In the fall of 1876, Emmeline B. Wells accepted Brigham Young’s assignment to lead Latter-day Saint women in a grain storage program. She began by writing this editorial in the newspaper that she edited, the Woman’s Exponent, calling on readers to act “immediately without any delay.” Women began that very year, buying, bartering, growing, gleaning, selling, and storing wheat. They guarded the wheat carefully, loaned it to the poor, and shared it in times of drought. These relief efforts expanded in 1906, when the women sent wheat and other supplies after an earthquake in San Francisco and during famine in China. The U.S. government purchased some of the wheat during World War I. The interest income contributed to maternity care, child welfare, and general health care for Church members.
In 1940 the wheat helped fill Church grain elevators, and in 1978 the Relief Society officially transferred its wheat to the Church’s Welfare Services program. The grain storage program thus served as a forerunner to the Church’s welfare, family services, and humanitarian services programs. Wheat has been an official symbol of the Relief Society since 1917 and remains visible on the exterior details of the Relief Society Building and in the Relief Society seal.