What Has Relief Society Been for Me?

By Reyna Aburto, Second Counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency

The following is the text from an address Sister Reyna Aburto gave at BYU Women’s Conference in Provo, Utah, on May 5, 2017.


 

 

My dear sisters, it is a big privilege for me to be here with you in this magnificent event and to have the opportunity to speak at this historic pulpit.

For the last few weeks, there is a question that has been coming to my mind over and over as I have been trying to understand my role and responsibilities in my new calling. 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”1 and “that the same organization existed in the church anciently.”2 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.” I have also learned that “after His death and Resurrection, women continued to be faithful disciples. They met and prayed together with the Apostles. They provided their homes as gathering places for Church members [and] valiantly participated in the work of saving souls, temporally and spiritually.”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”4 and who worked tirelessly to bring His gospel to others.

I have once again rejoiced at the thought that as part of the Restoration during this “dispensation of the fulness of times,”5 the Relief Society was organized by the Prophet Joseph Smith through priesthood keys and “after the pattern of the priesthood”6 so women could “do something extraordinary.”7

In regards to Relief Society, President Joseph F. Smith said, “This organization is divinely made, divinely authorized, divinely instituted, divinely ordained of God to minister for the salvation of the souls of women and of men.”8

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?”

The missionaries were happy to see us that morning. 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.

We attended a stake conference on that glorious Sabbath day when the best part of my life started. A whole new universe opened before my eyes. Every one of the messages I heard seemed specifically written for me. The words that were spoken touched my heart and penetrated it with a loving, comforting, and powerful force. I then asked myself, “Is this truly real or is this just an amazing dream? Could this actually be a safe refuge for me and my son?”

The missionary couple came to our home after 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. From them, I learned about my Heavenly Father and His “great plan of salvation”9 and about the redeeming Atonement of Jesus Christ. I learned about repentance, the covenant of baptism, and the promise of forgiveness and eternal life. I learned about the Prophet Joseph Smith and his role in the Restoration; about the commandments and the promised blessings that we can receive if we make a sincere effort to obey them, among many other profound and yet simple concepts. 

The soothing relationship that I had (and still have) with that devoted sister missionary was only the first of countless significant relationships and eternal bonds that I have been able to establish over the years with many faithful daughters of our glorious Mother Eve.10

Together with my mother and brother, I joined the Church just a few weeks after that first meeting with the missionaries. The members of that small Spanish-speaking branch in San Francisco, California, embraced us with their love. 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. I still vividly remember the feelings of amazement that I had at every sacrament meeting, every Gospel Doctrine class, and every Relief Society meeting. It was a never-ending flow of tender mercies from heaven that came to me through the faithful members of that small branch, who taught me so much with their example and the joyful way they lived the gospel.

A few weeks later, my visiting teachers came to my home, and they brought a warm feeling of belonging and love to my heart. And then I learned that I could also have the opportunity to do the same thing they were doing so I could bring that same warm feeling to other sisters.

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. Sure enough, members of the branch presidency approached me with an opportunity to serve, and then with another, and another.

When my first assignment to give a talk in sacrament meeting came from the branch president, a sweet and wise sister patiently guided me through the process of preparing a talk. She taught me how to find passages of scripture that were related to the assigned topic and gently guided me so I could receive my own revelation through promptings from the Holy Ghost.

As I served in those 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. As I look back, I can see that each of them has left a lasting imprint in my life. They taught me how to transition from being a recent convert to becoming “converted unto the Lord.”11 They literally took my hand and showed me the way.

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.”12 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,”13 and the truths that I have learned as I have tried to “fulfil my purpose and mission, in spirit and deed”14 as a woman in Zion.

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.

My dear sisters, as we face the world during these latter days and as we strive to keep the covenants that we have made with God so we can “fulfill the measure of [our] creation,”15 Relief Society can be a safe haven for us. As President Boyd K. Packer has promised: “This great circle of sisters will be a protection for each of you and for your families. The Relief Society might be likened to a refuge—the place of safety and protection—the sanctuary of ancient times. You will be safe within it. It encircles each sister like a protecting wall.”16

I know that every time we do “small and simple things”17 to increase our faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and His Atonement; every time we do something to strengthen ourselves or someone else, to strengthen our family or another family, or to strengthen our home or another home through ordinances and covenants; and every time we work in unity to help those in need, we are fulfilling the purpose of Relief Society, which is to help prepare women for the blessings of eternal life,18 as “[we] seek, receive, and act on personal revelation in [our] callings and in [our] personal lives.”19

Our dear prophet President Thomas S. Monson has said: “You, my beloved sisters, know who you are and what God expects you to become. Your challenge is to bring all for whom you are responsible to a knowledge of this truth. The Relief Society of this, the Lord’s Church, can be the means to achieve such a goal.”20

I know that each of us “is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny.”21 I know that we have a Father in Heaven who knows us personally and that He “so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”22 I also know that “by the power of the Holy Ghost [we] may know the truth of all things.”23

And I share this humbly in the name of the Prince of Peace, our Lord Jesus Christ, amen.


Notes

  1. Daughters in My Kingdom: The History and Work of Relief Society (2017), 3.
  2. Eliza R. Snow, in Daughters in My Kingdom, 7.
  3. Daughters in My Kingdom, 3.
  4. 3 Nephi 28:23.
  5. Doctrine and Covenants 128:18.
  6. Joseph Smith, in Daughters in My Kingdom, 12.
  7. Emma Smith, in Daughters in My Kingdom, 14.
  8. Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith (1998), 184.
  9. Alma 42:5.
  10. See Doctrine and Covenants 138:39.
  11. 4 Nephi 1:2.
  12. Doctrine and Covenants 84:88.
  13. As Sisters in Zion,” Hymns, no. 309.
  14. See “As Sisters in Zion,” Hymns, no. 309.
  15. Doctrine and Covenants 88:19.
  16. Boyd K. Packer, in Daughters in My Kingdom, 86.
  17. Alma 37:6.
  18. See “The Purpose of Relief Society.”
  19. Daughters in My Kingdom, xi-xii.
  20. Thomas S. Monson, “If Ye Are Prepared Ye Shall Not Fear,Ensign, Nov. 2004, 115.
  21. The Family: A Proclamation to the World,Ensign, Nov. 2010, 129.
  22. John 3:16.
  23. Moroni 10:5.