Church History
4.10 Sarah M. Kimball, Reminiscence, March 17, 1882


Sarah M. Kimball, Reminiscence, March 17, 1882

Sarah M. Kimball, “Early Relief Society Reminesence,” Mar. 17, 1882; Relief Society Record, 1880–1892, pp. 29–30, CHL (CR 11 175).

See images of the original document at

At the fortieth anniversary of the founding of the Relief Society, Sarah M. Kimball gave the following account of the society’s origins.1 Kimball was well qualified to address the subject. As she recalled to a group of men and women gathered to celebrate the anniversary on March 17, 1882, her desire to contribute to the construction of the Nauvoo temple had helped lead to the organization of the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo and she had been one of its charter members. From 1842 to 1882 the Relief Society had remained a vital part of her life,2 and her years of Relief Society service reflected the organization’s accomplishments since its founding. She served for several decades as president of the Fifteenth Ward Relief Society in Salt Lake City, while serving for seven years as secretary of the Central Board under Eliza R. Snow.3 She was the first ward Relief Society president to have a separate Relief Society hall built for ward members.4 In 1877 the Fifteenth Ward Relief Society under her direction also completed a grain storage facility for wheat, “built of rock with tin roof, brick floor underlaid with concrete,” as part of their grain saving movement.5

March 17th 1882

Early Relief Society reminesence

Sister Geo. Godard [Elizabeth Goddard] invited a goodly no. of brethren and sisters to their pleasant home in 14th Ward S. L. City to selebrate the 40th (fortieth) Annaversary of the organisation of the Relief Society by the Prophet Joseph Smith.

Sarah Melissa Granger Kimball

Sarah Melissa Granger Kimball. Sarah Kimball was a prominent presence in Relief Society from its inception in Nauvoo until after its Jubilee celebration. Her bold and innovative leadership of the Salt Lake City Fifteenth Ward Relief Society, for more than forty years, resulted in such pioneering efforts as the first Relief Society hall. (Church History Library, Salt Lake City.)

The following brief account of the origin of the Society was given by Sarah M, Kimball.

March 1, 1842 The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints was poor in worldly goods and earnest in devotion to the labors required.— The Nauvoo Temple walls were about three feet high, Strong appeals were being made by the President of the Church and others for help to forward the work.

M,iss [Margaret] Cook a maiden lady Seemstress, one day in conversation with me on the subject of a recent appeal for provisions, clothing, beding and general supplies for the workmen and their families, remarked that she would be pleased to contribute needle work if it could be made available. I proffered material for her to make up, and suggested that others might feel as we did. We then agitated the subject of organising a Sewing Society. The object of which should be to aid in the erection of the Temple

About a dozen of the neighboring Sisters by invitation met in my parlor the following Thursday and the subject was further discused, and approved Sister Rigden [Phebe Rigdon] suggested that Sister E. R. Snow be invited to take part and to assist in getting up a Constitution and Bye-laws, the Speaker was delegated to wait on Miss Snow and solicit her aid which was cheerfully and efficiently rendered. A Constitution and bye laws was prepared and submitted to President Joseph Smith. He pronounced it the best constitution that he ever read, then remarked this is not what the sisters want, there is something better for them. I have desired to organise the Sisters in the order of the Priesthood I now have the key by which I can do it6 [p. 29]

The organisation of the Church of Christ was never perfect until the women were organised. He then said I want you (E. R. Snow) to tell the sisters who delegated you that their offering is accepted of the Lord, and will result in blessing to them. He further said I want the adjourned meeting to meet with me and a few of the brethren in the Masonic Hall on Thursday at 1. P. M. next,7 And I will organise you in the Order of the Priesthood after the pattern of the church. And I wish Emma to be nominated and elected President of the Organisation in fulfilment of the revelation in the Doctrine and Covenants which Says She is an Elect Lady.8 An Elect Lady is one who is elected9 [p. 30]


  1. Kimball’s retelling of the Relief Society origin story was formally recorded on at least four occasions in addition to the March 1882 account presented here: in a Salt Lake Stake Relief Society quarterly conference, June 22, 1878; in an undated (probably circa July 1880) statement in the Salt Lake Stake Relief Society Record Book; in her autobiographical sketch published in the Woman’s Exponent, September 1, 1883; and as part of the Relief Society’s official Jubilee exercises, March 17, 1892. (Salt Lake Stake, Salt Lake Stake Relief Society Record Book, 1868–1903, CHL, June 22, 1878, pp. 7–8; “First Organisation,” n.d., ca. July 1880, Relief Society Record, 1880–1892, CHL, 5; “Third Quarterly Conference,” Woman’s Exponent, July 1, 1878, 7:18; Sarah M. Kimball, “Auto-Biography,” Woman’s Exponent, Sept. 1, 1883, 12:51; Document 4.28; see also Janelle M. Higbee, “‘President Mrs. Kimball’: A Rhetoric of Words and Works” [master’s thesis, Brigham Young University, 1998], 58–66.)

  2. “President Sarah M. Kimball,” Woman’s Exponent, Dec. 15, 1898, 27:77–78.

  3. See Emmeline B. Wells, “Seventieth Anniversary,” Woman’s Exponent, Jan. 1, 1889, 17:117; and Document 4.5.

  4. See Document 3.10; see also Sarah M. Kimball, “Auto-Biography,” Woman’s Exponent, Sept. 1, 1883, 12:51.

  5. “Home Affairs,” Woman’s Exponent, Oct. 1, 1877, 6:69; see also Document 3.25.

  6. This key appears to be related to the one Joseph Smith noted in the April 28, 1842, Relief Society meeting: “I now turn the key to you in the name of God and this Society shall rejoice and knowledge and intelligence shall flow down from this time.” (See Document 1.2, entry for Apr. 28, 1842; and Document 2.2.)

  7. The first meeting of the Relief Society was held in a large room on the second floor of Joseph Smith’s store in Nauvoo on Thursday, March 17, 1842. The Nauvoo Masonic Lodge sometimes held meetings in that same room. (See Document 1.2.)

  8. Doctrine and Covenants 25; Document 1.1.

  9. Joseph Smith offered an explanation of the term “Elect Lady” at the organizational meeting of the Relief Society in Nauvoo. (Document 1.2, entry for Mar. 17, 1842; Joseph Smith, Journal, Mar. 17, 1842, in Andrew H. Hedges et al., eds., Journals, Volume 2: December 1841–April 1843, vol. 2 of the Journals series of The Joseph Smith Papers, ed. Dean C. Jessee et al. [Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2011], 45.)