The organization of the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo. From page 4-15 of the Book of Records Containing the proceedings of The Female Relief Society of Nauvoo. The original Relief Society was organized in the Nauvoo Lodge Room on March 17, 1842. Changes made for clarity by inspiration for use for the Church of Jesus Christ in Christian Fellowship are in italics.


The following appropriate frontispiece, was found lying on an open Bible, in the room appropriated for the Society; at its first meeting, written on a scrap:

  1. O, Lord! help our widows, and fatherless children! So mote it be. Amen.
  2. With the sword, and the word of truth, defend thou them. So mote it be. Amen.

 PAGE 6-15

  1. ¶ Elder John Taylor was called to the chair by President Joseph Smith Jr., and Elder W. Richards appointed Secretary.
  2. The meeting commenced by singing “The Spirit of God Like a Fire is Burning,” Prayer by Elder John Taylor.
  3. ¶ When it was moved by President Joseph Smith Jr. and seconded by Mrs. Sarah M. Cleveland, that a vote be taken to know if all are satisfied with each female present;
  4. And that are willing to acknowledge them in full fellowship, and admit them to the privileges of the Institution about to be formed.
  5. ¶ President Joseph Smith Jr. and Elders John Taylor and Willard Richards withdrew while the females went into an investigation of the motion, and decided that all present, be admitted according to the motion,
  6. And that Mrs. Sarah Ward Higbee, Thirza Cahoon, Kezia A. Morrison, Miranda N. Hyde, Abigail Allred, Mary Snider, and Sarah Stiles Granger should be admitted; whose names were presented by President Joseph Smith Jr.
  7. ¶ President Joseph Smith Jr. and Elders John Taylor and Willard Richards returned and the meeting was addressed by President Joseph Smith Jr., to illustrate the object of the Society—
  8. That the Society of Sisters might provoke the brethren to good works in looking to the wants of the poor—
  9. Searching after objects of charity, and in administering to their wants—
  10. To assist; by correcting the morals and strengthening the virtues of the female community, and save the Elders the trouble of rebuking;
  11. That they may give their time to other duties in their public teaching.
  12. ¶ President Joseph Smith Jr. further remarked that an organization to show them how to go to work would be sufficient.
  13. He proposed that the Sisters elect a presiding officer to preside over them, and let that presiding officer choose two Counselors to assist in the duties of her Office,
  14. That he would ordain them to preside over the Society and let them preside just as the Presidency presides over the Church;
  15. And if they need his instruction ask him, he will give it from time to time.
  16. Joseph Smith Jr. said: Let this Presidency serve as a constitution— all their decisions be considered law; and acted upon as such.
  17. If any Officers are wanted to carry out the designs of the Institution, let them be appointed and set apart, as Deacons, Teachers, Priestesses, Elders, and High Priestesses are among us.
  18. The minutes of your meetings will be precedents for you to act upon— your Constitution and law.
  19. ¶ 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, like the first Presidency of the church.
  20. ¶ Motioned by Sister Elizabeth Ann Whitney and seconded by Sister Packard that Mrs. Emma Smith be chosen President, passed unanimously.
  21. Moved by President Joseph Smith Jr, that Mrs. Emma Smith proceed to choose her Counselors, that they may be ordained to preside over this Society, in taking care of the poor— administering to their wants and attending to the various affairs of this Institution.
  22. The Presidentess Elect, then made choice of Mrs. Sarah M. Cleveland and Mrs. Elizabeth Ann Whitney for Counsellors.
  23. ¶ President Joseph Smith Jr. read the Revelation to Emma Smith, from the book of Doctrine and Covenants; and stated that she was ordained at the time, the Revelation was given, to expound the scriptures to all (see DS 8);
  24. And to teach the female part of community; and that not she alone, but others, may attain to the same blessings.
  25. ¶ The second 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.
  26. [2 John 1:1] The elder unto the Elect Lady and her children, whom I love in the truth; and not I only, but also all they that have known the truth;
  27. ¶ Elder John Taylor was then appointed to ordain the Counselors;
  28. He laid his hands on the head of Mrs. Sarah M. Cleveland and ordained her to be a Counselor to the Elect Lady, even Mrs. Emma Smith, to counsel, and assist her in all things pertaining to her office.
  29. Elder John Taylor then laid his hands on the head of Mrs. Elizabeth Ann Whitney and ordained her to be a Counselor to Mrs. Smith, the President of the Institution, with all the privileges pertaining to the office.
  30. He then laid his hands on the head of Mrs. Smith and blessed her, and confirmed upon her all the blessings which have been conferred on her,
  31. That she might be a mother in Israel and look to the wants of the needy, and be a pattern of virtue;
  32. 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.
  33. ¶ President Joseph Smith Jr. then resumed his remarks and gave instruction how to govern themselves in their meetings;
  34. When one wishes to speak, address the chair, and the chairman responds to the address;
  35. Should two speak at once, the Chair shall decide who speaks first, if anyone is dissatisfied, she appeals to the house;
  36. When one has the floor, occupies as long as she pleases.
  37. Proper manner of address is Mrs. Chairman or President and not Mr. Chairman &c.
  38. A question can never be put until it has a second;
  39. ¶ When the subject for discussion has been fairly investigated; the Chairman will say, are you ready for the question?
  40. Whatever the majority of the house decide upon becomes a law to the Society.
  41. ¶ President Joseph Smith Jr. proceeded to give counsel: do not injure the character of any one;
  42. 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;
  43. ¶ It was then proposed that Elder Taylor vacate the chair; the Elect Lady Emma Smith and her Counselors took the chair,
  44. And Elder John Taylor moved, seconded by President Joseph Smith Jr., that we go into an investigation respecting what this Society shall be called— which was carried unanimously.
  45. President Joseph Smith Jr. 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.
  46. Moved by Counselor Sarah M. Cleveland, and seconded by Counselor Elizabeth Ann Whitney, that this Society be called The Nauvoo Female Relief Society.
  47. ¶ Elder John Taylor 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.
  48. President Joseph Smith Jr. offered instruction on votes— The motion was seconded by Counselor Mrs. Sarah M. Cleveland and unanimously carried, on the amendment by Elder John Taylor.
  49. ¶ The Elect Lady then suggested that she would like an argument with Elder Taylor on the words Relief and Benevolence.
  50. President Joseph Smith Jr. moved that the vote for amendment, be rescinded, which was carried— Motion for adjournment by Elder William Richards and objected by President Joseph Smith Jr.
  51. ¶ President Joseph Smith Jr. said: Benevolent is a popular term— and the term Relief is not known among popular Societies.
  52. 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, to relieve a murderer, which would not be a benevolent act.
  53. Elect Lady, Emma Smith, said: The popularity of the word benevolent is one great objection,
  54. 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; I do not wish to have it called after other Societies in the world.
  55. ¶ President Joseph Smith Jr. arose to state that he had no objection to the word Relief— that on question they ought to deliberate candidly and investigate all subjects.
  56. ¶ Counselor Sarah M. Cleveland arose to remark concerning the question before the house, that we should not regard the idle speech of our enemies—
  57. We design to act in the name of the Lord, to relieve the wants of the distressed, and do all the good we can.
  58. ¶ 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,
  59. 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.
  60. Eliza R. Snow said: 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.
  61. Elect Lady Emma Smith remarked: We are going to do something extraordinary.
  62. When a boat is stuck on the rapids with a multitude of Mormons on board we shall consider that a loud call for relief;
  63. We expect extraordinary occasions and pressing calls.
  64. ¶ Elder John 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.
  65. ¶ President Joseph Smith Jr. said: I also shall have to concede the point, all I shall have to give to the poor, I shall give to this Society.
  66. ¶ Counsellor Elizabeth Ann Whitney moved, that this Society be called The Nauvoo Female Relief Society, second. by Counselor Sarah M. Cleveland.
  67. Eliza R. Snow offered an amendment by way of transposition of words, instead of The Nauvoo Female Relief Society, it shall be called The Female Relief Society of Nauvoo;
  68. Seconded by President Joseph Smith Jr. and carried.
  69. The previous question was then put: “Shall this Society be called The Female Relief Society of Nauvoo?— carried unanimously.
  70. ¶ President Joseph Smith Jr. said: “I now declare this Society organized with President and Counselors according to Parliamentary usages;
  71. And all who shall hereafter be admitted into this Society must be free from censure and received by vote.
  72. President Joseph Smith Jr. offered $5.00 in gold piece to commence the funds of the Institution.
  73. The Elect Lady Emma Smith requested that the gentlemen withdraw before they proceed to the choice of Secretary and Treasurer, as was moved by President Joseph Smith Jr.
  74. The gentlemen withdrew when it was motioned, second, and unanimously passed that Eliza R. Snow be appointed Secretary, and Phebe M. Wheeler, Assistant Secretary.
  75. Motioned, second. and carried unanimously that Elvira A. Coles be appointed Treasurer.
  76. The Elect Lady Emma Smith then arose and proceeded to make appropriate remarks on the object of the Society;
  77. Its duties to others also its relative duties to each other Viz. to seek out and relieve the distressed;
  78. That each member should be ambitious to do good;
  79. 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.
  80. ¶ P. A. Hawkes— Question: “What shall we reply to interrogatories relative to the object of this Society?
  81. The Elect Lady Emma Smith replied: For charitable purposes.
  82. ¶ Moved and pass’d that Cynthia Ann Eldridge be admitted as a member of this Society.
  83. ¶ Councilor Sarah M. Cleveland donated to the fund of the Society $12.50, Sarah M. Kimball, $1, Elect Lady Emma Smith, $1, Councilor Elizabeth Ann Whitney, $.50.
  84. The Elect Lady Emma 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.
  85. 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.
  86. ¶ The business of the Society concluded, the gentlemen before mentioned returned.
  87. Elder Richards appropriated to the fund of the Society, the sum of $ 1, Elder John Taylor $2.
  88. Elder John Taylor then arose and addressed the Society by saying that he is much gratified in seeing a meeting of this kind in Nauvoo,
  89. 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.
  90. He rejoices to see this Institution organized according to the law of Heaven, according to a revelation previously given to Mrs. Emma Smith appointing her to this important calling, and to see all things moving forward in such a glorious manner.
  91. His prayer is that the blessings of God and the peace of heaven may rest on this Institution henceforth.
  92. The Choir then sang Come let us rejoice in the day of salvation.
  93. Motioned, that this meeting adjourn to next week, Thursday, ten o’clock A.M.
  94. The meeting then arose and was dismissed by prayer by Elder Taylor.
  95. ¶ The names of those present were then taken as follows:Mrs Emma Smith
    Sarah M. Cleveland
    Bathsheba W. Smith
    Phebe Ann Hawkes
    Phebe M. Wheeler
    Elizabeth Jones
    Elvira A. Cowles
    Sophia Packard
    Margaret A Norris Cook
    Philinda Merrick
    Athalia Robinson
    Martha Knights
    Sarah M. Kimball
    Desdemona Fulmer
    Eliza R. Snow
    Elizabeth Ann Whitney
    Sophia Robinson
    Leonora Taylor
    Nancy Rigdon
    Sophia R. Mar