How important are women in the restored church of Jesus Christ? We learn something about the answer to the question from a simple historic fact: In 1842, the Prophet Joseph Smith took time to attend several meetings of the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo and give personal instruction to the women there. He did this at a time of great personal turmoil, when persecutions were raging and his responsibilities were heavy. He did it at a time when society barely acknowledged women as having any kind of status at all. On six separate occasions, he taught the women personally about their privileges, their opportunities, their obligations, and the blessings the Lord had in store for them in His kingdom.
The Beginning of Better Days includes Joseph Smith's six timeless sermons to the women of Nauvoo, along with personal essays from Sheri Dew and Virginia H. Pearce that help us better understand the sermons and their relevance for Latter-day Saint women today. "We have attempted to share a little about our own processes of discovery regarding the sermons," writes the authors. "This is what worked for us. What works for you may be similar — or it may be completely different. The important thing is to dig in."
- Pages: 134
- Published: 07/2012
About the Authors
Sheri Dew is a native of Ulysses, Kansas, and a graduate of Brigham Young University. She has authored several books, including the biographies of two presidents of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Presidents Gordon B. Hinckley and Ezra Taft Benson. Her most recent books are God Wants a Powerful People and Saying It Like It Is. Sheri was named the president and CEO of Deseret Book Company in March 2002. She also serves as a member of both the BYU Marriott School of Management’s National Advisory Council and the President’s Leadership Council for BYU-Hawaii. In March 2003 the White House appointed her as a member of the U.S. Delegation to the Commission on the Status of Women and Girls at the United Nations.
Virginia Hinckley Pearce is the author of the bestselling book A Heart Like His: Making Space for God’s Love in Your Life, and has edited and coauthored several additional books, including Glimpses into the Life and Heart of Marjorie Pay Hinckley. She has served as a counselor in the Young Women general presidency and on the general Primary board of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. She and her husband, the late James R. Pearce, have six children and twenty-six grandchildren.
The record kept by Eliza R. Snow of the proceedings of the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo has been referred to for years, but it was not readily accessible to all interested parties until its relatively recent inclusion in the Joseph Smith Papers project. Now photographs of the original pages appear online alongside their typed transcriptions in a document titled “Nauvoo Relief Society Minute Book” at josephsmithpapers.org.
Latter-day Saint women are incredibly fortunate that Eliza was foresighted enough to preserve the Minute Book and carry it across the plains with her, allowing access to the original, historically significant document exactly as it was created. And when that document was being prepared for inclusion in the Joseph Smith Papers, people who had long been associated with the Minutes suggested to the two of us that perhaps something should be done to bring them even more into the light. Specifically, buried within the Minutes are notes of six sermons that the Prophet Joseph delivered to the Relief Society between March and August 1842. This priceless record of instruction delivered by the Prophet of the Restoration directly and particularly to women has been quoted in bits and pieces, but too few people have studied his words in depth.
Each of us became acquainted with these teachings at different stages and for different reasons, but we both came to them with high motivation to try to come to grips with the kinds of questions that almost inevitably occur in the lives of faithful Latter-day Saint women. We wanted to know where women “fit” in the plan of salvation. What did the Lord expect of His daughters? What blessings did He have in store for us, and how could we lay hold upon those blessings? In Joseph Smith‘s teachings to the Relief Society, we each found a treasure of guidance, motivation, pure doctrine, and wise prophetic counsel.
So we were intrigued by the opportunity we saw to provide some context for these sermons and especially to help open them up to a wider readership. Our first task was to comb through the Minutes and attempt to extract the sermons themselves from the general business of the Relief Society. This we have done to the best of our ability, trying in most cases to include only the portions attributed to Joseph Smith—although in the case of the inaugural meeting (March 17, 1842) we have included the energetic discussion between the women and their priesthood leaders that led to the official name of the Relief Society. With a handful of exceptions (noted in brackets) we have retained original spelling and punctuation, presenting the words just as they appear in Eliza‘s record.
As it turned out, that proved to be the easy part. As we began to put our personal insights on paper, we were both, quite frankly, terrified. Our fear at being seen as embellishing and interpreting Joseph Smith‘s words caused each of us to stop, dead in our tracks, more than once. But then our excitement over the power of his words in our own lives would eventually drag us back again and again to this project. After all, the possibility of being misunderstood is an occupational hazard for anyone who attempts to arrange words on paper.
One challenge is that the six sermons delivered by the Prophet Joseph Smith do not read the way talks in our modern era do. As with most of the talks attributed to him, they were written down by someone in attendance—in this case, Eliza R. Snow. They come across very much as notes, lapsing in and out of the first-person voice, filled with shortcuts and abbreviations, with little attention to stylistic consistency. We can almost see Eliza writing as fast as she could, trying to keep up with the instruction coming from the Prophet, capturing as much as possible the key points and the spirit of his messages.
Reading these talks, then, is not like reading the conference issue of the Ensign. We encourage you to move slowly, considering individual statements, seeking confirmation of the Spirit for conclusions reached, studying, examining, treasuring. Space has been provided at the bottom of each page in the section containing Joseph Smith‘s teachings so that you can make your own notes. In the introductory essays, we have attempted to share a little about our own processes of discovery regarding the sermons. This is what worked for us. What works for you may be similar—or it may be completely different. The important thing is to dig in.
We encourage you with all our hearts to accept the unique opportunity to be taught by the Prophet Joseph Smith, the man foreordained to open the dispensation of the fulness of times. The spirit in his words flows from his generation to ours, offering rich blessings to those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.
Virginia H. Pearce
Understand your role in the Lord's organization for women.
by Jennifer - reviewed on April 25, 2013
I loved this book. I began my study by reading Joseph Smith's instructions first, then I read the insights by Sheri Dew and Virginia H. Pearce. There were several things I learned in my study. The few I would like to share are; women need to understand the priesthood the same as men, women are to teach, everyone within their circle of influence, we are to inspire each other to be our best selves. The principles Joseph Smith taught, if followed, will improve the life of every woman.
by Dianna - reviewed on April 25, 2013
take the time to enjoy. i did and was amazed and touched by each phrase. i did make marks of items to notice for a quick review at another time when needed. oh how i would enjoy sitting down with sheri and virginia and talk with them about this book
by Courtney - reviewed on October 14, 2012
When I saw how short this book was (less than 140 pages) I thought it wouldn’t take long to get through and while I imagine it might be a quick read for some, I spent too much time pondering the wonderful insights and doctrine to finish it quickly. The first two thirds of the book are the personal insights of Virginia H. Pearce and Sheri Dew. I find it fabulous how two great women such as these can study the same papers and have two entirely different experiences. That is a testimony to me of the truthfulness of the Gospel. The Spirit of God speaks to each of us in our own need. For the rest of this review go to: http://ordinaryhappilyeverafter.com/blog/2012/08/the-beginning-of-better-days-giveaway/
quite soul satisfying
by Polly - reviewed on April 25, 2013
The nature of the book allows for quick uplifting reads i just a few minutes. Anyone who has a just 10-15 minutes can get uplifted quickly. It also give you great insight into how much Joseph Smith cared about the women of the church and how much the Savior Loves each and everyone of us.
Excellent Companion to "Daughters in my Kingdom"
by Linda M - reviewed on April 25, 2013
The essays written by Sheri Dew and Virginia Pearce moved me deeply. I related to each on a different level each. To read familiar quotes but in context this time gave me hew understanding each. time I have read and - re - read them. Their feelings toward Joseph Smith's words were a feast in and of themselves. Then the real banquet came in reading Joseph's own words recorded as he spoke to the sisters in Nauvoo .. These were so precious to.me! This is not a book to pick up once, but to read again and again and mark or record the revelation that comes to you.
From plain and simple to deep doctrine
by Lionel & Marianne - reviewed on April 26, 2013
The immediate down-to-earth views of both Sister Pearce and Sister Dew appealed to each of us. Then as we progressed into the book and saw the potential of in depth doctrine to be discovered for oneself, we were really in. Highly recommended as a constant reference to explore the instructions from the Prophet Joseph and related scriptures.
worth the deep study and pondering
by Ann - reviewed on April 25, 2013
This book can be torn apart and studied on so many levels. I have appreciated others sharing their insight with me as they study and ponder the ideas found here. I am grateful to Sister Dew and Sister Pearce for putting these notes/minutes together and then giving us some of their insight. I wish we had a chance to sit together and really look at each paragraph and turn to other sources and scriptures and tie all the pieces together! It's a great resource!
A wonderful source of inspiration!
by Ilona - reviewed on April 25, 2013
I loved this book! As a Relief Society president it has been a wonderful source of inspiration for me. I truly have a better understanding of how the Prophet Joseph Smith expected us as sisters in the gospel to treat ourselves and each other.
Amazing book for ALL women!
by Customer - reviewed on September 11, 2012
I think everyone from all walks of life will benefit from this book. You will be inspired to live the life you were sent here to without question. You will know how Heavenly Father thinks about his daughters and you will hear have a witness in your spirit of the things that were foretold many years ago. Be amazed at the treasure that is in this small but powerful book. The reason I said all women is because I am not LDS, I am a Catholic woman. I know when I get a witness from the Holy Spirit and the things spoken in this book are very powerful.
Wonderful Book for RS and everyone
by Jackie - reviewed on April 26, 2013
Eliza R Snow must have been an amazing woman with incredible foresight. Her six sermon notes of the Prophet Joseph provide incredible insight to the time and meaning of revelations and directions. It is amazing to think that she protected these minutes/notes through the trek west and longer and they have been preserved to be printed for our use. The comments and study that Sister Dew and Sister Pearce provide were pivotal to me for understanding the events that were happening at the time and deepened my understanding of how important these sermons and revelations were - not only to the women of that day but to our day as well. Thank you to all that were part of bringing this to us.
Eternal truths to all women...
by Marshall - reviewed on April 25, 2013
Here is an eternal truths to all women, and in so many ways can be applied today in a real personal way. Take time to read and reflect on how these along as other sermons from our apostles will help in our time of need; with an added prayer the sprit will open your minds to answers once hidden. A great read.
Every LDS woman should read this!
by Judith - reviewed on April 25, 2013
This is a wonderful compilation of the lectures of Joseph Smith to the Relief Society sisters. The essays at the beginning by Virginia Pearce and Sherri Dew are very thought provoking and uplifting - they help to understand what you will read from the lectures. I was very spiritually uplifted by this book - and have a deeper understanding of what the Prophet was trying to teach us. You won't regret reading this book. Read with your "eternal eyes"!
I can promise you, if you read this book, you will feel so differently about yourself as a woman.
by Sheila - reviewed on August 18, 2012
If you have ever wanted to read doctrine specifically just for us, as women, then you need to read The Beginning of Better Days: Divine Instructions to Women from the Prophet Joseph Smith. For many years we have heard references from these teachings, but now we have access to all of the words that the Prophet Joseph gave to the women of the church in 1842. I can promise you, if you read this book, you will feel so differently about yourself as a woman. You'll realize how important our work is, as women, in these final days. I had ancestors that were women in Nauvoo at this time. I have read their histories, and know of their great sacrifices they made for the gospel and their families. This book, and the words of The Prophet Joseph Smith, gives me the courage and inspiration to follow in their footsteps. To read the entire review of this book, please go to: http://www.whynotbecauseisaidso.blogspot.com Sheila: reviewer for Why Not? Because I Said So! and LDS Womens Book Review
Must read for all women!
by Cathy - reviewed on April 25, 2013
I was really excited to read this one, my first thought was Sheri Dew, Joseph Smith and Virginia Pearce, that book is a must read! I was completely right! I really enjoyed the beginning essays by Virginia Pearce and Sheri Dew. I loved their insights into womanhood in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I loved how they talked about their lives and experiences they've had that have strengthened their testimonies. I loved their explanations of what Joseph Smith talked to the women about in Nauvoo and why he would have said the things he did, in their opinion. I also enjoyed being able to read exactly what Joseph Smith said to the women. It was like he was talking to me personally.
The beginning of better days
by Elaine - reviewed on April 26, 2013
Very timely. Sometimes we forget that there are ways to act towards others. Good manners are lght on these days. Love love.
by Shauna - reviewed on May 02, 2013
Every woman needs to read this book... Isn't it interesting that as time changes the true values of womanhood and what we need to do to be happy doesn't change? The Prophet's instruction to the women of the church in the early days still applies to the women of today! Sheri Dew and Virginia H. Pearce add their insights of what these teachings mean to them and how it has affected their lives during different periods of time. Wisdom and instructions from the Prophet Joseph Smith to the women of the church...kept for our day by Eliza R. Snow. This is truly a wonderful book to be cherished! I also LOVE the old-fashion feel of the page edges.
A must read for all women.
by Janalyn - reviewed on April 26, 2013
I love this book! I was enthralled the entire way. It helped me think, reflect, appreciate, and motivate. I am a better woman for having read it. I loved it so much I bought a whole bunch to give as gifts for my family, friends, and ladies I visit teach. Sheri Dew and Virginia H. Pearce are perceptive and profound. I will read it again and again.
You will read this again and again.
by Customer - reviewed on April 25, 2013
I always love to read anything by either of the two sisters who wrote the forwards to these instructions from Joseph Smith. They came from different but very exciting perspectives, both of which helped me gain more from the book each time I read it. I use it again and again personally and in my Relief Society calling. It is a treasure, a resource and a great gift to all sisters today. I plan to also buy one for each of my daughters to have.
by Rachael - reviewed on August 05, 2012
This book moved me to tears. It is beautifully thought-provoking in the way doctrines are presented not only by the prophet, Joseph Smith, but by two modern-day women and early Relief Society sisters who show us the power women have to influence and propel forward, the work of God. I will pour over this book again and again. I highly, highly recommend it!!
Inspirational as to the importance of women in the church.
by Tammy - reviewed on April 26, 2013
I initially got this book to learn more about the organization of the Relief Society. As I read it I learned so much more. As I read the counsel and teachings of Sister Dew and Sister Pearce as well as the Prophet Joseph Smith my testimony increased and my understanding of my value in the work of the Savior expanded.
The Beginning of Better Days
by Mindy - reviewed on July 22, 2012
I immensely enjoyed this book. Not only was the instruction from the Prophet Joseph beautiful, the words from Sheri Dew and Virginia Pearce were amazing. I took many notes while reading. The thing I learned the most was, to be more charitable.