Church History
Bonus Chapter 3. Sisters in Very Deed: Rebecca E. Standring
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“Bonus Chapter 3. Sisters in Very Deed: Rebecca E. Standring,” At the Pulpit: 185 Years of Discourses by Latter-day Saint Women (2017)

“Bonus Chapter 3. Rebecca E. Standring,” At the Pulpit

Bonus Chapter 3

Sisters in Very Deed

Lehi Relief Society

Upper Room of Cooperative Store, Lehi, Utah Territory

November 18, 1871

In her discourse to the Relief Society on November 18, 1871, Rebecca E. Smith Standring (1828–1913) expanded the definition of family to comprise all those around her, including her Relief Society sisters. She had addressed the visiting teachers of the Lehi Relief Society on October 22, 1871, about their role as mothers to the women on their assigned blocks. She encouraged them to “look after their welfare, feel of their spirits, and teach them the principles of salvation, as well as relieve the wants of the poor. By this they make themselves saviors; they save souls.”1 The value of family was a consistent theme in her addresses, including her brief remarks to the entire Lehi Relief Society a month after she spoke to the teachers (reproduced below).

Standring was born in Northampton, England, one of eleven children. She joined the church there in February 1851 at the age of twenty-three. With two sisters, she immigrated to America in 1855. Standring lived first in New York and then in Dayton, Ohio, before moving to the Salt Lake Valley in September 1857, settling fifty miles south in Springville. While visiting a sister in Lehi in 1859, she met and later married Edwin Standring, who also was from England. After his death, she adopted and raised two children: Alice Bahr Royle and John Edwin Standring.2

Standring was very active in the community and the church.3 During the early 1860s, she participated in the Home Dramatic Association and was active in the Lehi choir. When the Sunday School was organized in 1866 in Lehi, she was the first female teacher, serving for thirty years. The Lehi Relief Society was organized in October 1868, with Standring appointed secretary.4 Eleven years later, she was named president of the Lehi Relief Society, a position she held for twenty-two years. When the Alpine Stake Relief Society was organized in 1901, she was appointed president and served for twelve years. She also served on the Relief Society general board from 1896 to 1902.5 Standring assisted with the Utah Stake Primary Association and served as an ordinance worker in the St. George, Manti, and Salt Lake Temples.6

Standring worked carefully to contribute to a spirit of unity in her Relief Society. At the meeting on November 18, 1871, Relief Society President Sarah C. Evans requested that Standring read a chapter from Parley P. Pratt’s Key to the Science of Theology.7 After the reading, Martha P. Thomas, a counselor in the presidency, expressed her inability to further explain Pratt’s words. Standring responded by encouraging the sisters to be filled with love, kindness, and forbearance for one another, bearing one another’s weaknesses. Inspired by Standring’s words, several other women bore their testimonies “of their determination with the help of God to stand faithful to his cause, putting their whole trust in him, knowing that all others may fail. He would never fail but make bare his arm in our deliverance from our enemies and set his seal upon his faithful ones, that they cannot be lost.” President Evans concluded the meeting by saying she was pleased “to see so many of my sisters here. I love to hear them speak. I know it is right for us to improve the talent God has given.”8

My sisters, I desire to throw in my mite with yours.9 I feel thankful that I am a member of this institution, and it always gives me pleasure to meet with my sisters, for I realize that we are sisters in very deed, children of the same Heavenly Parent, yet at times how estranged we seem to be from each other.10

How different the feeling will be if we are ever permitted to return to the presence of our Eternal Father. Then we shall greet each other with smiles of love, and every feeling contrary to love and kindness will be banished from us.

Then let us begin to cultivate more and more the spirit of love and kindness and forbearance one with another. Bear with each other’s weaknesses, remembering we are all members of the same great family, which may God bless us with his Holy Spirit so to do, I ask in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

  1. “A Meeting of the Teachers,” Lehi Ward, Utah Stake, Relief Society Minutes and Records, vol. 1, 1868–1879, Oct. 22, 1871, 75, CHL. The Nauvoo Relief Society instituted a “visiting” teacher program in 1843 in Nauvoo, assigning teams of women to specific geographic areas in which they were to ascertain needs and seek charitable contributions. The practice continued in Utah, and female ward “teachers” often reported their actions as well as spiritual counsel in Relief Society minute books. (Jill Mulvay Derr, Carol Cornwall Madsen, Kate Holbrook, and Matthew J. Grow, eds., The First Fifty Years of Relief Society: Key Documents in Latter-day Saint Women’s History [Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2016], 109–110, 209–210, 220–222; Jill Mulvay Derr, Janath Russell Cannon, and Maureen Ursenbach Beecher, Women of Covenant: The Story of Relief Society [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1992], 91–92.

  2. “Rebecca E. Standring,” Woman’s Exponent 41, no. 13 (Jan. 1914): 91; Andrew Jenson, Latter-day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia (Salt Lake City: Andrew Jenson Memorial Association, 1901–1936), 4:198; “Mrs. Standring Dead,” Salt Lake Tribune, Dec. 21, 1913, 10; Lehi Centennial Committee, Lehi Centennial History 1850–1950 (Lehi, UT: Free Press, 1950), 296–297. Edwin Standring died in 1888. John Standring was the son of Edwin Standring and his plural wife Mary Ann Cutler, who died in 1900. John Standring was nineteen when Rebecca adopted him. He suffered from mental illness and died in the Utah State Mental Hospital. (Frank Esshom, Pioneers and Prominent Men of Utah [Salt Lake City: Utah Pioneers Book Publishing, 1913], 1:346; “The Funeral of Mrs. Mary Ann Standring Roberts,” Lehi [Utah] Banner, July 19, 1900; John E. Standring Death Certificate, Utah County, Utah, Nov. 1, 1924, #452–353, Department of Health, Office of Vital Records and Statistics, Death Certificates, 1904–1961, Series 81448, Utah State Archives.) (Mary) Alice Bahr Royle was the daughter of William Andrew Bahr and Harriet Jackson. Her father died in 1885. When she married Henry M. Royle in 1903, the county record lists her last name as Standring. (Mary A. Bar, 1880 U.S. Census, Salem, Utah Co., UT; William Andrew Bahr, Salem City Cemetery, UT, block 35, lot 1, plot 4, memorial #35396839, accessed Jan. 19, 2016,; Utah County Marriages, 1887–1973, Jan. 21, 1903, #488400, Utah County Courthouse, Provo, UT.)

  3. The news story announcing Standring’s death stated that “because of the public service she has done, she was probably the most prominent woman in Lehi and the north end of Utah County.” (“Mrs. Standring Dead,” 10.)

  4. Rebecca Standring, Letter to Editor, in “F.R. Society Reports,” Woman’s Exponent 1, no. 18 (Feb. 15, 1873): 138.

  5. Lehi Centennial Committee, Lehi Centennial History, 296–297; Jenson, Latter-day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia, 4:198.

  6. Lehi Centennial Committee, Lehi Centennial History, 297.

  7. Parley P. Pratt, Key to the Science of Theology: Designed as an Introduction to the First Principles of Spiritual Philosophy; Religion; Law and Government (Liverpool: F. D. Richards, 1855). Chapters of this book were often read and discussed in church meetings, and publication notices were included in newspapers. (See “Book Notices,” Woman’s Exponent 3, no. 2 [June 15, 1874]: 12.)

  8. Lehi Ward Relief Society Minutes and Records, Nov. 18, 1871, 81–82.

  9. See Mark 12:42–43; Luke 21:2–3.

  10. Pratt wrote that “children of the same royal Parent in the heavens” are “joint heirs.” Pratt, Key to the Science of Theology, 32.