New Exhibit at Church Museum Highlights Relief Society through Years

“New Exhibit at Church Museum Highlights Relief Society through Years,” Liahona, Sept. 2007, N3–N5

New Exhibit at Church Museum Highlights Relief Society through Years

At the organization of the Relief Society held on March 17, 1842, Emma Smith declared, “We are going to do something extraordinary” (Relief Society, Minutebook 1842 Mar.–1844 Mar., entry made March 17, 1842, 12, LDS Church Archives).

The statement inspired the women of the fledgling organization then, and it is now the inspiration for a new exhibition at the Museum of Church History and Art titled Something Extraordinary: A Sampler of Women’s Gifts.

The exhibition celebrates the remarkable fulfillment of Emma’s pronouncement by displaying objects representing the gifts and talents of Relief Society sisters from around the world.

The most historically significant object included in the exhibit is the 1842 minutebook used by the founders of the Relief Society to record the proceedings of its meetings.

The manuscript, titled A Record of the Organization and Proceedings of the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo, contains the minutes of Relief Society meetings held in Nauvoo from 1842 to 1844. Many of the quotes from the minutebook are well known to members everywhere, making it an important document for Latter-day Saint women.

To help tell about the good works of the Relief Society, nearly 60 objects are displayed, including many historical and contemporary works of art, writing, and everyday objects. Latter-day Saint women have been involved in so many activities and events that the sum of these events has created and is still creating a remarkable legacy of sisterhood and service.

“Since the founding of the Relief Society more than 160 years ago, Latter-day Saint women around the world have performed countless acts of compassion and service,” said exhibit curator Marjorie Conder. “This service has been extraordinary, and it has created a legacy of sisterhood and expanding opportunities for the Relief Society of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

The exhibit features a print of a painting of Emma Smith, wife of the Prophet Joseph and the first president of the Relief Society; music; quilts; cookbooks; and items from around the world created by Relief Society members to help beautify Church buildings.

There is even a Grammy Award in the collection, which was awarded to Gladys Knight, a Church member and successful musical artist. Sister Knight has used her great talents to lift others and expand their talents.

For information on the museum and its exhibits, visit www.lds.org/churchhistory/museum.

Quotes from the Relief Society Minutebook

“This society is not only to relieve the poor, but to save souls” (Joseph Smith, Relief Society Minutebook, June 9, 1842).

“The popular institutions of the day should not be our guide—that as daughters of Zion we should set an example for all the world” (Eliza R. Snow, Relief Society Minutebook, March 17, 1842).

“[I] rejoiced at the formation of the society, that we might improve upon our talents and prepare for those talents and blessings which God is soon to bestow upon us” (Bishop Newel K. Whitney, Relief Society Minutebook, May 27, 1842).

“We design to act in the Name of the Lord—to relieve the wants of the distressed, and do all the good we can” (Sarah Cleveland, Relief Society Minutebook, March 17, 1842).

“[I] rejoiced that we could enjoy the privilege of associating together to converse on the things of the Kingdom, to comfort and edify each other while passing through this vale of tears” (Elizabeth Ann Whitney, Relief Society Minutebook, July 15, 1843).

Eliza R. Snow was the first secretary of the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo. Much of the minutebook is recorded in her hand. She carried this precious document across the plains in 1847 and drew upon it to assist bishops in reestablishing ward Relief Societies in Utah and surrounding areas beginning in 1868. As second general president of the Relief Society, she directed women in establishing organizations for young women and children.

Quilting followed Church missionaries into many areas where it was not indigenous, such as Tahiti. The maker of this quilt learned to make quilts from her mother, who in turn learned to make quilts from early missionaries. The design of this quilt is the Heifara pattern, which means “pandanus,” a Tahitian tree that produces fruit with edible seeds.

In October 2003 general conference, Ann Pingree of the Relief Society general presidency told of women she knew in Africa who walked many miles to receive their temple recommends with no expectation they would ever be able to use them. Since that time, those Saints have seen a temple dedicated in their own land.

Shortly after the founding of Relief Society, women were sent out to assess and report the needs of those residing in the precincts, or wards, of Nauvoo. Today Relief Society sisters performing much the same task are known as visiting teachers and their mission of sisterly watchcare continues.

In 1876 Brigham Young asked Emmeline Wells to head a wheat-saving project. At first the women gleaned wheat. Later Relief Society sisters purchased both wheat and fields with their own funds. Over the years their wheat and wheat funds were used for many charitable purposes, including European relief after World War I. Wheat came to symbolize the Relief Society motto of Charity Never Faileth.