Your Grandmother’s Relief Society

A few weeks ago, J. Stapley reported that the church was digitizing parts of its collection.  This post is the first in what I hope will be a series that presents excerpts of documents from this archive that I’ve enjoyed.

Around 1893, the Board of Lady Managers of the Columbia Exposition sent a call across the country seeking information about women’s charitable societies.  The National Women’s Relief Society responded by presenting the book “Charities and Philanthropies: Women’s Work in Utah” edited by Emmeline B. Wells.

This book focuses on women’s work in general—featuring biographies of female Utah physicians near the back and including charitable organizations affiliated with other churches.  But for Mormon readers, the most striking passages are those describing the state of the Relief Society in 1893.  In contrast to the current Relief Society, Relief Society then was a property owning, work performing economic force in the community.

To begin with, the Relief Society meetings described in the book sound like business meetings where women were encouraged to share their ideas for improving the society:  “Meetings are held serai-monthly in which all have the privilege of speaking; expressing their feelings or making suggestions for the furtherance of the work of the society.”

This work included running institutions of considerable community importance: “The Deseret  Hospital, and Woman’s Co-operative Mercantile and Manufacturing Institution were instituted by the Relief Society.”  The Relief Society also funded itself:  “The money used by this vast organization is mostly donations or free-will offerings, each member giving what she wishes to the visiting teachers.” Visiting teachers appear to have performed a role that resembles today’s ritual of YM collecting fast offerings.

The Relief Society also provided means of emergency preparedness.  After Brigham Young advised the people to store grain in case of famine, “the Relief Society of Salt Lake County [] built a number of granaries and stored up large quantities of wheat.  At present there are 6112 bushels stored away. There is also money on hand to purchase wheat at harvest time  $977.25.”

Indeed, a focus on finances and property permeates the book, which reports on the financial holdings of the relief societies in various counties.  For example, it notes, “Real  estate, such as land, granaries, halls for meetings, etc., owned  by the society, is also always separate from the regular amounts reported.  There are quite a number of buildings owned by women in this county, one or two of them quite large and commodious, and in some places there are stores and millinery establishments managed entirely by the Relief  Society.”

These excerpts should give us plenty to ponder: What do these descriptions of women embracing work have to say to our current teachings on gender?  Do these experts point to the potential for women to assume greater leadership roles in the church?  Did Relief Society’s charity work overlap with institutions like fast offerings and the bishop’s storehouse? How did the Relief Society become the more domesticated institution it is today?  Feel free to provide answers, comment, or raise your own questions.

Comments

  1. Larry the Cable Guy says:

    It seems to me that the more autonomous and very capable nature of the RS in the late 1800s was especially critical given the fallout from the Edumunds-Tucker act.

    For a decade or two there, it was open season on the priesthood leadership and the assets connected to them, so whether it was designed that way or not, the sisters were carrying some extra water those days.

    Do you think some of that was also a reflection of the way that it was routine for many homes to be without a husband/father due to a mission or sharing him polygamously with a few other families in other locations?
    Both of those trends dissapeared or trended sharply downward entering the next century.

  2. StillConfused says:

    I wonder if the women’s organizations were perceived to be getting too powerful and that is why they ceased to be property owners etc

  3. Kevin Barney says:

    See this from Dialogue in 1982:

    https://dialoguejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/sbi/articles/Dialogue_V15N04_61.pdf

    Here’s are brief details:

    Grain Storage: The Balance Of Power Between Priesthood Authority And Relief Society Autonomy
    Author: Embry, Jessie L.
    Topics:
    Publish Date: Dec 1, 1982
    Link: Download
    Excerpt:
    Jessie L. Embry Grain Storage: The Balance of Power Between Priesthood Authority and Relief Society Autonomy The developmental history of the Church shows most conspicuously, perhaps, not in purposes and theology but in details. A twentieth-century visitor to the nineteenth-century might be most struck not by the pioneer conditions as by the general attitudes. A Relief Society might be discussing the need to support home industry and the United Order, ways of caring for silkworms, and the growt…

  4. Thanks for pointing this out Natalie. I had not read this book before it was digitized and found a number of things that were helpful for things that I am working on. I also enjoyed the cool pictures of the RS buildings (see here, e.g.).

    Those Relief Society teachers were awesome. They did some impressive work that is truly inspiring for all Latter-day Saints.

  5. Every time I see something about the rich history of Relief Society I wonder to myself: Are the teenage girls in our culture taught about this history? Or do they have to wait until they enter RS to have any meaningful access to it?

    It seems to me that such history would do much to give laurels, mia maids and beehives a clearer identity of the auxiliary that awaits them.

  6. This is interesting, Natalie.

    Thomas Alexander’s book (Mormonism in Transition) has some stuff on Relief Society, the work it was engaged in and its relationship of the hierarchy in this period. It’s disestablishment to one of the “auxiliaries” is an interesting chronicle.

    The establishment of women’s charitable/religious organizations in antebellum America plays into Relief Society and its patterns and purposes of operation, etc. Many of the late 19th, early 20th century RS leaders seem to share a number of concerns with their earlier sisters in service among Protestants.

  7. Obolus–no, they have to wait until the millennium, at least if they’re waiting for the official curriculum to teach them anything about it. The Relief Society doesn’t get to write its own manuals, and it seems unlikely that anyone will think that the lessons for the Elders’ Quorum ought to include RS history anytime soon. Alas.

  8. Natalie B. says:

    # 1, 2, 3–Those are all really interesting theories. In communities where there were not enough men, I wonder what roles the remaining women played in carrying out church services.

    I had heard about how strong RS used to be from my in-laws who are academics. But I have never heard about it in a church context.

  9. [I write as the father of an accomplished, educated 27 year old daughter (Top 5 J.D., 4 MEA languages, PhD candidate) who, if she had the opportunity, would rather be married and taking care of kids. My opinions come out engaging conversations with her, triggered mostly by her observations and soft frustrations with a certain part of the church.]

    Perhaps it has been discussed here before, but it seems to me that we have a significant problem focusing our message to the young women. We want to say be a mom and stay home. But then we feel the need to hedge that by saying that they might not get married. So we say get an education. But then we seem to want to retard that somewhat by implicitly or explicitly discouraging high worldly achievement, I guess on the assumption that just in case they do get married it will be harder to leave positions of high achievement to be a stay at home mom. We tell the young men to prepare for a mission and that is focused and clear. But our message to young women is a mess, IMHO.

    This post struck me that the example of these property controlling executive and managerial women from our history may well the answer to harmonize our ideals and our current mixed messages. I would definitely advocate teaching our young daughters about these women and organizations in our history.

    Now, I know that President Eyring said in a past General R.S. meeting that the operations of these activities were moved to the priesthood to free up the women to do the last mile – the front line charity. Perhaps we need to revisit that decision. Perhaps moving such things back to the women would provide interesting and more suitable achievement opportunities for a certain class of our educated and accomplished women that don’t really want to look to the world for an expression of their achievement, but that currently have no other venue.

    Why shouldn’t the future R.S. be the world’s greatest relief organization headed by spiritual women with world-class CEO and COO skills, and not confined to being run by local Utah wives with local bachelor degrees in education? I actually feel that day will come. That’s what I tell my daughter, anyway. I hope she doesn’t die thinking that I lied to her.

  10. Sorry, should read “… four EMEA languages…” Can any American speak four MEA languages? ;)

  11. Great post! I wonder why Mormon women did not protest the erosion of their leadership roles in the church–women were noticeably silent in the 70s when the RS budget was taken over by the priesthood.

    I have the same questions about why women in other cultlures go along with traditions that are clearly against women’s best interest–African mothers support the circumcision of their daughters. Women in strict Moslem countries do not protest the age of marriage. Silence is consent. Where’s the virtue in consenting to wrong practices?

  12. #9: I think you are correct that our message to women is a mess.

    I’m going to threadjack my own post for a moment, but on a slightly different twist on the women and education problem from the one you’ve just expressed, my sister-in-law recently calculated how many years she’ll have to work to earn back the amount of money invested in her education by her parents alone (not counting society). The lower estimate was about 6.5 years of full-time work.

    If we encourage women to get an education, it seems like many of them will need to work to financially break even/pay back loans. For most people, it probably isn’t financially realistic to go to, say, medical school, and then not practice. But I’ve rarely heard this discussed in conversations about “get an education in case you don’t get married.”

  13. #12: Natalie, I guess I believe unless your plan is to leave college and go into a career paying you $100,000+, you should not be getting a student loan(?) If it is just about getting an education, then go to a low cost state college, or 2 year college at home.

  14. I was really pleased to hear Sister Beck say at the last General Relief Society meeting that the church is putting together a history of RS. We have a heritage of powerful women. I hope that in learning our history, we can reclaim that power.

  15. Natalie B. says:

    Stephanie,

    That is exciting. Is there any word on what the focus of the history will be?

  16. Course Correction–that seems like blaming the victim, don’t you think? You’ve seen the reaction even among relatively liberal bloggernacle types when women try even informal protest. What would have been an effective avenue for women to have expressed their dismay in the 70s?

  17. Bob–are you sure you want to follow the implications of that out? Girls shouldn’t go to the best college they can get into because they should be planning to stay home and take care of babies? That doesn’t seem like nearly enough steps away from not letting girls go to school.

  18. Natalie B. says:

    Kristine and Course Correction–To what extent had the RS’s autonomy been eroded before the 1970s? Was losing autonomy over the budget just the final phase in a gradual transition, or was there a clear moment when the old model RS ended?

    Kristine and Bob–I think this is a very tricky issue. Like Kristine, I am reluctant to endorse the view that women should attend second-rate schools. There is more than just economic value to a good education.

    On the other hand, it probably doesn’t make sense for a women who doesn’t plan to work to incur a crushing debt load. I spoke to a young woman last year who turned down a top law school to attend her state one, because she couldn’t justify the debt given her plans to only work part-time. I can sympathize with that point of view.

    The problem, of course, is that none of us really know if we will need/want to work in the future. If a woman is already at home, maybe the best bet is to pay off the undergrad loans and then get a graduate degree later should she need/want to work. But should an unmarried woman really delay entering a profession with high entry costs on the off chance she’ll meet someone and want to stay home? That seems hard to swallow.

    I don’t have any answers. My only point is that it seems odd that we continue to speak of women’s education as something decoupled from the work required to pay back its costs.

  19. Natalie–you’re right that it was a long, slow slide for the RS (and Primary–which was pushed out of hospital administration, etc.). I think it starts early in the 20th century, but certainly accelerates after WWI, and snowballs after WWII.

    Stapes, would you date it differently?

  20. Cynthia L. says:

    Course Correction, How would women have protested that? Women aren’t present on any body that would have made the initial planning decisions for how the church budgets and leadership structure were going to be reorganized. So there is no way they could have provided helpful early formative input before things got well underway. And by the time the decisions were announced, going against it would be heretical against a prophet, and futile anyway.

    It’s almost hard for me to believe you are even being serious. Maybe you could explain more what you had in mind that would have been feasible and effective?

  21. Cynthia L. says:

    And this: “Silence is consent. Where’s the virtue in consenting to wrong practices?” while theoretically true, would result in death for many women in the cases you mention. Either death by stoning/burning/acid/etc, or by starvation after being kicked out of the house. Moreover, those women have been conditioned since birth to accept that as the way things are supposed to be. You’re setting a high bar for your own integrity, bravery and willingness to sacrifice! Good luck with that.

  22. Cynthia L. says:

    Anyway, Course Correction, some women did try, even though it was futile. Claudia Bushman, in her interview with Jana Reiss, tells of women who spent all their budget instead of handing it over:

    A woman in Hawaii was an officer in the Relief Society when the directive came that all the Relief Society money was to be turned over to the priesthood. This Relief Society had made quite a lot of money from selling the shell jewelry they had made and they said, “We’re not going to give them that money! That’s our money!” My friend said she was sorry, but they had to give it up. They said, “Very well then, we’ll spend it.” So they considered many possibilities and decided they’d take the whole Relief Society into Honolulu into a buffet place and have lunch. They got faculty wives from BYU Hawaii to drive them over, since none of them had cars. They dressed up in their beautiful muu muus with flowers in their hair. They filled their plates like mountains, and everyone ate every bit of food. I like that story because it’s a little bit subversive.

  23. Natalie, I only know what Sister Beck said in her talk, so I don’t know what the focus will be. But I like what she said – it gives me hope:

    As we have studied the history of Relief Society, we have learned that the Lord’s vision and purpose for Relief Society was not of a sleepy meeting on Sunday. He had in mind something much, much bigger than a women’s club or special-interest entertainment group. . .

    We study our history to learn who we are. There is a worldwide hunger among good women to know their identity, value, and importance. Studying and applying the history of Relief Society gives definition and expression to who we are as disciples and followers of our Savior, Jesus Christ. . . .

    The history of Relief Society teaches us that our Heavenly Father knows His daughters. He loves them, He has given them specific responsibilities, and He has spoken to and guided them during their mortal missions. Additionally, the history of Relief Society elevates and validates the standing of women and demonstrates how they work in companionship with faithful priesthood leaders. . .

    We study our history because it helps us change. Ultimately, the value of history is not so much in its dates, times, and places. It is valuable because it teaches us the principles, purposes, and patterns we are to follow, it helps us know who we are and what we are to do, and it unites us in strengthening the homes of Zion and building the kingdom of God on the earth.

  24. #17: I have not been shown that the “Best” colleges gives a better education than others. If you are talking a career path school training (within that school), that’s different.
    I likewise said nothing about stay at home moms.
    I didn’t say anything about females in my comment. I believe the same holds true for males. No career plans_no loans.

  25. I’m tiptoeing here because I expect to be misunderstood. Fools rush in …

    I’m not intending to minimize what the Relief Society gave up — but neither should anyone else overstate the case by implying that the RS was targeted because it was run by women. The identical processes that brought the RS budget and curriculum under the oversight of the priesthood affected all the other auxiliaries to a very similar extent. The RS lost its Magazine, but the Sunday School also lots its Instructor — and this was in a day when the SS was as large and significant an auxiliary as the RS, not the shadow of itself that it is today. the Mutuals, both YMMIA and YWMIA, surrendered huge amounts of property in the form of gymnasiums, sports fields, and camp grounds, all of which had been purchased, supported, and directed by the auxiliaries through funds raised by themselves. The Mutuals also gave up the sports tournaments and music, drama, and dance festivals, which were huge affairs for both local units and the Church as a whole. Many stakes (not stake-level auxiliaries, but stakes as units) owned recreational facilities that they had purchased and maintained themselves, which were turned over to the Church — and suddenly the stakes who had invested untold dollars and hours in those facilities (often canyon resorts) found themselves just one of many units having to compete for the use of their old property for a few days each year. All the auxiliaries abandoned their annual conferences — while the “opportunity” to sit in another couple of days’ meetings might not seem that exciting to us, those conferences were a key source of auxiliary identity; the Boards who planned and directed the meetings, after planning and coordinating the year’s programs, and the local auxiliary workers who identified as “Sunday School workers” or “Primary workers” (in contrast to today’s “I have a YW calling now, but it will only last a couple of years and then I’ll be able to go back to RS” attitude) felt an enormous loss.

    The Relief Society changed dramatically — but so did the other auxiliaries. It’s a mistake to think that the RS was unique in this regard.

  26. #23: What has the “Daugthers of Uath Pioneers” failed to do in a hundred years of writing about the history of Mormon women, that a writing of a history of the RS is going to do better?

  27. Ardis–I completely agree. The fact that it was women’s organizations that were most transformed by Correlation was largely an accident–it’s a huge mistake to read it as deliberately intended sexism.

  28. 26: Bob, the answer in one word: EVERYTHING.

    Thanks, Kristine; am not sure the RS was transformed more than the YMMIA, but we’re more aware of the RS changes.

  29. 26: Bob, the answer in one word: EVERYTHING.

    Hee hee.

    Kristine (#19), I think that is fair.

  30. Natalie B. says:

    Ardis, that’s a very important point. It also seems highly unlikely that the former model of RS would work in today’s economy. It would be difficult for local women to invest in property together when so few stay in the community long-term. Just to add support to your idea that sexism didn’t drive the change.

  31. Marjorie Conder says:

    As a young member of a ward RS presidency in 1970-71, I read the letter to our RS from headquarters abolishing the old RS and introducing the new correlated RS. Many of the older women were crying. I didn’t understand why. I just thought they were dinosaurs. Today, i would cry with them.

    I’m holding my breath on the new history. I think it has real potential. But we shall see.

  32. #28 #29: EVERYTHING! Ok, fair enough___I am going to hold you to that answer.

  33. Ardis, I think that is a fair and valuable comment. Natalie’s point that the old RS model of running hospitals and such is likely not even economically feasible today is also true and something that had occurred to me as a counterpoint to my own mourning of these losses.

    I think for me the issue isn’t so much that these particular programs and structures changed or were lost over time, but that there was nothing analogous to replace them in the lives of the individual women involved. Relief Society as an entity can’t run granaries and hospitals anymore, fine. But for the individual women who felt purpose and satisfaction in those endeavors, who feel like they have real gifts and longings for work outside the home–there has been nothing to take the place. That is, of course, except just going and working outside the home, but that is discouraged. So, Ardis, I think that is why there is a focus on RS and not loss of Sunday School, MIA, etc. It isn’t that losing the RS organization’s independence that is particularly tragic for me, but it is the RS sisters’ loss of the chance to work in all those organizations that makes me sad.

  34. Cynthia,
    But how many sisters in the RS actually put lots of time into those endeavors? If it was anything like today, it was a handful that did most of the work. I think it’s a big jump without evidence to think that it was taking up a bunch of time for most of the sisters.

  35. mmiles–Ardis will know far better than I, but I think it would be an anachronistic to read the current 80-20 rule back into RS history. It really was an important organizing element of social life in many places, maybe in the Mormon diaspora even more than in Utah.

  36. Kristine, Quayle, et al,

    Thank-you for the valuable comments. I think this question of identity is vital when discussing Young Women because if I were looking at the church from the outside, the whole program for teenagers would probably look like it was set up to funnel Young Men into the mission field and Young Women into a broad (and often inadequate) abstraction. The history is there to provide these girls with examples of women who discovered their divine identity (and identity in this church) through service.

    I must admit that I perused “Women of Covenant” and came away a bit unimpressed. It descibed many leaders and events, but seemed a little light in describing these women’s concerns and thoughts (other than praise for leaders and programs). I do think that any history of the Relief Society from the ’60s/’70s period would be well informed by a deep drink from the book “David O McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism”. The circumstances surrounding the Correllation that took many of the previously mentioned powers away from the auxiliaries and the driving force behind it (dominantly Harold B. Lee) definitely seem to suggest that there was a desire within the Twelve to procure more power while under a president (McKay) that often vetoed many of their doctrinal stances/policy suggestions and sometimes hampered progress with inadequate administrative skills.

    As for student loan debt, I think it is more important for college age women to take a chance on themselves (should their grades/talent call for it) than it is for them to wait on a fickle pool of Priesthood holders that evidently saw little reason to place an all-in bet on these girls while they were undergrads. When motherhood calls, it can all be worked out. But until that happens, these women would do far more good by applying the principle of faith to the talents & potential that the Lord actually took the initiative to endow them with in the first place. Women have to answer for the parable of the talents too, afterall.

  37. It isn’t that losing the RS organization’s independence that is particularly tragic for me, but it is the RS sisters’ loss of the chance to work in all those organizations that makes me sad.

    I’m thinking about this and wondering if there are different ways we could look at this. The Church was pretty geographically centered at the time when RS was involved directly in particular organizations. It seems nigh unto impossible to do something like that now, and I actually have a hard time thinking that people would be satisfied with the Church choosing just a few organizations for women to be involved with with the almost limitless organizations and opportunities that exist the world over.

    Ironically, in some ways, the correlation model seems to me to actually decentralize a lot of the work and puts a lot on local leaders to prayerfully choose how the RS sisters and priesthood quorums can gather to do good in their communities in ways that will be meaningful in those communities.

    I also think that with correlation has come an increasing reach of the Church as an organization. RS sisters may not own “their own” property, etc. but the Church as a whole does (and owns) so much via welfare and humanitarian and other programs — progams to which we are invited to donate time and money and that seem to me to mirror what our foremothers did (service, emergency prep, etc.). And these programs still give us an opportunity to do much good. We can serve in canneries that help feed those in need. We can participate in humanitarian efforts. Our RS has helped at the DI sort center that sends one-ton blocks of clothing to needy people all over the world. Church service missionaries can volunteer part-time in a variety of ways that include various skill sets. I’m consistently amazed at what the Church does worldwide as an organization and the many ways we can get involved.

    I dunno. I just don’t see correlation as being as negative as some seem to. I think in some ways we have the best of both worlds — united, worldwide efforts on one hand and localized, inspired efforts tailored to community needs under the direction of local leadership on the other.

  38. Natalie B. says:

    37: I agree that in our modern economy, we do need some aspects of correlation. The church’s relative success in keeping its churches up and running might well be due to correlation.

    But, in my experience, the modern RS is not a particularly energetic source of service and support. I do most of my service outside of the church in organizations that better match the skills I have to offer. And perhaps that’s okay. It might be unrealistic to expect the church to be the center of our service efforts when the church no longer overlaps with the community we live in to the extent that it used to in Utah.

    But this leaves me with the question of what role I’d like to see RS play. The best thing that RS currently offers me is friendship with other LDS women. If I could run RS, I would change our weekly meetings so that women were given greater opportunities to socialize and support each other every Sunday. I don’t think we always need a third hour of lessons. Children aren’t the only ones who can’t sit still that long. But we all could use opportunities to talk, learn of each other’s needs, and plan ways to serve.

    It also leaves me with the question of what contributions women can make to the church, when the church is not co-extensive with the community we serve. Perhaps more opportunities are needed to involve women in functions that they were not previously central to, such as church governance.

  39. I believe the structure is there at the local level to do tremendous charitable work in the communities – which, given the world-wide nature of the Church now, is the only feasible option. The issue, imo, is the same as with most things – letting go of the idea that “The Church” needs to approve things and letting “the (local) church” and its auxiliaries do what needs to be done without global approval.

    The foundation for that was laid out quite well in the training on the new CHI, I think – but the application now is left up to the local units. I believe that sort of decentralization, even within a ward or branch (as described by Pres. Beck in her example of the RS Pres. who doesn’t have to wait for approval from the Bishop to do what needs to be done), is very much a return to the spirit of the pre-correlation days – even more so than a regionally run hospital, for example, that was managed by the institutional RS and not by local women, perhaps.

    We’ll see if that particular water gets to the end of most of the rows, but Pres. Beck seems to be pushing hard to see more power placed in the hands of local women – and I haven’t seen any organized resistance to that effort since she became the General RS President.

  40. “Perhaps more opportunities are needed to involve women in functions that they were not previously central to, such as church governance.”

    #38 – Natalie, some might not see it as such, but placing the Ward Council over the PEC in authority was exactly such a move at the local level. The new handbook is crystal clear that the RS, YW and Primary presidencies now are at the exact same “power and authority level” as the HPG, EQ, YM and SS presidencies. It wasn’t just stated; the actual structure and responsibilities were changed dramatically.

    Again, that might vary in practice in individual units – but if it does, it will be because local leaders are ignoring very explicit and written directives from the global leadership.

  41. Researcher says:

    Bob, the answer in one word: EVERYTHING.

    I agree. The Daughters of Utah Pioneers has some amazing resources, but somehow they’ve done a fine job of spinning gold into straw.

    It has been interesting watching President Beck coming to grips with heading the Relief Society. I don’t know anything about her family or personal circumstances, of course, but I do wish that her term as president would stretch into decades rather than a few years as is the current tradition.

  42. #41: I don’t know what the beef is against the DUP, but there seems to be one. I use their material in writing Family History. They have great for photos, narratives, and histories of early Mormon women.
    I wecome a book on the RS, I just disagree that what it would say would add a lot to the whitten history of Mormon women.

  43. Jennifer in GA says:

    My grandmother is fond of saying that she was a member of the Relief Society before she was a member of the church. She was a young Air Force wife living with four small children in Japan in the mid 60′s when she met a fellow AF wife living in base housing who invited her to a RS meeting.

    She absolutely loved it. She had grown up on a small farm in rural south Georgia and was forced to leave school at the age of 15. The ladies of the Relief Society helped her study for her GED. She discoverd a love of art and took drawing lessons. They worked in connection with the Red Cross, helping settle other families onto the base. They travelled all over Japan sightseeing and learning about Japanese culture. The RS *was* the education she missed out on growing up.

    It’s because of how the RS worked back then that my grandmother persuaded my grandfather (who had been raised in a Mormon hating household in rural Missouri) to investigate the church and be baptized. I honestly don’t think she would have been interested otherwise.

  44. Natalie,

    I get the sense that Sister Beck hopes we will catch the vision of RS more and be more deliberate about finding ways to fulfill its mission. And I agree with Ray that the ward council could play an important role in this.

    I don’t disagree with you that RS hasn’t always lived up to its potential, but I think that is exactly what Sister Beck has said. But I do think the key to this is really seeking inspiration at the local level.

    I’m not sure I agree with you, though, that the Church is not co-extensive with the community. There are situations where the Church does work with organizations in the community, and I don’t think there is anything that precludes that from happening at the local level, either.

  45. Natalie B. says:

    44: By co-extensive, I meant to refer to the peculiar situation in early Utah where everyone really was a member of the church, so that the church was involved in broad community life. That’s what I think we no longer have.

  46. Bob, the DUP is concerned with honoring the pioneers (male and female), not with the spiritual development and service of women. A history of early settlement in Utah is in no way equivalent in even the palest way to a history of Mormon women. The DUP is a secular organization, and while its subjects were overwhelmingly Mormon, their membership over the years hasn’t limited to Mormons or to believing Mormons — they aren’t qualified to speak to the very issues that Mormon women look to in Relief Society. They don’t/won’t/can’t address matters of Mormon women’s temple worship, about the healing rituals that J. Stapley has written about, or any other facet of the devotional and liturgical and spiritual lives of Mormon women. The DUP is entirely about externals, about surface factors, about colonization “firsts,” not about women’s souls and what drove Mormon women to do what we do.

    But the most obvious factor in the DUP’s utter inadequacy to producing a history of Mormon women’s activities is that their interest shuts down promptly at 1869, before the Relief Society had really even gotten started again in the West. The DUP has not one word to say about the last 140 years of Mormon women’s activities, and it *never* had anything to say about Mormon women outside the Mormon Corridor.

    That anybody could confuse the mandate of the DUP with the need for a history of the Relief Society is … is … I can’t come up with an adequate word.

  47. At least the DUP is better than the DAR….

    This thread reminds me that I need to read the Emiline Wells bio.

  48. Ardis, you know plenty of adequate words.

  49. Busted.

  50. #46: Ardis. let’s just use the word uninformed.
    I thank you for your outline of the reasons why the DUP would not be the group to write a history of the RS, and for the most part agree. They have too self-limited their organization in time, space, and topic. But I also feel they have added value to Mormon history.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 9,658 other followers