“I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deaconess of the church at Cen′chre-ae, that you may receive her in the Lord as befits the Saints, and help her in whatever she may require from you, for she has been a helper of many and of myself as well.” Romans 16:1 RSV
The Fellowship ordains all those called of God, per the Book of Avahr. The Lord told Joseph Smith Sr. “if ye have desires to serve God, ye are called to the work” (Avahr 10:5).
The original “Female Relief Society of Nauvoo” was founded in 1842 in Nauvoo, Illinois. The prophet Joseph Smith organized the women under the priesthood on Thursday, March 17, 1842 in the second-story meeting room over the prophet’s Red Brick Store. Twenty women met with the prophet, John Taylor, and Willard Richards to start the new organization.
In forming the Society, the prophet Joseph Smith stated “he was going to make of this Society a kingdom of [priestesses] as in Enoch’s day—as in Paul’s day” (Nauvoo Relief Society Minute Book, p. 22). The prophet’s wife, Emma Hale Smith, was elected “Presidentess Elect,” and Joseph “read the Revelation to Emma Smith, from the book of Doctrine and Covenants; and stated that she was ordained 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” (Nauvoo Relief Society Minute Book, p. 9).
It was proposed that the organization go by the name “Benevolent Society.” However, Emma Smith convinced the attendees that the term “relief” would better reflect the Society’s purpose. At this point, the men left the room so the Society could be about its business. Presidentess Elect, Emma Smith; the original Elect Lady, remarked that “each member should be ambitious to do good” and seek out and relieve the distressed.
Organization and Teachings
The original Nauvoo Relief Society had the same priesthood offices as the male organization.
“If any Officers are wanted to carry out the designs of the Institution, let them be appointed and set apart, as Deacons, Teachers &c. are among us.” – Nauvoo Relief Society Minute Book, p. 8; March 17, 1842
Under the prophet Joseph Smith Jr. the sisters of the Nauvoo Relief Society were taught to use the priesthood.
“Thursday 28 at Two o’clock after-noon met the members of the “Female Relief Society” and after presiding at the admission of many new members. Gave a lecture on the priesthood, shewing how the Sisters would come in possession of the privileges & blessings & gifts of the priesthood— & that the signs should follow them. such as healing the sick casting out devils &c. & that they might attain unto. These blessings, by a virtuous life & conversation & diligence in keeping all the commandments.” – Joseph Smith’s journal; April 28,1842
The Nauvoo Relief Society Minute Book confirms the prophet’s journal.
“Prest.[sic] Smith continued the subject by adverting to the commission given to the ancient apostles “Go ye into all the world” &c.— no matter who believeth; these signs, such as healing the sick, casting out devils &c. should follow all that believe whether male or female. He ask’d the Society if they could not see by this sweeping stroke, that wherein they are ordained, it is the privilege of those set apart to administer in that authority which is confer’d on them— and if the sisters should have faith to heal the sick, let all hold their tongues, and let every thing roll on…
“Respecting the female laying on hands, he further remark’d, there could be no devil in it if God gave his sanction by healing— that there could be no more sin in any female laying hands on the sick than in wetting the face with water— that it is no sin for any body to do it that has faith, or if the sick has faith to be heal’d by the administration.” – Nauvoo Relief Society Minute Book, p. 36; April 28, 1842
The organization quickly grew to over 1300 members before Joseph Smith’s death in June 1844, around which time the organization as it was known was disbanded.
Women in the Fellowship
As the Fellowship grows, the Sisterhood of the Church of Jesus Christ in Christian Fellowship will need to be officially organized and possibly renamed. This Sisterhood of Christ will not only restore the keys of the priesthood to women, as originally given, it will expand their authority in the Fellowship. The head of this organization will be a member of the First Presidency of the Fellowship, equal in authority with the First Elder of the Offices of the Priesthood and the Second Elder of the Fellowship. All women and those that identify as women are welcome, as they are called of God.
The Saints of the Fellowship will organize the Sisterhood as an equal counterpart to the male Offices of the Priesthood. These combine to create the Order of the Ministry which holds the executive keys to run the Fellowship, per the Lord. The Sisterhood of Miriam is associated with Moses’ sister; Miriam, just as the Aaronic Priesthood for the males is named after Aaron, Moses’ brother. The Sisterhood of Magdalene is the High Priesthood equal to its male counterpart is named after Melchizedek.
This Sisterhood of Christ will do more than give women a voice in the Lord’s Fellowship; it will extend the keys of the priesthood of God to any woman who feels called of God to do His works. The Fellowship has been called to return these blessings to all women as seen throughout history, as found in the Holy Scriptures.
If you feel the call from God to be ordained to the priesthood or to serve in the Fellowship, contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org.