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

Relief Society founding commemoration in birthplace, Nauvoo

Missionaries recall occasion when key was turned
Published: Saturday, March 26, 2011

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NAUVOO, ILL.

March 17, 2011, a day to celebrate the birth of the Relief Society, was warm but cloudy in Nauvoo. Sister Martha Ludwig, wife of President Robert E. Ludwig of the Illinois Nauvoo Mission, observed that the sister missionaries who had gathered in the upper room of the Red Brick Store to commemorate the event that took place at the same location 169 years earlier, were like the hand-made shawl she wore around her shoulders ?— beautiful and delicate but tough as nails in the service of the Lord. This observation captured the feeling of participants in the annual observance of the founding of the Relief Society under the direction of the Prophet Joseph Smith.

This year's remembrance treated the attendees, many dressed in period costume, to a dramatic re-creation of the beginnings of an organization that has become the embodiment of unselfish Christian love and service.

Sister missionaries serving in the historic sites of Nauvoo as well as the Nauvoo Temple assembled at the Nauvoo Visitors Center from which they were conveyed in horse-drawn carriages to the Prophet Joseph Smith's Red Brick Store, a replica of the original, which was constructed and is owned by the Community of Christ.

In the assembly room of the structure, they saw fellow missionaries filling the roles of Emma Smith, Eliza R. Snow, Sarah Kimball, Lucy Mack Smith, Joseph Smith, John Taylor, Willard Richards and the other pioneers who took part on that momentous occasion when the prophet turned the key that enabled the society to bless the lives of millions. The dramatization reminded attendees that they are part of an inter-generational chain of courageous, compassionate and confident women who simply strive to do what the Savior would have them do.

Photo by Steven Atkin
Dressed in period clothing, celebrants gather in front of Red Brick Store at commemoration honoring the founding of Relief Society at that locale, when Joseph Smith "turned the key" enabling the society.

"With the opening song, I was sure there was a throng of sisters from the spiritual land beyond singing with us," said Sister Sue Bunker of Mesa, Ariz. "When 'Joseph' and 'Emma' walked in you could feel the awe and respect for who they represented," she added.

Photo by Steven Atkin
With Nauvoo temple in background, missionaries are conveyed to Red Brick Store for Relief Society commemoration.

Elder LaMar Taylor and Sister MaryLee Taylor of North Ogden, Utah said, "It was an honor for us to portray Joseph and Emma for the re-enactment. We sensed the excitement that was in the air on that historic day and were touched by the spirit we felt in the room."

Sister Sabina Leonard from Juliaetta, Idaho, observed, "When we are born into the Church, we take things for granted, and when I saw the presentation, it made me understand the real purpose of Relief Society; that it had been given by revelation. I will not take it for granted anymore."

Underscoring this point, the program included a comment from President George Albert Smith, reported in the December 1945 Relief Society Magazine: "When the Prophet Joseph Smith turned the key for the emancipation of womankind, it was turned for all the world, and from generation to generation the number of women who can enjoy the blessings of religious liberty and civil liberty has been increasing."

Sister Tamara Christensen of Arimo, Idaho, and Sister Sue Bunker of Mesa, Ariz., co-chaired the committee that planned the commemoration and developed the script for the re-enactment.

Photo by Steven Atkin
Dressed in period clothing, celebrants gather in front of Red Brick Store at commemoration honoring the founding of Relief Society at that locale, when Joseph Smith "turned the key" enabling the society.