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Relief Society

In early 1842, Margaret Cook and Sarah Granger Kimball determined to help the Nauvoo Temple building effort by sewing clothes for the workers. They invited friends and neighbors to create an women’s society to perform acts of charity. Kimball asked Eliza R. Snow to draft a constitution, which Snow then presented to Joseph Smith for approval. He declared it “the best he had ever seen,” but that it would be better to organize under the priesthood.

On March 17, 1842, the “Female Relief Society of Nauvoo” was organized in the second floor Assembly Room of the Red Brick Store. Emma Hale Smith was elected president, Sarah Cleveland and Elizabeth Ann Whitney as her councilors, and Eliza R. Snow as secretary. The Relief Society grew rapidly, and in two years there were 1,331 members in Nauvoo, and perhaps hundreds more in outlying settlements.

At one of its earliest meetings, Lucy Mack Smith, mother of Joseph Smith, spoke to the women assembled. “This institution is a good one,” she told them. “We must cherish one another, watch over one another, comfort one another and gain instruction, that we may all sit down in heaven together.”

At the meeting of July 15, 1843, as sisters were making donations, Mary Ettleman Houston burst into tears and said that as a widow with children, she was struggling and had nothing to give. She was quickly comforted by her Relief Society sisters. Within minutes enough food, clothing, and love was given to sustain her family.

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