Marie Holley, a single sister in Grand Forks, Minnesota, fought cancer for three years before she became too weak to care for herself. After that, a friend helped her for several months, but the demands of working all day and caring for Marie all night were too much for her friend; she became ill as well.
It was then that the ward Relief Society became involved. The organization had never been called on to care for someone who was terminally ill, so the Relief Society presidency prayed for guidance. Through inspiration, they called women to help; then, with the help of hospice volunteers, they taught the sisters how to care for Marie.
For fourteen months, Relief Society sisters stayed with Marie twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Marie got the help she needed, and the Relief Society sisters were blessed from their association with her. But another benefit of the service soon became apparent—increased sisterhood in the ward. Often the women didn’t know the person they were relieving or the one who would take their place. But the unknown faces soon became dear friends as the women stopped to chat.
Looking back to that time, ward member Karen Anderson says, “I thought about how all [those] strangers had become friends and about how much we had all learned from Marie—about love, caring, and learning to give of ourselves. We had learned to recognize the good in each person and to realize the blessings that come from service.” (Ensign, Apr. 1986, p. 62.)
Like Marie and the women in her ward, we, too, can participate in the sisterhood of the gospel. The key to developing this sisterhood is learning to follow the Savior in loving one another. Explaining how his people could become children of God, Alma commanded them that they should have “their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another.” (Mosiah 18:21.) To be “knit together” implies an interweaving of lives that creates a beautiful and unified whole.
One sister says, “I take comfort in knowing that there are many, many good women ready, able, and willing to help me wrest my way through the problems of this life. Countless times, Relief Society members have smiled my frowns into history. … [They] have been my constant support.” (Ensign, Mar. 1987, p. 11.)
“There are those in our church today who feel lonely and isolated,” said Barbara W. Winder, former general president of the Relief Society. “I have anguished over the cry of those sisters who want to contribute, who want to belong, who long for companionship and yet do not feel love and acceptance. I search, too, for the faces of the dear sisters we wish were here, who may be kept away with struggles of their own, whose presence would make us all stronger. We need you, each and every one.” (Ensign, Nov. 1984, p. 99.)
It is easy to be friendly and helpful to someone with whom we have much in common, but do we reach out to those who speak different languages or have different life-styles? The gospel tells us that all women are our eternal sisters. Our challenge is to accept someone who is different, look past a person’s weaknesses, forgive a sister who has wronged us, love someone who is angry with us, or repent and change our attitudes and actions. Such demands purify us and bring us closer to living a Christlike life.
The Lord understood that we would need help to meet life’s trials. That is why he gave us the gospel—and each other.
Discuss ways we can contribute to the unity of the ward or branch sisterhood.
Share—or have the sister you are visiting share—an experience in which you have felt the influence of sisterhood.
(See Family Home Evening Resource Book, pp. 98–108, for related materials.)