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How Relief Society Changed My Life

woman surrounded by helping hands

For the last few weeks, a question has been coming to my mind over and over as I have been trying to understand my role and responsibilities in my new calling as the Second Counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency. That question is “What is Relief Society?”

As I have been reading about the history and the purpose of Relief Society, many ideas, images, and memories have come to my mind.

I have marveled at the knowledge that Relief Society is “a restoration of an ancient pattern” and “that the same organization existed in the church anciently” (Daughters in My Kingdom: The History and Work of Relief Society [2011], 3, 7). As I have studied the New Testament, I have seen many examples of “female disciples” who “journeyed with Jesus and His Twelve Apostles [and gave] of their substance to assist in His ministry” (Daughters in My Kingdom, 3). I have read about Martha and her sister Mary, about Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna, Tabitha, Priscilla, and many others who were “converted unto the Lord” (3 Nephi 28:23) and who worked tirelessly to bring His gospel to others.

I have once again rejoiced at the thought that as part of the Restoration, the Relief Society was organized by the Prophet Joseph Smith through priesthood keys and “after the pattern of the priesthood” (Joseph Smith, in Daughters in My Kingdom, 12) so women could “do something extraordinary” (Emma Smith, in Daughters in My Kingdom, 14).

As I have continued reading and learning, a second question came to my mind: “What has Relief Society been for me?”

My thoughts went back to the time when I was living in San Francisco, California, and I was at a crucial crossroad in my life. I had just made the painful decision to divorce my first husband after years of trying to help him get out of a horrible trap of alcohol and drug addiction. We had a three-year-old little boy by then, and my soul was full of questions, fears, and longings for me and my son. I remember asking myself, “What will happen now? How can I find joy after this? How can I provide a safe environment for my son? How will our future be? Where can I find peace?”

Weeks after that painful decision and final separation, a miracle happened. While visiting some relatives, my mother met a wonderful LDS missionary couple who invited her to come to church the next day. She asked me to come along with her, and I asked myself, “What do I have to lose?”

As I stepped into that Church meetinghouse, a warm feeling embraced me. I knew I was in a safe place; I knew that I could find peace in there and that “something extraordinary” was going to happen in my life. I had found something that I did not know I had been missing.

The missionary couple came to our home after the meeting, and they started teaching me, my mother, and my siblings. I immediately felt a connection with that sweet, enthusiastic, and faithful sister who, together with her husband, was preaching the gospel in that little corner of the world that was our home.

Together with my mother and brother, I joined the Church just a few weeks after that first meeting with the missionaries. All of a sudden, I had friends, teachers, leaders, counselors, and role models of all ages, male and female, and through their words and actions I could feel the Holy Ghost testifying of the truth of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ in my heart.

As I listened and watched all of them, a whole new realm of knowledge, faith, testimony, and love came to my life. It was a never-ending flow of tender mercies from heaven that came to me through the faithful members of that small branch.

Very soon I learned that as an adult female member of the Church, I belonged to Relief Society. I also learned that in our Church we are not just passive observers and recipients of information and counsel but that we can be active contributors and participants. I discovered that the members of our Church are blessed with the opportunity to have callings.

As I served in my first callings and assignments, and all the ones that came after, there have always been loving sisters surrounding me and teaching me by example how faithful female disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ serve and love.

To His servants, the Lord has promised: “I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up” (D&C 84:88). Through my life, before and after I joined the Church, I have felt those angels around me, both from the other side of the veil and from this side.

Many of those angels have come to me wearing a white shirt and a tie, ministering to my spiritual needs and using priesthood keys to bring light and guidance to my life, but also wearing working clothes and with a tool in their hand to bring comfort and help when I have needed them. Many other angels have come to me wearing a skirt, taking me by the hand and showing me how to be a female disciple of Jesus Christ, but also wearing everyday clothes to support me and to allow me to cry on their shoulder when I needed that.

So, what has Relief Society meant for me? It has meant a never-ending wealth of assistance from heaven and from earth that has helped me begin to prepare for the blessings of eternal life.

For me, Relief Society has been the relationships that I have made with faithful women, the love that I have felt from and for other sisters as we have worked together on “the errand of angels,” and the truths that I have learned as I have tried to “fulfil my purpose and mission, in spirit and deed,” as a woman in Zion (“As Sisters in Zion,” Hymns, no. 309).

Those women and the fruits of their labors have been a source of guidance that has helped me understand my role as a daughter of God, a wife and a mother. They have inspired me as I have struggled to keep a balance between my responsibilities with God, myself, my family, my home, my callings, and my job. They have shown me how to set priorities in my life so I can find time for the daily sacred habits that give me the spiritual strength I need when I feel that I cannot take one more step.

Taken from Sister Aburto’s address, “What Has Relief Society Been for Me?” delivered at BYU Women’s Conference on May 5, 2017.