Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Beginning of Better Days: March 17, 1842

I know I still haven't blogged about the Sheri Dew section of The Beginning of Better Days, but I'm really excited about the March 17, 1842 section!  I was able to read a good chunk of it while waiting for my daughters at their singing class.  It filled in so many of the holes that I've wondered about with the organization of the Relief Society.  I'll just jot down some of my notes here so you can get a feel for what's in the chapter:

  • What is the 1844 definition of "provoke"?  Could it be assist?  Why would the sisters "provoke the brethren to good works in looking for the wants of the poor. . ." does it really mean help or assist? (89)
  • The sisters were to search after "objects of charity." This reminded me of the modern practices of the LDS Church to seek out the poor and needy (89).
  • They also were to correct the morals and strengthen the virtues of the female community and "save the Elders the trouble of rebuking" so they could spend their time in their public teaching (89).  I wonder what they were to rebuke?  Gossip?  Because teaching is not mentioned here for the sisters, I wondered if they were not to teach, but only the brothers?  On page 91, however, Emma is told to "expound the scriptures to all; and to teach the female part of the community. . . . "
  • The sisters were to elect a presiding officer who would choose two counselors (89-90).  This differs in the current selection of a Relief Society president as she is chosen by the bishop, not the sisters (90).  I know some priesthood positions back then were also elected, but I can't remember how common that was.  I should look that up.  Could you imagine really voting in your bishop or RS president?  Page 91 also mentions that Emma "was called an Elect lady" because she was "elected to preside. . . ."
  • Joseph said he would "ordain [the women] to preside over the Society."  Now in some commentary this has caused confusion because he's using priesthood words which would make some think that he may be giving the women the priesthood.  In the context of the chapter though, I think he uses the priesthood words merely to describe this similar female organization. This clarifies in my head the meaning of the term "organized after the pattern of the priesthood": the Relief Society was organized structurally like the organization of the priesthood with a president and two counselors.  Additionally he says, if the sisters want any officers, they should "be appointed and set apart, as Deacons, Teachers, &c. are among us" (90).
  • I also found it interesting that what the Relief Society presidency decided was "considered law."  I wonder what specific decisions were in their domain? (90)
  • The minutes would become their "Constitution and law" (90).
  • It sounds to me like the RS Presidency could be in office as long as they were in "good behavior" just "like the first Presidency." Fascinating.  I wonder what would constitute bad behavior! (90)
  • The notes state that "Mrs. Smith proceed to choose her Counsellors, that they maybe ordain'd to preside. . ."  Again, I'm thinking Joseph's using priesthood words to describe what is to happen in the RS, not that he's going to give them the priesthood; the RS is just going to be run the same way (91).
  • I love how they used the word "Presidentess" back in that day.  I think we should pick it up again, well, at least once we can consistently say it without tripping up our tongues! (91)
  • On page 92, we start hearing about the formality expected in the RS meetings.  One funny thing is that "When one has the floor [she can occupy it for] as long as she pleases."  Also, the President should be addressed as "Mrs. Chairman or President and not Mr. Chairman. . . ." There must have been some question as to whether the women should be called Mr. as an official title?
  • I also love on 92 that the sisters were "not [to] injure the character of any one. . . ." Also, "keep all your doings within your own bosoms, and hold all characters sacred." We can probably all take that advice.
  • Page 93 goes into choosing the name of the Relief Society/Benevolent Society.  I thought it was funny that they were worried "relief" could connotate "to relieve criminals from punishment. . . to relieve a murderer, which would not be a benevolent act."
  • Emma didn't like the popularity of the word benevolent because other institutions with benevolent in the name were corrupt.
  • Eliza R. Snow objected to the word Relief because "the idea associated with it is that of some great calamity" rather than "meeting the common occurrences."  Little did she know the huge part the RS would eventually play in helping people during calamities.  And of course, today, the RS is quite a steward of the "common occurrences" more than anything.
  • When Emma said "we are going to do something extraordinary" her example was "when a boat is stuck on the rapids with a multitude of Mormons on board we shall consider that a loud call for relief. . . " (95-96).
  • When Joseph gave his money to the RS that day, he said, "I shall have to concede the point, all I shall have to give to the poor, I shall give to this Society."  From that statement, it makes me think that he was basically turning the temporal care of people over to the RS, much like the Presiding Bishopric has the duty today (96).
  • As it's official name was, The Female Relief Society of Nauvoo, I wonder when "The Female" part was officially omitted? (96)
  • Lastly, Joseph declared the RS organized and stated ". . .all who shall hereafter be admitted into this Society must be free from censure and receiv'd by vote."  What exactly did censure mean back then? It's also interesting that new members had to be voted in.  I wonder how long that practice lasted (97).
I loved this section!  Like I said at the beginning, it filled in a lot of the holes about the beginning of the RS that I'd wanted to understand.