Belle S. Spafford

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Belle S. Spafford
Photo of Belle S. Spafford
9th Relief Society General President
April 6, 1945 (1945-04-06)[1] – October 3, 1974 (1974-10-03)
Called by Heber J. Grant
Predecessor Amy Brown Lyman
Successor Barbara B. Smith
Reason Lyman requested to be released
End reason Honorable released
Second Counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency
1942 – 1945
Called by Amy Brown Lyman
Predecessor Donna D. Sorensen
Successor Gertrude R. Garff
Personal details
Born Marion Isabelle Sims
October 8, 1895
Salt Lake City, Utah Territory, United States
Died February 2, 1982(1982-02-02) (aged 86)
Salt Lake City, Utah, United States
Resting place Redwood Memorial Cemetery
40°37′57″N 111°56′21.84″W / 40.63250°N 111.9394000°W / 40.63250; -111.9394000 (Redwood Memorial Cemetery)
Spouse(s) W. Earl Spafford
Children 2
Parents John Gibson Smith
Hester Sims

Marion Isabelle Sims Smith Spafford (October 8, 1895 – February 2, 1982) was the ninth Relief Society General President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), serving from April 6, 1945 until October 3, 1974. She served longer in this capacity than any other woman in the history of the Relief Society. Spafford served as the president of the National Council of women in 1968–1972 and traveled and spoke both nationally and internationally in that position. She served locally in a variety of positions and capacities, including editor of the Relief Society Magazine, founder of the LDS Church's social services program, and board of trustees member in the LDS School System. In all of her activities, Spafford consistently spoke of the rights and responsibilities of women.

Biography[edit]

Born on October 8, 1895 in Salt Lake City, Utah Territory, to John Gibson Smith and Hester Sims, Marion Isabelle Sims Smith was youngest of seven children. Little is known about her childhood, other than her father died when her mother was still pregnant with her.[2] She went to the Latter-day Saints University and Normal School at the University of Utah.[3] Spafford went on to teach in Salt Lake City Schools.[3]

In 1921, Belle married W. Earl Spafford, whom she met at BYU.[2] They had two children, Earl and Mary, and nine grandchildren.[4]

Prior to her calling as Relief Society general president, Spafford served on several stake Relief Society boards.[3] She was then called to the General board and also named editor of the Relief Society Magazine.[3] In 1942, Spafford was appointed the second counselor to Relief Society President Amy B. Lyman, replacing Doona D. Sorensen.[5] She served as second councilor until her calling as Relief Society General President in 1945.[3]

Spafford served under six LDS Church presidents, from Heber J. Grant to Spencer W. Kimball. During her tenure as president, the society grew from just over 100,000 members to more than one million, spanning several dozen countries. Spafford oversaw the discontinuance of the Relief Society Magazine in 1970 and promoted the Ensign as the primary magazine for the women of the church. Spafford also oversaw the construction of the world headquarters building for the Relief Society.[6]

Spafford was one of the founders of the LDS Church's social services program, the program that is today LDS Family Services.[7] She was also instrumental in organizing the women's musical group the "singing mothers". Although there had been local chapters of the singing mothers since the 1930s, under the direction of Spafford a large chorus was founded from the groups in 1940.[8] The group would grow to a 300-member chorus that, under the direction of the Relief Society led by Spafford, would tour the United States and Great Britain.[8]

Spafford was a member of the National Council of Women of the United States. She served on the board for several years and was appointed president of the organization in 1968.[9] Spafford served for two years as president until 1970, and was the first appointed Mormon Council president.[9] She was also a member of the American Regional Council of the International Council of Women. In the late 1970s, Spafford was a vocal opponent of the proposed Equal Rights Amendment.[10]

As General Relief Society President and president of the National Council of Women, Spafford spoke at innumerable gatherings, meetings, and forums including BYU's Education Week.[11] During her time as Relief Society President and National Council of Women President, Spafford became a notable national and international speaker, speaking as close to home as Idaho, and as far away as New York and even Paris and Vienna.[12][13]

Although she was often held up as an ideal example in the women's rights movements of the 1970s, Spafford was cautious in both her words and actions to not fully support or endorse the movement. In 1972 she stated that "Anything that gets out of control becomes a hazard, whether it's fire, flood, or women's lib".[14] She went on to say that "we want to preserve the nobility, dignity, and femininity of women; there's a danger of some of that being lost. But I think we have too many common-sense women for that to happen."[14] Spafford supported many of the movement's causese such as equal pay for equal work and non-discrimination in hiring practices when both individuals were equally qualified. She was not a supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment, but rather believed that the same results could be achieved through work at the local and state levels.[12]

Despite being heavily involved with both the Relief Society and the National Council of Women, Spafford was an active participant in her local community as well. She did work with special education instruction at BYU as a special instructor of remedial work.[3] In 1968, Spafford was appointed to the board of trustees of the LDS church school system, becoming the first woman on the board.[9] She continued to be an active member of her community until her death on February 2, 1982.[7]

Legacy[edit]

Spafford was released from her calling as Relief Society General President in 1974 after serving for almost 30 years in that position, the longest term of service as president of the Relief Society in the history of the church.[15] She was succeeded by Barbara Smith.[15] Spafford received the BYU Distinguished Service award in 1951, and was granted an honorary doctor of humanities degree in 1956.[3] She was also honored by the University of Utah Alumni Association in 1967 and received an honorary doctor's degree from the university as well.[16][17] Spafford was named "Woman of the Year" by BYU in 1970, and at presentation ceremony was honored by BYU President Ernest L. Wilkinson for her "many services to the university, her state, her church and nation".[18] She was honored by the university against in 1973 with the BYU Emeritus Club Award.[17] Spafford often stressed the importance of learning from life's experiences, saying that "It is not what comes to us by way of experience but how we meet the difficulty that counts."[19] The Belle S. Spafford Endowed Chair in Social Work at the University of Utah is named in her honor. She authored two books and co-authored one other:A Centenary of Relief Society, Women in Today's World, and A Woman's Reach.[6][20][21] Spafford Co-authored A Centenary of Relief Society as part of the Relief Society General Board.[22] Women in Today's World was published in 1971, and A Woman's Reach was published in 1975.[20][21]

Publications[edit]

Articles[edit]

Relief Society Conference[edit]

Editorials[edit]

  • "Mother's Day". Relief Society Magazine. 27 (5): 351–352. May 1940. 
  • "Honesty". Relief Society Magazine. 32 (2): 88–89. February 1945. 
  • "Honesty". Relief Society Magazine. 32 (5): 280. May 1945. 
  • "Feed My Sheep". Relief Society Magazine. 46 (1): 32–33. January 1959. 

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Ludlow, Daniel H, ed. (1992). "Appendix 1: Biographical Register of General Church Officers". Encyclopedia of Mormonism. New York: Macmillan Publishing. p. 1648. ISBN 0-02-879602-0. OCLC 24502140. 
  2. ^ a b "Belle Spafford". ldswomenofgod.com. Retrieved August 17, 2016. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "Belle Spafford to Speak at 'Y' Devotional". The Daily Herald. Provo, Utah. 7 April 1972. p. 4. Retrieved August 4, 2016. 
  4. ^ Pauley, Gay (1 July 1964). "Lighter Hearts for Singing Women". Eureka Humboldt Standard. Eureka, California. p. 4. Retrieved August 12, 2016. 
  5. ^ "Belle S. Spafford Named Counselor". The Ogden Standard-Examiner. Ogden, Utah. 19 November 1942. p. 8. Retrieved August 12, 2016. 
  6. ^ a b "University Will Honor Six Alumni". The Salt Lake Tribune. Salt Lake City, Utah. 14 February 1967. p. 35. Retrieved August 17, 2016. 
  7. ^ a b "Belle Smith Spafford, Mormon Relief Official". The New York Times. New York. February 4, 1982. Retrieved August 17, 2016. 
  8. ^ a b Pauley, Gay (27 June 1964). "The Woman's View: Mothers Should Sing, She Says". The Daily Times. New Philadelphia, Ohio. p. 4. Retrieved August 12, 2016. 
  9. ^ a b c "Belle S. Spafford Council President". The Daily Herald. Provo, Utah. 18 October 1968. p. 6. Retrieved August 4, 2016. 
  10. ^ "Full Time Wives, Mothers Upheld by Mormon Leader". Playground Daily News. Fort Walton Beach, Florida. 21 July 1974. p. 8. Retrieved August 17, 2016. 
  11. ^ "2000 Visitors at 'Y' Education Week Hear Belle Spafford". The Daily Herald. Provo, Utah. 12 June 1970. p. 3. Retrieved August 4, 2016. 
  12. ^ a b "Contented Housewives Set at Ease". Idaho Free Press. Nampa, Idaho. 25 July 1974. p. 12. Retrieved August 12, 2016. 
  13. ^ Pauley, Gay (5 July 1973). "The Ballot's the Thing, Women's Leader Says". The Bridgeport Post. Bridgeport, Connecticut. p. 40. Retrieved August 12, 2016. 
  14. ^ a b Cornell, George W. (25 November 1972). "Steadying Hand Needed in Lib Movement". Fond Du Lac Commonwealth Reporter. Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin. p. 13. Retrieved August 12, 2016. 
  15. ^ a b "New Relief Society Presidency Named; Spafford Released". The Daily Herald. Provo, Utah. 4 October 1974. p. 5. Retrieved August 4, 2016. 
  16. ^ "6 U. Alumni Honered at Banquet". The Salt Lake Tribune. Salt Lake City, Utah. 1 March 1967. p. 27. Retrieved August 4, 2016. 
  17. ^ a b "BYU Emeritus Club to Honor 4 Utahns". The Daily Herald. Provo, Utah. 18 April 1973. p. 6. Retrieved August 12, 2016. 
  18. ^ "Belle Spafford Honored in BYU Ceremonies". The Daily Herald. Provo, Utah. 5 March 1970. p. 2. Retrieved August 2, 2016. 
  19. ^ "Value Role as Mothers, LDS Relief Society Told". The Salt Lake Tribune. Salt Lake City, Utah. 30 September 1965. p. 12. Retrieved August 4, 2016. 
  20. ^ a b "Especially for the Ladies (and those who love them)". The Salt Lake Tribune. Salt Lake City, Utah. 30 September 1971. p. 1. Retrieved August 4, 2016. 
  21. ^ a b "Deseret Books Best Seller List". The Salt Lake Tribune. Salt Lake City, Utah. 3 April 1975. p. 61. Retrieved August 4, 2016. 
  22. ^ "A Centenary of Relief Society, 1842–1942". books.google.com. Retrieved August 17, 2016. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints titles
Preceded by
Amy B. Lyman
Relief Society General President
April 6, 1945 (1945-04-06) – October 3, 1974 (1974-10-03)
Succeeded by
Barbara B. Smith
Preceded by
Donna D. Sorensen
Second Counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency
1942 – April 6, 1945 (1945-04-06)
Succeeded by
Gertrude R. Garff
Relief Society Magazine titles
Preceded by
Mary Connelly Kimball
Editor
1937–1945
Succeeded by
Marianne C. Sharp