From the Archives: CR 11 175, ordination of the first Relief Society general presidency

By March 17, 2016

At the recent history symposium focusing on women in Mormon History, the director of the LDS Church History Library announced a new research aid entitled ?Women in Church History.? Among the various highlighted documents was a link to CR 11 175, Relief Society record, 1880-1892. This caught my eye because it has been restricted in the past and closed to research, though some researchers have been granted access. I?m always grateful for wider access to historical documents such as these, and this one in particular is important. Thanks to the dedicated staff and administrators at the CHL for their ongoing work.

As it is the anniversary of the founding of Relief Society, I thought it would be fun to reproduce from this document the ordinations of the first General Presidency. May it ever increase. [Note that this is a first pass transcription, you can verify it yourself if you would like]


Minutes of general meeting held in Fourteenth Ward Assembly Hall July 17th 1880

[John Taylor had almost forgotten to attend, almost having left for a Stake Conference outside of Salt Lake. He gave some history of the troubles with Emma and the Relief Society, and talked about ordination not being an ordination to priesthood. Nuttal read from the Book of the Law of the Lord. Some fascinating stories about Emma.]

…Pres. Taylor then set apart the Relief Society officers as follows:

Eliza Roxie Snow Smith, I lay my hand upon thy head in the name of Jesus and by authority of the holy priesthood I set thee apart to preside over the Relief Societies in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints. And I confer on thee this power and authority and ordain thee to this office that thou mayest have power to expound the scriptures and to bless elevate and strengthen thy sisters, the Lord is well pleased with thee, with thy diligence fidelity and zeal in the interest of thy sisters. He has blessed thee exceed<ingly> and will continue to bless the forever and ever and I bless thee with all thine heart can desire in righteousness and I seal upon thee all former blessings conferred upon thee by the holy priesthood, In the name of Jesus Amen

Zina Diantha Young Smith I lay my hands upon thee in the name of Jesus and by authority of the holy priesthood. And ordain thee to be first counselor to Eliza R. Snow. Honor thy calling which is an honorable one. Sustain and assist thy President and thou shalt have joy in thy labors thou shalt be a wise counselor the Lord is well pleased with thee and will sustain thee. And no man shall deprive thee of thy blessings thou shalt have the gift to heal the sick, and thou shalt be blessed in time and in Eternity in the name of Jesus, Amen

Elizabeth Ann Smith Whitney, In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by virtue of my office and calling, in the holy priesthood, I bless thee and set thee apart to be second counselor to Eliza R. Snow smith. Thou hast been tried and found faithful and God has helped thee and thou shalt be blessed in thine old age; and thy name shall be honored though all generations, thy heart shall be filled with peace and joy and thou shalt be a wise counselor in thine old age. Thou shalt continue to be blessed as thou hast been and when thou hast finished thy labors thou shalt have a place in the Celestial Kingdom of God, with thine husband thou shalt be blessed with all the blessings and priveleges pertaining to this office and calling, in the name of Jesus. Amen.

[after blessing SMG Kimball as treasurer, Taylor left and Whitney sang in tongues, referencing JS’s blessing upon her for the gift and Zina interpreted]

Article filed under Miscellaneous


  1. Great document, J. For those with access to the new book, The First Fifty Years of Relief Society, this is included there as document 4.5 (pages 473-479).

    Comment by Matt — March 17, 2016 @ 3:14 pm

  2. Matt, that is absolutely correct. I should have included a reference and pointer in the post. The volume includes the minute of the meeting, including lot’s of details not even hinted at in this post. Moreover the introduction and annotation is very helpful. Everyone should get a copy of that excellent volume.

    Comment by J. Stapley — March 17, 2016 @ 3:47 pm

  3. Thanks, J. I appreciate your kind comments on the book. The Church History Library has made an effort to digitize all of the documents that appear in the book. When the documents are added to the Church Historian’s Press website, there will be links from the transcripts of the documents to the digitized images of the original on the Church History Library catalog.

    I think these July 17, 1880 minutes are really interesting–the first time that there had been a new general Relief Society presidency since March 17, 1842 at the Relief Society’s inaugural meeting. John Taylor and Eliza Snow had both been present at that inaugural meeting in 1842.

    Comment by Matt — March 17, 2016 @ 4:00 pm

  4. Thanks for drawing attention to this document and book, J.

    And Matt, a big thanks to the Church History Library, its managers, administrators, and especially staff for helping to make these and other manuscripts more widely available.

    Comment by Gary Bergera — March 17, 2016 @ 9:01 pm

  5. For what reasons would this document have been previously restricted and closed to research?

    Comment by Pete — March 18, 2016 @ 8:06 am

  6. And the story told about Joseph’s comment about Emma….wow.

    Comment by Pete — March 18, 2016 @ 8:11 am

  7. Thanks, J! This is great.

    Comment by Ryan T. — March 18, 2016 @ 9:08 am

  8. Pete, I don’t know precisely. Items are restricted for details on the temple liturgy, confessional/disciplinary material, and things that are “private,” which generally means general-level minutes, and 20th century GA papers. I accessed this document a number of years ago, but didn’t read the whole thing, and I haven’t had the chance to go through it since its digitization, but I didn’t find anything that would have triggered restriction, unless this minute and other items were categorized as “private.”

    Comment by J. Stapley — March 18, 2016 @ 9:27 am

  9. Do you think the wording of the settings apart (including the word “ordain”) might have been controversial, John Taylor’s disclaimer notwithstanding?

    Comment by Bored in Vernal — March 21, 2016 @ 10:03 am

  10. My guess is the statement about Emma raised a few eyebrows. The very idea that the first lady of the church when “off the reservation” from the perspective of church leaders was a volatile issue in some quarters.

    Comment by Old Man — March 21, 2016 @ 2:30 pm


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