A new book detailing the role of women in the Church's history takes an unflinching look at topics like why Brigham Young disbanded the Relief Society for a time, pioneer women's views on polygamy, and early women Church leaders performing healing blessings.
The release of a new book by an important, official LDS Church press is a signal that a current era of bold transparency about the church's history is still in full swing.
The rich, colorful beginnings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are captured in new ways through rarely seen and largely unknown documents that portray how Mormon women and church leaders worked through the creation of new institutions in turbulent times in The First Fifty Years of Relief Society: Key Documents in Latter-day Saint Women's History.
For example, the book tells the story of how and why Brigham Young decided in Nauvoo, Illinois, to disband the women's organization known as the Relief Society for a decade after the death of Joseph Smith, and how he dedicated himself to reestablishing it after the Latter-day Saints resettled in Utah.
Few Mormons know that story or about many of the other accounts provided by leaders and women, in their own words, beginning with the establishment of the Relief Society in 1842 — remarkable on its own at a time when in the rest of the United States women couldn't vote or own property and within the church didn't speak in sacrament meetings or serve missions. The book covers an era in which the church navigated a succession crisis, polygamy and an epic move across the American West.