Women’s Organizations Research GuideRelief Society

Relief Society

Women’s Organizations Research Guide

The Relief Society was organized on March 17, 1842, in an upper room of Joseph Smith’s Red Brick Store in Nauvoo, Illinois. Twenty women were present that day. The society, organized under the mission of charity, soon grew to over 1,000 members. Not only did women serve together and organize themselves to meet the needs of their community, but they also learned together and increased their spirituality and personal commitment to their faith.

The Relief Society disbanded for a short time in 1844 after the death of Joseph Smith and the exodus of Latter-day Saint to the Salt Lake Valley. It was reorganized in 1867 and still operates today, with millions of members worldwide.

Eliza R. Snow, 2nd Relief Society President; Bathsheba W. Smith, 4th Relief Society President.

Online Resources:

Relief Society Minute Book, March 1842-March 1844

The minute book of the Female Relief Society organized in Nauvoo, Illinois, includes an account of the organization of the Relief Society,  and meeting minutes, membership lists, and instructions given by Joseph Smith and other Church leaders from 1842 to 1844.

Relief Society Record, 1880-1892

This collection provides an account of the organization of the general Relief Society in Salt Lake City in 1880 and a record of Relief Societies established in wards and stakes. The records include annual reports, obituaries, speeches, minutes, and other information pertaining to Relief Society activities.

Daughters in My Kingdom: The History and Work of Relief Society

Published in 2011 by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and available in numerous languages, this book offers “a historical view of the grand scope of the work of the Relief Society” (“Preface: ‘Something Extraordinary,’” xi–xiv). It was written using historical accounts, personal experiences, scriptures, and words of latter-day prophets and Relief Society leaders.

The First Fifty Years of Relief Society: Key Documents in Latter-day Saint Women’s History

This book was published in 2016 and contains a collection of original documents compiled by Kate Holbrook, Carol Cornwall Madsen, Jill Mulvay Derr, and Matthew J. Grow. This volume relates the history of the Relief Society in the 19th century, covering the years 1842 to 1892.

Textual Resources:

Elect Ladies: Presidents of the Relief Society

This volume, written by Janet Peterson and LaRene Gaunt, provides biographies of Relief Society general presidents from Emma Smith to Barbara Winder. The appendixces include a time line and the membership list of the Nauvoo Relief Society.

Women of the Covenant: The Story of Relief Society

This book is a comprehensive history of the Relief Society, from its organization in 1842 to its sesquicentennial in 1992. The first edition covers the presidencies of Emma Smith up to Elaine L. Jack. Also included in the book is a list of general board members. It was written by Jill Mulvay Derr, Janath Russell Cannon, and Maureen Ursenbach Beecher.

Handbook of the Relief Society of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (1931)

This is the first edition of the Relief Society handbook, which was afterward then published on a regular basis. The first handbook includes a history of the Relief Society, biographies of the general presidents, organization procedure, and instructions for Relief Society organizations. It was published in multiple languages. More of these handbooks can be found by searching the catalog for “Relief Society handbook” or by the call number M257.22 R382h.