Relief Society Sisters around the World Celebrate 170th Anniversary
By Lok Yi Chan, Church News and Events
As part of an effort to honor the 170th anniversary of the organization of Relief Society, sisters around the world are actively participating in service and other activities that engage them in the work of the organization.
In February, the Relief Society general presidency issued an invitation to sisters worldwide, suggesting eight possible activities for celebrating the anniversary—which took place on March 17, 2012—to be planned under the direction of local priesthood leaders.
And sisters around the globe are responding. What follows are brief highlights from celebrations taking place throughout the Church.
Sisters from the Primavera First Branch of the La Vega Dominican Republic District were reminded of the selflessness of women from early Latter-day Saint history and of their enduring legacy through the branch’s celebration on Saturday, March 17.
Each sister who participated dressed in the style of pioneers and shared a meaningful message about Relief Society. María Elena Pichardo de Gómez, first counselor in the Relief Society presidency, reminded the sisters of their responsibility to prepare for difficult times, as taught by modern prophets. She added, “The great strength of the Primavera First Branch’s Relief Society is in how different we are, but how we are united by the same gospel.”
Maria Inmaculada Sánchez de Hierro, Relief Society president, spoke about the Relief Society motto, “Charity never faileth,” noting that the pure love of Christ must be the motivation that leads to service.
Following the counsel of the Relief Society general presidency to “organize Relief Society service in the community,” the Relief Society of the Samabula Ward of the Suva Fiji North Stake launched an ongoing project called “Making a Difference—Charity Never Faileth.” Each sister in the ward set a goal to perform an act of service, love, or kindness 170 times—all to different people—by the end of September 2012.
The ward also held an activity to help the sisters better understand and appreciate the lives and contributions of all Relief Society general presidents, from Emma Smith on. The sisters were divided into six groups; each was assigned to study the lives and teachings of two general presidents. The sisters dressed up in the fashion of the era of the assigned general presidents, introduced them, identified some important events and changes that happened during their presidency, and performed a dance.
The celebration included less-active and nonmember women—and, if the women chose, their families. Young women and young adults helped with preparations for the activity.
“We could see that a bond had developed amongst the sisters, and [now there is] more unity and excitement amongst the sisters when we meet in Relief Society on Sunday,” said Marieta Suliana, first counselor in the Relief Society presidency.
In Hong Kong, sisters from the New Territories Stake celebrated the Relief Society anniversary by reflecting on their personal and Relief Society histories.
They organized an exhibit, themed “Pursuit of Grace,” on the day of the anniversary, in which they showcased old missionary photos, family records, paintings, and handicrafts made at previous Relief Society activities. These items included lanterns and peacocks made of red paper pockets, embroidery work, key chains, and wallets.
“[We hope the exhibit helped] the sisters understand what the pioneers have done for us,” said Gigi Lo, Relief Society secretary in the Yuen Long First Ward of the New Territories Stake. “[Like them], with determination, diligence, and faith in God, we can accomplish goals in every aspect of our lives.”
In the Bamburi Branch of the Kenya Nairobi Mission, Relief Society sisters donated the money that they would have spent on an activity to purchase kitchen utensils and other items the branch needed. After thoroughly cleaning the local meetinghouse, the sisters assembled for a time of reflection on the creation of Relief Society in 1842, using resources from Daughters in My Kingdom: The History and Work of Relief Society.
“The work of Relief Society is helping others to develop that everyday faith that God requires us to have in our probationary state,” said Irene Kioi, second counselor in the Relief Society presidency. “The thought of being part of this worldwide organization of Relief Society is special. It gives me the assurance that it is ordained of God and not men.”
And in the Mombasa Branch, also in the same mission, sisters studied about female disciples of Christ from Daughters in My Kingdom and the New Testament. The branch’s Relief Society president, Jael Mwambere, then shared a thought: “This is the first [anniversary] for the Mombasa Branch Relief Society. It is my hope that we may all start anew in our devotion to our duties in Relief Society. May we care for one another, attend our Church meetings, and help those in need, starting from today.”
The Republic of the Marshall Islands
On Saturday, March 17, hundreds of sisters from the Ajeltake Branch, Laura Ward, and Long Island Majuro Ward of the Majuro Marshall Islands Stake met at Rairok, a town near the Majuro Atoll, at 4:30 a.m. The reason: They walked for an hour and a half to the Delap Ward meetinghouse to demonstrate the virtue of endurance.
Another group consisting of sisters from the Delap and Rita Wards also walked to the meetinghouse, where they met the Rairok group for a devotional and breakfast. Later in the day they met at the stake center, where the sisters performed skits and dances and listened to an address from the stake president.
“Faithful women who have a foundation in the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ are especially needed here to strengthen families and to stand up for what is right despite poverty and other difficulties,” said Jamie Zvirzdin, a member of the stake.
In the Seville Spain Stake, approximately 20 sisters, including two full-time missionaries, attended the Dos Hermanas Ward Relief Society celebration on Saturday, March 17.
An exhibit displayed the history of the ward’s Relief Society and included a special book of photos of the service and activities the sisters have performed together over time.
The sisters were also strengthened by the ward’s Relief Society presidency, who shared thoughts on the theme “Charity never faileth.” Silvana Quintanilla, president, spoke about how virtuous women should develop their full potential by building and continuing to nurture the sisterhood among themselves. Laura Casado, second counselor, talked about appreciating and acknowledging the important people in her life.
“Relief Society is a cornerstone for further progress, both serving my sisters and community and being served by all the love that characterizes them,” said María Pérez Sánchez, first counselor. “[Being] able to participate in the anniversary of this organization makes me feel closer to those pioneering women who sacrificed so much for us. And now, today, we can continue carrying out this work they undertook.”
The United States
In the Gardner Ward of the Springfield Massachusetts Stake, the sisters celebrated the 170th anniversary of Relief Society at a dinner held on March 15. The evening included presentations from four sisters, each of whom spoke about a woman who had influenced her life positively. Each speaker also brought a small display highlighting her presentation.
“This was an activity that promoted the strength and worth of women,” said Jennifer Whitcomb, Relief Society president, “and also encouraged us to see strengths, commonalities, and worth in each other.
“I love Relief Society,” Sister Whitcomb continued. “It’s a privilege to be part of such an amazing organization just for women.”
Although the anniversary itself has passed, the invitation for sisters to engage in service and other celebratory activities is ongoing throughout 2012. For more information, visit the Relief Society’s webpage about the anniversary.