Lisa, a typical eighteen-year-old, stood apart from the cluster of women chatting at church. These sisters were so much older; they were not her peers. Could she feel comfortable in this new Relief Society setting? She paused, thinking, “Maybe I’ll come next week,” but then the Spirit urged her on. As she neared the door, the Relief Society president reached out a hand. “Oh, welcome, welcome! We’re glad you’re here. We’ve been waiting for you.”
All over the world these young adults, who have learned leadership skills and have given service in the Young Women program, are making an important transition in their lives. They come to the lifelong sisterhood of Relief Society, bringing gifts of energy, enthusiasm, spirituality, and religious commitment.
The door to Relief Society needs to be wide open. Like the disciples at the Waters of Mormon, we want our “hearts knit together in unity and love one towards another.” (Mosiah 18:21.) These new Relief Society sisters will feel unity and love as we value their perspectives and put their vitality to use.
What spirit and talents do young women bring to Relief Society? How can we open our hearts to these young sisters?
At the first meetings of the Relief Society in 1842, women of all ages and experience joined together—grandmothers, mothers, single women, and young sisters in their late teens. They shared spiritual experiences. They rendered charitable service. One of them was nineteen-year-old Bathsheba Smith. Sixty years later, Bathsheba became general president of the Relief Society. In the tradition of Relief Society, there is room for all, and we learn from one another.
A modern Latter-day Saint woman describes her twenty years as a member of the Church and a member of Relief Society. Ruth Morgan of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, reflects, “I have grown from an unsure young adult to a young wife and mother and then to a sister of experience in my middle years. At the age of nineteen, I sat next to a sweet grandmother and learned to knit. She also was learning to knit. … I learned of a Heavenly Father who loves me and a Savior who showed the way. I learned to teach, to hug, to lead, and to follow. As I have walked through these last twenty years I have become a Relief Society sister, standing tall as a much-loved daughter of my Heavenly Father.”
How do we today help prepare young sisters for their futures?
In every ward and branch, young sisters are influenced by the example of others. Role models inspire commitment.
Tamae Onodera of Ichinoseki, Japan, said she began attending Relief Society as a student, soon after she was baptized. At first the lessons were hard to follow. The women in her branch, however, always welcomed and encouraged her. Since then, Tamae declares, the things she has learned in Relief Society classes have become a truly necessary part of her life.
Women of varying ages can support and strengthen each other. We know of Ruth and Naomi’s mutual regard and service. Later, Mary, the mother of Jesus, sought counsel from her older cousin Elisabeth before the births of their sons. The young Mary’s dedication to the Lord is a pattern for sisters of all ages: “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.” (Luke 1:46–47.)
We invite all to welcome these sisters coming from the Young Women program into Relief Society, where we can enjoy one another’s talents and share activities and testimonies.
What can we do to fortify young sisters through Relief Society?