Learning of Jesus Christ
Talking, laughing, and sharing
Nurturing, loving and caring
Spiritually growing, serving and giving
Inspiring, uniting, and living
Becoming like Jesus Christ
These aren’t sisters related by blood with the same last name and same parents.
These are sisters related by spirit, with the same divine parents.
These are sisters in the family of our Heavenly Father, sisters all throughout the world. These are glimpses into the sisterhood of the Relief Society of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
These sisters belong to what President Boyd K. Packer, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, has called the Relief Society “the largest, and by all measure, the greatest women’s organization on earth.” It has grown from 20 women in 1842 to over 6 million women today in countries all over the world, women who serve each other, who strive to grow spiritually and help others to do the same, and who inspire and teach each other.
March is the month to celebrate this sisterhood and to say Happy Birthday to the Relief Society. 173 years ago on March 17, 1842 the Prophet Joseph Smith organized the Latter-day Saint women in a divinely inspired way with restored priesthood keys.
The sisters had initially organized themselves into a group to help with sewing needs for those working on the Nauvoo Temple. They wrote up a constitution and bylaws to govern their organization and presented them to the Prophet Joseph Smith. He was very impressed by what they had written and said, “But this is not what you want. Tell the sisters their offering is accepted of the Lord, and he has something better for them than a written constitution. I invite them all to meet with me and a few of the brethren…next Thursday afternoon, and I will organize the women under the priesthood after the pattern of the priesthood.” Daughters in My Kingdom, Ch 2, p 11-12.
Joseph Smith taught the sisters in several of those first meetings principles that became the foundation of the Relief Society: principles of charity, service, increasing faith and personal righteousness, and strengthening home and families.
Sister Julie B. Beck a former General Relief Society President said, “The organization of Relief Society in 1842 mobilized the collective power of the women and their specific assignments to build the Lord’s kingdom, just as the organization of priesthood quorums gave men specific responsibilities.”
She continued, sharing the purposes of Relief Society. “Through Relief Society, women have an official role in the Church with great responsibilities, ‘including working in the temple and teaching the gospel.’ Further, Relief Society is to help women ‘plant and make grow … a testimony of [Jesus] Christ and of the Gospel,’ ‘strengthen the family and the home,’ and ‘attend to all family duties.’ It has responsibility to take care of the ‘necessities of the poor, the sick and the needy,’ but President Joseph F. Smith said that the larger part of its work is ‘to look after the spiritual welfare [and salvation] … of all the female members of the Church.’ To summarize, the purpose of Relief Society, as established by the Lord, is to organize, teach, and inspire His daughters to prepare them for the blessings of eternal life.”
In the Woodbridge Virginia Stake we have nine wards, each with their own local Relief Society of sisters. What does this work look like? How is the Relief Society able to serve so many in all of these ways and really make a difference? It’s a focus on the individual. It’s finding a need and finding a way to meet it; it is nurturing sisters; it is serving and showing love. Take a peek into some of the ward Relief Society meetings from this month to see how their celebrations fit with the purposes both Joseph Smith and Sister Beck taught.
A group of sisters from the Dale City Ward met recently with four specific sisters in their hearts and minds as they tied quilts for them and made them comfort packages to let these sisters know they are loved.
Another group gathered in true birthday party style to give each other gifts – gifts of service, fun, laughter, and creativity. The Quantico Ward Relief Society celebrated with a birthday party based on a quote from Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax. “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better it’s not.”
The Woodbridge 2nd Ward sisters met together at a sister’s home for dinner. They focused on another purpose of Relief Society – in Sister Beck’s words “…to help women ‘plant and make grow … a testimony of [Jesus] Christ and of the Gospel.’” Each sister received a copy of The Living Christ which they were challenged to work on memorizing this year. Their copies of the The Living Christ are illustrated and broken into 15 sections.
The Relief Society presidency of the Lakeridge 1st Ward portrayed four of the General Relief Society Presidents from the past. They read some of the highlights about them and what happened in the years they served. Their dinner reflected the various eras of the four Presidents they learned about. Their menu included bread and butter from Emma Smith’s era, Dandelion Salad (greens instead of real dandelions) for Louise Robison during the Depression years, then mashed potatoes and stuffed peppers for Belle Spafford, and birthday cupcakes going along with the modern era with Julie Beck.
Sister Dell Hilton said that the Lake Ridge 2nd Ward Relief Society celebrated “by doing what Relief Society does best–serving others!” The sisters provided items for themed baskets and on the evening of their celebration they assembled nine baskets for The Streetlight Outreach Ministry’s annual fundraising dinner and silent auction. They made baskets with titles such as “Movie Night,” “Welcome Baby,” “Spa Time,” “Cooking Out,” “Summertime Fun,” and “Beach Week”. They also learned about Container Gardening and started their own garden that night by planting a flower or herb seeds to take home. A speaker carried the theme of gardening into a spiritual lesson about growing testimonies.
President Henry B. Eyring’s talk “Our Hearts Knit as One” was the focus of the Woodbridge 1st Ward’s celebration. The sisters enjoyed an activity that helped them get to know each other and embrace each other’s similarities and differences. They each brought their favorite dessert or a dessert that represented them. After enjoying the dessert bar they split up into pairs and used a number of questions and conversation starters to get to know each other for a few minutes. They practiced and learned the truth of what President Eyring said. “The children of God have more in common than they have differences. And even the differences can be seen as an opportunity. God will help us see a difference in someone else not as a source of irritation but as a contribution. The Lord can help you see and value what another person brings which you lack.”
How fitting that sisters all throughout our stake planned activities for their celebrations that fulfill many of the purposes of the Relief Society. The evenings were not just a chance to relax and celebrate, but to serve, to care for the needy, to strengthen testimonies of Jesus Christ, and to look after the spiritual welfare of the sisters. This work goes on and on each day as Relief Society sisters across the world focus on strengthening and uplifting each other.