What Joseph Smith Taught Women and Why It Matters


These are the endnotes from Sheri Dew's Introductory Chapter "What Joseph Smith Taught Women and Why It Matters" in the book The Beginning of Better Days.

1. D&C 135:3.

2. In Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. (London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1856–1886), 23:362. A lengthier version of President Cannon’s remarks reads: “He was visited constantly by angels; and the Son of God Himself condescended to come and minister unto him, the Father having also shown Himself unto him; and these various angels, the heads of dispensations, having also ministered unto him. . . . [H]e had vision after vision in order that his mind might be fully saturated with a knowledge of the things of God, and that he might comprehend the great and holy calling that God has bestowed upon him. In this respect he stands unique. There is no man in this dispensation can occupy the station that he, Joseph did, God having reserved him and ordained him for that position, and bestowed upon him the necessary power.”

3. Joseph Smith Jr., History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 vols. (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1932–1951), 6:50.

4. History of the Church, 5:402.

5. In Conference Report, April 1906, 3–4. On another occasion, President Joseph F. Smith said of Relief Society: “This organization is divinely made, divinely authorized, divinely instituted, divinely ordained of God to minister for the salvation of the souls of women and of men. Therefore there is not any organization that can compare with it, . . . that can ever occupy the same stand and platform that this can. . . . Make [Relief Society] first, make it foremost, make it the highest, the best and the deepest of any organization in existence in the world. You are called by the voice of the Prophet of God to do it, to be uppermost, to be the greatest and the best, the purest and the most devoted to the right” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith [Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1998], 184).

6. D&C 109:7.

7. Recorded by Sarah M. Kimball in 1882 in her capacity as general secretary of the Relief Society, as quoted in Daughters in My Kingdom (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2011), 12.

8. Nauvoo Relief Society Minute Book (hereafter Minutes), March 17, 1842. Available online at http://josephsmithpapers.org/paperDetails/nauvoo-relief-society-minute-book?dm=image

9. Sarah M. Kimball, “Auto-biography,” Woman’s Exponent, September 1, 1883, 51. On another occasion, Sarah Kimball recalled the words differently, indicating that Joseph said, “I have desired to organize the Sisters in the order of the Priesthood. I now have the key by which I can do it. The organization of the Church of Christ was never perfect until the women were organized.” Recorded by Sarah M. Kimball in 1882 in her capacity as general secretary of the Relief Society, “Relief Society Record, 1880–1892,” 29, 30, Church History Library, Historical Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

10. D&C 27:6; 86:10; 109:23.

11. Many revelations and changes in Church administration and organization illustrate this, including the June 8, 1978, revelation extending the privilege of priesthood ordination to all worthy males, and the relatively recent addition of Churchwide Seventies Quorums.

12. After giving the first endowments, the Prophet turned to Brigham Young and said, “Brother Brigham, this is not arranged perfectly; however we have done the best we could under the circumstances in which we are placed. I wish you to take this matter in hand: organize and systematize all these ceremonies” (L. John Nuttall diary, February 7, 1877; see also BYU Studies 19, Winter 1979, 159fn).

13. James E. Talmage, Jesus the Christ (Salt Lake City, Deseret Book, 1982), 442.

14. Women have always played central roles in the Savior’s Church. About the Relief Society, Eliza R. Snow wrote that “although the name may be of modern date, the institution is of ancient origin. We were told by our martyred prophet that the same organization existed in the Church anciently” (“Female Relief Society,” Deseret News, April 22, 1868).

15. First Presidency message, July 3, 1942, “To the Presidency, Officers and Members of the Relief Society,” in A Centenary of Relief Society, 1842–1942 (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1942), 7.

16. Eliza R. Snow, Address to Lehi Ward Relief Society, October 27, 1869, in Relief Society Minute Book, 1868–79, Church History Library, 26-27.

17. Julie B. Beck, “Why Are We Organized into Quorums and Relief Societies?” Brigham Young University Devotional address, January 17, 2012.

18. Spencer W. Kimball, “Our Sisters in the Church,” Ensign, November 1979, 49.

19. Minutes, March 30, 1842.

20. Handbook 2, Administering the Church (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2010), 8.

21. D&C 107:19.

22. D&C 84:19.

23. Minutes, April 28, 1842. Joseph Smith later described this address in these terms: “At two o’clock I met the members of the ‘Female Relief Society,’ and . . . gave a lecture on the Priesthood, showing how the sisters would come in possession of the privileges, blessings and gifts of the Priesthood, and that the signs should follow them, such as healing the sick, casting out devils, &c. and that they might attain unto these blessings by a virtuous life, and conversation, and diligence in keeping all the commandments” (History of the Church, 4:602).

24. Handbook 2, Administering the Church, 8. The handbook adds: “Those who hold priesthood keys have the right to preside over and direct the Church within a jurisdiction. Jesus Christ holds all the keys of the priesthood pertaining to His Church. He has conferred upon each of His Apostles all the keys that pertain to the kingdom of God on earth. The senior living Apostle, the President of the Church, is the only person on earth authorized to exercise all priesthood keys (see D&C 43:1–4; 81:2; 107: 64–67, 91–92; 132:7).”

25. Handbook 2, Administering the Church (page 8) explains how those other than the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve receive priesthood keys: “Seventies act by assignment and by the delegation of authority from the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Area Presidents are assigned to administer areas under the authorization of the First Presidency and the Twelve. The Presidency of the Seventy are set apart and are given the keys to preside over the Quorums of Seventy.

“The President of the Church delegates priesthood keys to other priesthood leaders so they can preside in their areas of responsibility. Priesthood keys are bestowed on presidents of temples, missions, stakes, and districts; bishops; branch presidents; and quorum presidents. This presiding authority is valid only for the designated responsibilities and within the geographic jurisdiction of each leader’s calling.”

26. Minutes, April 28, 1842.

27. See Jill Mulvay Derr, Janath Russell Cannon, and Maureen Ursenbach Beecher, Women of Covenant: The Story of Relief Society (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1992), 47–48 for further discussion on this point.

28. Dallin H. Oaks, “The Relief Society and the Church,” Ensign, May 1992, 35–36. Elder Oaks further explained that “the same is true of priesthood authority and of the related authority exercised under priesthood direction. Organizations may channel the exercise of such authority, but they do not embody it. Thus, the priesthood keys were delivered to the members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, not to any organizations.”

29. George Albert Smith, “Address to Members of Relief Society,” Relief Society Magazine, December 1945, 717. In that same address, President Smith told the sisters of Relief Society: “You are . . . more blessed than any other women in all the world. You were the first women to have the franchise; the first women to have a voice in the work of a church. It was God that gave it to you and it came as a result of revelation to a Prophet of the Lord.”

30. Minutes, April 28, 1842.

31. History of the Church, 4:604.

32. Minutes, April 28, 1842. Bathsheba Smith, the fourth general president of the Relief Society, wrote that in a general fast meeting, Joseph “said that we did not know how to pray to have our prayers answered. But when I and my husband had our endowments. . . . Joseph Smith presiding, he taught us the order of prayer” (Juvenile Instructor, June 1, 1892, 27:345).

33. Minutes, May 27, 1842. Elder Dallin H. Oaks shared insight on this point as it relates to Relief Society: “One of the great functions of Relief Society is to provide sisterhood for women, just as priesthood quorums provide brotherhood for men. But all should remember that neither sisterhood nor brotherhood is an end in itself. . . . The ultimate and highest expression of womanhood and manhood is in the new and everlasting covenant of marriage between a man and a woman. Only this relationship culminates in exaltation” (“The Relief Society and the Church,” Ensign, May 1992, 37).

34. Minutes, April 28, 1842.

35. History of the Church, 4:607. A second example of potential confusion about women and priesthood centers around Eliza’s recording that Joseph proposed to “ordain” the new Relief Society presidency to preside over the Society. Elder John Taylor later clarified that Emma did not receive priesthood keys or authority: “On the occasion of the organization of the Relief Society, by the Prophet Joseph Smith at Nauvoo, I was present Sister Emma Smith was elected president and Sisters Elizabeth Ann Whitney and Sarah M. Cleveland her Counselors. The Prophet Joseph then said that Sister Emma was named in the revelation recorded in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants concerning the Elect Lady, and furthermore that she had been ordained to expound the Scriptures. . . . The ordination then given did not mean the conferring of the Priesthood upon those sisters yet the sisters hold a portion of the Priesthood in coneciton with their husbands. (Sisters Eliza R. Snow and Bathsheba W. Smith, stated that they so understood it in Nauvoo and have looked upon it always in that light.) As I stated, at that meeting, I was called upon by the Prophet Joseph and I did then ordain Sisters Whitney and Cleveland, and blessed Sister Emma and set her apart. I could not ordain these sisters to anything more or to greater powers than had been conferred upon Sister Emma who had previously been ordained to expound the Scriptures, and that Joseph said at that time, that being an elect lady had its significance, and that the revelation was then fulfilled in Sister Emma being thus elected to preside over the Relief Society” (Woman’s Exponent, September 1, 1880, 53).

36. Brigham Young taught: “It is the privilege of a mother to have faith and to administer to her child; this she can do herself, as well as sending for the Elders to have the benefit of their faith” (in Journal of Discourses, 13:155). In those times, anointing might have been a way to strengthen the power of faith.

37. Relief Society Magazine, January 1965, 5.

38. Relief Society Magazine, January 1959, 4. Elder Dallin H. Oaks clarified that President Joseph Fielding Smith’s teaching on authority “explains what the Prophet Joseph Smith meant when he said that he organized the Relief Society ‘under the priesthood after the pattern of the priesthood.’ The authority to be exercised by the officers and teachers of the Relief Society . . . was the authority that would flow to them through their organizational connection with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and through their individual setting apart under the hands of the priesthood leaders by whom they were called” (“The Relief Society and the Church,” Ensign, May 1992, 36).

39. Gordon B. Hinckley, “Ten Gifts from the Lord,” Ensign, November 1985, 87.

40. Dallin H. Oaks, “Two Lines of Communication,” Ensign, November 2010, 83. In another address, Elder Oaks taught that prayers of faith, whether “uttered alone or in our homes or places of worship, can be effective to heal the sick. Many scriptures refer to the power of faith in the healing of an individual. . . . When the woman who touched Jesus was healed, He told her, ‘Thy faith hath made thee whole’ (Matthew 9:22)” (“Healing the Sick,” Ensign, May 2010, 47). Elder Oaks also clarified that “the authority that presides in the family—whether father or single-parent mother—functions in family matters without the need to get authorization from anyone holding priesthood keys” (“Two Lines of Communication,” 86).

41. Boyd K. Packer, “The Relief Society,” Ensign, May 1998, 73.

42. Handbook 2, Administering the Church, 9. Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained the distinction between priesthood keys and priesthood authority: “Every elder . . . has the power to baptize, but no elder can use this power unless he is authorized to do so by someone holding the keys” (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1985], 309).

43. Bruce R. McConkie, “The Doctrine of the Priesthood,” Ensign, May 1982, 32.

44. Minutes, April 28, 1842.

45. Verses in the Doctrine and Covenants, including D&C 84:19–22, 33–40; 107:18–20; 121:26–29, 33, are excellent places to begin a study of the fruits and blessings of the Melchizedek Priesthood.

46. Bruce R. McConkie, “Our Sisters from the Beginning,” Ensign, January 1979, 61.

47. D&C 131:2.

48. D&C 132: 16, 19.

49. John A. Widtsoe, Priesthood and Church Government (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1962), 83; emphasis added.

50. Minutes, April 28, 1842.

51. D&C 84:19.

52. D&C 107:18.

53. Said Joseph Smith: “God hath not revealed anything to Joseph, but what He will make known unto the Twelve, and even the least Saint may know all things as fast as he is able to bear them, for the day must come when no man need say to his neighbor, Know ye the Lord; for all shall know Him (who remain) from the least to the greatest” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Joseph Fielding Smith, comp. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1976], 149).

54. D&C 84:33–34.

55. D&C 84:35–40; emphasis added.

56. D&C 25:1.

57. 3 Nephi 9:16–17.

58. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 166–67.

59. In Journal of Discourses, 6:286.

60. History of the Church, 4:492.

61. In Journal History, March 4, 1844, Church History Library.

62. Minutes, April 28, 1842.

63. Minutes, August 13, 1843.

64. The Prophet then explained that “after this instruction, you will be responsible for your own sins. It is an honor,” he said, “to save yourselves—all are responsible to save themselves” (Minutes, April 28, 1842).

65. Minutes, August 31, 1842.

66. Minutes, April 28, 1842.

67. Minutes, May 27, 1842.

68. Minutes, March 30, 1842. See also The Words of Joseph Smith, comp. and ed. by Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1980), 137 fn4.

69. James E. Talmage, “The Eternity of Sex,” Young Woman’s Journal, October 1914, 25:602–3.

70. History of the Church, 4:604.

71. Joseph Smith instructed those men “in the principles and order of the Priesthood, attending to washings, anointings, endowments and the communication of keys pertaining to the Aaronic Priesthood, and so on to the highest order of the Melchisedek Priesthood. . . . In this council was instituted the ancient order of things for the first time in these last days” (History of the Church, 5:1–2). The seven men were: Hyrum Smith, Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Newel K. Whitney, Willard Richards, George Miller, and James Adams.

72. History of the Church, 5:2.

73. Joseph Smith, quoted by Mercy Fielding Thompson, in “Recollections of the Prophet Joseph Smith,” Juvenile Instructor, July 1, 1892, 400.

74. Elizabeth Ann Whitney, “A Leaf from an Autobiography,” Woman’s Exponent, February 15, 1879, 191.

75. History of the Church, 7:567.

76. Sarah DeArmon Pea Rich, “Autobiography 1885–93,” Church History Library, 66. See also Richard G. Scott, “Temple Worship: The Source of Strength and Power in Times of Need,” Ensign, May 2009, 44–45.

77. Howard W. Hunter, “Exceeding Great and Precious Promises,” Ensign, November 1994, 8.

78. See Tad R. Callister, The Infinite Atonement (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2000), 293. Said Brigham Young: “Let me give you a definition in brief. Your endowment is, to receive all those ordinances in the house of the Lord, which are necessary for you, after you have departed this life, to enable you to walk back to the presence of the Father, passing the angels who stand as sentinels, . . . and gain your eternal exaltation” (Discourses of Brigham Young [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1975], 416).

79. Thomas S. Monson, “The Holy Temple—A Beacon to the World,” Ensign, May 2011, 93; emphasis added.

80. Douglas L. Callister, address at Davis County Young Single Adult Fireside, April 17, 2011.

81. John A. Widtsoe, “Temple Worship,” Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine, April 1921, 63.

82. History of the Church, 3:295.

83. D&C 95:8.

84. D&C 109:13, 15, 22, 38.

85. See D&C 121:45.

86. Minutes, April 28, 1842.

87. See D&C 76:66–67; 107:19.

88. Minutes, June 9, 1842.

89. Minutes, June 9, 1842. President Joseph F. Smith elaborated on the purpose of Relief Society when he stated that the sisters were to “look after the spiritual welfare and salvation of the mothers and daughters of Zion; to see that none is neglected, but that all are guarded against misfortune, calamity, the powers of darkness, and the evils that threaten them in the world.” (Gospel Doctrine [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1999], 385.)

90. Minutes, April 28, 1842.

91. Minutes, March 17, 1842.

92. Minutes, March 30, 1842.

93. Minutes, April 28, 1842.

94. Minutes, May 26, 1842.

95. Minutes, June 9, 1842.

96. Minutes, August 31, 1842.

97. Minutes, June 9, 1842.

98. Helen Mar Whitney, “Scenes and Incidents at Winter Quarters,” Woman’s Exponent, December 1, 1885, 98.

99. 2 Timothy 3:6–7.

100. 2 Nephi 13:16.

101. Minutes, April 28, 1842.

102. Moroni 7:48.

103. Mosiah 28:3.

104. Minutes, June 9, 1842.

105. Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1997), 597.

106. Thomas S. Monson, “What Have I Done for Someone Today?” Ensign, November 2009, 85.

107. Henry B. Eyring, “Our Hearts Knit as One,” Ensign, November 2008, 68.

108. Gordon B. Hinckley, “Daughters of God,” Ensign, November 1991, 99.

109. In Journal of Discourses, 10:167.

110. 2 Nephi 32:7.

111. Boyd K. Packer, “The Relief Society,” Ensign, November 1978, 9.


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