Religious and social developments in Nauvoo occurred for youth and children, too. While most Sabbath services occurred in homes throughout town, there is evidence that children’s “Sunday Schools” were being used as early as 1841. Emmeline B. Harris (later Wells), Stephen Goddard, Almon W. Babbitt, and other inspired teachers often led Sunday School meetings under the direction of Nauvoo Stake President William Marks.
On March 28, 1843, “The Young Gentlemen and Ladies Relief Society of Nauvoo” was organized for single men and women under 30 years of age. With Apostle Heber C. Kimball’s direction and Joseph Smith’s endorsement, it followed the example of the Relief Society in assisting the poor and needy. One of their first charitable acts was building a home for Sutcliffe and Elizabeth Maudsley’s family.
Secular education was begun by 1840. Common schools were held in homes, shops, or wherever space allowed. Parents would pay teachers directly, often in produce or goods.
These early Nauvoo programs were the precursors to the Primary, Youth programs, and even the Church Education System. They were the fulfillment of a commandment given to the Saints to raise their children “in light and truth.”