One hundred and sixty-eight years

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.


Female Relief Society of Nauvoo, Minutes, March 17, 1842, transcript provided by our friend WVS, at the Parallel Joseph. I recommend reading the entire minutes of that day’s meeting; the interaction between the members and the other church leaders is insightful. Happy birthday Relief Society.


  1. As a side note, I broke from my general perspective and was thrilled to read this recollection in the Joseph Smith manual last year:

    Sarah Granger Kimball recalled that shortly before the Prophet Joseph Smith organized the Relief Society, he said: “I will organize the women under the priesthood after the pattern of the priesthood. … The Church was never perfectly organized until the women were thus organized.”

  2. Thanks for reminding us of the important key that was turned that day, J.!

    I’ve plugged it before, so forgive me, but if readers haven’t heard it yet, go check out the interview of Jill Mulvay Derr at about the formation of the Relief Society and the R.S. minutes:

    Within the overall context of the Relief Society Minutes kept by Eliza Snow, JMD discusses many of the thorny issues (including Nauvoo polygamy, the basis for the Relief Society itself including its interaction with the priesthood, the R.S.’s closing and later reappearance). I’ve listened to the podcast twice now and each time I was blown away. Your jaw will drop and your heart will swell — I guarantee it.

  3. This is a great homage to a sublime moment in our collective history, J.

  4. Thank you, Jonathan.

  5. Thanks for this, Stapley. It’s a great day.

  6. Thanks Stapley.

  7. I love the reference to the Primitive Church Relief Society. Very cool.

  8. Yeah, Tod. Talk of the Relief Society as being a restoration of a similar organization in the primitive church gives added meaning to the phrase that Stapley quoted in comment 1 (“The Church was never perfectly organized until the women were thus organized”).

  9. Thanks, J.

  10. I’m grateful to you for posting this.

  11. Anyone know if BYU has digitized the Relief Society Magazine yet?

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