Blessings and Purpose of Relief Society
This week we will celebrate the 170th anniversary of the Relief Society, the organization for women in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We’ll be posting (and re-posting) some posts on the topic of Relief Society. This post was originally published in 2008.
I recall one of those days several years ago when I went visiting teaching. I must confess that I was not excited to go. I was tired. I didn’t feel good. I hadn’t had much downtime with my children because we have had lots of craziness (errands, doctor’s appointments, car troubles, dad out of town). More than anything, I just wanted to be cozy and comfortable at home. “Visiting teaching is never convenient,” I found myself thinking. (Truth be told, service is often not convenient.)
I printed out the lesson and mused over the title: “Blessings of Belonging to Relief Society.” I found myself wondering about why the lessons in this particular year (2006) had focused on Relief Society.
I felt the Spirit teaching and touching me during the next hour and a half, in spite of the bad start to my service. I was able to repent of my attitude and receive a clear answer to my question.
Both of our sisters had forgotten we were coming. (That happens to me almost every time my visiting teachers come!) One sister was up to her eyeballs in a big project. Even still, both sisters graciously invited us in. (Note to self: Opening my heart and my home to my visiting teachers makes it possible for the Spirit to visit, too!)
We did the usual chatting–about life, about our holiday plans (this was at Christmastime), about recent travels, about family. The conversation quickly turned to gospel discussion, and the Spirit filled our hearts with that peace that “passeth all understanding.”
The Spirit also granted understanding. It became so clear, especially during our second visit, why the lessons focused on Relief Society: to help us understand the vision and purpose of Relief Society. Since there might be some people out there wondering about what Relief Society is all about, I wanted to include some highlights of the visiting teaching messages from this particular year (usually there is a focus or theme that is woven throughout the monthly messages in a given year).
President Joseph F. Smith (1838–1918): “This organization is divinely made, divinely authorized, divinely instituted, divinely ordained of God to minister for the salvation of the souls of women and of men. … Make [Relief Society] first, make it foremost, make it the highest, the best and the deepest of any organization in existence in the world. You are called by the voice of the Prophet of God to do it, to be uppermost, to be the greatest and the best, the purest and the most devoted to the right” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith , 184).
Bonnie D. Parkin, Relief Society general president: “We have been given an organization to build our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, to feel his love, and to extend that love to all. The Relief Society is that organization” (“Transforming Transitions,” in The Rock of Our Redeemer: Talks from the 2002 BYU Women’s Conference , 45).
Eliza R. Snow (1804–87), former Relief Society general president: “What is the object of the Female Relief Society? I would reply—to do good—to bring into requisition every capacity we possess for doing good, not only in relieving the poor but in saving souls. United effort will accomplish incalculably more than can be accomplished by the most effective individual energies” (“Female Relief Society,” Deseret Evening News, Apr. 18, 1868, 2).
Reading these quotes helped me feel more deeply why Relief Society exists. We care about service, we care about lifting the downtrodden — and we care about faith, spiritual growth, and helping others work toward salvation.
How Can You Enjoy the Blessings of Belonging to Relief Society?
Anne C. Pingree, second counselor in the Relief Society general presidency: “When the sisters of Relief Society look ‘with an eye single to the glory of God’ (D&C 4:5), they can experience rich spiritual insights and share deep spiritual strength together. … Connections forged among covenant women in Relief Society can indeed enlighten, enliven, and enrich the journey of life because we can help each other learn how to put the Lord first in our hearts and in our lives” (“Walking towards the Light of His Love,” Liahona and Ensign, Nov. 2004, 112–13).
2 Nephi 25:26: “We talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, … that [we and] our children may know to what source [we] may look for a remission of [our] sins.”
President Gordon B. Hinckley: “Who can gauge the miraculous effects upon the lives of millions of women whose knowledge has been increased, whose vision has been extended, whose lives have been broadened, and whose understanding of the things of God has been enriched by reason of countless lessons effectively taught and learned in meetings of the Relief Society?” (“Ambitious to Do Good,” Ensign, Mar. 1992, 4).
President James E. Faust, Second Counselor in the First Presidency: “The Relief Society curriculum is focused on basic doctrine and will give you the opportunity to study the gospel and increase your spirituality. … All sisters … need to be ‘remembered and nourished by the good word of God’ [Moro. 6:4]. Doctrine will strengthen you and help you to develop the spirituality necessary to overcome the challenges of life” (“You Are All Heaven Sent,” Liahona and Ensign, Nov. 2002, 111).
Anne C. Pingree, second counselor in the Relief Society general presidency: “Each of us … can move forward without fear, finding our way to Him as we personally feel the blessings of His infinite Atonement. I know that one of the supernal blessings of Relief Society is our connection to women who also bear testimony of our Lord. My prayer is that we will ever walk side by side towards the light of His redeeming love” (“Walking towards the Light of His Love,” Liahona and Ensign, Nov. 2004, 113).
President Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985): “Intelligence, light and knowledge … are part of the promise given to the sisters by the Prophet Joseph Smith. … Relief Society sisters see the fulfillment of that promise daily as they teach children at home, in Sunday School, and in Primary, in Relief Societies, in sacrament meetings, and in daily conversation. … We encourage all our sisters to take advantage of their opportunities to receive light and knowledge in school, in personal study, and in Relief Society” (“Relief Society—Its Promise and Potential,” Ensign, Mar. 1976, 4).
I really liked what Sister Pingree said about having our eye single to God. Relief Society is more than casseroles and crafts; it is an organization designed to help us gain “rich spiritual insights and share deep spiritual strength together.” The purpose of activities and service opportunities are opportunities to bring us together as sisters, to increase love and faith.
I am grateful that the Spirit helped me catch that vision yesterday as I was visiting teaching. I felt spiritually nourished and strengthened. In the end, these are the potential fruits of visiting teaching…but how easily I forget! I’m grateful that we have this opportunity to visit sisters every month, and I find that my life is blessed when I do my visiting teaching. It’s a simple program with wonderful purpose and potential. And there are countless ways that Relief Society has blessed my life.