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Two books share stories, history of women and Relief Society in the LDS Church

These two books share the different aspects of women in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' history. One shares experiences of pioneer-era women and the other a meticulously researched history of the Relief Society.

FEARLESS IN THE CAUSE: Remarkable Stories from Women in Church History,” edited by Brittany Chapman Nash and Richard E. Turley Jr., Deseret Book, $19.99, 141 pages (nf)

From women who survived ocean voyages and those who persevered in handcart companies to women whose families were called to settle in frontier areas outside of Utah and who kept the faith after being widowed or the death of their children, the stories of 18 women who were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and were born before 1870 are in “Fearless in the Cause: Remarkable Stories from Women in Church History.”

The stories are from the first three volumes of the Women of Faith in the Latter Days series. The first volume includes women born in 1820 or earlier, the second volume from 1821 to 1845 and in the third volume, they were born between 1846 to 1870.

Editors Brittany Chapman Nash, a historian for the LDS Church, and Richard E. Turley Jr., assistant church historian and recorder, divided the 18 stories in “Fearless in the Cause” into five categories — A Legacy of Courage, An Enduring Faith, Prayers and Blessings and The Influence of Righteous Women and Steadfast in All Things.

Each woman joined the LDS Church and maintained her faith and testimony in the face of many trials associated with the physical trials of traveling and building a life in a new area.

Anna Barnes Smith’s son’s hip was shot out during the mob attack at Haun’s Mill, where her husband and an older son died. Her story includes how she prayed to know what to do and was directed on to help him.

Sarah Louisa Yates Robison humbly didn’t realize she had been called to serve as a counselor in the Relief Society general presidency in 1921, and later served as general president during the Great Depression.

Anna Karine Gaarden Widstoe was a 28-year-old widow with a toddler and an infant and making a living as a seamstress in Norway when a religious tract was put in shoes she had repaired. When she joined the LDS Church, she was cut off from friends and family and a secure future. She never lost sight of educating her boys, both of whom were university presidents. In her 50s, she was called to serve a mission in the Scandinavia Mission — and served in her native Norway.

Each story is short, concise and readable, and inspiring as each woman faced her trials with faith.

THE FIRST FIFTY YEARS OF RELIEF SOCIETY: Key Documents in Latter-day Saint Women’s History,” edited by Jill Mulvay Derr, Carol Cornwall Madsen, Kate Holbrook and Matthew J. Grow, The Church Historian’s Press, $49.95, 767 pages (nf)

From the formation of the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo to the organization’s 50th anniversary near the end of the 19th century, “The First Fifty Years of Relief Society” shares 78 documents relating to the women’s organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Divided into four sections, the documents include the minutes of the Relief Society meetings in Nauvoo in the first section. The second section explores re-establishing the Relief Society in individual wards in the 1850s and ’60s, and the third section, the re-establishment of the organization in Utah through the late 1870s. The fourth section shares documents from when Eliza R. Snow was called as the first general president since Emma Smith to the 50th anniversary in 1892.

Each section includes an introduction by the editors that shares an overview and context for the documents that gives perspective as to the circumstances of the documents. Many of the documents also have an introduction with valuable context.

There are extensive footnotes, giving references and additional information.

Black and white images are interspersed throughout the volume, from images of the Nauvoo Minute Book to images of some of the documents and photos of the women mentioned. The editors also include topics of plural marriage and women giving blessing, along with the ongoing needs to be economically self-sufficient and to help spiritually strengthen each other.

This is a thorough, expansive and illuminating look at the history of women in the LDS Church through documents such as meeting minutes, transcriptions of talks and correspondence, as the church was re-established in the West and the members of the Relief Society continued to work to help those who were in need.

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