The prophet Joshua was a great leader in ancient Israel. He probably is best known for the thrilling challenge he gave to his people as he said: “Choose you this day whom ye will serve … as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
This challenge now faces us also in stern reality. Worldliness is increasing at a frightening rate. I do not speak of sin and corruption alone. I speak also of worldly philosophies and ideologies which now compete with the gospel for our acceptance and adoption.
We are too prone to accept the wisdom of the world rather than the humble advice of leaders of the Church. Highly sophisticated planners in important governmental or educational fields seem, to some people, to speak with greater authority and relevance than the prophets of God.
As we listen to these individuals more and more, we tend to listen less and less to our inspired Church leaders. We compare the two—the highly educated experts and the humble men who guide our religious thoughts. Too often this results in a cooling of the attitudes of some individuals toward the Church with an accompanying transfer of loyalties.
But now is a time to reassess our selection of values. Now is the time to remind ourselves that God has restored his gospel and that it is given to us as a way of life—our way of life—God’s way of life. We must waken to the realization that if we are going to truly serve the Lord, we must put the Church and the gospel first in our lives and not allow worldly philosophies to crowd them out or to downgrade them.
Hence we must reassert to ourselves the challenge of Joshua: “Choose you this day whom ye will serve.” [Josh. 24:15] Shall we follow the ways of men, or shall we follow the prophets?
We must never allow ourselves to forget that the Lord has restored his gospel and that we are his people. That restoration included the reestablishment of the church of Jesus Christ with all its gifts and blessings. It returned to the earth the Lord’s plan of salvation. The plan of salvation is implemented through the program of the Church, so for all practical purposes the program of the Church is the plan of salvation. It is the means—it is the vehicle if you please—whereby we work out our salvation here in the earth.
If we engage in the program of the Church, we do work out our salvation. If we are not active in the program of the Church, we forfeit the blessings of salvation.
When the Prophet Joseph Smith organized and established the Church, he included in that organization the women’s Relief Society. Do we realize the significance of that?
Relief Society was made a part of the restored church by action of the great restorer, Joseph Smith. It was given to the women of the Church in Nauvoo during the formative period of the Church. It was intended to fill a great need. It was expected that it would be perpetuated down through the years. It was to accomplish certain specific ends. For example:
1. It was to make better Latter-day Saints of us all.
2. It was to build stronger homes.
3. It was to strengthen our marriages.
4. It was to help us rear stronger Latter-day Saint children.
5. It was to help us make the Golden Rule function better among us as we render compassionate service to others.
6. It was to strengthen our communities and make our neighborhoods better places to live.
7. It was to educate our sisters in successful ways to solve their personal problems.
8. It was to give them an appreciation of good literature and other cultural advantages to enrich and broaden their lives.
9. It was to help our women see their inspired role in life as partners with God in the high estate of wives and mothers.
10. It was to help our sisters to know that Mormon women are not second class citizens; that they are not confined and circumscribed; and that they need not look for liberation in the avenues of the world.
Mormon women in their true setting as handmaidens of the Lord are the freest women on earth. They have the greatest opportunity for self-expression and service to others of any women in the world. Why? Because they have the gospel.
The apostle Paul taught the Corinthians that wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. (See 2 Cor. 3:17.) And the Book of Mormon says that the Spirit of God is the spirit of freedom. (See Alma 61:15.)
Through the gospel, then, we can bring a new birth of freedom to the women of the Church. But they must be brought into the gospel—into activity in the Church—in order to enjoy it.
Hence we must do all within our power to enlist their activity within our ranks so that they may really taste of the sweet fruits of God’s version of liberation. He can provide liberty and justice for all.
The gospel elevates womankind like nothing else can. It puts our sisters on a pedestal. They become queens in their homes. As daughters of God, they can become like God, and is there any greater goal in life? The gospel teaches us to become perfect like him. As children of our Heavenly Father, is it not our destiny to become like him?
And by what means are we to do so?
Paul taught the Ephesians that the church organization is for the perfecting of the saints. (See Eph. 4.) Therefore, it is only through the Church that we can reach our greatest goals.
The Lord has given us priesthood quorums for the men and boys.
He has given us the Primary for the children and the Sunday School for us all, wherein we may learn the doctrines of the Church.
He has given us organizations for girls and young adults.
And for the women of the Church he has given us the Relief Society. This great organization is devoted wholeheartedly to the interests of women. It is the Lord’s organization especially provided for them.
I remind you that the program of the Church is the plan of salvation and that Relief Society is a part of that plan. It is God-given. It is inspired. It will lift everyone who participates in it. It is part and parcel of the Lord’s program for the Church, and therefore every woman should come within its divine influence.
The apostle Paul taught that all parts of the body or church of Christ are essential. The hand cannot say to the feet, “I have no need of thee.” (See 1 Cor. 12:21.) Neither can the priesthood say to the Relief Society, “I have no need of thee.” Nor can the Sunday School, nor the Primary. All parts—fitly joined together—are needed for the perfecting of the Saints.
Would the Church be complete without the priesthood, or without the Primary or Sunday School? Could perfection come to the Saints without them? Then would the Church be complete without Relief Society? And is it not a part of the process by which perfection comes to the Saints?
Inasmuch, then, as Relief Society is the inspired and God-given organization for the women of the Church, is it not needed by every Latter-day Saint woman? What Mormon woman can say to the Relief Society, “I have no need of thee”?
Are we to set aside the counsel and plan of God? Are we to prefer the way of man over the way of God? Or are we to ignore both and merely content ourselves with living in the darkness of isolated privacy?
Relief Society is vital to the welfare of every Latter-day Saint woman. But more than that, it is also essential to the welfare of every Latter-day Saint family. Otherwise, why would the Almighty have made it an integral part of his modern kingdom?
Since the Relief Society program will benefit the entire family, the whole family should support it and encourage all sisters to participate in it. Children should want their mothers to attend and learn how to be better mothers. And certainly fathers, of all people, should earnestly desire their wives to become a part of this great organization. Husbands should even selfishly desire this in the interest of better homemaking, of improving the atmosphere of the home, and of increasing its efficiency. But especially should fathers support it as a means of bringing into the family circle that portion of the restored kingdom of God which is available only through the Relief Society. Every husband and father should actually sponsor the attendance of his wife in Relief Society. It should be a “must” in every household.
We have no right to turn our backs on any part of the Lord’s kingdom, and certainly not in exchange for the philosophies and ideologies and organizations of the world. We in the Church must remember that we are under covenant to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.
The ways of men are not God’s ways. The Lord has said that the wisdom of men is often foolishness to him. Revelation is a better guide than human research or speculation.
Remembering the part the Prophet Joseph Smith took in forming the Relief Society, how can we sing “We thank thee, O God, for a Prophet to guide us in these latter-days” (Hymns, no. 196) if we are not willing to follow the prophet’s direction? It is not our privilege to choose what part or portion of the gospel we will live. The Lord expects us to accept and live it all—wholeheartedly!
Brilliant men have tried to stem the tide of retrogression in our modern society. They recite frightening statistics about the erosion of the home, the breakdown of morals, and our ever-increasing dishonesty.
Are you shocked to learn that there are more than 2,000 divorces a week in the United States?
Are you pained to know that three million children in this nation are financially destitute after having experienced family disruption with all of its evils?
Eight million children in America live with only one parent. Another million have been rejected by both parents.
Forty million American husbands and wives need help in solving their marriage problems.
Twenty million homes are in trouble.
Eighty percent of all delinquent children say they receive little or no love or guidance from their parents, who neglected them, rejected them, and were cruel to them.
The rapid breakdown of the home and family in America is appalling. All of the efforts of our well-trained intellectuals cannot stem the tide. Their efforts for the most part have met with failure.
Then should we not now turn to God and his plan? It is certain. It is sure. It is successful. Shall we not endeavor to place in every Latter-day Saint home the safeguards offered by the program of the Church—the whole program, including the Relief Society?
Certainly in the Church, of all places, we should not allow man’s failing ways to displace God’s ways. And neither can any of us continue to ignore God’s way of doing things.
The times are critical. They demand our obedience. If we believe in God, let us prove our faith by our works.
Many women do not attend Relief Society. They have not yet seen the opportunity it affords. They have not yet learned that Relief Society is given us to help solve many of the problems that are now baffling the women of today.
The full import of the restored gospel seems not yet to have dawned upon them. This is more regrettable since it is only through this gospel that we may truly serve the Lord and receive his blessings, and his blessings will bring us peace.
And keep in mind that Relief Society is a part of his program.
So now, sisters, you assembled here today are the leaders who must help to bring every Latter-day Saint woman into this organization. And with them, bring their nonmember friends. All are welcome.
You the leaders must be the leaven in the lump. Go to your homes now and counsel with your priesthood leaders as to how you may best proceed. Obtain their help in urging the brethren to encourage their wives and older daughters to come.
Then we ask you to labor with the women of your areas. Do not be content merely with inviting them to come. Go to them as missionaries. Show them—demonstrate to them—teach them what Relief Society will do for them. Become their friends. Fellowship them regularly and constantly.
One of the areas in which we are most lacking as a people is that of fellowshipping. Paul taught anciently that all saints should be fellowshipped and made to feel that they were fellow citizens in the kingdom and that they were truly of the household of God. (See Eph. 2:19.) People need this sense of belonging. Everybody needs it. Some have left the Church because they were not given this feeling. They were not truly welcomed. Some have been ignored by other members. That is not the spirit of the gospel. It is not the way to promote activity in the Church.
By our friendly spirit, by our adoption of Paul’s teaching, by our truly regarding all Saints as fellow citizens in the kingdom and as members of the household of God, whether they are active or inactive, newcomers or members of long standing—I say by such an attitude we can and will save many souls.
Many know nothing of the Relief Society program. If they knew the facts, they would see what a help Relief Society would be to them. Let them see how our work will enrich their homes and their personal lives. Show them the value of making new friends and companionships among the women who now come. If properly approached, they will be complimented by your attention to them. Most of them will be opened to conversion. Most women are good women, and good women need the companionship of others like themselves.
Be Relief Society missionaries. As you do so, you will be as saviors on Mount Zion to thousands. Their souls are precious; their families are precious in the sight of God. As you bring in these women, you may be bringing salvation to their entire households.
So, sisters, as a means of saving souls and strengthening families, let us endeavor to bring every woman to Relief Society.
Do not make this a one-time effort. It should be a continuing project with each of us. The Good Shepherd did not spare any effort to bring home the lost sheep. Neither should we.
That we may follow his example and truly be his helpers on Mount Zion is my humble prayer. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.