All adult women in the Church are members of Relief Society. The Prophet Joseph Smith organized the Relief Society on March 17, 1842. He taught that the Relief Society was organized for “the relief of the poor, the destitute, the widow and the orphan, and for the exercise of all benevolent purposes.” In addition, he taught that the Relief Society was “not only to relieve the poor, but to save souls.” The larger part of the work of Relief Society today is “to look after the spiritual welfare and salvation … of all the female members of the Church.” The Relief Society was “divinely made, divinely authorized, divinely instituted, divinely ordained of God.” It operates under the direction of priesthood leaders. (See Handbook 2, 9.1.2.)
The purpose of Relief Society is to help prepare women for the blessings of eternal life by helping them increase faith and personal righteousness, strengthen families and homes, and seek out and help those in need. Women fulfill these purposes as they seek, receive, and act on personal revelation in their lives. Relief Society accomplishes the purposes through Sunday gospel instruction, other Relief Society meetings, visiting teaching, and welfare and compassionate service. (See Handbook 2, chapter 9.)
In the first meeting of the Relief Society, Sister Emma Smith said, “We are going to do something extraordinary.” Relief Society is filled with examples of ordinary women who have accomplished extraordinary things as they exercise faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. (See Daughters in My Kingdom, page xi.)
As women participate in Relief Society, they serve as valiant disciples of Jesus Christ in the work of salvation. They work alongside men who hold the priesthood. Through Relief Society, women practice being disciples of Christ. Women strive to learn what the Lord would have them learn, do what He would have them do, and become what He would have them become. (See Daughters in My Kingdom, page 7.)
In one of the first meetings of the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo, Joseph Smith admonished the sisters to “live up to [their] privilege.” The women in the Church have been taught to live up to their divine potential by fulfilling God's purposes for them. As they come to understand who they really are—God's daughters—they reach their potential as holy women. Established as an integral part of the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Relief Society helps Latter-day Saint women live up to their privilege. Through this organization, sisters receive vision and assurance of their identity as daughters of God. They also receive opportunities to serve and the direction and authority they need to fulfill those responsibilities. (See Daughters in My Kingdom, page 171.)
Church Magazine Articles
Rather than being judgmental and critical of each other, may we have the pure love of Christ for our fellow travelers in this journey through life.
The history of Relief Society is recorded in words and numbers, but the heritage is passed heart to heart.
Much of what we accomplish in the Church is due to the selfless service of women.
Studying the history of Relief Society gives definition and expression to who we are as disciples and followers of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Ours is a work of salvation, service, and becoming a holy people.
Relief Society was established by the Lord to organize, teach, and inspire His daughters to prepare for the blessings of eternal life.