December 1970 issue of the Relief Society Magazine was its last. The LDS Church discontinued the magazine as part of the implementation of the Priesthood Correlation Program. Thus, the magazine, and several others within the church, was replaced by the Ensign.
The Relief Society Magazine is an excellent genealogy and family resource. Many issues are filled with photographs, true pioneer stories, and other events that you might like to know that your ancestor was involved in. You can even access digital issues of this magazine for free. (Look below for link.)
Scope of Project
The intent of this project is to gather all your female ancestors who were involved with the society and/or magazine, so bring them on over.