The First Fifty Years of Relief Society and the Church Historian’s Press Website

By February 26, 2016

Matt Grow is Director of Publications in the Church History Department and co-editor (with Jill Derr, Carol Madsen, and Kate Holbrook) of The First Fifty Years of Relief Society: Key Documents in Latter-day Saint Women’s History  (The Church Historian’s Press, 2016). He is also a general editor for the Joseph Smith Papers and he has authored or co-authored multiple award-winning books. He received his Ph.D in American history from Notre Dame in 2006.

While the initial reason for creating the Church Historian’s Press in 2006 was to provide a publisher for The Joseph Smith Papers (hereafter JSP), the proposal contemplated that the “imprint could also be utilized in the future for the publishing of other approved Church history works of highest quality.” With the publication of The First Fifty Years of Relief Society: Key Documents in Latter-day Saint Women’s History, that day has arrived. The First Fifty Years of Relief Society is the first volume published by the Church Historian’s Press outside of the JSP, signaling the commitment of the Church to Mormon women’s history.

Like the JSP, The First Fifty Years of Relief Society is a documentary history. The book contains 78 documents ranging from meeting minutes to journals to letters to discourses. The most important document is the minutes of the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo from 1842-1844. Kept by Eliza R. Snow, the minutes contain detailed accounts of the meetings, including six sermons by Joseph Smith.

The book is divided into four parts, each with a historical introduction and a group of documents demonstrating the activities of the Relief Society during a particular historical era. Part 1 covers the Relief Society in Nauvoo. Part 2 features the tentative reestablishment of Relief Society organizations at a local level in Utah during the 1850s and 1860s. Part 3 explores 1867, when Brigham Young called for the reorganization of the Relief Society, through the late 1870s. The final section covers from 1880, when Eliza R. Snow was appointed as the first general Relief Society president since Emma Smith, through the fiftieth anniversary of the organization in 1892.

Selections from The First Fifty Years of Relief Society are now available at a new website, The selections include the general introduction, the complete Nauvoo minutes of the Relief Society with introduction and notes, each of the four part introductions, and a few additional documents from each part. In addition, the website includes images of people, places, and documents from the book; four hundred biographies of people who play a prominent role in the book; and short videos featuring each of the volume’s editors. You can also subscribe to receive future updates from the press.

To simplify the publishing process (and in contrast to we have not included the image of each page of a document next to its transcript. Rather, links are provided from the Church Historian’s Press website to images of the original documents, most of which are at the Church History Library. The entire book will later be added to the website, as will another sixteen hundred short biographical entries not included in the print book.

We hope that this website will become a resource for scholars, for teachers utilizing primary source documents, and for Church members. We anticipate that other exciting histories and documents will be added to the website, beginning in the relatively near future. Enjoy!

By Common Consent has a great interview with Kate Holbrook and Matt Grow here.

Article filed under Announcements and Events


  1. This is an amazingly great service, Matt. Thanks to everyone involved!

    Comment by Gary Bergera — February 26, 2016 @ 7:57 am

  2. So excited about this development, and this “commitment of the Church to Mormon women’s history.”

    Comment by Saskia — February 26, 2016 @ 10:24 am


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