“Sarah M. Kimball’s Nauvoo Home Is Dedicated,” Ensign, May 1982, 109–11
Sarah M. Kimball would have been proud. LDS women came from Utah, Missouri, Illinois, and Iowa to visit Sarah’s small frame home in Nauvoo, Illinois, where on 11 March 1842 she proposed the idea for a Ladies Relief Society. At the dedication of the home 140 years later, women toured the restored home, attended dedication ceremonies, and celebrated the 140th anniversary of the Relief Society.
Elder Dean L. Larsen of the Presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy gave the dedicatory prayer for the home, and general Relief Society president Barbara B. Smith conducted the dedication service, giving a report on the Relief Society’s tradition of service and the organization’s current status.
The day’s activities highlighted the small beginnings of the Relief Society, its growth, and its influence in the lives of LDS women today.
Nauvoo was buzzing with activities the day of the dedication. Dramatic sketches about early Nauvoo were presented at the restored cultural hall, which still maintains its early Nauvoo atmosphere.
Historical presentations were given at the Nauvoo Visitors’ Center. Douglas H. Smith (husband of President Barbara B. Smith) spoke about the westward trek of the Saints from Nauvoo.
A soup and salad supper was given in the afternoon at the Nauvoo Ward, and it was an interstate effort. The salad was made by sisters from Davenport, Iowa. Homemade bread was brought by sisters from Peoria, Illinois. Soup was prepared by sisters in Nauvoo. Sisters from Champagne, Illinois, furnished ice cream. And each of the seventeen participating stakes from all three states brought birthday cakes to celebrate the 140th anniversary of the Relief Society.
Tables for the supper were beautifully set with china and decorated with floral arrangments. While visitors waited to be fed supper, musical excerpts from Because of Elizabeth were performed.
Tours of the Sarah Kimball home were given throughout the afternoon. Elizabeth E. Simmons and Oma E. Wilcox did the research for and procuring of antiques for the restored home.
“We really felt guided in our work of furnishing the home,” said Sister Wilcox. “We visited many, many shops looking for pieces from around 1845 that might have been similar to something used by Sarah Kimball.”
The restored home has a warm feel to it, with a bright orange and red ingrain carpet in the parlor by the fireplace, baskets of apples scenting the home, woodwork painted in warm colors authentic to Sarah Kimball’s time, and even letters sitting on the writing desk in the parlor. The upstairs bedrooms are light and airy, comfortably furnished with feather ticks for the beds and beautiful spreads and quilts.
The dedication service itself was attended by about six hundred people, among them several descendants of Sarah Kimball. Prelude music was performed by a women’s string ensemble from the St. Louis Missouri Stake. In the dedicatory prayer, Elder Dean L. Larsen noted that “We have seen the effect of the turning of the key in behalf of women, and we rejoice in the consequences of this inspired action.”
President Barbara B. Smith and her two counselors, Marian R. Boyer and Shirley W. Thomas, each spoke at the service. Sister Boyer spoke about the graciousness of Sarah Kimball, and of the home that she created for her family. Sister Thomas spoke about Sarah Kimball’s many contributions to community matters, and how Sarah Kimball was known especially for being a woman of charity.
The Relief Society’s role in the history of the Church and at present was the topic of Sister Smith’s talk.
“There are some remarkable actions associated with the gift of Relief Society,” said Sister Smith. “Our 140-year report reminds us today of so many things that have been done by the sisters of Relief Society to relieve suffering.
“Here in Nauvoo the society was organized. It was organized for the express purpose of making the ministering to the poor more effective. It was charged with the responsibility of encouraging its members individually and collectively to look to the wants of the poor and search out the objects of charity and minister to their wants. It was given the responsibility of strengthening the virtues of the community, watching over one another, gaining instruction, and teaching women duties toward one another, toward family members, toward husbands.
“This organization offers relief from spiritual and intellectual ignorance, relief from poverty and suffering, relief from sorrow and loneliness, relief from the evils of the world, relief from cynicism and doubt,” said Sister Smith.
“But most important is the continuing gift of discernment which the inspiration of heaven provides to us through Relief Society. We can see more dearly today than ever before how great the challenge is for us to build strong homes and provide loving care for the children who come to our care. It really is not now and never has been a question of either a rich and full life for women or a strong and loving home. A Relief Society home must meet the challenge of both positions.”