I'm really going to make it through posting my notes/thoughts/questions regarding Daughters in My Kingdom one of these days. This post shouldn't be long. Chapter 3 - "Cleave unto the Covenants" Exodus, Migration, and Settlement was pretty straight forward.
In the chapter we learn that before 1846 the "formal organization of the Female Relief Society was discontinued. . . " (29). That is sad, but the sisters still did work to help others, just not in such an organized fashion. The book does not mention reasons the RS was discontinued, but as far as I understand, at least one reason was that Brigham Young was upset that Emma Smith was teaching against polygamy at RS meetings. I apologize that I can't cite that reference, but I'm going to guess it was one of the podcasts on the Mormon Channel. I'm just guessing there because I don't go seeking out anti-LDS literature, so I probably heard it from a pretty safe source -- but, I could be wrong. It would be nice to know additional reasons for the discontinuation, and we could guess some reasons. I'd have to figure that the Church was just trying to simplify at the time as they were leaving Nauvoo, and there just wasn't the strength and time to continue the organization.
It's amazing that "More than 5,000 Saints thronged the Nauvoo Temple after its dedication so they could receive the endowment and sealing ordinance. . ." (29). Can't you imagine the excitement of receiving this newly revealed knowledge and protection before this long trek West? It would give me so much strength. I do wonder if the Saints were scared and if the temple would give me more courage BOTH temporally AND spiritually.
As the above quote mentions, people were sealed, and I'm reminded of V.H. Cassler's Polygamy article where she mentions that often women were sealed to Church General Authorities to assure their salvation, while husbands were sealed as children to the union created between the woman and the GA. I wonder if that is some of what was happening in Nauvoo. If you're unfamiliar with the LDS Church today, that's not the way we do it anymore. A husband and wife are sealed (bound for eternity) to each other, and children born into that union are automatically sealed (tied for eternity) to their parents.
On page 31, we learn that "during the migration, the ratio of men to women and children was low." "'Few men were left to raise grain and vegetables and protect he women and children. . . .' The Saints were blessed by priethood power. . . . They were also sustained by the sisters' faith in God, charity, strength, and prayers. With illness rampant, the sisters served as doctors and nurses to their own families and to one another. . . ." Although the book does not mention it, here could be a good time to remember the practice of "female ritual healing" (as written by Stapley & Wright) where the women actually did bless those in need -- not through an actual priesthood blessing, but more through a faith blessing. Heather at Women in the Scriptures taught a lesson that touched on healing/blessings given by women, if you want to read it. (1/15/12 update: Also, D.H. Oaks addresses women giving blessings in the early days of the Church in a address from 1992 and reminds us that the church was not fully organized at that point in time: there were no temples. Once the temples were built, these sacred ordinances/blessings would be performed there.) I'd suppose it was quite a relief to the women to know that they were authorized to bless as needed, particularly if men weren't around to give a priesthood blessing. It was probably a very empowering feeling.
I suppose a logical explanation for the practice of polygamy can relate here in a couple ways. With this high ratio of females to males, polygamy allowed women to receive the sealing ordinance before coming west. If the requirement were 1:1, so many women wouldn't have been able to receive the ordinance. On a practical note, it seems that polygamy had the potential to bind adult women together as a team (sure some women were already sisters and probably felt like team, but some weren't). On that arduous trek, wouldn't it be nice to be surrounded by family -- particularly other adults?
The great Mormon Exodus and settlement in the Salt Lake Valley have always been a favorite topic of mine, so I enjoyed reading the chapter as well as the examples of faithful women in it.