I have a testimony of this great latter-day work of the restored gospel, and I have been blessed by being part of it. I have a testimony of my Savior, Jesus Christ, and His atoning power. I have felt that power in my life. Years ago I made covenants with the Lord that He could use me where He needed me to build His kingdom. Over the years I have accepted calls to serve in Primary, Scouting, Relief Society, Young Women, and missionary work. Each call has brought growth and experience. It is a privilege to serve Him and to accept a call from His ordained prophet on the earth.
When President Hinckley called me to be the Relief Society president, he asked me, “How much do you know about Relief Society?” Well, I entered Relief Society when I was 18 so I have had many years of experience and a great love for Relief Society. I know that Relief Society was organized to function under the direction of the priesthood for “the relief of the poor, the destitute, the widow, the orphan, and for the exercise of all benevolent purposes” and “not only to relieve the poor, but to save souls.”1
The original work of the Relief Society focused toward the temple. Faithful women wanted to organize to hasten the work of building a temple so they could make covenants with the Lord Jesus Christ and form eternal families. That great work continues today. In January of 2004, President Hinckley said: “I am convinced there is no other organization anywhere to match the Relief Society of this Church. It has a membership of more than five million women across the earth. If they will be united and speak with one voice, their strength will be incalculable.”2
Today I will speak about relief, the need for relief, and how we can unite in this great relief effort.
- The words “relief” and “relieve” come from the old French word levare, which means to lift up, to lighten. It means a raising up. The notion is to raise someone up or out of trouble.3
The situation we are in today:
- In Mark 13:8, the Savior tells about our day. He says, “For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be earthquakes in divers places, and there shall be famines and troubles: these are the beginnings of sorrows.” Is this a day of trouble? Yes, we are troubled on every side.
- This is a day of many natural calamities. There are storms, tempests, earthquakes, droughts, fires, and floods. There seems to be no place on earth that is not vulnerable to natural elements.
- There are also wars, conflicts, unrest, and horrible violence, which in recent years has become random and unexplainable.
In the 2004 Worldwide Leadership Training meeting, President Faust spoke about the confusion, disorder, and breakdown of the moral fabric in society which confronts sacred family institutions. He spoke about how marriage rates have declined, cohabitation is widely accepted, divorce is increasing, and children are less valued as evidenced by high abortion rates and smaller families.4
- We know that good families are busy and distracted. Keeping up with the activities and pressures of life has eroded family time. It is increasingly difficult for families to gather to strengthen one another at mealtimes and in prayer, scripture study, family home evening, and other essential family-building activities.
- We see that the world and its influences are eating away at worthiness and the ability of the Lord’s children to feel the Spirit. For instance, pornography is rampant and in the homes of Latter-day Saints. Media and its messages are pervasive in our lives. Those messages confuse gender, which eats away at our eternal identities and roles. Media also pressures us to buy and accumulate more and more things, which increases our debt burdens.
- All of this destroys our sense of peace and wears on our spirits. I do not know of a time in the history of the world when a full-scale relief effort was more needed. Because we are disciples of Jesus Christ and we have made covenants with Him, we have committed to be part of that relief effort. By being organized into this society, we are now enlisted in a relief effort that has no comparison on the face of the earth.
Women of the Church must unite in the relief effort:
- President Hinckley said: “We must not give up. We must not become discouraged. We must never surrender to the forces of evil. … We call upon the women of the Church to stand together for righteousness. They must begin in their own homes. They can teach it in their classes. They can voice it in their communities. They must be the teachers and the guardians of their daughters. Those daughters must be taught in the Primary and in the classes of the Young Women of the values of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. When you save a girl, you save generations. She will grow in strength and righteousness. She will marry in the house of the Lord. She will teach her children the ways of truth. They will walk in her paths and will similarly teach their children. Wonderful grandmothers will be there to lend encouragement. I see this as the one bright shining hope in a world that is marching toward self-destruction.”5 President Hinckley has described our relief challenge.
THE RELIEF EFFORT
So, how do we participate in this relief effort? We do it by first strengthening our own homes and families and then helping to strengthen the homes and families in our wards and stakes. We start in our own lives and our own homes and branch out from there to give relief and save souls. I will share with you some ways we do that:
- We offer relief by studying and teaching correct principles. We are all teachers and we are always teaching. In every encounter, in formal and informal situations, we are teachers. As we teach in our homes, as we teach in Primary classes, as we teach and lead young women, as we serve in Relief Society, we teach by our words and by our examples. Our words matter. We must firmly believe what we teach. That means we must spend time in the scriptures and know the doctrine. We then must be able to defend and teach that doctrine. We teach by what we do. There is nothing that teaches as powerfully as our examples. When we share what we believe about the gospel, we provide relief to those in spiritual destitution and we save souls. We look for opportunities to teach what we believe. That means if we are riding in cars with our children, we should focus on them and what we can teach them. We teach while doing dishes. When we are together anywhere with our families or with friends, we are teachers. We pray to know what to ask and what to teach. But please understand that every lesson, every testimony, every encounter is a teaching opportunity.
- We are part of the relief effort as we pray and seek for missionary experiences. That is as simple as inviting friends to attend something you normally do as a member of the Church—a meeting, a family home evening, a family activity, a ward activity. Just invite a friend to go with you. There are too many of our Heavenly Father’s children who need the relief of saving ordinances. You can provide relief by contributing to mission funds and by saving for a mission for yourself. Those are obvious ways we can be part of the work, but it is easy to overlook the power that is in our own homes and wards to proclaim the gospel. Every one of us has family members or friends who for one reason or another have lost their way and have stopped participating in the blessings of the gospel. Are you praying for a missionary opportunity with them? Sometimes families pray for others to be the one to influence and help their child. Are you the one they are praying for?
- As women, we offer relief by lifting and blessing the youth of the rising generation. This relief work is usually done by youth leaders and parents, but everyone must help with this. Think of the people who heard King Benjamin and were so enthusiastic about his message. Then what happened? There were many of the rising generation who did not believe. Why didn’t they believe? They were too young to hear and understand that message. But every single adult around them heard it and committed to living the gospel. Whose job was it to pass that belief along? Everyone’s! Have you ever thought that every single teenager in your ward is an investigator until they have their own conversion? You are part of the relief effort for them. Do you know their names? Are you interested in their progress? Do you know who their parents are? Is what you are wearing and saying and doing in your personal life strengthening their faith? Will they know what a disciple of Christ looks like because of what you do? Are you bearing your testimony in sacrament meeting and other places in such a way that they will be touched by what you know? Are you helping them prepare for missions? Is there something you can do to help them get their own testimony?
- Look around you in your wards and families. Who is destitute in spirit? Our work is to save souls and provide relief. Does your neighbor have a husband and father in their home? How can you help fill the gaps for those who do not? If you got on your knees and asked how to provide relief to someone, the ideas would flood into your mind. You will not have time to reach and provide relief to all, but it would be wonderful to try! Just ask each day, “Who needs my help?” You won’t have any trouble knowing who to help and how to help them.
- You can provide relief to relatives who have died without knowledge of the gospel. This way of saving souls is one of the principal reasons the gospel was restored. Families must be linked, and every child of God must have the opportunity to receive saving ordinances. Are you part of this relief effort? Do you have a current temple recommend? Do you attend the temple? Have you read or written a history of a relative? Have you written your own? Do you record your experiences and testimony so that others who follow you can know what you know? Do you know how to use a family history program? Do your children know how? Your children are your greatest asset. They know and love technology. When they work with you in this work, your family will be stronger and your children will be defended and protected because it is a work involving the Spirit.
- We can provide relief from the onslaught of media coming into our homes by using it appropriately. Parents need to be wise in the amount of media that comes in and restrict its influences. This includes everything from games to movies to music to telephones. Technology is a marvelous miracle, but it is a tool—not a way of life. Our young people text message each other; they chat online and download podcasts. They go to the computer to do research instead of reading a book. One of the downsides about so much technology is that we are all being exposed to things that can desensitize us to the Spirit. Our spirits need relief from the constant noise and images and messages of the world. Our homes will be stronger if we have some relief from so much information.
- Sisters, we can provide relief by teaching social skills. Much of what is out there in technology is designed to be antisocial. Why do we need some relief from this? Because when we raise a generation of children who do not have well-developed social skills, they are less confident in social situations and are less likely to form eternal families. We are in the business of saving souls. We can help with this.
- We are experiencing a storm of pornography that is weakening our homes and families. We need to take an active part in providing relief from this tidal wave of filth. Never assume it is not happening in your family. We can learn much from Captain Moroni in the Book of Mormon when we examine his tactics against a determined enemy. He gathered into centers of strength; he built walls and pickets and trenches to defend his center of strength. Are our homes those centers and are the people in your family safe there? Are they safe in the homes of their friends? The Church has provided some great helps to defend us against this. Please use them.
- Another place to seek relief is in the area of debt relief. Have you been working to get out of debt? Have you reached a point where you do not need to accumulate more things? We all need relief from rampant consumerism. This is a priority of prophets, and it will strengthen our families if we heed their counsel. This is an important way to strengthen our families and homes and provide relief.
Well, I could go on longer, but I think you get the picture. There is a great need for a full-scale relief effort, and you are now enrolled in this effort. I hope you have noticed that I have not given you any special assignments. This is not about new programs or creating guilt. None of these things are new to you. I do hope it puts a focus on the good things you are already doing. This is about being part of a society that provides relief. In the days of Nauvoo and Kirtland, this relief centered on the temples and getting a temple built in their midst. They needed a temple so they could have the saving ordinances and covenants for themselves and their ancestors and the rising generation. The focus should still be the same. It is still about providing relief from worldly influences and making sure that each and every sister, each and every child in the rising generation is prepared to make and keep temple covenants. That happens as we first build a desire for the temple in our hearts and in the hearts of the rising generation and then we also provide that relief to our ancestors who have died without hearing of the gospel by providing saving ordinances for them.
Each sister—married, single, old, or young—is needed in this relief effort. In Primary we prepare and teach children to make and keep covenants. In Young Men and Young Women we prepare our youth to make and keep sacred covenants. In Relief Society we support and encourage those efforts and help ensure that every family and every sister can also make and keep those covenants. That is what we are about. This is our goal—that of saving souls. The blessing and byproduct we receive for working together in this great relief effort is the society and friendships we form, which help support us in life’s challenges. Our testimonies of the Lord Jesus Christ grow as a byproduct of our relief efforts because we are acquiring His qualities in our lives. Pray to know how you can personally be part of this relief effort, and the personalized ideas will come to you. Pray in your homes and families and in your service capacities in the Church about how to provide relief from the storms of this world. The Spirit will direct you in appropriate ways. This is how you become part of a worldwide relief effort.
Sisters, I love you. This Church is full of beautiful, magnificent women, poised to make a difference in the world. What a blessing and exciting opportunity we have. I hope we can see ourselves as a strong and powerful force for good. We must commit to lift, to raise up, and exercise ourselves in benevolent purposes. This society was organized under the priesthood to provide relief. I have absolute confidence that we can work together to provide that relief.
I leave you my testimony of this restored gospel. It is the work of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It is led by a living prophet who guides and directs this work on His behalf. President Hinckley has a vision and charge for the sisters of this Church, and he expects that we will each do our very best to accomplish that charge. I commit to work with you in this great worldwide relief effort.
- Relief Society Minute Book, Nauvoo, Illinois.
- Gordon B. Hinckley, “Standing Strong and Immovable,” Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting, Jan. 2004, 20.
- Online Etymology Dictionary, 2006.
- See James E. Faust, “Challenges Facing the Family,” Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting, Jan. 2004, 1-2.
- Gordon B. Hinckley, “Standing Strong and Immovable,” 20.