The Red Brick Store - the site where the Relief Society was organized by Joseph Smith on March 17, 1842 - became the location once again for a special Relief Society meeting on March 17.
Sisters from the Nauvoo Ward, Nauvoo Illinois Stake, gathered at the historic site to celebrate 150 years of sisterhood in a special Relief Society sesquicentennial program. Missionary guides working in Nauvoo also joined with the sisters in the celebration.More than 80 women attended the program, which included the history of the Relief Society in Nauvoo, a narration accompanied by slides of Nauvoo, a musical number by missionary guides and testimonies.
Six sisters in the ward sang "Inasmuch as Ye Have Done It," a song taken from the Church historical musical "City of Joseph." The song comes from a scene depicting the founding of Relief Society.
The opening hymn and closing hymn - "The Spirit of God" and "Now Let Us Rejoice" - were the songs sung at the first meeting in 1842.
After the exodus from Nauvoo in the 1840s, it wasn't until 1956 that a branch of the Church was reorganized in Nauvoo. Thelma Billings, one of the first members of the branch, gave her testimony at the sesquicentennial meeting. She is also a former Relief Society president in the Nauvoo Ward.
Gwenda Mortar, a member of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, attended the program to present copies of an out-of-print book containing the hymns compiled by Emma Smith.
She presented the book to Dorris Schmid, Nauvoo Ward Relief Society president, and Maxine Davis, Relief Society president of the missionary sister guides, on behalf of the RLDS church as a token of friendship.
The RLDS church, owner of the Red Brick Store, allowed the ward Relief Society to hold its program at the historic location.
When the Relief Society was organized in 1842, 11 sisters were present. Today there are 151 Relief Society sisters in the Nauvoo Ward.
"Our own history started in 1956 when Relief Society was reorganized in Nauvoo at the time a branch was formed. Then in 1979 we became a ward," explained Bonnie Trapp, the sister who compiled the history of the ward Relief Society.
"The more research I did, the more I realized that all this [the beginning of Relief SocietyT happened here. I really got excited about it. When I read the minutes I felt like I was there.
"They weren't just doing things that needed to be done, they went the extra mile carrying extra callings and helping others. They made clothing for baptisms and made rugs for the Times and Seasons building where meetings were held for a time."
Sister Schmid added: "I think it is a great privilege to be a Relief Society president at this time, especially in Nauvoo. There is a really great spirit here. Even the non-members feel it when they come into Nauvoo. They don't know what it is, but they feel good."
Through the ward sesquicentennial service projects, Sister Schmid hopes the sisters will continue to grow in their desire for service, learning from those early women who started the Relief Society in 1842. - Sheridan R. Sheffield