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Prince’s Research Excerpts: Priesthood & Mormonism – Welfare, 1868

Below you will find Prince’s research excerpts titled, “Priesthood: Welfare, 1868.” You can view other years here.

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1868:    2 Jan.:  Report of Fast Offering collection.

“SABBATH MEETINGS [5 Jan.].–Bishop Phineas H. Young spoke of his personal faith and feelings, referred to his early experience in the Church, and expressed desires to do the will of God and walk in obedience to His commandments.  He advocated the importance of obeying the teachings given through the servants of the Lord.  Referring to the last fast day [2 Jan.], he said although the weather was most unpropitious, the meeting-house of his own ward was filled to overflowing, and the people brought freely their donations for the poor.”  (DN 16(48):381, 8 Jan., 1868)

“THE POOR.–Thursday [2 Jan.] was fast day, and it was well observed,–at least where we were, we had not time to visit all the wards.  The amount placed in the hands of the Bishops for the assistance of the poor, showed that the counsel given on this important subject was properly estimated by the peope; and the Bishops will be able to make glad the hearts of all the necessitous during this cold wintry weather.”  (DN 16(48):383, 8 Jan., 1868)

25 Mar.:  Work of the Female Relief Societies.


The organization of Female Relief Societies in the various Wards of the city has been attended, so far as we have been able to learn, by the best of effects.  The ladies have entered upon the duties assigned them in relieving the poor with spirit and alacrity, and they have accomplished an amount of good that must be very gratifying to the Bishops and other leading men in the Wards.  The movement has been a most timely one; a class of help has been brought into use that is admirably fitted for the labor, and which only needed the call from the proper quarter to render most efficient service.  These Societies, with proper management, and under good guidance, can be made the means of accomplishing an incalculable amount of good.  They are auxiliaries which the Bishops can use most effectively in caring for the poor.

. . . .

There is a great field of usefulness opening up before these Societies, and we sincerely hope that they will not fail to avail themselves of the opportunities they now have of doing good.  It is not the sustaining alone of the poor that should occupy their attention; but measures should be taken immediately to teach the poor and to provide them with means to sustain themselves.  Time is money.  The time of the poor should not be allowed to pass away unimproved.  To sustain the poor in idleness is to foster vice and to breed a race of paupers that will be a sore burden to the body politic.  But let the poor–men, women and children–be provided with work; let them be taught industrious habits; let them be furnished with employment suited to their strength and capacity, and they can nearly, if not entirely, sustain themselves.  By this means they will preserve their independence of feeling, and not sink into that condition of abject helplessness that is too much the characteristic of the poor in other countries.

. . . .

Here is a field ample enough to afford scope sufficient to the most ambitious, and we trust that our Female Relief Societies, under the guidance of the Bishops, will avail themselves of the opportunities they now have within their reach.  They can materially contribute in this manner to the independence of Zion.”  (Editorial, George Q. Cannon, editor; DN 17(7):52, 25 Mar., 1868)

22 Apr.:  E. R. Snow on the Relief Society.

“This is the name of a Society which was organized in Nauvoo, on the 17th of March, 1842, by President Joseph Smith, assisted by Elders Willard Richards and John Taylor.  Although the name may be of modern date, the institution is of ancient origin.  We were told by our martyred prophet, that the same organization existed in the church anciently, allusions to which are made in some of the epistles recorded in the New Testament, making used of the title, ‘elect lady.’

This is an organization that cannot exist without the Priesthood, from the fact that it derives all its authority and influence from that source.  When the Priesthood was taken from the earth, this institution as well as every other appendage to the true order of the church of Jesus Christ on the earth, became extinct, and had never been restored until the time referred to above.

Last winter President Young instructed the Bishops to organize Female Relief Societies in their various Wards, and at our last Conference repeated the requisition, extending it to all the settlements, calling upon the sisters to enter into organizations, not only for the relief of the poor, but for the accomplishment of every good and noble work.  He urged upon them the manufacture of articles made of straw–the cultivation of silk, and the establishing of fashions that would be becoming–such as would be worthy the patronage of sensible, refined and intelligent women who stand, as we in reality do, at the head of the world.

Having been present at the organization of the ‘Female Relief Society of Nauvoo,’ and having now in my possession the minutes of the organization and the records of that Society, which is a sample for all others, and also having had considerable experience in that association, perhaps I may communicate a few hints that will assist the daughters of Zion in stepping forth in this very important position, which is replete with new and multiplied responsibilities.  If any of the daughters and mothers in Israel are feeling in the least circumscribed in their present spheres, they will now find ample scope for every power and capability for doing good with which they are most liberally endowed.

‘The Female Relief Society of Nauvoo,’ was organized after the pattern of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with a Presidentess, who chose two Counselors.  These were ordained and set apart by the Priesthood, and were to fill those offices so long as they faithfully discharged the trust committed to them.  This quorum was fully authorized to appoint such officers, committees and asistants as were requisite from time to time, either to fill permanent offices or to perform any temporary agency that circumstances might demand.  But, to make these appointments legal they had to be sanctioned by vote of the majority of the meeting when such appointments were made.

In organizing Societies, it is necessary to have a competent Secretary and Treasurer–these and all other officers must be nominated, and the nomination must be seconded, and then a vote of the House called, with opportunity for any to object, if they should feel disposed.

President Joseph Smith told the sisters that he not only wanted them to learn to do business, but he wanted them to learn to do it correctly and in a business-like manner.  He set the example, and kindly proffered his instructions, not only through the Presidentess, but often met with the Society and gave much wise counsel and precious instruction and encouragement–copies of which are carefully preserved.

. . . .

Through the authority which President Young has conferred upon the Bishops, they now stand in the same relation with the Societies which have been, and are now about to be organized in the wards and settlements, as President Joseph Smith did with the one in Nauvoo.  No Society can overstep the counsel of its Bishop–his word is law, to which, all its doings are amenable.

Should the question arise in the mind, of any, What is the object of the Female Relief Society? I sould reply–to do good–to bring into requisition every capacity we possess for doing good, not only in relieving the poor but in saving souls.  United effort will accomplish incalculably more than can be accomplished by the most effective individual energies.

As its name indicates, the first grand object of the Society is to seek out, and relieve the wants of the poor.  President Smith, in giving instruction to the Society in Nauvoo, said that the sisters could much better look into, and understand the circumstances of destitute families, than the brethren; and as they were more sympathetic in their natures, they could better enter into the feelings of the afflicted, and administer aid and consolation.

Relieving the poor, in most of instances, requires something beyond administering to present necessities.  When giving, encourages people in idleness, it has a demoralizing tendency.  The sick must be provided for: but to those who have strength to labor, it is far more charitable to give employment and so direct their energies that they can earn what they need, and thus realize the fruits of their own labors.  President Joseph Smith proposed deeding a city lot to the Society in Nauvoo, on which we purposed building comfortable houses for homes for the homeless, sick and destitute, and furnish such varieties of remunerative labor as would be adapted to the strength and capacities of such as were able to work.  But the sudden death of the Prophet, and subsequent expulsion from Nauvoo, blasted all these fond anticipations, and instead of the generous pleasure of providing and superintending homes for others, we were ourselves homeless until we found an abiding place in the lone wilderness.  Although the existence of the Society was short, it accomplished much.  During one extremely severe winter, in particular, it was instrumental, through the blessing of God, in preserving the lives of many who, otherwise, must have perished.

The climate of Nauvoo was a very sickly one, it was a climate in which none but a people of faith and righteousness could prosper.  The location was beautiful and very desirable, but, in consequence of its unhealthfulness it had been abandoned, by those who had from time to time tried the experiment, as a place that could not be built up.  We had been expelled from Missouri, and in our transit subjected to great hardships and exposures, and our systems were more predisposed to sickness than they would have been under more favorable circumstances, and with all the faith we could exercise, we experienced much sickness.  In consequence of this, in connexion with other adverse circumstances, many were unable to obtain those comforts that nature required.

Previous to the organization of the Relief Society, President Smith said that the sisters, by relieving the Bishops and Elders of the care of the poor, would perform a very important work, and be instrumental in doing much good by liberating their hands so that they might devote their time and energies to other labors; he said that such an organization belonged to, and should exist in the Church–that he had long had it on his mind, but had been too much crowded with other duties to attend to it.

The care of the poor was a prominent item in the teachings of the Savior, and it always stands prominently forth among the requirements of our holy religion; and the business of caring for, and attending to the wants of the poor, was a heavy tax on the time as well as on the means of the authorities of the Church, in addition to all the cares and labors incident on commencing settlements in new locations.

In administering to the poor, the Female Relief Society has other duties to perform than merely relieving bodily wants.  Poverty of mind and sickness of heart, also demand attention; and many times a kind expression–a few words of counsel, or even a warm and affectionate shake of the hand will do more good and be better appreciated than a purse of gold.

. . . .

It would required volumes in which to define the duties, privileges and responsibilities that come within the purview of the Society.  President Young has turned the key to a wide and extensive sphere of action and usefulness.  But, says one, Where are the means?  The means will accumulate.  Do not refuse anything that may be donated, from a shoestring, or patch, or a carpet rag, to an elegant house and lot with all the appurtenances thereof.  Go at it (under the direction of your bishop) coolly, deliberately, energetically, unitedly and prayerfully, and God will crown your efforts with success.”  (Eliza R. Snow, “Female Relief Society,” DN 17(11):81, 22 Apr., 1868)

29 Apr.:  Progress report of 14th Ward Relief Society.

“[29 Apr.]  Last night the ladies of the Female Relief Society of the 14th Ward, gave a party in aid of the funds of the Society, which was a very pleasant and agreeable one. . . .

Among those present we noticed Presidents B. Young and D. H. Wells, Elders Orson Pratt, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, George Q. Cannon, and other leading citizens. . . .

Dancing was kept up spiritedly till 10 o’clock, when the following address was delivered by Mrs. A. Miner:

Having been called upon by our Presidentess, Sister Horne, for an address, I shall endeavor to comply, although I feel my incompetency for the task assigned me.  While hoping that you will be kind enough to excuse all deficiencies, I will try and do, to the best of my ability, all that is required of me.

I think our Bishop was one of the first to follow President Young’s counsel last winter, in forming a Relief Society for the poor; and we have endeavored to supply their wants and prevent any suffering in the ward, and so far we have been successful.  We have also sent five children to school, and paid $130 into the Emigration Fund, and we hope as our society increases in wealth and numbers, that we shall do still more good.”

(DN 17(13):100-101, 6 May, 1868)

29 Oct.:  Relocation.

“Four years later, [Presiding Bishop] Hunter spoke of city families desiring ‘to go to the country,’ and related his wish that newcomers currently living in the various wards would ‘be sent . . . where rent is lower and means of subsistance easier.’  Other bishops lent support to Hunter’s position by speaking of the advantages the poor could gain by moving from city to country.”  (Pace Diss., p. 277; also Bishops Meeting, 29 Oct., 1868) 

1869:    4 Feb.:  Brigham on the role of the Relief Societies.

“I am happy to have the privilege of meeting with you, my sisters, on this occasion.  It is gratifying to me to see such marked signs of a lively action among those who profess to be Latter-day Saints, and who are capable of doing so much good as the female portion of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  ‘Female Relief Society’ is a very marked expression, and full of meaning, and brings more to my mind in contemplating the sex, than almost any other expression that could be used.

As the sisters are here from the Relief Societies in the various wards in the city, and perhaps some from a distance, I wish, in my remarks, to lay before them what I, as an individual, consider to be the duty of this portion of our community.  Not that I expect to go into the full details; but to touch upon a few points in regard to their duties.

Before me I see a house full of Eves.  What a crowd of reflections the word EVE is calculated to bring up!  Eve was a name or title conferred uopn our first mother, because she was actually to be the mother of all the human beings who should live upon this earth.  I am looking upon a congregation designed to be just such beings.

This life, that we now possess, is just as good, and faught with as great interests, as any life that any being possesses in all the kingdoms that are, consequently I shall commence by saying to these, my sisters, it is their imperative duty before God, their families and their brethren to exercise themselves in the capacity in which they are placed, according to their ability, in order that they may magnify, promote and honor the life they now possess.  Permit me, sisters, to say, that we are endowed with a capacity to enjoy and to suffer and to be delighted.  Are we delighted with that which is obnoxious?  No; but with that which is beautiful and good.  Will we promote this?  Yes.  In the first stages of life we should know how to promote that which we desire, and which would cheer and comfort the hearts of individuals, communities or nations.  To effect this should be the first consideration of all.

Here are young, middle-aged and aged women who all have experience according to that which they have passed through.  On this point I reflect very much and talk but little.  Let a young woman start out in life and magnify her existence by helping to fill the world with her posterity as mother Eve was commanded to do, and she should know, in the first place, how to conceive and bring forth that which she would delight in, and which would be a comfort, consolation and pleasure to her in her meditations.  This is a matter that people think little about, and upon which but little is said, though there is a great deal yet to be said in regard to this particular point to the mothers and daughters in Israel.  The inquiry arises how shall we do this?  I can say, truly, we must possess the spirit of meekness, kindness and longsuffering; we must possess patience, that in patience we may possess our souls.  We must sek to enjoy the spirit of intelligence that comes directly from Heaven.  We should govern and control every evil passion, and order our lives so that we may enjoy the meek and humble spirit of the Lord Jesus.  You know how apt we are, in certain cases, to be passionate, and how apt mothers are to be full of extreme desire; it seems as though every feeling of the soul was wrought up.  I have known mothers actually ruin their posterity through giving way to the inordinate desires of their own hearts.  You see some children who are naturally fond of strong drink, or who are addicted to swearing, lying and stealing.  Mother entail these things in a great measure upon their offspring, and although they may not realize it, yet it is so.  My sisters will pardon me when I say ther are portions of our community, who actually believe it is no harm to lie; others will steal, and their hands would have to be cut off to prevent their taking that which is not their own, for, just as sure as they come to something that they can secrete, they will do it.  I attribute a great deal of this, to the lack of wisdom in fathers and mothers.  You may think this is a strange doctrine, and may believe that we have control of ourselves in every particular, but it is not so.  We do have that power in  a measure, and th[r]ough grace and fervency we can gain control over ourselves, but we have not this power naturally.  With regard to traits of character we see marked difference, among children of the same family.  We see one child with whom it is as natural to lie as it is to breathe; while with others of the same family it is quite different, and you may depend upon anything they say as being strictly true.  I see some with whom it is natuiral to pilfer, and with others of the same family it is just the reverse.  These differences in character among members of the same family have come under my observation, and your experience confirms the truth of these remarks.

Now for mothers to do their duty, for these matters depend far more upon the mothers than upon fathers,–they should be filled with patience and kindness and should seek continually to sanctify themselves and to overcome their weaknesses.  Some women have a longing desire for ardent spirits, yet by faith, and the close application of that faith in their prayers to God, they may so far overcome that desire that it will never affect their posterity.  Others are given to evil in language, in deeds or in thoughts, which should be overcome in order that the ends of their being may be answered and a righteous posterity raised.  For us to start correctly we shoulid know how to produce our own spices so that they may enjoy all the blessings that are in store for the faithful without their having such an immense struggle to overcome the sin that is within them.

If the mothers in Israel could bring forth their children so that they would never have an inbred desire to swear, or do a deed that they should not do, how much more easy and satisfactory it would be for such children to pass through the ordeal of life, than to be tried and tempted, often beyond their strength.  I shall leave these points with you for your consideration, being satisfied that a word to the wise is sufficient. . . .

[Several paragraphs about home industry, education, etc.]

If the ladies of the Female Relief Society, and the sisters of this ward generally, will unitedly and systematically enter upon the paths here indicated, they will not only be able to supply the wants of this ward, but will actually call in capital from other wards.  Some may say ‘How can this be if all the wards adopt a similar course?’  In reply, I will say the wards will grow so fast that it will be a long time before we can supply ourselves.”  (Brigham Young, address to the Female Relief Society, delivered in the 15th Ward Meeting House, 4 Feb., 1869; DN 18(3):31-32, 24 Feb., 1869)

18 Feb.:  Duty of RS to visit homes, determine poverty.

“It is your duty and province, as a Society for the relief of the poor, to make yourselves fully acquainted with the circumstances of those who solicit your aid.  I have known instances of people being supported by charity when they had large boxes stored with goods, jewelry, &c.  Do not hestitate to inform yourselves–the really needy will not dissemble, neither will they shrink from investigations.  You need the wisdom of God to direct you in these matters, that you may neither withhold from the destitute, nor unnecessarily drain your treasury.

Each member of the Society should study to know her place, and honor herself by filling it honorably, and all move forward like machinery that is perfect in all its parts.  Let no one overstep her mark, or in the least crowd against one another.  For instance, I would say to the Teachers, or Visiting Committee, it is for you to visit your respective blocks, to ascertain the circumstances of those you visit, and report to the proper authorities, whose province it is to deal out or administer as shall be requisite.”  (Eliza R. Snow, Minutes of the 28th meeting and first annual meeting of the Female Relief Society of the 17th Ward, S. L. City, 18 Feb., 1869; DN 18(10):117, 14 Apr., 1869)

1 Jul.:  Must provide for those in need.

[Teachers Meeting]  “[Bishop Sheets] also referred to the matter of the brethren renting their houses to people without consulting the authorities of the ward, and said such brethren must provide for those that are in need of assistance.”  (8th Ward Minutes, 1 Jul., 1869)

28 Jul.:  Teachers to see that poor do not suffer.

[Teachers Meeting]  “Councillor McAllister made some remarks on the necessity of taking care of our children, and know where they are at night.  Urged the brethren to wake up and set themselves against Gentile pride and fashion.

Bp. Sheets endorsed what had been said by Br. McAllister.  We have too much pride and vanity among us as a people.  The Teachers should see that the poor did not suffer.  He felt that a time of trial was at hand when it would be known who was for God and his Kingdom, and who was not.”  (8th Ward Minutes, 28 Jul., 1869)

1871:  9 Apr.:  Hardly a bishop knows his duties re: welfare.

“You count me out fifty, a hundred, five hundred, or a thousand of the poorest men and women you can find in this community; with the means that I have in my possession, I will take these ten, fifty, hundred, five hundred, or a thousand people, and put them to labor; but only enough to benefit their health and to make their food and sleep sweet unto them, and in ten years I will make that community wealthy.  In ten years I will put six, a hundred, or a thousand individuals, whom we have to support now by donations, in a position not only to support themselves, but they shall be wealthy, shall ride in their carriages, have fine houses to live in, orchards to go to, flocks and herds and everything to make them comfortable.  But it is not every man that can do this.  The Bishops cannot do it; not that I would speak lightly of the wisdom of our Bishops, but we have hardly a Bishop in the Church who knows A with regard to the duties of his office.  Still we have good men, but our hearts are somewhere else, and we are not studying the kingdom, the welfare of the human family, nor what our office calls upon us to perform.  We do not seek after the poor and have every man and woman put to usury.  This ought to be, for our time is the Lord’s.  All we want is to direct this time and use it profitably.”  (Brigham Young, 9 Apr., 1871; JD 14:88)

1873:  27 Oct.:  Social welfare responsibilities of bishops.

“In 1873 Presiding Bishop Hunter wrote [Bishop Marriner W.] Merrill concerning a woman, named Nancy, who had lived in several city wards prior to moving to Richmond.  A few months later Hunter expressed his displeasure with Merrill’s attitude about the newcomer.  Responding to a letter from Merrill, Hunter demonstrated his desire to have charitable bishops.  The letter provides an excellent expression of the Presiding Bishop’s view regarding the social welfare responsibilities of the local bishops:

‘We regret that your ward should be oppressed with too many poor.  Let us know how many you have, and we will arrange for other wards to relieve you.  Nancy has sacrificed a good home and her family for the Gospel’s sake, and has suffered much.  She has lived twenty years in this city in several wards and needed more or less assistance, and during that whole time we have not had so many complaints as is contained in your letter, after four months experience.  Skhe can have a peaceable situation in our city, and not be subject to being turned out of doors especially in this season of the year.

Any other assistance we can render you ward [sic], shall be pleased to do so, lest you becomre more deranged than even Nancy herself.  She, like some other unfortunates, who need a little aid, have no more claim on one ward than another, but wherever they happen to be, there we expect the bishop to look after them and not allow them to suffer.  The fast offerings in every ward if honestly paid would be allsufficient [sic] to sustain the poor and anything lacking from that source can be made up from the tithing, so that neither bishop nor ward need be oppressed.  All that is wanted is for the bishop to act as a father, not as a Lord over God’s heritage.  [A] small room with a little fuel and food is all that Nancy needs to make her happy as an angel, all of which is less costly in the country than in this city.'” 

(Pace Diss., pp. 273-274; also Presiding Bishopric Collection, 27 Oct., 1873.  Underlining in original.)

1875:  25 Feb.:  Relocation/opposition.

“[Bishop Edwin] Woolley reasoned that persons relying wholly ‘on a bishop for their support . . . should at least’ submit to their bishop’s counsel.  ‘When the warm weather comes along,’ Woolley stated, ‘he intended to tell the poor of the 13th ward either to maintain themselves or go into the country.’  Woolley’s comments may have prompted a reaction from another bishop who ‘had acted as bishop in several country places.’  In his opinion, ‘instead of sending the poor away from us, it would display far greater wisdom and philanthrophy [sic]’ for the bishops to attempt to create work for the poor in order to promote self-reliance.”  (Pace Diss., pp. 279-280; also Bishops Meetings, 25 Feb., 1875) 

26 Aug.:  Relocation.

“In 1875 the Presiding Bishop [Hunter] ‘spoke of many families in the counties [sic] wanting boys, where it was far better for them to go than remain in the city.'”  (Pace Diss., p. 278; also Bishops Meetings, 26 Aug., 1875)