Editor's note: Some of the following text has been edited for clarity.
Before she was formally set apart as the Relief Society general president, President Brigham Young asked Sister Eliza R. Snow to assist bishops in organizing Relief Societies and to teach the women. Her assignment from Brigham Young lasted over a decade, and she traveled as far as the Idaho and Wyoming Territoriesand throughout Utah—as far north as Bear Lake and as far south as Sevier County.
Last week, the Church Historian’s Press published more than 150 discourses from Eliza R. Snow’s travels from January 1879 to September 1880 as she spoke to Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary groups.
Her addresses to these various groups covered topics like the value of women, the importance of being self-sufficient, supporting the Church’s temple building projects, and working in harmony with local priesthood leaders.
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“She’s really challenging [women] to be a part of what’s going on and to be self-reliant,” Jenny Reeder, a Church historian and 19th-century women’s history specialist, told Church News. “She felt so strongly about the value of women and the influence of women.”
The full text of these discourses can be found at https://www.churchhistorianspress.org/eliza-r-snow. Here are just six statements Eliza made that were interesting and fairly progressive for the late 1800s:
1. Women should see themselves as vital in the work of salvation
In 1879, Eliza told the Riverdale Relief Society, “The sisters are called to look after the sick. That is not all—they are to save souls. Some think the Brethren have all the work to do, but we all have work to do to save ourselves. Some may think the brethren can save us. I would not pin my faith on any man’s sleeve, but put my faith and trust in God and do so rejoicing.”
2. Women should be politicially active: “It is your duty to vote”
In the same Riverdale Relief Society meeting, Eliza told the women, “It is your duty to vote. I would as soon as think of neglecting my prayers as not to vote. I think it a sacred duty we ought to attend to.”
3. Sisters shouldn’t sit and wait for answers
In an address to the Salt Lake City Fourteenth Ward Relief Society and young women, she concluded her remarks by emphasizing the importance and divinity of the United Order. About this new order she said, “I heard a sister say she guessed she would wait and see how it worked. I told her I should not like to be in her place. I have always endeavored so to live that I may be ready for every thing.”
4. Daughters of God should cultivate their potential to become goddesses
In Clifton, Idaho, Eliza told the Relief Society she hoped they “would remember always that we are the daughters of God” and said, “each one of us possessed the germ to become goddesses and we should cultivate that germ and nourish it.”
5. The brethren of the Church need to care about the Relief Society as much as the sisters do
Eliza told the Santaquin Relief Society in July 1875, “Our brethren should feel as great an interest in the Relief Society as the sisters [do], for their interests are one. The Church of Jesus Christ cannot be fully organized without the Relief Society.”
6. Sisters should understand the power that depends on them
In December 1872, the notes from Eliza's address to the Plain City Relief Society state she “said she was very pleased with the meeting at Harrisville, [and] said that the reason that they had so much success was [owing] to the faithfulness of the Sisters. [She] said that the Sisters did not realize the power that depended on them and that we could not be exalted without this power.”