Former General Relief Society President Barbara Winder Dies at Age 86

Contributed By Marianne Holman Prescott, Church News staff writer

  • 27 June 2017

Sister Barbara Winder and President Richard Winder of South Jordan, Utah, receive the Czernin Palace Award, the highest honor bestowed by the Embassy of the Czech Republic on those of non-Czech nationality, on February 20, 2012, in Utah. Also pictured are Jonathon Tichy, Czech honorary consul for Utah, and Emily Samek, second runner-up, Miss Czech-Slovak U.S.  Photo courtesy Owen Fuller.

Article Highlights

  • Sister Winder served as the 11th Relief Society General President.
  • She died June 25 at the age of 86.
  • A funeral is scheduled for Saturday, July 1, in South Jordan, Utah.

“We can have unity in diversity and diversity in unity. We don’t have to be like one another to enjoy sisterhood.” —Barbara Winder, General Relief Society President (1984–1990)

Sister Barbara Ann Woodhead Winder, former Relief Society General President for the Church, died on June 25 at the age of 86.

Known for her lifetime of Church service, Sister Winder was a powerful teacher who focused her ministry on helping others “come unto Christ.”

Sustained on April 7, 1984, Sister Winder served as the 11th Relief Society General President for the Church and later served as assistant matron of the Jordan River Utah Temple and as matron of the Nauvoo Illinois Temple.

During her time as Relief Society General President, Sister Winder spoke in general conference—including the general women’s session—seven times. Her sermons encouraged women to find joy, be obedient, and find hope in Christ. She was an advocate for visiting teaching.

Her ministry began just a few years after the proposed Equal Rights Amendment of the 1970s, at a time when American women felt divided.

Sister Winder encouraged women to be tolerant and encouraged unity.

“It is a time to heal,” Sister Winder was recorded saying in an Ensign article, “a time to bond women to women and women to men. We can have unity in diversity and diversity in unity. We don’t have to be like one another to enjoy sisterhood.”

It was during her administration that the general offices of the Young Women and Primary were moved into the Relief Society Building—allowing the organizations to work together. It was also a time when presidents of the auxiliaries traveled to visit other countries for the first time.

Sister Winder was called after the release of Sister Barbara Bradshaw Smith and was followed by Sister Elaine L. Jack.

Sister Barbara Winder served as the 11th Relief Society General President from 1984 to 1990.

Sister Winder was born on May 9, 1931, in Midvale, Utah, and was the oldest of Marguerite Hand and Willard Verl Woodhead’s four children.

Even as a young girl she understood the importance of attending church, and although her parents were not active in Church at the time, she would attend Primary with her teacher and was often found at the neighbors' home where she could hear gospel discussion.

While attending the University of Utah—where she was majoring in home economics—she met Richard W. Winder, a young man who had recently returned from serving a mission in Czechoslovakia. Within three weeks of their first date, the couple were engaged, and they were later married in the Salt Lake Temple on January 10, 1951. They are the parents of four children. The couple raised their family on Winder Lane—near others in the Winder family—in Granger, Utah, where the Winder dairy farm is located. Their daughter, Sister Susan Winder Tanner, served as the 12th Young Women General President.

Her call to serve as Relief Society General President came while she was accompanying her husband as he presided over the California San Diego Mission. They had been there for almost two years when she got a call from President Gordon B. Hinckley, who was serving as a counselor in the First Presidency, and she began her service in April 1984.

Together, Sister Winder and her husband served in many capacities in the Church—in the United States, at Church headquarters, and abroad.

In 1990, when the Church’s Czechoslovakia Prague Mission had been reorganized after the fall of communism, Sister Winder accompanied her husband as he served as the mission president. They were living in Czechoslovakia when it split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993.

She later served as assistant matron of the Jordan River Utah Temple from 1993 to 1996. From 1999 to 2002, President Winder served as the president of the Family and Church History Mission, which included missionaries serving in the Family History Library and the Church History Library and Archives.

In 2002, President Winder was called to be the first president of the rebuilt Nauvoo Illinois Temple, and Sister Winder served as temple matron. They served in that capacity from 2002 to 2004.

“Wherever we go, people seem to feel an immediate closeness with her,” her husband said in an Ensign magazine article from May 1984.

Her husband died in 2015. Their four children, 15 grandchildren, and 25 great-grandchildren survive her. A funeral is scheduled for Saturday, July 1, at 12:00 p.m. at the River Ridge 9th Ward meetinghouse, 1409 Shields Lane, South Jordan, Utah. A public viewing will take place the evening before at Valley View Funeral Home, 4335 West 4100 South, West Valley, Utah, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. on Friday, June 30, and at the Church building prior to the funeral from 10:00 to 11:30 a.m.