Juvenile Instructor » Emma — The Elect Lady
 


Emma — The Elect Lady

By: Guest - January 25, 2008

Admin: This post is authored by occasional guest blogger and friend to JI, Bored in Vernal.

What woman would not want to have earned the title “Elect Lady?”  This evocative term was used to describe Emma Hale Smith in a revelation given by the Lord in July 1830.  “Thy sins are forgiven thee,” Emma was told, “and thou art an elect lady whom I have called.”  The appellation is an interesting one, and may possess shades of meaning beyond simply that Emma was an extraordinary and revered woman.  How do the words “elect lady” fit in with her being “called?”  Does this phrase have any connection with the ordination promised to her in verse 7?  Following are several interpretations which can be made of the words “elect lady:”

An “Elect Lady” was a member of the Church

At the time of this revelation (July 1830), Emma Smith had recently been baptized (28 June 1830).  She was to be confirmed a few weeks later–sometime in August.  The revelation mentions in connection with the aforementioned ordination that Joseph “shall lay his hands upon thee, and thou shalt receive the Holy Ghost…”  Thus it is possible to see the ordination as referring to Emma’s confirmation as a member of the Church.  Through baptism into the Lord’s true Church, Emma had become part of the elect of the Lord.  We find these words in D&C 29:7: “And ye are called to bring to pass the gathering of mine elect, for mine elect hear my voice and harden not their hearts.”  Section 29 was given shortly before the Conference held Sept. 26, 1830, and reflects an early understanding concerning the meaning of the word “elect” as those who had been gathered in to the fledgling Church.

An “Elect Lady” means one elected to preside

Church apologetic tradition generally favors this interpretation of “Elect Lady.”  The verse is seen as a future promise to she who would later become the President of the Relief Society.  This idea comes from two sources; one is Willard Richards’ Nauvoo RS minutes:

President Smith read the Revelation to Emma Smith, from the book of Doctrine and Covenants; and stated that she was ordain’d at the time the Revelation was given, to expound the scriptures to all; and to teach the female part of community; and that not she alone, but others, may attain to the same blessings.–
¶ The 2d Epistle of John, 1st verse, was then read to show that respect was there had to the same thing, and that why she was called an Elect lady is because elected to preside.

The other source for this information is the Manuscript History of the Church which states:

“I assisted in commencing the organization of ‘The Female Relief Society of Nauvoo’ in the Lodge Room. Sister Emma Smith, President, and Sister Elizabeth Ann Whitney and Sarah M. Cleveland, Counselors. I gave much instruction, read in the New Testament, and Book of Doctrine and Covenants, concerning the Elect Lady, and showed that the elect meant to be elected to a certain work, &c., and that the revelation was then fulfilled by Sister Emma’s election to the Presidency of the Society, she having previously been ordained to expound the Scriptures.” (History of the Church, 4:552–53.)

An “Elect Lady” was one who had been ordained to the Priesthood

Some have interpreted the ordination of Emma under the hands of Joseph as an ordination to the Priesthood.  I am not inclined to give much credence to this theory, as the word “ordination” had not yet acquired the specific restriction to which we assign it today.  In the 1830’s the word was likely to be used as today we use the term “set apart.”  However, a scripture which supports this view is found in D&C 84:34 where those of the Church who obtain the two priesthoods become “the church, and kingdom, and the elect of God.”  I also think that the connection of the word “elect” to the higher priesthood deserves consideration.

An “Elect Lady” was a term taken from Masonic ritual

On March 17, 1842, in the Masonic Hall in Nauvoo, Illinois, twenty women and two men listened as Joseph Smith, Jr., Prophet and President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, organized the women of the Church and read the revelation he had received twelve years earlier, in 1830. “Thou art an elect lady, whom I [the Lord] have called,” Joseph quoted.  The significance of the venue of this setting-apart escapes us today because we are not acquainted with Masonic ritual.

Reed Durham has explained that the influence of Masonry began early in the history of the Church.  Apparently, in an unorthodox form of Masonry called “Adoptive Masonry,” women are included in Female Lodges.  In this order, the highest woman is known as the “Elect Lady.”  There existed a close connection between the ceremonies for women in this Masonic order and the endowment ceremony later performed in Mormon temples.  “Elect Lady” contains a temple symbolism which may have had its roots deep in the past.  In this paradigm, Emma’s appellation is connected with an expanded and glorified concept of Masonry which Joseph believed contained the remnants of ancient mysteries.

An “Elect Lady” was one whose calling and election was sure

Perhaps an understanding of “Elect Lady” as one who has had her calling and election made sure can make sense of all of these definitions and bring them together into a grand fulfillment.  The Second Anointing was an ordinance performed at Nauvoo and often referred to as the “Fulness of the Priesthood.”  It was given to men and their wives to seal them up unto eternal life after they had proved faithful, and guaranteed them the promises of godhood.

David John Buerger has written an article detailing the evolution of the doctrine of election in the Church and the practice of the Second Anointing.  In this article he shows that as early as 25 Oct 1831 Joseph Smith spoke of “the High Priesthood and the power given them to seal up the Saints unto eternal life,” thereby making their calling and election sure.  In the School of the Prophets established January 1833, no one was admitted without having received the ordinance of being sealed up unto eternal life.  On the 6th of February 1836 a “sealing” of former endowment blessings took place in the Kirtland Temple, and in June of 1839, Joseph more clearly defined the concept of calling and election in a sermon based on 2 Peter 1:10-11. We see, then, that although not fully articulated until 1843, the seeds of the principle of election were present about the time that Emma received the revelation in D&C 25.  Notice in verse 3 that Emma’s sins are forgiven, the Lord has called her as an elect lady and in verse 7 an ordination is mentioned.

Regardless of their meaning, these words must have been a comfort to the newly-baptized Emma.  Her baptism was performed under a great deal of stress for the Mormons.  The group had formed a dam which would create a pool in which their people could be baptized.  This was destroyed by opponents, and had to be rebuilt.  After several of the Saints had completed the ordinance, a crowd of hecklers gathered to ridicule and revile them.  Joseph was arrested for “causing an uproar over teaching the Book of Mormon”.  When he returned, it was late into planting season, and Emma wanted Joseph to stay around, plant, and establish a home. Section 25 was received at this time. It contained promises of hope for the future.  The terms were such that they would grow in significance to her as the years went by.



65 Comments

  1. Thanks BiV for this fascinating analysis! There are a lot of guys on this site, so it is very nice to see some attention given to a woman in church history.

    Comment by Jody — January 25, 2008 @ 12:55 am

  2. Very interesting post. I’ve always figured that “elect lady” simply meant “choice lady”–suggesting that Emma is really unique in her abilities and that she stands out among her peers. But the Masonic connection is intriguing. I would find the connection more plausible if the revelation came in the Nauvoo period, however.

    Comment by stan — January 25, 2008 @ 12:56 am

  3. Stan, I’m not an expert on Mormonism and the Masonic connection. But isn’t it true that Hyrum Smith was involved with masonry quite early?

    Comment by Bored in Vernal — January 25, 2008 @ 1:01 am

  4. BiV: Fascinating. Like Stan, I’ve often read “Elect Lady” as unique lady, but I think you’re right that there may be more going on here than our 21st century eyes can see. I especially find the suggestion that “Elect Lady” is connected to sealing up to eternal life to be intriguing.

    Stan: I don’t find John L. Brooke’s argument that masonry is present from the beginning in Refiner’s Fire convincing. I also think that Forsberg argues that masonry was an early influence on JS in Equal Rights. However, from what I understand, Nick L. argues in his book that the masonic connections can be seen earlier than Nauvoo. We’ll see if Nick presents a more convincing case than Brooke.

    Comment by David Grua — January 25, 2008 @ 1:02 am

  5. BiV: Hyrum was a mason in the 1820s, as was (I believe) JS, Sr. But we also know that JS was skeptical of the masons in 1830:

    Brother Hyrum, beware of the freemasons (JS to Colesville Saints, 2 December 1830, Newel Knight Journal, in Vogel EMD 1:22)

    Dan Vogel, for one, has argued that the early JS was very anti-mason. See his “Mormonism’s ‘Anti-Masonick Bible.'” John Whitmer Historical Association Journal 9 (1989):17-30.

    Comment by David Grua — January 25, 2008 @ 1:11 am

  6. I added a link to Reed Durham’s talk where he claims that Hyrum received the first degrees of Masonry in Mount Moriah Lodge No. 112 of Palmyra, New York before 1830; that Joseph was well acquainted with William Morgan before his death in 1826; and that Masonic influences entered the Church before 1832 through W. W. Phelps, Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, and Newel K. Whitney, each of whom had been deeply involved in Masonry before joining the Church. Though Joseph must have been skeptical (the Morgan connection!) he may well have been aware of different terminology, which he employed in different settings in the Church.

    Comment by Bored in Vernal — January 25, 2008 @ 1:15 am

  7. BiV: I can see JS adopting the title “Elect Lady” from his 1830 environment. I can also see him reading masonic meaning into it in 1842. But I’d be careful to assume that he was using it in the same manner as the masons in 1830.

    Comment by David Grua — January 25, 2008 @ 1:26 am

  8. Fair enough–but what if we assume that it was God who gave the words of the revelation and it was He who placed Joseph in the way of the Masons, to learn from them the remnants of ancient religion?

    Comment by Bored in Vernal — January 25, 2008 @ 1:54 am

  9. It was impossible to not be aware of Masonry in the aftermath of the Morgan murder (incidentally, JSJ later married Morgan’s widow). I think a reasonable if uncertain case can be made for Hyrum being named after Hiram Abiff, and LDS exposures to Masonry happened early. It was possible to be anti-Masonic (who wasn’t in the aftermath of the Morgan murder?) and still believe that certain ancient mysteries were protected within Masonry. The Smiths were unlikely to be ultra-Enlightenment critics of Masonry (who saw it as a silly collection of jumbled esoterica); they were more likely to be anti-conspiracy anti-Masons.

    As for the sources, Brooke dramatically overstates his case, Forsberg is a frankly embarrassing book, and I’m eager to see what Nick has to say. My concern (and I like and respect Nick) about Nick’s prior articles is that he hasn’t worked hard enough to understand the way cultural commonplaces function. It is too tempting to write into commonplaces their cultural etymologies, when they may not have existed. Simple exercise: people love to name their children Emma now. Reasoning from the rising prominence of Mormonism and Emma’s centrality, it would not be hard to make a case that the popularity of Emma in, say, Colorado, is a function of proximity to Mormons and their influence, when in fact, there’s little reason to believe the connection (these connections become more believable the further out you get from actual occurrences). The other problem is that by discovering another semantic community for a term one is inclined to see the second semantic community as defining the first. When Smith appropriates phrases from Masonry, we cannot be certain that he means by them the same thing the Masons mean, when it appears to me at least that he brought new and puzzling valences to old terms, in Protestant, Biblical, enthusiastic-revivalistic, and Masonic-hermetic cultures.

    Long way of saying: Smith certainly knew Masonry and used it in a variety of ways. The actual shape of the relationship and the meaning of Masonic words when Smith used them has just not been well-worked out. I hope that Nick is able to sort them out in a useful way.

    Comment by smb — January 25, 2008 @ 10:11 am

  10. As for elect lady, you would also want to propose a model based in Bushman’s Refining of America, would want to think some about female preachers in early Methodism (the initial call to Emma sounds mainly like such a calling, which still could happen in the early nineteenth century particularly in rural areas–these were separate from class leaders as I recall (the man who organized small groups for weekly introspection and repentance–imagine a browbeating and heatedly pious home teacher/district leader), but they were empowered by acknowledged charisma to preach the scriptures in class meetings and sometimes larger venues). Elect in those early years was almost certainly a NT allusion used in Smith’s rather strident anti-Calvinism.

    As for the Nauvoo piece, I think the most reasonable explanation is that Smith was in fact appropriating the _language_ of Masonry, but adding to it the echoes of refinement, his charismatic priesthood, and his anti-Calvinist election, even as he reinterpreted the meaning of Masonry.

    For those who have used this encounter to argue for female priesthood, it’s worth bearing in mind that the boundaries between what we now think of as priesthood and earliest Mormonism’s “enthusiastic” primitivism were quite porous. Imposed hands were used for both, and aside from the formal priesthood offices, there was considerable freedom early on in understanding what was and wasn’t priesthood.

    Comment by smb — January 25, 2008 @ 10:18 am

  11. #4 David:
    I also think that Forsberg argues that masonry was an early influence on JS in Equal Rights.

    Forsberg’s book is an utter disaster. He suffers from an abysmal lack of knowledge in both Mormon history and Freemasonry. My review of the book was published in the FARMS Review of Books, available here: http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/pdf.php?filename=NzUzNzUxNjQyLTE3LTEucGRm&type=cmV2aWV3

    However, from what I understand, Nick L. argues in his book that the masonic connections can be seen earlier than Nauvoo. We’ll see if Nick presents a more convincing case than Brooke.

    I certainly hope so, David. My manuscript already includes a lengthy analysis of Masonic influence on the Smith family from the Vermont period onward. In my travels and research, I was able to find a considerable amount of evidence which has not been discussed in print. Much of it, I’m convinced, has never been discovered before.

    Comment by Nick Literski — January 25, 2008 @ 10:44 am

  12. smb–Great comments, thanks for the additions in #10.

    “it appears to me at least that he brought new and puzzling valences to old terms, in Protestant, Biblical, enthusiastic-revivalistic, and Masonic-hermetic cultures.”

    Oh, yeah. It really was his genius, wasn’t it?

    Comment by Bored in Vernal — January 25, 2008 @ 11:02 am

  13. #9 smb:
    It was impossible to not be aware of Masonry in the aftermath of the Morgan murder (incidentally, JSJ later married Morgan’s widow).

    Exactly, Sam. Some would-be apologists are fond of casting doubt that Joseph ever read a book, let alone the many Masonic works available in his local environment. Even if this were true, we need to realize that as Joseph was growing up in Palmyra, anti-Masons were staging public reenactments of Masonic ritual. Freemasonry was ubiquitous in local newspapers. With the ongoing trials (9 miles away) stemming from the Morgan kidnapping, Freemasonry was truly the “hot topic” of the day.

    I think a reasonable if uncertain case can be made for Hyrum being named after Hiram Abiff, and LDS exposures to Masonry happened early.

    I argued this, of course, in my 2005 MHA presentation, after performing an exhaustive study of naming patterns in Vermont for the time period. Hiram (original spelling–only later “Hyrum!”) Smith was so named at the same time that this name peaked in Vermont, very shortly after the establishment of the Grand Lodge of Vermont. Nobody can read the mind of Joseph Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith, but circumstances argue strongly for this motivation in naming Hyrum.

    It was possible to be anti-Masonic (who wasn’t in the aftermath of the Morgan murder?) and still believe that certain ancient mysteries were protected within Masonry. The Smiths were unlikely to be ultra-Enlightenment critics of Masonry (who saw it as a silly collection of jumbled esoterica); they were more likely to be anti-conspiracy anti-Masons.

    I have often had to explain how Joseph could go from “anti-Mason” to a huge promoter of the same. As I have explained to Sam and others, There were two “flavors” of anti-Masonry at the time. One position was that Freemasonry was actually inspired by the devil, and was wicked to the core. The other position was that Freemasonry was of divine inspiration, but had been corrupted by wicked men. The Smith family, including Joseph, seem to have been very much of the latter view.

    My concern (and I like and respect Nick) about Nick’s prior articles is that he hasn’t worked hard enough to understand the way cultural commonplaces function.

    I can appreciate that, Sam, particularly since you’ve only been able to hear two presentations, each of which were strictly limited to 20 minutes. That always presents a challenge in fully laying out evidence.

    When Smith appropriates phrases from Masonry, we cannot be certain that he means by them the same thing the Masons mean, when it appears to me at least that he brought new and puzzling valences to old terms, in Protestant, Biblical, enthusiastic-revivalistic, and Masonic-hermetic cultures.

    One must look at not only the words Joseph chose, but the context in which he used them. Further, it is important to look at how his hearers most likely understood them. If Joseph was using distinctively Masonic terminology, when speaking to a group which includes many Freemasons, those men are quite likely to grasp the Masonic significance of his words. Given what I have read of Joseph Smith’s words, I find it unlikely that he used Masonic terminology “by accident,” or without intending to convey a particular message. Sometimes, Joseph’s use of Masonic language may have been purely to remind his fellow Freemasons of the ties he held with them.

    Red Skelton, a famous comedian of yore, was a Freemason. Each week, at the end of his popular television show, he actually included distinctly Masonic gestures as part of his farewell. He would often “disguise” this with the language he was using. The best-known example was when he talked about trying to find his “little dog,” and then made a series of Masonic gestures *as if* he was showing the size and shape of the animal. It was an “inside joke,” and a way of identifying to Freemasons in the audience his commonality with them (at a time when Freemasonry was much larger in membership). Even today, the use of certain phrases can be a “signal” in an encounter between two strangers, when one believes the other might be a fellow Mason.

    Even if Joseph was somehow “reshaping” the use of Masonic terminology, this goes to indicate the level of influence which Freemasonry had on his thought.

    Comment by Nick Literski — January 25, 2008 @ 11:17 am

  14. Nick and Sam: Thanks for the imput. Nick, do you have any insights into the use of the title “Elect Lady” among masons in 1830?

    Comment by David Grua — January 25, 2008 @ 11:22 am

  15. I think Sam’s comments are spot on (and I appreciate Nick’s clarifications). I think it is important to note that JS likely picked up “Elect Lady” from the New Testament. This is something that he was wont to do. Further in revelations contemporaneous to Emma’s we see reference to the “elect” who hear God’s word and are gathered.

    If you do a Google Books search for “Elect Lady” for books before 1840, you’ll find many references to the discussion of the elect in Christian literature.

    It is no surprise that Joseph would later build on previous conceptions, which was standard fair. Joseph’s Diarist’s account of Joseph’s 1842 interpretation has to be gold standard for Joseph’s latter perspective, though.

    Comment by J. Stapley — January 25, 2008 @ 11:41 am

  16. 14:
    Not especially at this time, David. I actually think that some have been quick to jump on that particular bandwagon, at least when it comes to the original revelation.

    Comment by Nick Literski — January 25, 2008 @ 11:54 am

  17. I should point out, however, that when Emma became president of the Relief Society (a meeting FULL of Masonic allusions, btw!!), Joseph suddenly told everyone that “Elect Lady” meant “elected to preside.” I think it’s likely that Joseph came to reinterpret the title in terms of Adoptive Masonry by the Nauvoo period, but I don’t think he had that in mind in 1830.

    Look for considerable discussion of Mormon women and Freemasonry in my book. I’m sorry, but I’m not willing to spill those particular beans yet. ;-)

    Comment by Nick Literski — January 25, 2008 @ 11:57 am

  18. Interesting post, BiV. Thanks.

    Sam brings up an excellent and very plausible point in suggesting similarities between Emma’s calling and that of females in early Methodism.

    As John Wigger points out, Methodist women were not allowed to be formally called as preachers, “in the movement’s early years a small but significant number gained acceptance as gifted exhorters” (Taking Heaven by Storm, 152). As Sam points out, their duties often included expounding the scriptures.

    In addition, the title “elect lady” was fairly common in early Methodism, often times used to denote a particularly righteous and virtuous woman or an exceptional female preacher.

    Ann Lee, the notable Shaker leader, was also known by her followers as “The Elect Lady” and “Mother of all the Elect.”

    Comment by Christopher — January 25, 2008 @ 2:52 pm

  19. Nick (#17),

    Look for considerable discussion of Mormon women and Freemasonry in my book. I’m sorry, but I’m not willing to spill those particular beans yet.

    Care to comment on when “those particular beans” will be ready for publication?

    Comment by Christopher — January 25, 2008 @ 3:20 pm

  20. I’m working on it, Christopher!

    Comment by Nick Literski — January 25, 2008 @ 3:58 pm

  21. Christopher makes an important point about Ann Lee. Many of the names for Ann Lee used by the Shakers came from imagery in the Book of Revelation. It may be that Joseph’s use of the image, if not the title itself, of elect lady had some similar influences.

    Comment by SC Taysom — January 25, 2008 @ 5:38 pm

  22. It likely came from the second epistle of John (vs. 1):

    The elder unto the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth; and not I only, but also all they that have known the truth;

    Comment by J. Stapley — January 25, 2008 @ 6:02 pm

  23. Nick: I’m sympathetic to the exigencies of venue in laying out a sophisticated argument and I’m eager to see what the book has to say. I have no doubt Smith was actively involved in masonry and working out what it meant. the tougher questions are related to what it meant to be involved in Masonry, to use its language, and to create a Masonic-sounding set of rituals within contexts he had already established in other ways.

    Again, watch cultural commonplaces and try to be sure the analysis isn’t transformed into a hammer seeing a world full of nails.

    Comment by smb — January 25, 2008 @ 8:13 pm

  24. Again, watch cultural commonplaces and try to be sure the analysis isn’t transformed into a hammer seeing a world full of nails.

    Certainly. I’ve tried to be very careful in following where the evidence points, rather than imposing any kind of predetermined conclusion. My conclusions have been dramatically different from anything I expected when I began the project, which I believe is a good sign.

    In the end, I can guarantee that some will think I’ve provided evidence of Joseph’s divine inspiration. I can also guarantee that some will conclude that I’ve written an “anti-Mormon” book. Neither has been my purpose. My hope is that I can do the subject justice, by effectively leading my readers through the historical evidence and the cultural idioms which shed light on that evidence.

    Comment by Nick Literski — January 25, 2008 @ 8:39 pm

  25. #22 J. Stapley:
    John’s reference to the “Elect Lady” is also the source of any Masonic usages I’m aware of. Hence my belief that originally, Joseph was using it as a biblical reference. Despite his family familiarity with Freemasonry, I find nothing to indicate that he was familiar with Adoptive Masonry by 1830.

    Comment by Nick Literski — January 25, 2008 @ 8:41 pm

  26. Nick, that makes good sense, and it is nice to have someone with your level of familiarity with Joseph’s masonic interactions confirm it.

    Comment by J. Stapley — January 25, 2008 @ 9:42 pm

  27. President John Taylor:

    I was in Nauvoo at the time the Relief Society was organized by the Prophet Joseph Smith, and I was present on the occasion. At a late meeting of the Society held in Salt Lake City I was present, and I read from a record called the Book of the Law of the Lord, the minutes of that meeting. At that meeting the Prophet called Sister Emma to be an elect lady. That means that she was called to a certain work; and that was in fulfillment of a certain revelation concerning her. She was elected to preside over the Relief Society, and she was ordained to expound the Scriptures. In compliance with Brother Joseph’s request I set her apart, and also ordained Sister Whitney, wife of Bishop Newel K. Whitney, and Sister Cleveland, wife of Judge Cleveland, to be her counselors. Some of the sisters have thought that these sisters mentioned were, in this ordination, ordained to the priesthood. And for the information of all interested in this subject I will say, it is not the calling of these sisters to hold the Priesthood, only in connection with their husbands, they being one with their husbands. Sister Emma was elected to expound the Scriptures, and to preside over the Relief Society

    (Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1854-1886], 21: 368.)

    Comment by Howard — January 25, 2008 @ 10:25 pm

  28. That’s interesting, Howard. Taylor’s statement seems to suggest that some book called “The Book of the Law of the Lord” (Joseph Smith’s volume by that name??) contains minutes from the founding of the Relief Society. Of course, the Relief Society kept an official record, containing minutes from the meeting. It would be interesting to see if the book Taylor mentions copied the Relief Society minutes, or are a distint account.

    In any case, what Taylor says certainly casts a more “Methodist” light on the event than the Relief Society record does.

    Comment by Nick Literski — January 26, 2008 @ 12:15 pm

  29. Someone needs to write a history of the BoLL. I have a fair bit of theoretical material on it, but i lose track by 1845 and haven’t had any revelations of what the restricted material contains. Oh, and I don’t have any time lately. I suspect Taylor was misremembering and we would find that when they spoke of BoLL they meant to say anything officially recorded, even though the BoLL was somewhat different.

    JT writing from Utah would havea wanted to minimize Masonic aspects.

    Nick, as I think about it, one way to express my concern is the vast differential between what scholars know about Masonry and what average participants understood of it at the time they were participating (I think JSJ was an above-average participant). My way of saying JT was not probably intentionally erasing masonic echoes from the account; I think he tended to remember it in the Methodist vein. Scholars are almost always much more interested in the complexities of provenance, etymology, and meaning than participants.

    That said, I’m eager to read your book. Let us know when it’s a’coming and we’ll pre-order copies to make Amazon beef up its stock.

    Comment by smb — January 26, 2008 @ 12:32 pm

  30. The minutes for the 17 Mar, 1842 meeting, which is at the center of this discussion were kept by Richards in Joseph’s “Book of the Law of the Lord,” and were only later copied into the RS Minute Book. After this meeting and the organization, then the sisters kept their own minutes.

    Although I believe Taylor’s latter interpretation is fairly representative of the times (i.e., it tracks the minutes), it is important to remember that many decades had passed. For Example, he once remember during a sermon:

    They tell me I was chairman when the first Ladies’ Relief Society was organized in Nauvoo; perhaps I was, I do not remember, however, but I am pleased to cooperate with the sisters. I desire to see them prosecute their labors and try to train up young women to be good mothers, good housekeepers good wives, and to cultivate the fear of God and to teach their own children to walk in the paths of life. (John Taylor, November 30, 1879, Journal of Discourses, 20:359)

    Taylor was, however, a dedicated student to the pattern Joseph Smith laid out. In very many ways, he can be seen as trying to restore many of the earlier ways that hadn’t found as much attention or success in Utah. For example he specifically “ordained” the first General Relief Society Presidency, which further contextualizes the Aug 8, 1880 discourse that Howard cites.

    Comment by J. Stapley — January 26, 2008 @ 12:33 pm

  31. I should add for clarification’s sake that Taylor ordained the RS Presidency on July 17, 1880, which was sandwiched in between the comments Howard cites (Aug 8, 1880) and his previous comments confessing a lack of memory. That he cites the “Book of the Law of the Lord” as his source on Aug 8, is a wonderful bonus for understanding his study of the issue.

    Comment by J. Stapley — January 26, 2008 @ 12:59 pm

  32. Nick, as I think about it, one way to express my concern is the vast differential between what scholars know about Masonry and what average participants understood of it at the time they were participating (I think JSJ was an above-average participant).

    Sam, if I’m understanding you correctly, you’re opining that the average Freemason knew “vastly” less about Freemasonry than “scholars.” I’m curious to know what you base that opinion on. I think you underestimate the process of education that went on within Masonic lodges. Education, particularly in the classic seven liberal arts and sciences, has been quite central to Freemasonry. At Joseph’s time, Masonic legenda was generally understood by members of the Fraternity to be an actual representation of history (something which was challenged and gradually declined post-Morgan). While many books were written (and eagerly purchased), much of Masonic lore was taught in lodge meetings, “from mouth to ear.” A Freemason didn’t have to be a “scholar” to have a rich understanding of the Fraternity.

    Of course, all this assumes that Joseph’s use of Freemasonry was of a rarified nature. To the contrary, the influence of Freemasonry on Joseph is easily recognizeable to average Freemasons, because he made use of such common Masonic themes, language, and legenda.

    Comment by Nick Literski — January 26, 2008 @ 1:06 pm

  33. Nick,
    The Book of the Law of the Lord was a record kept by JS of the names of those who sacrificed, those who were true to the Lord and of the Saints who paid tithing. It also held the names of women who donates one penny per week to the construction of the Nauvoo Temple. In 1987 it was said to be held in the First Presidency’s vault.

    March 17, 1842, “The Female Relief Society of Nauvoo” was organized under the direction of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Emma Smith was chosen president with Sisters Elizabeth Ann Whitney and Sarah M. Cleveland as counselors. The Prophet said “I gave much instruction, read in the New Testament, and Book of Doctrine and Covenants, concerning the Elect Lady, and showed that the elect meant to be elected to a certain work, etc., and that the revelation was then fulfilled by Sister Emma’s election to the presidency of the Society.” (D.H.C. Vol. 4:552.)

    (Joseph Fielding Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation, 4 vols. [Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1946-1949], 4: 113.)

    Comment by Howard — January 26, 2008 @ 1:09 pm

  34. Howard, parts of the “Book of the Law of the Lord” have been published by both Jessee and Faulring. Faulring describes it:

    “The Book of the Law of the Lord,” from which the following excerpts1 are taken, was begun in Nauvoo, Illinois, sometime between 19 January and 7 April 1841. It is a large leather-bound record book, more than 500 pages long, and contains copies of letters, revelations, minutes of meetings, and a record of donations to the church (especially to the construction of the Nauvoo temple), as well as some Joseph Smith journal entries [note that Joseph himself did not write the any entries]. Scribes include Robert B. Thompson, Willard Richards, William Clayton, and Thomas Bullock. (242-243)

    I would be careful what you quote though. Your citation in #33 is a fourth-hand editorial publication. The original post has the first and third (the second being the “Manuscript History of the Church”). Richards is the only source.

    Comment by J. Stapley — January 26, 2008 @ 1:22 pm

  35. J. Stapley,
    Thank you for the information, I did not know that some of it had been published.

    “note that Joseph himself did not write the any entries”
    Well, I’m not sure what to make of this then:

    The Prophet Joseph Smith was not unmindful of these sacrifices. On August 22, 1842, while making entries in the Book of the Law of the Lord, he formulated a tribute to certain of the Colesville membership which might well serve as a prototype for all:

    . . . I am now recording in the Book of the Law of the Lord,–of such as have stood by me in every hour of peril, for these fifteen long years past,–

    (The Colesville Branch and the Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon by Larry C. Porter Fn, BYU Studies, vol. 10 (1969-1970), Number 3 – Spring 1970 384.)

    Comment by Howard — January 26, 2008 @ 1:44 pm

  36. Faulring perhaps had access to the “Book of the Law of the Lord,” but because of its restricted nature he had to rely on the HC for his excerpts.

    The original manuscript is currently held under the control of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah, and is generally restricted from access, hence my reliance on only previously published excerpts in what follows. (An American Prophet’s Record, 243)

    Jessee was allowed to reproduce it, but PJS 2 only included part of it (since the volume cut off at the end of 1842).

    It will be included in JSP, Journals Series, volume 2, although from what I understand records of donations will not be reproduced, since donations are considered to be confidential material.

    Comment by David G. — January 26, 2008 @ 1:48 pm

  37. The Book of the Law of the Lord was a record kept by JS of the names of those who sacrificed, those who were true to the Lord and of the Saints who paid tithing. It also held the names of women who donates one penny per week to the construction of the Nauvoo Temple. In 1987 it was said to be held in the First Presidency’s vault.

    All of which I’m familiar with, Howard. The question is whether John Taylor was talking about the same book by that title. Frankly, minutes for the Relief Society seems a bit out of character for inclusion in the book Joseph Smith produced.

    Further, though I understand your unexplained purpose in posting “official versions” of the explanation, I’m honestly not comfortable taking those as authoritative, without considering other available evidence. In the case of the Relief Society minutes, we have their official minute book easily available to scholars. The Book of the Law of the Lord has never been made available as a whole, thus I am cautious to rely entirely on what someone else said to summarize it.

    Comment by Nick Literski — January 26, 2008 @ 2:13 pm

  38. #36 David,
    Thanks for the update. I hope we actually see volumes from the JSP project someday.

    Comment by Nick Literski — January 26, 2008 @ 2:14 pm

  39. Howard: The entry in question is actually for 23 August 1842. It appears that JS was dictating to his scribe on that day.

    This day president Joseph has renewed the subject of conversation, in relation to his faithful brethren and friends in his own words; which I now proceed to record as follows; “While I contemplate the virtues and the good qualifications and characteristics of the faithful few, which I am now recording in the Book of the Law of the Lord, of such as have stood by me in every hour of peril, for these fifteen long years past…(PJS 2:438)

    Faulring’s note says that JS did not write any of the entries, meaning that JS didn’t actually pick up a pen and jot this down himself. Rather, JS dictated it.

    Comment by David G. — January 26, 2008 @ 2:15 pm

  40. Nick, I’m sure we can say the same thing about your book. ;) Or about my MA thesis, for that matter…

    Comment by David G. — January 26, 2008 @ 2:15 pm

  41. Nick: The BoLL also served as JS’s journal. The entry in question can be seen in PJS 2:371.

    Assisted in organizing “The Female Relief Society of Nauvoo” in the “Lodge Room” Sister Emma Smith President, & Sister Whitney & Cleveland councillors, Gave much instruction, read in the New Testament, Book of Doctrine & Covenants, concer[n]ing the Elect Lady. & shewed that Elect meant to be Elected to a certain work &c, & that the revelation was then fulfilled by Sister Emma’s Election to the Presidency of the Soc[i]ety, she having previously been ordained to expound the Scriptures. her councillors were ordaind by Elder J Taylor & Emma Blessed by the same.–

    Comment by David G. — January 26, 2008 @ 2:24 pm

  42. Howard, many scholars simply make the mistake that JS wrote his later diaries himself (this was complicated by the History of the Church, which obfuscated the authors). In most cases, the scribes weren’t clear whether Joseph was dictating or they were reconstructing conversations.

    Ehat and Cook also had access for Words of Joseph Smith, which was the first publication to reproduce the minutes for March 17, 1842. They used “The Book of the Law of the Lord” quite a bit. Faulring appears to have quite heavily relied on Ehat and Cook.

    Comment by J. Stapley — January 26, 2008 @ 2:29 pm

  43. Also, David G. (#39), note that in my reproduction of Faulring’s comments, I inserted my commentary in brackets about the fact that Joseph didn’t write it himself. On the tendency for scholar’s to abuse the text, I can’t recommend enough Howard Searle’s dissy, or perhaps more digestible, his paper in BYU Studies on the Joseph Smith History.

    Comment by J. Stapley — January 26, 2008 @ 2:42 pm

  44. David G. & J. Stapley.

    Thank you for the clarification.

    Nick,

    The minutes are available in GospeLink along with this; “The account by Willard Richards is here published for the first time. First recorded into the “Book of the Law of the Lord,” p. 91, these minutes were later transcribed into the Nauvoo Relief Society Minutes.”

    Comment by Howard — January 26, 2008 @ 2:44 pm

  45. #40:
    Touche’!! ;-)

    Comment by Nick Literski — January 26, 2008 @ 3:10 pm

  46. Howard, the entire Relief Society Minute Book is also reproduced in the Selected Collections dvd series.

    Comment by Nick Literski — January 26, 2008 @ 3:12 pm

  47. J.: Ah, ok, I now see that that was your insertion, not Faurling’s commentary. By reproducing the entry in 39 I was simply showing Howard that JS wasn’t writing, like you say, but rather dictating.

    Thanks for the correction on Words being the likely source for Faulring. I was too quick to assume that it was the HC.

    Comment by David G. — January 26, 2008 @ 3:32 pm

  48. Thanks Nick!

    Comment by Howard — January 26, 2008 @ 3:45 pm

  49. An “Elect Lady” was a member of the Church

    Forgive me if my question seems ignorant. Since Emma Smith did not follow the saints to Utah and was considered a “thorn in Brigham Young’s side,” does the title “Elect Lady” still hold true?

    Comment by Kalola — January 26, 2008 @ 6:01 pm

  50. BoLL also functioned as a memorial book, what Smith would have called a Book of Remembrance, and includes his pious obituaries for friends, both dead and living. The curious question is whether the early LDS understood the book as part of the Book of Life. To call it simply Smith’s journal or the tithing register (which designations are both partly true) is to miss the grander meaning of the BoLL. That’s the story that someone needs to write, and I wish I had time for it. I’m eager to see what is published for the JSP from the book, but the reception history of the book is as important as the actual contents.

    Comment by smb — January 26, 2008 @ 6:40 pm

  51. smb: I agree that that would make a fascinating study. Do you treat it in part in your manuscript?

    Comment by David G. — January 26, 2008 @ 6:43 pm

  52. Only very briefly (the Book of Remembrance, which permeates early Mormonism and its scripture, is, in at least one important sense, an antitype of the medieval obit, which is the argument I make in situating Smith’s ideas about seerhood).

    Comment by smb — January 26, 2008 @ 9:48 pm

  53. re Kalola #49
    Many of the Saints who moved to Utah under Brigham Young felt that Emma had forfeited her blessings by staying behind. There’s a file I’d love to get into at the U — The Vesta Pierce Crawford Papers which contains research materials on Emma. Doesn’t it sound scrumptious?? Sigh. Maybe one day…

    Comment by Bored in Vernal — January 26, 2008 @ 10:33 pm

  54. BiV, I found this book informative:

    From Mission to Madness: LAST SON OF THE MORMON PROPHET by Valeen Tippetts Avery

    The book is primarily about David Hyrum Smith, but contains some interesting insight into Emma Smith.

    The Vesta Pierce Crawford Papers definitely sound, as you said, “scrumptious.” A must read.

    Comment by Kalola — January 27, 2008 @ 12:10 am

  55. My apologies for coming late to the discussion. In response to smb (#50 in particular) and others, I would only say that David G’s comments have accurately summarized most of the issues regarding the LofL (my abbreviation for it).

    Nick, many thanks for your corroboration of J. Stapley’s #22 argument that JS was originally using wording from 2 John 1. This has always been my understanding of where JS pulled the language from, but J. beat me to it admirably. I’m no scriptorian, but I would add that I think the first six verses are applicable to what JS intended for the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo (I have seen far less on the purpose of the Young Men and Young Women’s Relief Society of Nauvoo).

    Regarding Taylor reading from the LofL in a public setting, this would not have been new. We have plenty of Nauvoo-era precedents for the practice of reading publicly from the portions of this book that have come to be known as Joseph’s journal for Dec ’41-Dec ’42.

    To answer questions of access, Scott Faulring did not have access to the LofL, and his excepts from the book are quite limited. Dean Jessee did have access to the book, and his Papers vol. 2, as David has commented, contain the majority of the “journal-like” entries in the book, and all of those entries that we now consider JS’s personal journal (more an administrative record by this point). JS’s recording of names of those who have been faithful and loyal is largely confined to the entries of 16 and 23 August 1842, during one of the periods that he is in hiding from arrest attempts for alleged complicity in the shooting of former Mo. gov. Boggs.

    The R.S. minutes recorded in the LofL were from the corresponding JS journal entries, and the actual R.S. minutes (kept first by Eliza R. Snow) are far more complete in recording the events of the meetings and JS’s own discourses in them than any of the entries in JS’s own journal or the subsequent presentation of them in the RDN or MHC (this is even true of the first 17 March 1842 meeting refered to above).

    Regarding more information on the LofL, I’m embarrased to say that the most complete description of its content, use, and ostensible purpose to date was a paper I presented at MHA in Casper.

    Please forgive the lengthy remarks about the LofL. It is a fascinating record with a complex history. BiV, many thanks for a thought-provoking thread (if that’s what these are called).

    Comment by Alex — January 28, 2008 @ 12:42 pm

  56. Alex, are you circulating your MHA paper at all?

    Comment by J. Stapley — January 28, 2008 @ 1:10 pm

  57. J., my apologies. I wish I could offer a print version. Audio (and video?) recordings were made at that and subsequent MHAs but I would hate to direct someone there–the thought of hearing myself recorded makes me cringe. Hopefully the paper will come out in Baugh’s Mormon Historical Studies in the relatively near future (with a little tweaking).

    Comment by Alex — January 28, 2008 @ 1:26 pm

  58. Alex: Thanks for the great comment. Maybe you’ll be the one to write the history of LofL that Sam’s calling for.

    For those uninitiated in JSP lingo:

    RDN–Rough Draft Notes, notes kept by the church historians as they drafted the HC after JS’s death.

    MHC–Manuscript History of the Church, the manuscript used for the printing of the “History of Joseph Smith” in the Times and Seasons, Deseret News, and Millennial Star.

    Alex, you have me curious now about the Young Gentlemen and Ladies Relief Society of Nauvoo (as Leonard, 226, calls it). I like it’s explicit founding as “a society for the relief of the poor.” (Leonard, quoting JS, 226-27) Do you know anything else about it?

    Comment by David G. — January 28, 2008 @ 1:43 pm

  59. And again forgive me. I did not read closely some of the other posts. As an additional note regarding access, I am confident that Ehat and Cook did not have access to the LofL (they obviously had some information regarding the contents of the volume).

    A small correction of David’s comment #36 “Jessee was allowed to reproduce it, but PJS 2 only included part of it (since the volume cut off at the end of 1842).” Jessee’s PJS 2 contains all of what I would call JS’s journal that is contained in the LofL. PJS 2 concludes with the entry of 9 December 1842 (as designed in the manuscript–the entry actually contains daily events up until the 20th of Dec 1842). At this point JS’s journal was transfered to the set of four small books that Willard Richards used to record JS’s journal for the rest of his life. From that point on the LofL contains only financial donations (which were previously interspersed with journal entries). Vol. 1 of the Richards small journals begins the next day, with an entry of 21 Dec 1842, and the LofL actually has a little note saying that that is the case.

    If I recall correctly, Howard raised the issue of authorship of portions of the LofL. The 16th and 23rd August entries refered to earlier are the only entries from any of JS’s Nauvoo journals that I think can be argued to have been dictated. For the most part, Willard Richards, William Clayton, Eliza Snow, and our sole as yet unidentified scribe of JS’s Nauvoo Journals (I exclude Mulholland’s Commmerce journal from the list, though it too seems to feature no JS dictation) were reviewed periodically by JS, but do not seem to contain his actual wording.

    Comment by Alex — January 28, 2008 @ 1:50 pm

  60. Alex: So are you saying that all of the relevant journal entries from LofL were reproduced in PJS 2? Can you shed any light on your new transcription and if there are any significant alterations between your volume and PJS 2?

    Comment by David G. — January 28, 2008 @ 1:59 pm

  61. David: If I were a moderator on this site I would take action against you for derailing this thread. This is not a LofL thread. ;-)

    Just kidding my friend. The continuing of a somewhat off-topic strain is my own fault as much as anyones, but I do regret the shift from the BiV’s great thread.

    Your second sentence is easier to answer than your first. The most significant alteration between Dean Jessee’s Papers of Joseph Smith vol. 2 and the Joseph Smith Papers, Journals Series vol. 2 that Andy Hedges and I are working on is that we will extend beyond the LofL portion into the middle of the second of Richards’s volumes (end of March 1843). The third and final volume in the Journals series will contain from April 1843 onward. The currently-available transcription of JS’s 1843 and 44 journals is Faulring’s American Prophet’s Record. Our transcription (at least in presentation, and sometimes in actual text) differs substantially from Faulring. On the other hand, our transcription (at least in reading of the text) differs far less significantly from Dean’s LofL transcription. There are myriad minor punctuation changes, more emandations noted, etc., but few changes of word-length significance. I would heartily direct anyone interested in LofL journal text to Dean’s PJS 2.

    In response to your #58 request about “The Other Relief Society (c)” :-) let me get back to you.

    Comment by Alex — January 28, 2008 @ 2:35 pm

  62. Not to worry. It’s been quite informative.

    Comment by Bored in Vernal — January 28, 2008 @ 4:21 pm

  63. Alex, I have to admit that I am a bit surprised by your assessment of Ehat and Cook, as they cite page numbers in the LofL like crazy. I’ll defer to your expertise, though.

    Comment by J. Stapley — January 28, 2008 @ 5:43 pm

  64. J., I have sent you an unforgivably long response to your #63 comment via email through David. Just didn’t want you to think I was ignoring you, and didn’t want to bother these good people further.

    Comment by Alex — January 29, 2008 @ 1:52 pm

  65. Alex, we “good people” are quite interested. No need to spare us the details. :-)

    Comment by Nick Literski — January 30, 2008 @ 5:35 pm