Sunday, March 16, 2008

Sarah Granger Kimball

I learned early on that Emma Smith was the first general president of the Relief Society. What I did not learn until recently is how the organization came to be formed. The marvelous Relief Society program that we have today was born through Sarah Granger Kimball's desire to assist in the effort to build the temple in Nauvoo. I think it is a marvelous testament of the way the Lord is able to take our talents and good intentions and turn them into something incredible.

Sarah was passionate about the construction of the temple. She began her efforts to aid in its construction within the walls of her own home. Her husband had not joined the church at this time, and Sarah was unsure how to approach him. In her autobiography, she shares how she brought it up, and I think the account really shows her personality:

My husband came to my bedside and as he was admiring our three days old darling. I said "What is the boy worth." He replied "I don't know he is worth a great deal." I said "Is he worth a thousand dollars?" The reply was "Yes more than that if he lives and does well." I said "Half of him is mine is it not?" "Yes I suppose so." "Then I have something to help on the Temple." (pleasantly) "You have." "Yes and I think of turning my share right in as tithing." "Well, I'll think about that."

Her husband discussed this conversation with Joseph Smith, and after some banter about the boy becoming church property, he gave a much-needed donation of $500 to the temple's construction.

Sarah's efforts did not stop there. She and Margaret Cook decided to combine their efforts to sew shirts for the men working on the temple. They realized other women would want to help, and had a meeting about organizing a ladies' society in Nauvoo. Sarah asked Eliza R. Snow to write a constitution and bylaws for the society, and they presented it to Joseph Smith. When Joseph read the constitution, he said they were the best he had ever seen, but then said: "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. I invite them all to meet with me and a few of the brethren … next Thursday afternoon." At that meeting, he organized the Relief Society, an organization about which he proclaimed "the Church was never perfectly organized until the women were thus organized."

I admire many things about Sarah Kimball. She was a vocal advocate of women's rights. She financially supported her family for many years when her husband hit financial difficulties. She served in leadership positions in the Relief Society at the ward and general level. She spoke passionately about the father and mother God. She was bold, courageous, determined, faithful, and true to her convictions. But what I love most about Sarah's story is that it teaches me that when we serve God in the best way that we know how, he will magnify and transform our efforts into something beyond what we could accomplish on our own.

Autobiography, Women's Exponent, September 1, 1983, page 51.
Relief Society: Divine Organization of Women, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith.
Sarah Granger Kimball, Mary Stovall Richards, Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Volume 2.

1 comment:

Elissa said...

I had heard some of this before, but some of it was new to me. Thanks for the continued insight into great women in the Church.