“No work could be more important and satisfying than that of helping to raise human life to its highest level,”1 wrote Amy Brown Lyman in her autobiography. She believed this was done best by providing “relief of existing distress [and] prevention of new distress.”2 Called as eighth general president of the Relief Society three months after the outbreak of World War II in Europe, she experienced many opportunities to put that philosophy into practice.
During her administration, the Relief Society worked tirelessly to achieve this goal. Functioning in coordination with and under the direction of the priesthood, sisters from the United States to Holland and from New Zealand to Canada united in such activities as sending care packages to members and soldiers in war-torn countries, folding bandages for the Red Cross, and sewing items like undergarments, clothing, and bedding for those in need.
The effect of the war on families was particularly troubling. Fathers and sons around the world were being taken out of the home to fight, while mothers and young women were being encouraged to leave the home to take jobs to support the war effort. Immorality was on the rise.3
Sister Lyman encouraged mothers to do all they could to fortify their families. A Relief Society Magazine article in 1943 stated: “The General Board urges mothers throughout the Church to place every possible safeguard about their children. An evil influence is abroad which threatens even the best homes. Social problems, greatly aggravated by the war, demand vigilance on the part of mothers.”4 To make it possible for mothers to spend more time at home, Amy urged the women to develop skills of self-reliance, like sewing, gardening, and preserving and storing food.
Amy Cassandra Brown was born February 7, 1872, in Pleasant Grove, Utah, to John and Margaret Zimmerman Brown. Margaret was John’s third wife. Amy was the eighth of ten children. Although they had little material wealth, education was important to her parents. Amy once said, “We had plain living, but high thinking.”5
Education and Marriage
While attending Brigham Young Academy, Amy met Richard R. Lyman. Intellectual and spiritual equals, the two fell in love and married on September 9, 1896, in the Salt Lake Temple. They had two children. Amy led the Relief Society’s Social Welfare Department for 15 years and functioned as an officer in the Relief Society for 32 years. She served a term as a member of the Utah House of Representatives as well. Amy died December 5, 1959.
Amy’s firm testimony of the gospel motivated and enriched her Church service. She said: “[My] testimony has been my anchor and my stay, my satisfaction in times of joy and gladness, my comfort in times of sorrow and discouragement. I am grateful for the opportunity I have had of serving … in the Relief Society where during most of my mature life I have worked so happily and contentedly with its thousands of members. I have visited in their homes, slept in their beds, and eaten at their tables, and have thus learned of the beauty of their character, their unselfishness, their understanding hearts, their faithfulness, and their sacrifices. I honor beyond my power of expression this great sisterhood of service.”6
- Amy Brown Lyman, In Retrospect: Autobiography of Amy Brown Lyman (1945), 61.
- Lyman, In Retrospect, 61.
- See Jill Mulvay Derr, Janath Russell Cannon, and Maureen Ursenbach Beecher, Women of Covenant: The Story of Relief Society (1992), 281.
- Amy Brown Lyman, “Care of the Children in Wartime,” Relief Society Magazine, May 1943, 332.
- Lyman, In Retrospect, 4.
- Lyman, In Retrospect, 160–61.