From the Original Exponent: Relief Society, Hierarchy, and Healing
Earlier this week, while reading some of the comments emerging from this post , I was reminded of a missive from President Eliza R. Snow “to the branches of the Relief Society.” It was printed in the September 15, 1884 Exponent under the title, “Should members of the Relief Society go the Bishop for counsel?” Clearly church organization and policy has changed some since 1884, but I thought readers might find it interesting.
The Relief Society is designed to be a self-governing organization: to relieve the Bishops as well as to relieve the poor, to deal with its members, correct abuses, etc. If difficulties arise between members of a branch which they cannot settle between the members themselves, aided by the teachers, instead of troubling the Bishop, the matter should be referred to their president and her counselors. If the branch board cannot decide satisfactorily, an appeal to the stake board is next in order; if that fails to settle the question, the next step brings it before the general board, from which the only resort is to the Priesthood; but, if possible, we should relieve the Bishops instead of adding to their multitudinous labors. . . .
Is it necessary for sisters to be set apart to officiate in the sacred ordinances of washing, anointing, and laying on of hands in administering to the sick? It certainly is not. Any and all sisters who honor their holy endowments, not only have right, but should feel it a duty, whenever called upon to administer to our sisters in these ordinances, which God has graciously committed to His daughters as well as to His sons; and we testify that when administered and received in faith and humility they are accompanied with almighty power.
Inasmuch as God our Father has revealed these sacred ordinances and committed them to His Saints, it is not only our privilege but our imperative duty to apply them for the relief of human suffering. We think we may safely say thousands can testify that God has sanctioned the administration of these ordinances by our sisters with the manifestation of His healing influence.
— ELIZA R. SNOW