For a couple of years now, Relief Society women have struggled with RS Meetings. The General Board changed the name a couple of times, and somehow in the confusion we all just settled for what was easy. Relief Societies have resorted to parties, a few Super Saturdays, and dinners.
Last April, Sis. Burton urged us to seek out humanitarian opportunities. We’ve all heard of the horrible sufferings of the refugees across the world. There are individuals, and small groups of women, getting together doing amazing things, but I personally have not seen a Relief Society organized and focused on conducting humanitarian aid for refugees, or sustained local service.
In the early days of the church, when the Relief Society was first organized in Nauvoo, the sisters took in refugees; people who had been disowned by their families because of religion. These people arrived in the city with nothing, and the Relief Society was prepared with gathered clothing, food, and needful items. Joseph Smith gave the sisters land, and the men–after working a day on the temple–would build simple shelters. The women took care of everything else to ensure those in need were taken care of.
When pioneers settled in the Salt Lake Valley, the women immediately organized themselves. At first, they made clothing for the Indians, befriending and learning from them. As needs grew in this isolated community, it was the women who organized themselves to help wherever needed. Eventually, Eliza R. Snow convinced all of the bishops in each of the settlements of the territory to organize the women into Relief Societies. Once the women were organized under the priesthood, after the order of the priesthood, they accomplished more things than any other group of women have accomplished–EVER.
It was Relief Society presidents who organized women in creating a mercantile system of stores, hospitals, schools, as well as offering the training needed to sustain these enterprises. As more and more people settled in the valley, the women worked harder and organized themselves more and more in fulfilling the basic needs of the residents. The Lord was their mainstay.
Brigham Young asked Emmeline Wells to organize the women in storing wheat, and she didn’t have the first clue what to do. She prayed and received the guidance needed to get the word out. And Relief Society sisters responded. For 100 years, it was the sisters who were responsible for growing, selling, storing, and accounting for all aspects of the wheat.
Before the Turn of the Century, women had little to no rights. If her husband died or left her, she lost her children, her home, and her security. She was helpless to the laws against her. It was the Relief Society that set out to change the laws of the land. Their objective was to create new laws that would allow women to keep their families intact. This started with the necessity of getting the vote, so women could elect people who would sympathize with women and change those laws.
It was the Relief Society that made all of this happen.
Today, Relief Society sisters seem confused as to how to entertain their ward sisters. Where Homemaking/Home, Family & Personal/Enrichment meetings have lost their direction, sisters are scrambling to entertain as the world entertains. We would be wise to harken back to what our early sisters did.
There is no doubt they were led by the Lord to fulfill such incredible work for the people in Utah, as well as throughout the world as their works reached literally across the world through its membership.
Are Relief Society presidents seeking guidance to fulfill the needs around them as these early sisters did? Are they using the power they have as presidents; power they receive with their calling because they have been called under the priesthood to call sisters to action?
We live in a wicked world. Families are under attack. Individuals are lost, wandering aimlessly. Miracles aren’t as visible as they could be. Wicked world leaders are taking us all into a direction we may not want to go.
Relief Societies could be an incredible and effective force for good if local presidents organized their sisters to catch the vision to stand up and say “NO MORE!” Instead of Craft Tuesday, sisters could prepare to speak and defend a motion at a city council meeting. Instead of playing Play It To Win It, sisters might spend some time during the week discussing the previous Sunday lesson, studying the gospel, and growing their faith together. Instead of having a special, formal dinner, sisters could use that money to supplement items needed to create packages for refugees.
Relief Society sisters have the gift and responsibility to use their power to change the world. They did it once before. We can do it again.