The influence of the Relief Society in my life is unmistakable. The Relief Society is the women’s organization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or the Mormon faith as it is sometimes known. Today, I’d like to share a few things that the women of the Relief Society have taught me. These lessons continue to bless my life and that of my husband and children.
Lessons on Faith.
Women of the Relief Society are extraordinary women of faith. I’ve heard the women of the Relief Society described as extraordinary women. Not perfect, but extraordinary! I like that description. Let me rephrase that – I love that description. The history of the Relief Society is a testament to the incredible faith of the women of the Church.
Last year, our family got to spend a couple of days in Nauvoo. There is a special feeling of peace and tranquility about Nauvoo. There is something about Nauvoo that touches the heart and soul.
During our last evening there, all five of us, my husband and I and our three sons, walked the Trail of Tears or the Trail of Hope as it has been renamed. We followed it all the way down to the banks of the Mississippi River. This was the same path that the Saints of Nauvoo walked during those last days when they had to leave Nauvoo to make yet another start somewhere else. We know that eventually some of them arrived in Salt Lake City. We also know that many that left Nauvoo perished along the way.
As we walked, I saw in my mind’s eye the hundreds of mothers that walked down that road in those days. I could almost feel the fear they must have felt. I imagined the many concerns they must have known as they loaded those wagons with the few belongings that they were able to take with them. Their minds must have been swirling with so many unanswered questions; “What if my child gets sick, what will we eat when the small supply we have runs out, where will we live?”
In my mother heart, I know these mothers must have been frightened and scared for their families. I’m sure they shed tears, buckets and buckets of tears. Yet, even with all their fears and weaknesses, their faith in the Lord was stronger. Even with the regret they must have felt at leaving yet another home, they walked, step by agonizing step, because that was what their Lord required of them. These were ordinary women with very real concerns and weaknesses. Yet, their faith and obedience to the Lord makes them extraordinary women in my eyes. My faith is strengthened when I remember these sisters of the Relief Society.
Lessons on Motherhood
Sis. Sheri Dew, former counselor in the Relief Society general presidency asked, “Are we not all mothers?’’ Sis. Dew reminded all of us, whether we’ve conceived and borne children or not, that we are all mothers. She said,
As daughters of our Heavenly Father, and as daughters of Eve, we are all mothers and we have always been mothers. And we each have the responsibility to love and help lead the rising generation. How will our young women learn to live as women of God unless they see what women of God look like, meaning what we wear, watch, and read; how we fill our time and our minds; how we face temptation and uncertainty; where we find true joy; and why modesty and femininity are hallmarks of righteous women? How will our young men learn to value women of God if we don’t show them the virtue of our virtues?
My mother is my greatest role model when it comes to motherhood. But there were many other mother figures in my life, women of the Relief Society who also taught me through their examples and love.
Much of my young life was spent in the small village of Vaiola on the island of Savaii in Samoa. This village, Vaiola, is one of three places that were settled by members of the Church in Samoa. Growing up in a small village on a tropical island was ideal in many respects. As children, the whole village was our playground. We could go anywhere in the village and know that we were safe. We were watched over and fed by other village families as if we were one of their own. Meals usually weren’t much and they were never fancy but we were always welcomed to whatever was available. As ideal as this life sounds, it also had many hardships. People lived pretty much off the land which meant they raised and grew everything they needed. Roads were unpaved, and electricity had yet to come to that part of the island. Washing machines, dryers, and electric irons were luxuries that many villagers had heard about, but had never seen. At least, not then.
As a young girl, I observed the women of Vaiola on Saturdays, hand-washing piles and piles of clothes. Next, the clothes would be hung up to dry. Finally, those that would be worn to Church the next day were separated and ironed. Now when I say ironed, most of us think about the electric iron we have sitting in the closet. This was not the iron the women of Vaiola used in those days. Instead, they used the precursor to the electric iron – the coal iron. First, the charcoal had to be lit until it was red hot, then the charcoal was carefully loaded into the iron and finally, the ironing could begin. One had to work quickly before the charcoal burnt out completely.
So what lessons about motherhood did I learn from these mothers? Other than being grateful for electric irons, what else did these women teach me about motherhood? They taught me that the care that we take in our dress and appearance is an outward expression of the respect and love for the Lord. Their preparations for the Sabbath left a lasting impression on me. I’m sure they’d rather have taken it easy on Saturdays. Instead, they washed, ironed, and made sure our clothing was not only modest but neat. Their preparations on Saturday left no doubt in my mind that Sunday was special. Their examples taught me at an early age that the Savior that we worship and remember was worthy of our highest respect and devotion.
Motherhood comes with many blessings and responsibilities. One of the greatest responsibilities that we have is to be an example to all of God’s children. The women of my youth taught me that as women, we really are mothers to all. These women of Vaiola helped to teach and lead a rising generation.
Lessons about Sisterhood.
This one word represents the very best of Relief Society. To me, a sisterhood evokes a group of sisters that stand for common ideals and beliefs. A sisterhood cares, values, and needs the contribution of each individual. The term sisterhood evokes love and charity. It evokes acceptance not judgment. It evokes patience and unselfishness. In a true sisterhood, each sister is important and a necessary part of the whole. Each sister is both a giver and a receiver. A sisterhood shares commonalities but each sister is also recognized for her own unique talent, personality, and challenges. A sisterhood is one that values both our similarities and our differences.
As sisters in the Relief Society, we have many common goals. The Relief Society declaration and Relief Society objectives lists some of the goals. If I were to combine all those goals in one statement, I’d say that our common goal in Relief Society is to empower each sister, no matter where she is in her own individual journey, so that she can become the woman God meant for her to be.
During this last General Conference, a number of talks touched on diversity and differences. One of my favorite quotes on this subject comes from Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. He said;
The Lord did not people the earth with a vibrant orchestra of personalities only to value the piccolos of the world. Every instrument is precious and adds to the complex beauty of the symphony. All of Heavenly Father’s children are different in some degree, yet each has his own beautiful sound that adds depth and richness to the whole.
This variety of creation itself is a testament of how the Lord values all His children.
Isn’t that a beautiful quote? We are all a little different, yet each of us is special and adds to the richness and the beauty of the whole. We are all different but we are united in our love of the Savior, our love for the individual, and our love for families. The fact that the Relief Society can bring together so many women of such diverse backgrounds, talents, and personalities speaks to the wonderful spirit of sisterhood that exists in this wonderful organization.