RS/MP Lesson 39: “Relief Society: Divine Organization of Women” (Joseph Smith Manual)

I fear and tremble a bit before this lesson, on the one hand because, as a male, I worry about how whatever I have to say about it might be taken, and on the other hand because the circumstances surrounding the setting up of the Relief Society in 1842 are much more complicated than the lesson itself lets on, and that makes my task a rather difficult (if not indeed controversial) one. That said, let me try to say something helpful about this lesson.

From the Life of Joseph Smith

The introductory part of the lesson provides a nice synopsis of the original formation of the society: Sarah Granger Kimball and Margaret A. Cook decided to create a charity society. But this took a very different direction when the plan came before Joseph Smith. His response, according to a very late reminiscence, was: “This is not what you want. Tell the sisters their offering is accepted of the Lord, and he has something better for them than a written Constitution.” (p. 449) I don’t know how accurately Sister Kimball remembered the occasion, but the words are significant: Joseph seems indeed to have wanted to replace the “written Constitution” with a living constitution.

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