“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 of Christ ordains all those called of God, per the Book of Avahr. As 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” (Doctrines of the Saints 9:25-26).
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 (Doctrines of the Saints 9:48, 80).
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.” –Doctrines of the Saints 9:19
Under the prophet Joseph Smith Jr. the Sisters of the Nauvoo Relief Society were taught to use the priesthood. We do not know to what extent these women used the keys given them, but we do know that blessed and healed the sick.
“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
The Sisterhood of Christ has not only restore the keys of the priesthood to women, as originally given, it has expanded their authority in the Church of Jesus Christ. The head of this Fellowship is the Kristine Ferriman—co-president, prophetess, seer, revelator, and treasurer and Ruth Mauldin—second councilor, prophetess, seer, revelator, and secretary. Both of these women are members of the First Presidency of the Fellowship, equal in authority with the First Elder of the Fellowship. All women and those that identify as women are welcome to join this Sisterhood, as they are called of God.
Working with the Brotherhood of Christ in the Order of the Ministry, men and women together hold the executive keys to run the Fellowship of Christ, as instructed by the Lord (Doctrines of the Saints 119:4). 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.
The Sisterhood of Christ is doing more than give women a voice in the Lord’s Fellowship; it is extending 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: email@example.com.
This article has been updated from the original, posted August 25, 2018.