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I was baptized and confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Jan. 1, 1967. There were many things that I did not understand about the church. When I was asked to talk in a stake conference and was confused because I thought we would meet in a steak house. Another thing I did not understand was the Relief Society organization. I thought it was like the Red Cross, whose mission is “to bring assistance without discrimination to the wounded on the battlefield, endeavors—in its international and national capacity—to prevent and alleviate human suffering wherever it may be found. Its purpose is to protect life and health and to ensure respect for the human being.”

Through reading histories shared by my husband’s mother, Ada, I learned that Relief Society, was organized March 17, 1842, to “help prepare women for the blessings of eternal life as they increase faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and His Atonement; strengthen individuals, families, and homes through ordinances and covenants; and work in unity to help those in need.”

One story she had written, touched my soul and heart, because before my conversion I was bitter toward Mormons. I learned to love them through loving examples. The story is about the first Relief Society President in Preston, Rachel Ann Murray Porter (wife of Nahum Bisbee Porter, first bishop of Preston) and second great-grandmother to my husband, Garth C. Porter. Story excerpts were taken from a story compiled by Marcia Esther Porter Reid.

“Rachel Ann Murray was born in Elbridge, New York, May 11, 1830. When she was about 20 years old, her family moved to Ossian, New York, where they met their neighbors who was a family of Saints named Porter.

Rachel had a younger sister named Aurora. These two sisters became very friendly with the Porter boys, Nahum and Luther. Their friendships ripened into love. They asked their father to let them marry.

Their parents, Samuel Solomon Murray and Sally Maria Wilcox Murray, were very much opposed to their daughters associating with these Mormons, even threatening to move away to keep them from seeing each other. But the young people had fallen deeply in love and decided to go away quietly and get married on Oct. 21, 1851. Their father was so infuriated by this act that he would have nothing more to do with his daughters until many years after they came west.

Rachel married Nahum Bisbee Porter and Aurora married Luther Gilbert Porter. Neither of the girls had joined the church at this time. They remained in Ossian until 1863, during which time three children were born to Nahum and Rachel: Frances Maria, Alice Viola, and Roseltha.

On May 1, 1863, they traveled by train to Omaha, Nebraska, then, by boat to Florence (Winter Quarters, as it was called) and then where they stayed for six weeks to prepare for their journey to the Salt Lake Valley.

They left on July 3, 1863, for the Rocky Mountains. Their company was an independent company, consisting of 25 teams and 25 families. They arrived in Salt Lake Valley on October 7, 1863. Rachel was sad, sick, and weary on their arrival in the valley. She rode across the plains in a covered wagon and suffered a great deal, as she was in delicate health, and had a little daughter, Roseltha, under two years old, who was also sick.

Another daughter who they named Margaret Murray, was born to them on May 25, 1864. Little Roseltha became ill and passed away on June 5, 1864, when Margaret was just eleven days old. This was a hard blow and almost more than Rachel could endure. She had not recovered her strength sufficiently to attend the funeral service; but watched through the window as they took her little darling away.

She felt very bitter at this time about the Mormons and the hardships she had been called to pass through; and didn’t care, for a while, if she ever saw another Mormon. But after the funeral, the Relief Society sisters came to her home to comfort and help her. They cleaned the house; bathed and cared for the new tiny baby; cooked a nice, warm dinner; and were so kind and understanding that she soon learned to love them; and changed her mind about the Mormons.

She became one of them about a month afterward, being baptized in July of 1864. She remained loyal and true to the faith the remainder of her long life, living to the age of 83 and one-half years and holding many positions of trust in the church including the first Relief President in Preston She held that position for nearly 20 years. She was such a fine person, always thinking of others, ready to help in times of need, sickness, or death, leaving at any time of the day.”

The first organization of the Latter-day Saints Church in Preston, Idaho, was organized Oct. 21, 1879. This branch of the church was known as “Worm Creek Ward” and Nahum Bisbee Porter was appointed bishop with David Jensen and Elam Hollingsworth as counselors. Two years later, July 14, 1881, Bishop Porter’s wife, Rachel Ann Murray Porter, suggested the name be changed from “Worm Creek” to “Preston” in honor of the stake president, William B. Preston, who later became Presiding Bishop of the LDS Church.” (Preston Second Ward record — though the Second Ward was not created until 1902).

Join Porter in a genealogy class, “Ancestry DNA Thrulines.” It will be held Monday, May 03, 2021, 10:30 a.m., and Thursday, May 06, 2021, 7 p.m.

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