Relief Society got its start when 2 pioneer women pitched in to help with the Nauvoo temple. Here’s how they made a difference

In February 2018, the Church started publishing a four-volume history of the Church titled "Saints: The Story of The Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days."

The first volume in the series, titled "The Standard of Truth," covers the period from Joseph Smith’s youth through the dedication of the Nauvoo Temple (1815–1846). It will be available on Sept. 4 in 14 languages digitally and in print in English. Print editions in other languages will follow before the end of the year.

"Saints" illuminates aspects of Church history that have been lesser known or misunderstood. It includes details and context that are important for understanding topics like violence in Missouri and Illinois, plural marriage in the early Church, the Kirtland Safety Society, and many more.

"Saints" is also a global history, presenting the experiences of women, men, and children involved in important events of the Restoration all over the world.

Read an excerpt titled, "Margaret Cook and Sarah Kimball propose a relief society":

Under Joseph’s direction, John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff began publishing the prophet’s translation of the Book of Abraham in the March 1842 issues of the Times and Seasons. As the Saints read the record, they were thrilled to discover new truths about the creation of the world, the purpose of life, and the eternal destiny of God’s children. They learned that Abraham had possessed a Urim and Thummim and had spoken with the Lord face to face. They read that the earth and everything in it had been organized from existing materials to bring about the exaltation of the Father’s spirit children.

Amid the excitement over the publication of the Book of Abraham and the soul-expanding doctrine it taught, the Saints continued making sacrifices to build up their new city and construct the temple.

By this time, Nauvoo had more than a thousand log cabins, with many frame houses and solid brick homes completed or in the works. To better organize the city, Joseph had divided it into four units called wards and appointed bishops to preside over them. Each ward was expected to assist with temple building by sending laborers to work on the Lord’s house every tenth day.

Margaret Cook, an unmarried woman who supported herself as a seamstress in Nauvoo, watched as work on the temple progressed. She had been working for Sarah Kimball, one of the earliest converts to the church, who had married a successful merchant who was not a Latter-day Saint.

As Margaret worked, she and Sarah sometimes talked about efforts to build the temple. The walls were still only a few feet high, but already craftsmen had built a temporary space in the temple’s basement and installed a large font for baptisms for the dead. The font was an oval pool of expertly shaped pine boards sitting on the backs of twelve hand-carved oxen and finished with fine moldings. Once the font was dedicated, the Saints had begun performing baptisms for the dead again.

Eager to contribute to the temple herself, Margaret noticed that many workers lacked adequate shoes, trousers, and shirts. She suggested to Sarah that they work together to provide new shirts for the workers. Sarah said she could supply the materials for the shirts if Margaret did the sewing. They could also enlist the help of other women in Nauvoo and organize a society to direct the work.

A short time later, Sarah invited about a dozen women to her home to discuss the new society. They asked Eliza Snow, who was known for her writing talents, to draft a constitution. Eliza went to work immediately on the document and showed it to the prophet when she finished.

Joseph said it was the best constitution of its kind. “But this is not what you want,” he said. “Tell the sisters their offering is accepted of the Lord and He has something better for them.” He asked the society to meet with him in a few days at his store.

“I will organize the women under the priesthood, after the pattern of the priesthood,” Joseph said. “I now have the key by which I can do it.”