Treasures of the Collection: Relief Society Then and Now

Contributed By Heather Whittle Wrigley, Church News and Events

  • 24 September - 4 October 2011
24 September - 4 October 2011
Salt Lake City, Utah, USA

Artifacts from the Relief Society’s history will be on display on September 24 and 30 and October 1 in the Church History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.

Article Highlights

  • Church History Library open house
  • Sept. 24 and 30, 2011, noon to 9:00 p.m.
  • Oct. 1, 2011, noon to 2:00 p.m., 4:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

A minute book from March 1842, when the Relief Society was officially organized, records President Emma Smith’s farsighted statement: “We’re going to do something extraordinary.”

This minute book and more than 60 other rare and precious artifacts important to the history of the Relief Society will be on display for three days during the fourth “Treasures of the Collection” open house at the Church History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.

The exhibit will first be open for viewing on Saturday, September 24, 2011, from noon to 9:00 p.m. It will reopen on Friday, September 30, also from noon to 9:00 p.m. It will also be available for viewing on the first day of general conference, Saturday, October 1, from noon to 2:00 p.m. and from 4:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

“As people see original documents from our history, it almost transports them back in time and allows their faith to be increased in a way that they can see and feel and think in the same way as the early Saints. When we read about their challenges, it gives us strength to overcome our own challenges,” said Patrick Dunshee, manager of marketing and communications for the library. “We decided to focus on documents from the early Relief Society because there’s so much interest in women’s history right now.”

The exhibit coincides with the annual general Relief Society meeting to be held on September 24 this year, as well as with the recent release of Daughters in My Kingdom: The History and Work of Relief Society, a book about Relief Society through the years.

Each of the 11 displays will feature sisters in various aspects of Relief Society, said April Williamsen, public programming specialist for the Church History Library.

A display centering on “sisters in testimony” includes an ornate 1841 edition of the Book of Mormon owned by Lucy Mack Smith, the Prophet Joseph Smith’s mother, as well as a letter she wrote to her brother, Solomon, bearing her testimony.

Other themes include “sisters in war,” “sisters in health,” and “sisters in record-keeping.”

A nine-foot-long (2.7 m), hand-painted letter from the 1950s from a women’s organization in Osaka, Japan, extends the gratitude of the women to the Relief Society for the supplies and help sent to them following World War II.

A photograph shows the Relief Society general presidency at the time looking over the letter and reading the English translation that accompanied it.

Another display includes items from the organization’s “gospel of silk” program. In 1875 President Brigham Young (1801–1877) instructed the women of all the settlements to cultivate and produce silk for their own clothing and for temples and meetinghouses of the Church.

A minute book from the Cedar City Ward Relief Society spans 19 years, from 1856 to 1875, when paper prices were at a premium. Each sister of the ward was asked to donate a single sheet of paper. One sister donated some wallpaper from England, which was used for the cover of the minute book. Another donated buckskin, which was used to bind the cover. Each page is slightly different, and the lines are nearly faded, but every inch of paper is meticulously filled with minutes from Relief Society meetings during those years.

Other displays include artifacts and items concerning historic Relief Society buildings, the 1992 Relief Society centennial, minute books from local wards, magazines, membership cards, paintings, and so forth.

“I think it will help women today realize that women have faced the same problems throughout time and throughout the world,” Sister Williamsen said. “Relief Society and its programs have done so much for all of these women.”

The Church History Library is located at 15 E. North Temple Street in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, immediately east of the Conference Center.