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LDS Relief Society

The Female Relief Society of Nauvoo

The Female Relief Society of Nauvoo 1842-44, was an early ministerial and priesthood organization for LDS women.  It was founded as a “society of sisters” who worked on the Nauvoo Temple interiors and textiles, organized by Sarah Melissa Granger Kimball and her seamstress Margaret Cook, along with Eliza R. Snow who wrote a constitution. This society was a revival of an earlier “sewing society” or “band of sisters”, first organized by Sophronia Smith in Kirtland, who worked together on the Kirtland Temple interiors and textiles in 1833-36.

The Female Relief Society of Nauvoo was formalized on March 17, 1842 as an ecclesiastical body of the Church with “keys” and administrative authority over itself, as a female body of priesthood“The Society should move according to the ancient Priesthood” and “make of this Society a kingdom of priests as in Enoch’s day–as in Pauls day.”  Joseph Smith told “Elect Lady” Emma Hale Smith and her counselors he would “ordain them to preside over the Society— and let them preside just as the Presidency, preside over the church.”

The Society disbanded temporarily in 1844-45, but resumed their work unofficially during the emigration to Utah 1846-1849 and during the 1850’s-60s in Utah, until formally reorganized in 1866 with Eliza R. Snow as its leader.  Snow wasn’t “ordained” President until after Emma Smith died in 1879, since the office of R.S. President was a calling for life, like Church President.  Eliza R. Snow was formally “ordained” as R.S. President in 1880.  The first four R.S. Presidents (Emma H. Smith, Eliza R. Snow, Zina D. H. Young, Bathsheba B. Smith) held the office of President until their deaths; the fifth R.S. President, Emmeline B. Wells,  was the first to be released from her office in 1921, but she died immediately after, due to “a broken heart.”   Since then, all R.S. Presidents have served for a period of time, from 5 years to  30 years, then released from office.

Relief Society Presidencies

Relief Society Timeline

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