Church News - The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Spiritual feast in Red Brick Store

Relief Society commemorates 166th anniversary where it began
Published: Saturday, April 5, 2008

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Photo by Lee Lyon
For Relief Society's anniversary, sister missionaries and local members pose outside the replica of the Red Brick Store in Nauvoo, Ill. The society was organized in 1842 in the original store, which was owned by Joseph Smith.

On the 166th anniversary of the organization of the Relief Society March 17, sister missionaries serving in the Nauvoo Mission experienced a "spiritual feast" at their Commemoration Celebration on the upper floor of the restored Red Brick Store, where in 1842, it all began with charity.

Regarding her preparation of the script, Sister Barbara Sanderson said, "As I began my study of the events ... I was impressed to focus on the link between the sisters of the past with the sisters of the present as they shared their stories and testimonies of charity under the direction of the author of charity — even Jesus Christ whose desire it is that we continue to go forth to bring relief both spiritually and physically to God's children throughout the world."

Wanting to provide both physical and emotional relief, Sarah Granger Kimball and a young seamstress, Margaret Cook, desired to form a Benevolent Society. When Joseph was approached he took the matter to the Lord and thus called the sisters together and organized the Relief Society under the direction of the priesthood. Emma was elected president with Sarah M. Cleveland and Elizabeth Ann Whitney as counselors and Eliza R. Snow as secretary. Out of that meeting came Emma's famous quote, "Ladies, we are going to do something extraordinary." True to those words this organization, the Relief Society, has done and continues to render service all over the world.

Edna Stratford and Dona Hill, co-chairwomen of the event, reflected upon what a beautiful experience it was to sit in that building and remember what took place there so many years ago. With a sense of gratitude, those attending shared feelings of tenderness, sorrow, and joy at stories told by descendants of early sister saints, as well with acts of charity and compassion taking place today.

Musical selections, "A Key Was Turned in Latter Days" and "May I Serve Thee?" also bore witness to the cause of Relief Society.

"Charity is rarely convenient," Sister Martha Ludwig, wife of the Mission President Robert E. Ludwig, proclaimed. "We need to be pro-active in listening to the Spirit and acting upon its promptings. As Elder Oaks told us, "charity is not an act but a condition of becoming."

The Relief Society sisters in the Nauvoo mission, like Relief Society members all over the world, make numerous articles for humanitarian aid and give hours of volunteer service in the public library, Nauvoo School and the Carthage Hospital. It all began with charity.