When the Prophet Joseph Smith organized the first Relief Society on 17 March 1842, 18 women were present. Three were teenagers. Lucy Mack Smith, mother of the Prophet, later gave profound instructions for Relief Society sisters of any age when she admonished them to “cherish one another, watch over one another, comfort one another and gain instruction, that we may all sit down in heaven together” (minutes of the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo, 24 Mar. 1842).
As Relief Society sisters, we have an opportunity to welcome Latter-day Saint women into our circle, encouraging them to join us in doing good and seeking knowledge, “having [our] hearts knit together in unity and in love” (Mosiah 18:21).
The Relief Society general presidency recently met with some young women to learn how they feel about making the transition from the Young Women organization to Relief Society. Their comments reflect a mixture of uncertainty and anticipation.
“I’m a little bit scared to go into Relief Society,” said one young woman, soon to turn 18. “In Young Women, all the lessons pertain to what I’m going through. But when I think of Relief Society, I think of older women talking about what concerns older women and maybe not what concerns me.”
One young woman commented: “I think I’ll be entering into a formal situation in which the ladies are quiet and always well behaved. I just hope I’ll be able to belong and have fun with them.”
Will I belong? Will I enjoy Relief Society? Will I be able to serve? These are some questions in the minds of young sisters. Each of us needs to assure these sisters that we are their friends, that they are valued, and that they will indeed have opportunities to share their talents and serve.
Mary Ellen Smoot, Relief Society general president, counsels us to reach out to young women entering Relief Society, helping them recognize the profound influence for good they will make. “It will be within this loving sisterhood,” she says, “that young women enlarge their understanding of gospel principles, build firm testimonies, and make Christlike service a part of their lives” (comments at Relief Society open house, spring 1999).
The Relief Society declaration affirms Relief Society’s ideals and provides direction in helping all sisters achieve their potential:
We are beloved spirit daughters of God, and our lives have meaning, purpose, and direction.
As a worldwide sisterhood, we are united in our devotion to Jesus Christ, our Savior and Exemplar. We are women of faith, virtue, vision, and charity who:
Increase our testimonies of Jesus Christ through prayer and scripture study.
Seek spiritual strength by following the promptings of the Holy Ghost.
Dedicate ourselves to strengthening marriages, families, and homes.
Find nobility in motherhood and joy in womanhood.
Delight in service and good works.
Love life and learning.
Stand for truth and righteousness.
Sustain the priesthood as the authority of God on earth.
Rejoice in the blessings of the temple, understand our divine destiny, and strive for exaltation.
(Ensign, Nov. 1999, 92–93)
For each of us, Relief Society provides growth, satisfaction, friendship, and spiritual enlightenment. It provides sisterhood for a lifetime.