Sophia Bundy Packard and her husband, Noah, were introduced to the church by their neighbors, the Jolly family. They had originally pitied the Jolly family for their belief in the “gold bible,” and decided to visit them to be friendly (and set them straight about the error in their ways). Mrs. Jolly rose to the occasion, taking the scriptures Noah quoted to her and showing how they fit into the Mormon understanding of the scriptures. He could not refute her arguments.
When Mrs. Jolly later offered Noah a Book of Mormon, Sophia and her husband read it out loud together. On their second reading, the couple received a powerful spiritual confirmation of its truth, and they were baptized. They moved first to Kirtland, with many stretches where Sophia was left to manage as best as she could while her husband served several missions, and the family was often impoverished. After a few short stops in other places, the family settled down in Nauvoo in 1840.
Sophia was present at the first Relief Society meeting, and after Elizabeth Ann Whitney motioned that Emma Smith be named President of the Relief Society, Sophia seconded the motion.
When the Relief Society organized four “necessity committees,” designed to “search out the poor and suffering – To call on the rich for aid and thus as far as possible relieve the wants of all,” Sophia was named to one of these committees. These committees would eventually transform into our current visiting teaching program. At a later meeting, Eliza R. Snow records Sophia stating that “she desird [sic] to do her duty and magnify her calling faithfully,” and Sophia did this, bringing attention to the needs of sisters on several occasions captured in the Nauvoo Relief Society Minute Book, and donating resources to help the poor.
She travelled to Utah in 1850 in the Warren Foote company, and settled the next year in Springville, Utah. She died in 1858, as her husband puts it, “her life in all probability shortened by over-exertion in taking care of the sick in the move that took place that season from the north to the south.”
I’m thankful for her example of dedicated service, and for the visiting program she pioneered – it has blessed my life immensely.
The First Fifty Years of Relief Society: Key Documents in Latter-Day Saint Women’s History, eds. Jill Mulvay Derr, Carol Cornwall Madsen, Kate Holbrook, and Matthew J. Grow.
Warren Foote Company (1850), Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel Database, 1847-1868.