Monday, March 30, 2015

Some Basic Resources on the History of the Church in the Philadelphia Area

Here is an article by church member Daniel Rolph, for the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
Mormonism in Early Philadelphia
Here is a brief, generic review on the Church website.
The Church in Pennsylvania
Here is an even briefer Wikipedia article. It needs some work.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Pennsylvania
And here is a much longer, but unsigned article.
Philadelphia Mormon History

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Defining the Philadelphia Area

So, what is "the Philadelphia area"?

The easiest definition is to equate the area with the Delaware Valley. Here's a map.

The Delaware River runs through the map from the top center, takes a jag to the right by Trenton, and then doubles back to Wilmington where it runs into Delaware Bay. It includes parts of the states of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland.

The counties in the Delaware Valley are (with metropolitan areas listed, and the largest or most influential in bold and italics):

Kent (Dover)
New Castle (Wilmington)


New Jersey
Camden (Camden)
Cumberland (Vineland-Millville-Bridgeton)
Mercer (Trenton)

Also associated with the region:
Atlantic (Atlantic City)
Cape May
Ocean (Ocean City)

Berks (Reading)
Philadelphia (Philadelphia)

Also associated with the region is the Lehigh Valley:
Lehigh (Allentown, Bethlehem)
Northampton (Bethlehem, Easton)

For the purposes of this blog, I will generally avoid Maryland and most of Delaware, but will include the Lehigh Valley and other nearby areas, including Lancaster County, since they play into the story of the Church in this region.

Map of the Delaware Valley from Wikipedia.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Beginnings of the History of the Church in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is important in the history of the Restoration of the Gospel, or the establishment of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Joseph Smith first visited Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, after he was hired to help find the possible site of an old silver mine. There he met Emma Hale, his future wife. They were married in New York and lived there for a time, but then returned to Pennsylvania.

Between 1827 and 1830, Joseph and Emma Smith lived in Harmony, now Oakland Township, Susquehanna, Pennsylvania, where Joseph translated the Book of Mormon and received the Aaronic Priesthood. The Church has marked the site of their home and is currently planning to make a more formal visitor's center at the site.

Here are a few resources about the site in Oakland.
  • Baker, Robert L., "Latter-day Saints make $2.1M land purchase," The Scranton Times Tribune, January 8, 2011. (Link.)
  • Christensen, Horace H., "Harmony, Pennsylvania," Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Brigham Young University. (Link.)
  • Hodges, Blair. "'In Memory of an Infant Son,'" By Common Consent [blog], January 23, 2013. (Link.)
  • LDS Church, "Church to Restore Historic Site in Pennsylvania," [Press release], April 21, 2011. (Link.)
  • Lloyd, R. Scott, "Church offers preview of priesthood restoration site and film project at Motion Picture Studio," Deseret News, October 2, 2014. (Link.)
  • Porter, Larry C., "Joseph Smith’s Susquehanna Years," Ensign, February 2001. (Link.)
  • Scott, R., "Harmony historic site to be memorialized as plans take shape," Church News, May 21, 2011. (Link.)
  • Wikipedia, "Aaronic Priesthood Restoration Site." (Link.)
All pictures taken by the author on a cold November day in 2012.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Joseph Smith Goes Down the Shore, 1840

Christopher Jones's post at Juvenile Instructor, Joseph Smith on the Jersey Shore: In Search of NJ’s Nauvoo, is a great introduction to the sources on Joseph Smith's visit to the region in 1839-1840.

The picture of the Delaware Water Gap is from Wikipedia.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

173rd Anniversary of the Relief Society

It didn't escape my notice that this blog is starting on the 173rd anniversary of the founding of the Relief Society. Here is something I wrote for the occasion several years ago.

Today is the anniversary of the original founding of the Relief Society of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

In 1842, women associated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Nauvoo, Illinois, saw a need for a charitable organization, and wrote a constitution and by-laws. They presented the documents to Joseph Smith for review, and he suggested that their organization looked good, but that the Lord had something more important for women and that he would organize them as an auxiliary of the church.

The Female Relief Society of Nauvoo met first on March 17, 1842. Emma Smith was president of the organization with Sarah Cleveland and Elizabeth Ann Whitney as counselors, and Eliza R. Snow as secretary. The women worked together for "the relief of the poor, the destitute, the widow and the orphan, and...the exercise of all benevolent purposes."

The Relief Society quickly became a large and useful organization which visited homes and solicited help for the poor. The organization last met in March 1844 and did not hold meetings as the church moved west.

Ten years later, women in Salt Lake City saw the need to provide clothing for Native Americans, and resumed meeting for several years. In 1866, Brigham Young appointed Eliza R. Snow to reorganize the Relief Society throughout the church. She consulted her original minute book and traveled from ward to ward and taught three guiding principles: taking care of the poor, taking care of the Church, and becoming economically self-sufficient.

The Relief Society took on a variety of projects including blessing the sick, teaching, storing wheat in case of a time of need, running cooperative stores, sending women to medical school in the East, and training midwives and nurses. Here is some biographical information about one of the Relief Society-trained midwives: Margaret Jarvis.

Many women have made their membership in Relief Society an integral part of their lives, and the story of their lives in aggregate is really the story of the Relief Society, including the story of Elizabeth Hayward's involvement in the suffrage movement. Working for women's suffrage and women's rights was one of the major projects of the Relief Society for many years under the direction of President Emmeline Wells and the Relief Society newspaper, the Woman's Exponent. "The Rights of the Women of Zion, and the Rights of the Women of all Nations," was the text on its masthead. The Relief Society published the Woman's Exponent from 1872 to 1913.

The Relief Society made some changes in 1913 and 1914. It adopted the motto, "Charity Never Faileth," and started publishing the Relief Society Magazine instead of the Woman's Exponent. The Relief Society continued in its local and national and worldwide relief efforts. They are too numerous to list here, but some efforts included being the first organization to provide relief to the victims of the great San Francisco Earthquake, providing 200,000 bushels of wheat to the United States government in a time of crisis during World War I, assisting in Red Cross efforts during both World Wars, and providing relief to Japan and the nations of Europe after World War II.

Most of the Relief Society efforts remained local, though. Women cared for each other and for families in their communities and visited and taught each other. It was a major part of life for many women, and continues so today as one of the oldest and largest women's organizations in the world.

The image of Emma Smith is from Wikipedia. The image of Margaret Jarvis is from family collections. This post is very loosely based on an article I wrote for Paul Reeve and Ardis Parshall’s Mormonism: a Historical Encyclopedia (2010). The best comprehensive history of the Relief Society is Derr, Cannon, and Beecher's Women of Covenant: The Story of the Relief Society (1992). The official Church history of the Relief Society is the book and website Daughters in My Kingdom.

Exciting Times Ahead for Philadelphia Area Mormon History

With a temple under construction in Philadelphia, interest in the history of the Church in the region is at an all-time high.

The Philadelphia region includes parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. The history of the Church in the region reaches back to the 1830s. Joseph Smith preached to thousands of people in Philadelphia in 1839–1840 and and also visited the Jersey Shore.

This project is a personal labor of love and is not connected with or sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It will not be an intense effort; I cannot dedicate a huge amount of time to this project, so I will shoot for a few articles a month, including new research, personal and community histories, background history for the Philadelphia region, and links to historical or genealogical resources.

As each article is added it will be labeled with the location so readers can look up the history of a particular area.

This exploration of the history of the Church in the Philadelphia area would benefit greatly from submissions including pictures, personal and community histories, etc., so please send any queries or proposed submissions to amyancestorfiles at gmail dot com.

In the meantime, here are a couple of links.