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You Have Been Listening to a Relief Society Broadcast: “Memories” (1933)

By: Ardis E. Parshall - January 07, 2011

Rather than an actual broadcast, this script is for a Relief Society play to be performed in wards and stakes in the style of a radio broadcast, with unseen speakers, sound effects, and a swelling organ to signal changes in scene.

I’d suggest you skim through rather than read carefully – it is long, and tedious with its overly realistic attention to the repetitive details of parliamentary procedure. But it is worth your attention for two notable details:

First, it accurately reflects the organizational Minutes of Joseph Smith turning the key to women (rather than for women), and second, it depicts Emma Smith in an entirely sympathetic, heroic light during a generation where Emma, if mentioned at all, was scorned for her failure to come West with Brigham Young and for her so-called responsibility for “keeping Joseph’s children out of the Church.” Both are remarkable factors for a play published by the Relief Society in 1933.

***

Memories

By Nellie O. Parker, Assisted by Emmaretta G. Brown and Irma Felt Bitner

Directions

“Memories” was written and arranged for use with radio or a public address system.

The musical backgrounds, preferably organ, should synchronize with the accompanying idea and be of about thirty seconds duration, gradually fading in and out.

The characters should be selected for the strength of the impersonation. Be careful to have no one double, since that destroys the realism, and is easily detected.

In the episode of Emma and Joseph and the Murdock babies, care should be taken to not overdo the arrival of the mob. As Joseph opens the door, the men speak harshly, with Joseph answering, and as door closes noise ceases. Radio technique is used throughout. The organist, the readers and those singing the chorus, “The Spirit of God like a Fire is Burning,” should all be in the same room unseen by the audience.

A suggested musical prelude is “Memories,” with a visible chorus singing “Onward” as the Finale.

Where a public address system is not available, “Memories” may be revamped to suit local conditions. For instance, Grandmother and Molly might be seated in front of a drop curtain, a floor lamp near, and the different episodes take place back of the drop, either visible or otherwise. If visible the scenes would of necessity have to be enacted. If not visible the voices would have to be projected carefully to simulate a radio.

***

Announcer: On this the ninety-first anniversary of the Relief Society would you like to take a trip into the land of memories? Yes! Well, come with me to the home of the Barlows where we find Grandmother Barlow, a sweet little gray-haired lady sitting in a comfortable chair in the spacious living room, a Relief Society Magazine in her lap. Her granddaughter, Molly, breezily enters.

Molly: Hello, Grandmother – oh! I’m sorry I disturbed you – Yes, I did – and Grandmother, you’ve been crying.

Grandmother: No, Molly, it’s just that I –

Molly: There, now, don’t apologize – you cry if you want to, but what on earth have you been reading that would affect you that way? Did the wicked villain get away with the heroine?

Grandmother: Oh, Molly girl, it isn’t that at all. You see, I was reading the Relief Society Magazine and –

Molly: The Relief Society Magazine? Why, I thought its chief duty is to scatter sunshine.

Grandmother: So it is – so it is – and it does. One doesn’t always cry from lack of sunshine. Often memories bring a touch of sadness, and understanding of past sacrifices, of suffering – (breaks)

Molly: There, there, Grandmother, I do wish you’d tell me about it all sometime.

Grandmother (laughs): Well, that would be a mighty big order, dear, to tell you all about it. You see – I’ve just been reading this article in the magazine about Emma Smith, the wife of the Prophet Joseph, you know, and it started me thinking about the early days of the Church and how noble and courageous those women were, and how willingly they bore trials and privations, even persecutions. They stood right back of their husbands in everything for their religion’s sake.

Molly: Religion’s sake? Why would they be persecuted for it?

Grandmother: Because, dear, it was so strange and so very different from the other religions of the world –

Molly: But I don’t see –

Grandmother: You know new thoughts and truths have always brought ridicule and persecutions. And these women besides taking care of their own families, making the cloth as well as their clothing, cared for the sick, mothered the orphan children and sheltered the homeless that came among them. They asked the Prophet to organize them into a society so that they could help with the building of the temple.

Molly: Which temple, Granny? Tell me about it.

Grandmother: Sit here, Molly, on this stool and I will. You see the Prophet and his followers had laid out a beautiful city on a semi-circle of land, almost surrounded by the Mississippi River.

Molly: It was called Nauvoo the Beautiful, wasn’t it?

Grandmother: Yes, dear, and they built fine strong homes, as they expected, at the time, to stay there always.

Molly: And then they built the Nauvoo Temple?

Grandmother: Yes, on a hill east of the city, they built it. The temple was the first in which ordinance work was done.

Molly: Then what?

Grandmother: Well, the women wanted to help, so a number got together and asked Eliza R. Snow to write some by-laws for them. These were taken to the Prophet Joseph Smith for his approval.

(Musical Interlude)

Sister Snow: President Smith, we have a desire as a group of women to be united in an organization that we may be of more help to you brethren and we have brought to you this copy of our by-laws for your approval.

President Smith: Sister Snow, I will be glad to have the opportunity of organizing the women of the Church. I have been considering the matter of an organization for some time but my plans are greater than any you have in mind. I will soon call you together for this purpose.

(Musical Interlude)

Grandmother: It was not long after this that a group of eighteen women was invited to meet in the upper room of the Masonic Hall. President Smith came with his two counselors, Elders Willard Richards and John Taylor. He appointed Brother Taylor, temporary chairman of the meeting, Brother Richards, temporary secretary. They sang the Hymn –

(Chorus – “The Spirit of God Like a Fire is Burning”)

President Smith: Brother Taylor, will you take the chair and offer the opening prayer.

Elder Taylor: Oh, God, our Eternal and Heavenly Father, in the name of Thy son Jesus Christ, we, a few of Thy servants and handmaidens, have met on this occasion to organize, under Thy divine approval and will, a society whose purpose is to relieve the distress and want of humanity. We pray Thy divine guidance and influence to attend us in our deliberation.

We thank Thee for the presence of Thy servant, the Prophet Joseph Smith, and pray that Thou wilt reveal unto him Thy holy mind and will, that that which may be accomplished today may be in accordance with Thy purpose.

We are also grateful for the presence of his wife, Emma Smith, and the other ladies who are present to participate in these proceedings, and pray Thee, Father in heaven, that whoever may be selected to preside and act as officers of this organization, and the many others who may be called to assist, may have the vision and inspiration to carry on a work that will mean relief and help to suffering humanity. May their hearts be in tune with Thee, the Lord, and may they always have a desire to help and benefit all who need their mercy and kindness. May they indeed become real angels of mercy, tenderness and kindness to all who need their help and blessings, and may this organization that is being perfected today grow, spread and increase until Thy holy name may be glorified in the splendid achievements that will be accomplished and reached out to future generations.

To this end we commend this gathering unto Thee, the Lord, and pray that Thou wilt abide with us with Thy favor and blessings. Amen.

President Smith: Elder Taylor.

Elder Taylor: President Smith.

President Smith: I should like to take a vote to see if the sisters here all are satisfied with one another as fellow members of the proposed group and are willing to acknowledge one another in full fellowship with all the privileges of the institution about to be formed.

Elder Richards: Elder Taylor.

Elder Taylor: Elder Richards.

Elder Richards: I second the motion.

Elder Taylor: Sisters, have you confidence in and are you willing to accept one another as fellow members, and have you a desire to be united in a society for human service? All of those who are present are now declared members of this society. President Smith, will you tell us the purpose of this organization.

President Smith: I shall be pleased to. Now as I see it, the purpose of this society is that the sisters may provoke the brethren to good works, in looking to the wants of the poor, searching after objects of charity and administering to their wants; you will assist by correcting the morals and strengthening the virtues of the community and thus save the elders the trouble of rebuking; that they may give their time to other duties.

(Musical Interlude)

Grandmother: They elected Emma Smith, President; Sarah M. Cleveland, first counselor; and Elizabeth Ann Whitney, second counselor; Eliza R. Snow, secretary; Phoebe M. Wheeler, assistant secretary; Elvira Coles, treasurer.

Molly: Grandmother, was Emma smith appointed president or was she chosen by the members?

Grandmother: You might say both, my dear. she had been chosen by the Lord twelve years before. We read in the 25th section of the Doctrine and Covenants the revelation given direct to her. The Lord speaks of her there as the elect Lady whom he had called.

(Musical Interlude)

President Smith: After the word of the Lord which is contained in the revelation given in July, 1830, Sister Emma was ordained to expound the scriptures to all and to teach the female part of the community: not only she alone, but any of you may attain to the same privileges and blessings if you are true and faithful to your trust. These blessings for women were had anciently, for I read from the 2nd Epistle of John, 1st verse: “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.” This society is restored to women. Sister Emma Smith is the elect lady and is so-called because she is elected to preside. Sister Emma, you and your counselors will now come forward. Sister Emma, you take the chair. You other sisters sit here.

Emma Smith: My dear brothers and sisters: I feel very humble in occupying this position and I pray that god will bless me so that I may perform my duties in an acceptable manner to Him and to you. Now the chief object of this society is for charitable purposes, to seek out and relieve the distressed. Each member should be ambitious to do good and deal frankly with one another. Each of you should watch over the morals and be very careful of the character and reputation of the members of this institution.

Brother Taylor: Mrs. Chairman.

Emma Smith: Brother Taylor.

Brother Taylor: I move that we go into an investigation respecting what this society shall be called.

President Smith: I second the motion.

Emma Smith: It has been moved and seconded that we go into an investigation respecting the name of this society. All those in favor raise the right hand. Those opposed – The motion is unanimous.

Counselor Cleveland: Mrs. Chairman.

Emma Smith: Sister Cleveland.

Counselor Cleveland: I move that this society be called the Nauvoo Female Relief society.

Counselor Whitney: I second that motion.

Brother Taylor: Mrs. Chairman.

Emma Smith: Brother Taylor.

Brother Taylor: I offer an amendment that the name be the Nauvoo Female Benevolent society, which would give a more definite and extended idea of the institution. I suggest that the word Relief be stricken out and Benevolent be inserted.

Counselor Cleveland: Mrs. Chairman.

Emma Smith: Sister Cleveland.

Counselor Cleveland: I second the amendment.

Emma Smith: All those in favor of the amendment make it manifest, contrary by the same sign. The vote is unanimous. But I would like a discussion with Elder Taylor on the words Relief and Benevolent. I like the word Relief better myself.

President Smith: Mrs. Chairman, I move that the vote for the amendment be rescinded.

Sister Snow: Mrs. Chairman.

Emma Smith: Sister Snow.

Sister Snow: I second the motion.

Emma Smith: It has been moved and seconded that the vote for the amendment be rescinded. Those in favor raise the right hand – the motion is carried.

President Smith: Mrs. Chairman.

Emma Smith: President Smith.

President Smith: Now benevolent is a popular term and is used greatly to designate societies of this kind. The word relief is not known among popular societies.

Emma Smith: I favor the word relief because it is simple and our society is different from the other societies of the world. We expect to do more than merely extend mercy. Our purpose is to relieve the poor from their sufferings.

Counselor Cleveland: Mrs. Chairman.

Emma Smith: Counselor Cleveland.

Counselor Cleveland: I too like the word Relief better.

Counselor Whitney: Mrs. Chairman.

Emma Smith: Sister Whitney.

Counselor Whitney: I am of the same opinion as the other sisters.

President Smith: I have no objection to the word Relief and I feel it would reflect the work of this organization on all questions; that you should deliberate candidly and investigate all subjects just as you have done in the naming of this society. Emma Smith: All those in favor of naming our society the Nauvoo Female Relief society make it manifest by raising the right hand. Contrary by the same sign. The vote is unanimous.

President Smith: Mrs. Chairman.

Emma Smith: President Smith.

President Smith: This society is now organized with a complete set of officers and according to parliamentary usage, I recommend that all who are hereafter admitted be received without censure and by vote. This society is not only to relieve the poor but to save souls. And I now turn the key to you in the name of God, and this society shall rejoice, and knowledge and intelligence shall flow down from this time.

This presidency is ordained to preside over this society just as the Presidency presides over the Church, and if you need my instructions, ask of me and I will give them from time to time. Do not injure the character of anyone. If any member of the society shall conduct herself improperly, deal with her and keep all your doings within your own bosoms and hold characters sacred. If you would have God have mercy on you, have mercy on one another. I wish now to give you my contribution. Here is $5.00. what I do hereafter for charity I shall do through this organization.

(Musical Interlude)

Molly: Oh, Grandmother dear! Wasn’t the Prophet a grand man? I know I should have loved him. Was he as wise as he was good?

Grandmother: Yes, indeed, because he was guided by revelation. Do you know that he instructed those women how to conduct their meetings in an orderly way with parliamentary procedure, how to address the chair; how to put motions and amendments; how the chairman should recognize the first one who addressed her; how to transact all business that might come before their meeting; and “Are you ready for the question?” etc.

Molly: Just imagine, and it’s remarkable when you think that it was so long ago. Doesn’t Female sound funny?

Grandmother: Well, it does now, but then it seemed alright. Female was always used to designate women’s work in those days. Women generally didn’t have an opportunity to do anything outside of their own homes. And so on the 17th of March, 1842, the first Relief Society meeting was organized, and that’s why we celebrate the 17th of March. The name was changed later, I believe it was October 15th, 1872.

Molly: but Grandmother, tell me, when President Smith gave $5.00 did anyone else give some?

Grandmother: Yes, they all followed, giving what they could. Sister Cleveland gave all she had, 12-1/2 cents. They collected $10.62-1/2. And at their first meeting they began caring for those in need and arranging for employment for widows who desired it.

Molly: Well, they didn’t lose any time, did they?

Grandmother: No, my dear.

Molly: Just how did they go about this relief work?

Grandmother: Well, it was this way. They made a list of the names of widows and others who desired work so that people who had work might get in touch with them. Sister Smith told them to pay promptly, not to defraud the widow of her wages, but be upright and deal justly.

Molly: that was fine.

Grandmother: The prophet and his counselors then ordained the sisters and set them apart for their great mission. Later they organized a necessity committee of sixteen women to visit among the people and search out the poor and suffering. This committee was the forerunner of the visiting teachers of today.

Molly: What kind of a woman was Emma Smith, Granny?

Grandmother: Emma Smith was a beautiful woman with fine poise and a forceful personality. She was one year older than the Prophet.

Molly: One year older?

Grandmother: Yes, she was 22 and he 21 when they were married. She loved him early and married him against her parents’ wishes.

Molly: Against her parents’ wishes?

Grandmother: She was always loyal to him and helped him in his work. Emma went with Joseph with the horse and wagon when he received the plates. Once when the plates were in danger and Joseph was working, digging a well at Macedon, Emma rode on horseback to warn him. When the manuscript was lost Emma was very ill, but she insisted that Joseph go in search of it. And at the time –

(Musical Interlude)

Joseph: Oh! Emma dear, you look so worn and tired. I wonder if we did the right thing taking these Murdock babies, especially after all you’ve passed through.

Emma: Why Joseph, these poor little motherless darlings fill the gap left by the loss of my own twin babies, as nothing else could. And don’t you see that even the care and worry helps to heal the pain in my heart.

Joseph: And mine, too – but –

Emma: If only they could have been a little older and stronger – this wouldn’t have been so hard on them.

Joseph: Well, all children get the measles and it’s a good thing over, and with your care and attention, I’m sure –

Emma: Oh! Joseph, I hope you’re right, but I do worry so.

Joseph: God will bless you, Emma, for taking these motherless babes to your bosom. Go, my beloved, and get a little sleep while I watch by their bed.

Emma: But Joseph, you are tired, too. Your responsibilities weigh so heavily on you and the constant fear of the mob is so trying. You had better rest while you can. Besides this one little baby is so very sick, I don’t believe I had better leave him.

Joseph: The child seems to be sleeping now. Emma, you go and lie down, he’ll be all right. I can rest here in the quiet by their bed. I’ll call you when necessary.

Emma: All right then, I’ll go for a little while if you’ll promise to waken me when they need me. (Door closes.)

Joseph (sighs): Now if only she can get a little rest – goodness knows she needs it. What would I do without her. (Noise.) There now (hums) (knock on door) (louder and louder). Sh! Who’s there? (Knock.) Just a moment. (Knock.) I’m coming (opens door) (great noise and confusion ) (door closes).

Emma (calling in distance): Joseph? Joseph, what’s wrong? (Closer.) Why, Joseph, where are you? He’s gone! The mob! The mob’s taken him. Oh, my husband! I’ll go for help – the baby, the baby, oh, Joseph, the baby’s dying, I can’t leave him. Oh, God, have mercy!

(Musical Interlude)

Molly: Oh, Grandmother, wasn’t that awful? How could she stand so much? She must have been a remarkable woman, as you said.

Grandmother: She was. In the magazine here, let me read you what Mother Smith said about Emma, her daughter-in-law: “I have never seen a woman in my life who could endure every species of fatigue and hardship from month to month and from year to year with that unflinching courage, zeal, patience, which she has ever done; for I know that which she has had to endure. She has been tossed upon the ocean of uncertainty; she has breasted the storms of persecution and buffeted the rage of men and devils which would have borne down almost any other woman.”

Molly: Isn’t that a wonderful tribute, coming from her mother-in-law, too. It just goes to prove that she must have had her full share of virtues.

Grandmother: That isn’t all. when there was so much sickness around Nauvoo and they were living in a little log house, she had the sick brought to her home in such numbers that she and her family were crowded out of doors into a tent.

Molly: A tent! Oh! Grandmother, she must have been wonderful.

Grandmother: She was a great comfort to the Prophet, too. She visited him secretly while he was in exile. He wrote in his journal after one of her visits, “My beloved Emma, she that is my wife, even the wife of my youth and the choice of my heart, again she is here undaunted, firm, unwavering, unchangeable, and affectionate Emma.”

She wrote a masterful letter to Governor Carlin of Illinois pleading against the extradition of her husband to Missouri.

Molly: Well, whatever did she do when the Prophet was martyred?

Grandmother: They say that for a while her grief was so great that her iron-like fortitude seemed broken, she went into one faint after another. A friend trying to comfort her said, “Dear Sister Emma, this martyrdom will be your crown of glory,” and Emma replied, “My husband is my crown.”

Molly: Poor soul. Tell me, grandmother, whatever did she do after the Prophet died? Did she start west with the Saints?

Grandmother: “No. I suppose Emma’s work was finished, like Joan of Arc, her mission was fulfilled. She preferred to stay and raise her family in Nauvoo where her husband had lived and struggled.

Molly: Were there other women as wonderful as Emma Smith?

Grandmother: Yes, many, those pioneer women have been unequaled anywhere in history. And the elect ladies (I like to think of the presidents of the Relief Society as such) all have been fine, capable, courageous, generous women. It has been their great leadership under the guidance of the Lord that has made Relief Society the great organization it is today. I tell you, Molly, I’m proud to belong and work in such an organization.

Molly: And it’s women like you, Grandmother dear, that put their shoulder to the wheel and carry on, doing their bit to spread sunshine and care for the needy. I never really understood just how it all came about.

Thanks for letting me see these memories with you. There – a kiss right on each cheek – there.

Grandmother: Bless you, my dear. I only hope you will enjoy this heritage that we – your mother and I – are passing on to you. “To you from falling hands we throw the torch. Be it yours to hold it high.” For it is you, Molly, you and your girl friends, that must carry on this inspired work, must feel the urge, must sense the necessity to seek out and relieve the distressed. Forever before was the need greater than now. Do you see the vision of this work, my dear?

Molly: As I never did before, Grandmother.

Grandmother: Then, please God, you will pick up the torch and carry on.

(Music – Floods in)



2 Comments »

  1. Well, I did what you said and skimmed it. Very nice. This is what I can find out about the authors with a quick look:

    Nellie Oliver Parker (1885-1973): member of the Relief Society General Board. Involved in starting Mormon Handicraft.

    Emmaretta Gabbott Brown (1880-1961). ?

    Irma Felt Bitner (1888-1965): Member of the Primary General Board (?). Often involved in dramatic productions including a major production, “The Message of the Ages” for the one hundredth anniversary of the church. Louie B. Felt, the first Primary General President, was her father’s first wife. Irma had quite a career for that time in radio and government, and all with five children. Good for her.

    Comment by Researcher — January 7, 2011 @ 1:19 pm

  2. The dialogue is a little stilted, but the sentiment is nice. Sounds very much like how the real radio dramas of the day were done.

    As I read about the saints in years past, so much more emphasis seemed to be given to music and dramatic arts than we currently see. Yesterday’s post about my Grandfather’s homecoming was filled with musical numbers. When Plain City was first founded, they held an outdoors dance within the first few weeks, and later organized musical groups, dramatic companies, and literary societies. All of this in what up until the last 20 or 30 years was a very small community, and now is only a small semirural suburb.

    Comment by kevinf — January 7, 2011 @ 1:47 pm

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