Voices of Faith


Voices of Faith

Twelve sisters have served as general president of Relief Society during its 150-year history. President Elaine L. Jack (see page 10) was preceded by eleven sisters, who have all spoken of the call to serve others that is central to the gospel of Jesus Christ and the purpose for which Relief Society was established.

Emma Hale Smith, 1842–44: “The object of the Society … [is] to seek out and relieve the distressed—that each member should be ambitious to do good.” (Minutes, 17 March 1842.)

Emma H. Smith

Emma H. Smith, by Lee Greene Richards

Eliza Roxey Snow, 1866–87: “Let your first business be to perform your duties at home. Inasmuch as you are wise stewards, you will find time for social duties, because these are incumbent upon us as daughters and mothers in Zion. By seeking to perform every duty, you will find that your capacity will increase, and you will be astonished at what you can accomplish.” (Ensign, Dec. 1977, p. 38. Original in Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star, 13 Jan. 1874, p. 21.)

Eliza R. Snow

Eliza R. Snow, by John Willard Clawson

Zina Diantha Huntington Young, 1888–1901: “Seek for a testimony, as you would, my dear sisters, for a diamond concealed. If someone told you by digging long enough in a certain spot you would find a diamond of unmeasured wealth, do you think you would begrudge time or strength or means spent to obtain that treasure? Then I will tell you that if you will dig in the depths of your own hearts you will find with the aid of the Spirit of the Lord, the pearl of great price, the testimony of the truth of this work.” (Young Woman’s Journal, April 1892, p. 319.)

Zina D. H. Young

Zina D. H. Young, by John Willard Clawson

Bathsheba Wilson Smith, 1901–10: “I am convinced that it were better to be faithful and enduring to the end showing worthiness in overmastering self and upholding the standard of truth, than to rest in apathy and ease, forgetful of God and unmindful of the weak, the weary and desolate.” (Woman’s Exponent, January 1906, p. 1.)

Bathsheba W. Smith

Bathsheba W. Smith, by Lee Greene Richards

Emmeline Blanche Wells, 1910–21: “It is [my] strongest desire that our young women of today be made to comprehend the work of the early members who, without the facilities of the present time, comforted the sad and distressed, visited the widow and fatherless, and were like ministering angels going hither and thither on their errands of mercy and compassion. The Lord must have been very near to the women at that early period and braced them up for the new duty which had been given them of such great value to humanity.” (Relief Society Bulletin, May 1914, p. 3.)

Emmeline B. Wells

Emmeline B. Wells, by Lee Greene Richards

Clarissa Smith Williams, 1921–28: “This great trust which the Prophet Joseph Smith gave to women eighty years ago, has been a great blessing, not only to the Relief Society women but to the communities in which they have lived. Through our organization the gospel has been preached, the needy have been looked after, the sick have been comforted, the downhearted have been cheered, a message of love and of blessing has ever emanated from Relief Society workers. … The greatest thing in the world is love. And if we keep that always in our hearts, and give it as a message to those about us, we will be blessed and will be instruments in blessing those with whom we associate.” (The Relief Society Magazine, June 1922, p. 312.)

Clarissa S. Williams

Clarissa S. Williams, by Lee Greene Richards

Louise Yates Robison, 1928–39: “Although our records are well kept, there is no human power which can give an account of the deeds of loving kindness performed by our Relief Society members.” (Relief Society Magazine, March 1931, p. 143.)

Louise Y. Robison

Louise Y. Robison, by John Willard Clawson

Amy Brown Lyman, 1940–45: “Prevention of poverty, disease, and crime is much better and much cheaper than relief or cure. … The suggestive steps in family welfare are relief of existing distress, prevention of new distress, and the raising of human life to its highest level.” (Amy Brown Lyman, In Retrospect: Autobiography of Amy Brown Lyman, Salt Lake City: General Board of Relief Society, 1945, p. 18.)

Amy B. Lyman

Amy B. Lyman, by Lee Greene Richards

Belle Smith Spafford, 1945–74: “If I were to ask most any faithful Latter-day Saint mother what were the two dearest things on earth to her, I think she would unhesitatingly reply, ‘The restored Gospel and my family.’ The Gospel gives to Latter-day Saint mothers the loftiest concept of home and family life known to mankind.” (Church News, 11 Oct. 1958, pp. 6–7.)

Belle S. Spafford

Belle S. Spafford, by Alvin Gittins

Barbara Bradshaw Smith, 1974–84: “Some of our greatest learning experiences will come as we give compassionately of ourselves. We may forget to be compassionate, but God never will. It is important for us to remember that this is a significant part of our human experience. In fact, it seems to be that, of all our learning, that which we obtain by way of giving compassionately is the most significant learning we ever do. … The work of compassion in Relief Society has been both consistent and adaptable over the years. As new needs arise among our people, the work of the Relief Society is modified to meet those needs. So today, as a worldwide organization, our purpose exists as it always has: to encourage us as women in the compassionate work characterized by the Prophet Joseph Smith as ‘according to your natures.’” (1978 BYU Devotional Speeches of the Year, Provo: BYU Press, 1979, p. 17.)

Barbara B. Smith

Barbara B. Smith, by Cloy Kent

Barbara Woodhead Winder, 1984–90: “The work of Relief Society is focused on the pure and simple part of the gospel, to develop faith and bear testimony; to render compassionate service as we care for the needy; to strengthen our families here and in eternity; and to work with our ‘hearts knit together in unity and love one towards another.’ (Mosiah 18:21.)” (Ensign, May 1990, p. 76.)

Barbara W. Winder

Barbara W. Winder, by Cloy Kent