When Monika Fullmer of Licking, Missouri, served in a Relief Society presidency in Germany, she became acquainted with Anne, a less-active sister. (The name has been changed.) Anne’s visiting teachers encouraged her to come to church, but she was hesitant to come back after being away for so long. The sisters finally convinced her that she would be welcomed with open arms.
At first, Anne sat in the back of the meetinghouse. But gradually, as the women in the ward drew her in, she became comfortable. The Relief Society presidency soon felt impressed that they should request that Anne be called as Relief Society music leader. Even though she knew very little about music, she accepted the assignment. With the support of the sisters in Relief Society, Anne learned to fulfill her calling, then accepted other leadership positions in the ward. In time, Anne’s husband was baptized, and she and her family were sealed in the temple.
“Whenever I think of sisterhood, I think of Anne,” says Sister Fullmer. “The Relief Society sisters’ love and acceptance made her feel welcome—and then needed.”
Relief Society has a history of touching lives and mending spirits. When the Prophet Joseph Smith organized the Relief Society in March 1842, the twenty original members were united in purpose and faith, but their conditions in life were quite different. Several were wives of Church leaders and had young families. One was the new bride of a storekeeper who was not a member of the Church. Others were unmarried. But each woman brought unique strengths to begin this charitable work.
In 1992, our 2.78 million Relief Society members span the globe. We represent diverse races and cultures in every time zone. We have different capabilities. Yet we are all members of the same society.
As Paul taught, we are all part of the body of Christ:
“But now are they many members, yet but one body.
“And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. …
“Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.” (1 Cor. 12:20–21, 27.)
How can diverse talents bless our common efforts?
The spirit of unity still motivates us to value our diversity as we blend our efforts. “We want each woman to prize her own gifts,” says President Elaine L. Jack. “We encourage you to discover the talents of others. We invite you to enjoy your differences and your similarities as you bless each other’s lives.”
Within a few years after Sandra Edwards of Kingston, Tennessee, was baptized, she was divorced, lost her mother to a stroke, and then lost her son in a tragic automobile accident. During these crises, the members of her branch were her lifeline. They helped her move, tended her children, brought food to her home, and gave her encouragement, love, and help. “Never once was there a critical word,” she says. “Never once did I feel left out, ashamed, lonely, unwanted, or unappreciated.”
“We must work hard,” counsels Elder John K. Carmack, “at creating unity in diversity. … We each need to assign ourselves as a ‘committee of one’ to create the attitudes of inclusion, acceptance, and unity wherever we find ourselves.” (Ensign, Mar. 1991, p. 9.)
How can we show we value each individual?