Juvenile Instructor » Southwestern States Mission: The Mission Call of Sister Amelia B Carling
 


Southwestern States Mission: The Mission Call of Sister Amelia B Carling

By: Edje Jeter - March 10, 2013

Amelia B Carling was one of the first “official” full-time female missionaries for the Church and was the first for the Southwestern States Mission. [1] I have previously transcribed her account of the events leading to the mission call and her defense of “lady missionaries’” right to preach. Below I transcribe her mission call letter and compare it to the letters received by male missionaries.

Male missionaries were notified of their mission assignment with a form letter printed in black ink with the necessary blanks filled in by typewriter. An image of an Elder Joseph Facer’s 1897 letter is available here. [2] In the diary, Carling does not describe the physical letter, but her under-linings match the “blanks” of the males’ letters, so I assume the template of her letter was also mass-produced.

I have formatted Carling’s letter as if it were an edited version of Elder Facer’s letter using red text to indicate insertions and blue for deletions. [3]

Salt Lake City, Utah, May 23, 1901.

Elder Miss Amelia Carling,

Provo.

Dear Brother Sister: Your name has been suggested and accepted as a missionary to the South Western States.

The work of the Lord is progressing in the nations, and faithful, energetic discrete Elders sisters are needed in the ministry being selected to promulgate assist in the promulgation of the Everlasting Gospel, openings for doing them to do good appearing in numerous directions.

Yourself, with others, having been selected for this mission, should there be no reasonable obstacles to hinder you from going, we would be pleased to have you make your arrangements arrange to start from this City city at as early a date as June 26th, 1901.

Please let us know, at your earliest convenience, promptly what your feelings are with regard to this call. If you accept it you will receive no further notification, but will be expected to present yourself at the Historian’s Office President’s Office to be set apart on the day previous to that the day appointed for your departure.

Your Brother in the Gospel,

Lorenzo Snow.

P.S. Please have your Bishop endorse your answer.

I see three big differences between the male and female call letters, all in the second paragraph:

  • Energetic Elders versus discrete sisters [edit: presumably “discreet”; thanks, Amy T.]
  • Needed versus being selected
  • To promulgate versus assist in the promulgation

In the 1902 male letter (Walter M Wolfe) linked below, the missionary is sent to the President’s Office instead of the Historian’s Office, which suggests, I think, a change for all missionaries. At this point I don’t perceive gendered significance in the other differences.



The “Southwestern States Mission” series (homepage) examines mission life in (mostly) Texas around 1900.

[1] By “official,” I mean missionaries in the present-day sense of full-time, formally set-apart, non-married, proselyting missionaries occupying a clearly-defined position in the church organization. Hundreds of women had already served as missionaries, but not in the systematic, institutional capacity under consideration here. See, for example, Diane L Mangum, “The First Sister Missionaries,” Ensign, July 1980.

[2]Joseph Facer letters regarding his mission to the Southern States,” MSS 2332 Series 1 box 1 folder 4, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University. A transcript of the linked image is below. I am not certain, but I assume the ink in the filled in parts, like the missionary’s name, have turned blue with age and were not blue when originally delivered. I have not done a detailed search of missionary call letters, but have examined letters from 1897 to 1908 and find consistent language. For a 1902 transcription (Walter M Wolfe), see here.

“Salt Lake City, Jany. 12, 1897. 189_ ¶ Elder Joseph Facer, Willard City. ¶ Dear Brother: ¶ Your name has been suggested and accepted as a Missionary to Southern States. ¶ The work of the Lord is progressing in the nations, and faithful, energetic Elders are needed in the ministry to promulgate the Everlasting Gospel, openings for doing good appearing in numerous directions. Yourself, with others, having been selected for this mission, should there be no reasonable obstacles to hinder you from going, we would be pleased to have you make your arrangements to start from this City at as early a date as March 18th, 1897. ¶ Please let us know, at your earliest convenience, what your feelings are with regard to this call. If you accept it you will receive no further notification, but will be expected to present yourself at the Historian’s Office to be set apart on the day previous to that appointed for your departure. ¶ Your Brother in the Gospel, ¶ [signed: Wilford Woodruff] ¶ P.S. Please have your Bishop endorse your answer.”

[3] I assume there are standard ways for communicating differences between texts, but I haven’t paid attention to how it’s done. Sorry.

—Edit, 2013 Apr 13 Sat 2252—

This post wasn’t coming up in my search engine when I queried specific lines from Carling’s letter because the annotations confused the computer. So, to help the search engine out, I’m adding Carling’s letter without annotation:

Salt Lake City, Utah, May 23, 1901.

Miss Amelia Carling,

Provo.

Dear Sister: Your name has been suggested and accepted as a missionary to the South Western States.

The work of the Lord is progressing in the nations, and faithful, discrete sisters are being selected to assist in the promulgation of the Everlasting Gospel, openings for them to do good appearing in numerous directions.

Yourself, with others, having been selected for this mission, should there be no reasonable obstacles to hinder, we would be pleased to have you arrange to start form this city June 26th, 1901.

Please let us know promptly what your feelings are with regard to this call. If you accept you will receive no further notification, but will be expected to present yourself at the President’s Office on the day previous to the day appointed for your departure.

Your Brother in the Gospel,

Lorenzo Snow.

For good measure, let’s spell discreet correctly:

The work of the Lord is progressing in the nations, and faithful, discreet sisters are being selected to assist in the promulgation of the Everlasting Gospel, openings for them to do good appearing in numerous directions.



11 Comments

  1. Do you know if sisters were in fact set apart? We might take it for granted as yes, but in that era only leaders (the presidency of an auxiliary, for instance, but positively not the teachers) were set apart. If sister missionaries were not set apart, that would definitely be a gendered thing having to do with administration/authority/leadership.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — March 10, 2013 @ 9:51 am

  2. What fascinating language changes. I imagine they meant “discreet” rather than “discrete,” but either word is a curious substitution for “energetic.”

    Comment by Amy T — March 10, 2013 @ 10:01 am

  3. Ardis: Sister Carling was set apart; her blessing ran almost to 500 words. “Missionary Blessings” is (probably) next week’s topic.

    Comment by Edje Jeter — March 10, 2013 @ 10:13 am

  4. Amy: Good catch. I’ve edited the OP to make it look like I, too, am fluent in English.

    Of the differences, I think “discreet” is the most important. From what I recall of the secondary lit, one of the functions of the earliest sister missionaries was to “showcase” non-crazy, non-oppressed Mormon women. There are also a few instances where the question of “discretion” comes up in Carling’s diary. I might do a separate post on them later (or I might just dig them out tonight and drop them in a comment here).

    Comment by Edje Jeter — March 10, 2013 @ 10:18 am

  5. Oh, this is really interesting, especially re: “discreet”.

    Comment by Saskia — March 10, 2013 @ 10:48 am

  6. On the subject of firsts: according to this blog, Sister Verônica Zanin de Andrade dos Santos is “the first nineteen-year-old sister missionary to … enter the São Paulo MTC (according to the SP MTC) after the announcement of the change in age for missionary service” (translation mine).

    Comment by Edje Jeter — March 10, 2013 @ 12:54 pm

  7. And the more I think about it, I think I really missed an opportunity to comment on how the existence of non-discrete Mormon women could radically alter our understanding of polygamy.

    Comment by Edje Jeter — March 10, 2013 @ 12:55 pm

  8. My great-great grandfather was a late (post declaration) practitioner of polygamy. As an already married man, he aggressively courted a cousin of his first wife and in reading about it in his autobiography, it is quite clear she was sent on a mission in order to get her away from him (he was not dissuaded by her bishop telling him they really needed her service in Primary)! I really wish I could see that call. Unfortunately, she came home “much improved,” according to my g-g- grandfather, having gained some much needed weight.

    Comment by ESO — March 10, 2013 @ 8:32 pm

  9. Fascinating, Ed. Thanks for your work, as always.

    Comment by Christopher — March 10, 2013 @ 10:35 pm

  10. ESO: I, too, would be interested to see that call and her diary entries thereabouts.

    Christopher: Thanks.

    Comment by Edje Jeter — March 11, 2013 @ 8:25 am

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