“You Had Better Let Mrs Young Have Any Thing She Wants”: What a Joseph Smith Pay Order Teaches about the Plight of Missionary Wives in the Early Church

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“On a cold, blustery day in 1839 in Commerce, Illinois, a small skiff appeared on the Mississippi River. As rain poured from the sky, a woman huddled in the vessel, trying to protect a two-month-old baby in her arms. She was trying to reach Commerce from Montrose, Iowa, hoping to procure a few potatoes and some flour for her six children. The woman was Mary Ann Angell Young, wife of Brigham Young, who was serving a mission in England. Her plight illustrates the difficulties of the wives of early missionaries in the Church, who were often left to fend for themselves and their children when their husbands left to serve missions. This article details some of the challenges these women faced, as well as later policy changes that helped alleviate the suffering of those left behind when their husbands and fathers served missions for the Church.”