The Young Men’s and Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Associations were organized with general principles in mind, but without any definite program or plan of procedure.
In the first generation of their existence, each ward MIA was dependent on its own resources for lessons and meetings and activities. Several standard activities emerged in the 1880s, probably spread by visits from General Board members and by person contact of MIA members in various places. One practice that emerged was the assigning of questions in one week’s meeting to individual members, to be researched during the week and answered at the next week’s meeting.
Another widespread activity was the compilation of a “newspaper,” usually monthly. Usually they were “edited” by one young man as editor and one young lady as co-editor, sometimes for a single issue and sometimes for a longer period. These sheets were handwritten, were “published” in a single copy, with contributions by any member of the MIA, and were read aloud at a regular meeting. Members took these “publications” seriously — Josiah F. Gibbs, writing of the Athenaeum, the publication of his Fillmore ward in the 1880s, tells of an instance where “a caustic reply under a fictitious name” (an article written by Gibbs himself) deeply offended another member and almost led to blows.
Very few issues of these handwritten newspapers exist, for obvious reasons. At least two single issues from two different places do still exist, though. One of them is the following Contributor from the St. Joseph Ward in Joseph City, northern Arizona, from March 1886. Even if you don’t feel like reading multiple screens of material, you still might enjoy picking out the humorous bits interspersed among the prim compositions.
Saint Joseph Contributor
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge”
Vol. I. . . . . . March 3″, 1886 . . . . . No. III
H.M. Tanner, & M.E. Bushman, Editors
Young Men, and Young Ladies, let me impress upon your minds the supreme importance of beings [sic] industrious this is really the first lesson in life for you to learn to know how to work is an accomplishment, of far greater value than most of us are aware of. The first and primary object of ev[e]ry human being is to learn how to live.
The farmer must learn how to till the soil and to gather the harvest properly and to have first and foremost in our minds that whatever is worth doing at all, is worth doing well. So too must the woman His companion and helpmate learn to keep the house cook wash and see that proper econemy is used in all things, that nothing is left in a careless manner to go to waste. Then since we have been commanded, in a Revelation from God, to be industrious the obligations of each man and woman to earn their own living, and strive to make all happy at home and abroad should be our aim and delight.
Editors St Joseph Contributor
The time is near at hand when our association meetings will close for a season, the question that arises in my mind now is have we learned anything in the meetings that we have attended this winter? again have we put the principles that has been taught, into practice in our daily lives? These questions can only be answered by each one for themselves as they are very important to all. The writer is by no means prepaired to answer his own even, but this much he does know, that the fault can be in no one but himself, if nothing has been learned, for we have certainly had some very good instructions, meetings where principals have been taught and explained, and advise given, which was calculated to place us far in the advance of what we are at the present. I am sometimes led to wander if members realize what these association[s] were organized for, my young friends the field is long and wide, harvest is nigh at hand, and labor[er]s are wanted to gather out the honest in heart from the wicked of the wourld, One might say, there is hundreds of young men in zion, just so but are they all prepaired for this work, as a rule, it is ne[ce]ssary to have skillful workmen to perform skillful labor, so it is also necessary to have well prepared, and tried young men to go out into the wicked world and pick out the wheat from the tares, to prepair men for this labor, is the object of the organization of these associations, that they, (the members may have the privelage of speaking and explaining, as well as putting to practice the principals of the Gospel which they may be sent to promulgate to the nations of the earth, thereby becoming acquainted with their own voices at home, over comeing the timidity so incident to us all, and become well informed in all the principles of the Gospel of Christ.
The questions might be asked do we not have the privelage of being taught all this, ev[e]ry sunday, yes to a certain extent we do, but, time does not allow serious subjects being taken up and spoken upon by the young men, as can be done in meetings held for the purpose, Where questions can be asked and answered, and members speak their feelings freely. Therefore let us try to inform our minds of the truth of this great work, that when called upon to labor in the harvest field we will be able to preform our stinct [stint?] exceptably,for remember there is no excellance with out labor. There is no time to be wasted, and as it rolls by, let us grasp the opertunities that is within our Reach, and make ourselves useful men and women, conform our actions, that our characters and labors will entitle us to a good reccommend where ever our lot may be cast. We will then be respected and honered for our integrity, and considered worthy of associating with the saints of God;
Come boys now let us hand in hand
Go labor on the river dam,
This was the order of our Water Boss
As he rode up on his big black horse.
Now to obey, of course we must,
So of[f] we went amid the dust.
And when we arrived upon the spot
We call prepared to handle rock.
We worked hard from morn till night
Blasting, hauling and placeing them right.
And when we’d labored the week through
Our boss calls out, Boys that’ll do.
Twas then for home we all did start,
Each one thankful in his heart,
That through the energy of our Boss
We had rock’ed the dam clear across.
To do good is the duty of all men.
To the Contributor I have had a desire for some time to write a piece to our valuable paper, as I am a member of the Y.L. Association. When we consider our condition as a people, and the many blessings [we] enjoy, we have all reason to rejoice, and we aught to thank the Lord ev[e]ry day that we live, that we have apostles and prophets in our midst to teach us his will, concerning us as a people, I feel that we have been to[o] careless about our duties as true daughters of Zion, I fear that we do not value our privilages as we might. The Mutual Improvement Associations are doing a great deal of good; they are the means of stirring us up to a sense of our duties. The Lord has promised if we are faithful in the discharge of our duties, and humble our selves before Him He will over-rule all things for the good of his people, I feel interested in the wellfare of Zion and wish to raise my voice in the defence of this great work. Not wishing to be tiresome I will close, with kind wishes and success to the Contributor
Welcome Welcome is the greeting
Which this night we give our friends,
[J]oyous joyous is the meeting
Which your kindly presence lends.
Love is still our richest treasure,
Casting out all earth born fear
Let the smile of heartfelt pleasure
Beam on all who gather here.
To the Contributor
I feel as though it is my duty to contribute my mite to the valuable paper, for I know if I do I will receive the benefits that is to be derived by so doing I think we as members of these associations, Should sustain our paper, and ev[e]ry thing else that will have a good attendency to make us more fitting to be noble men and women, for such things will be a blessing to us in after life. Then perhaps we may be placed in a position that we may look back on our past life with regret. We should strive to cultivate a spirit of love and respect for each other. We also should seek to gain the confidence of those with whom we are associated, and be sure if you gain the love of a Brother or Sister strive to retain it. It is our duty also to guard our actions and strive to let our lives be worthy of imatation and be sure with whom we associate for we are all awair if we form the acquaintance of those who care not wether they are respectable, we will soon be thought very little of, and our society will be shunned. let our lives and our actions be so that when we have finished our mission here we will have a name worthy to be spoken of in any society, now it is written great will be the reward of those who do right, and may we all receive this blessing is my fervent prayer.
Be loveing and you will never want for love
Order is the first law of heaven. When we look upon the vegetation and such things as grow in the earth we notice that they have their time and season, and when we look upon the human being and his creation it is all in good order owing to God’s own Wisdom. We have been given a portion of this order, if we only will cultivate our minds to make use of it, for instance, if we desire a happy home, we can not get it without that important rule of order, and cleanliness; How encourageing it is for a husband when he comes home after his days labor and finds his wife home, tidy, and his meals ready, or, on the other hand, how discouraging if he comes weary and tired after hard labor, sees his house and family untidy, disagreeable and no meals ready, This will gradually cause a true and effectionate husband a gloomy feeling and lose love for home, there are many similar cases where he has prefered his amusement away from home, there are many things upon this principles that could be mentioned. Therefore let us try to live up to that Holy law which the Lord has given us, that when we meet our heavenly Father we can receive the blessings
Women seldom stop to think, true enough but you might have added they never fail to stop and talk,
Dear Editors, In my imperfections I will attempt to speak on Obedience to parents. I have found that there is a great blessing attached to obedience to parents and my prayers are, that I may always be humble enough to obey good council from those that have more experience than I have. I have found that If we do not do so it will not be well with us. Obedience is better than sacrifice, my desire, is good will to all, and to learn all things that are useful so when the day of trials comes, I may be able to do good for myself and others, also, that I may be a comfort to my parents in their old age, to reward them for their goodness towards me. They have taught me to fear God and keep his commandments, and m[a]y I always give God the honor and Glory for these blessings.
A boy in a Conneticut sunday school, was asked who made the beautiful hills a bout them, replied that he did not know, as his parents only moved into town the day before.
Rest satisfied with doing well, and leave others to talk of you as they please.
Why do girls kiss each other, and men not. Because girls have nothing better to kiss and men have.
Local and other matters
Weather. The weather still contains its changes variations and so forth.
A Mutual Improvement Association was organized, in the Moen coppy Ward, Jan 31, 1886 with the following Officers. Robert E. Sainsbury President, Sirus W Farnsworth and William E. Packer, Counselors, Secretary J.S. Tanner, Treasurer F. Tanner
When is Tenas cheek rosy her eyes bright and her smiles most winning? When she hears Rubes footsteps, or sees his form in the doreway.
Neither death nor life is as serious as marriage, yet nothing is entered into more thoughtlessly.
It is an error to imagine that Women talk more than men, they are listened to more that is all.
Parley my son, dont stand there scratching your head; stir your stumps, or you’ll make no progress in life. Why Father I’ve heard you say the only way to get a long in this wourld was to scratch a head.
Notice to mail receivers: – Mails will be received daily by the assistant Postmaster, although females would be prefered.
The Porter Bro are moveing out on their homestead, success to them in their new homes
Bro Porter is in our midst again, and looks hale and hearty.
The Contributor is a paper that is free.
To insert in its columns costs nothing you see
Its contents are free also, and this you all know
Is as free to you all, as the winds that do blow.
The Contributor would be quite a sheet
If each would contribute to make it complete,
By Writing pieces suited for its columns,
It would indeed, soon speak volumes,
Now Ladies and Gentlemen it is a fact,
That to edit this paper, takes no small tact,
And to make it sucsessful, indeed and in word,
Your help is much needed, and grea[t]y implored
I don’t know how long the Contributor lasted; it was still in publication in January 1887, when a diarist wrote that he “Attended the Meeting of the mutual improvement association in the evening their Local Paper was read called the St Josephs Contributure. it contained many interesting items of interest original and and otherwise,” and in February when he “Spent part of the time writing wrote a composition. gave a cophy for inserson in the St Joseph Contributor.”