Looking back on his life, a man recently shared this tender story with me: “When I was growing up my father was less active in the Church. He struggled with alcohol and in his darkest moods could become harsh and accusing. He normally didn’t object to Mom serving in the ward. She worked in Primary for 38 years, and during much of that time she served in Young Women. She carried a heavy load. Her marriage was difficult, and I now know that she was discouraged at times, but I didn’t know it then.
“I didn’t realize until later that the sisters in our ward were her strength. She didn’t work in the Relief Society leadership, but she always attended the meetings, and she loved her friends there. I never thought of them as the ladies of Relief Society; they were simply Mom’s sisters. They cared about her and loved her. She had all brothers and all sons. She found the sisters she wanted and needed in our ward. I know she shared her feelings with them—feelings she couldn’t express anywhere else. None of that seemed ‘Relief Society’ to me then, but I understand now that it was.”1
This son’s memory of Relief Society touched my heart. Yes, Relief Society’s members are women, but Relief Society does not bless only the women; it blesses each one of us.
How has Relief Society blessed your life?
I asked this question of President Hinckley. He responded: “Relief Society has blessed my family and the family of my dear wife for some seven generations. Since the earliest days of the Church, our mothers and daughters have been taught of their obligations to those in distress. They have been schooled in the finer points of homemaking, encouraged in their spiritual development, and guided in the realization of their full potential as women. Much of this has taken place in Relief Society and has then been brought home to bless the life of each member of my family.”2
I have my own sweet memories of playing under my grandmother’s quilting frames as she and her Relief Society sisters stitched. I was young, but I knew that this was part of Relief Society—blessing the lives of others. I was mentored with love for Relief Society by my mother and my grandmother. I love Relief Society—I think I always have. Relief Society has helped me know the Savior and has strengthened my love for Him and my Heavenly Father. My belonging to Relief Society has provided me with many opportunities to learn, love, serve, and be filled with the love of the Lord in my life as I strive to keep my covenants, exercise charity, and strengthen my family.
So I ask again, how many ways has Relief Society blessed your life?
Visiting the Missionary Training Center in Brazil, I said to the missionaries, “Tell me what you know about Relief Society.” One elder said, “Casseroles!” Another added, “My mother and sister belong to it.” Finally, one declared, “It’s the Lord’s organization for women.” He was right, but there’s more. Relief Society is “a fundamental part of the gospel.”3
The year 1842 was extremely difficult for the Prophet Joseph Smith. Former friends had turned on him. Other enemies wanted to abduct him from Nauvoo and blunt the growth of the Church. That same year he organized the Relief Society to care for the poor and needy and “to save souls.”4 President J. Reuben Clark Jr. observed that amidst these trials, Joseph Smith “turned to the sisters for the consolation, for the uplift of which he stood in such sad need at that time.”5 This is a moving and humbling thought: a prophet of God seeking the solace of his sisters—women to whom he had given the charge “charity never faileth.”6 To me this has echoes of those women who mourned with the Savior on Golgotha.
Relief Society has blessed prophets’ lives. How has it blessed yours?
President Boyd K. Packer has said, “The defenses of the home and family are greatly reinforced when the wife and mother and daughters belong to Relief Society.”7 Why? Because women are the heart of the home.
My belonging to Relief Society has renewed, strengthened, and committed me to be a better wife and mother and daughter of God. My heart has been enlarged with gospel understanding and with love of the Savior and what He’s done for me. So to you, dear sisters, I say: Come to Relief Society! It will fill your homes with love and charity; it will nurture and strengthen you and your families. Your home needs your righteous heart.
During a recent assignment to Peru, I visited the humble home of Brother and Sister Morales. It was filled with love. They are the parents of three children and have been members of the Church for four years. Sister Morales has learned much in Relief Society. To help provide for their family and their missionary son, she took in washing and ironing. She helped with two children of a neighbor who had to leave home to work. She supported her husband, who is struggling with kidney failure and was serving in the elders quorum. They discussed the Heber J. Grant lessons together in preparation for his teaching the lesson.
I asked her, “Are you a visiting teacher?” With a smile on her face she responded, “Oh, yes, Sister Parkin. I visit four sisters. Two are less active, but I will love them back.”
Leaving their home, I noticed a hand-drawn sign above the door. It asked, “Did you read your scriptures today?” Relief Society is blessing this home, this ward, this neighborhood. How has it blessed you?
Belonging to Relief Society is critical for newly baptized sisters and, by extension, their families. While serving with my husband as he presided over the England London South Mission, I met many new converts—like Gloria, a single mother. When she joined the Church, she joined Relief Society. It was a safe place where she could ask questions about her newfound faith. She heard women openly share their experiences, which led her to experiment upon the word of God.8 She’s received her patriarchal blessing; she’s been to the temple; she serves in the Church. I think of President Hinckley’s counsel to me: “[Women] need to be together in an environment that bolsters faith.”9 Relief Society provides such an environment.
I thought of the stripling warriors when I heard the son of a Relief Society sister say: “I have been blessed by the faith and example of my mother. By the time I became a priesthood holder, I had learned as much about home teaching from my mother’s visiting teaching efforts as by my father’s example of home teaching. … Her faith in the priesthood affects my faith and strengthens my desire to be [a] worthy … elder.”10
Brothers and sisters, I am changed and blessed, I am better because of Relief Society. And I believe we all are.
I pray that mothers and daughters will participate with more vigor, that husbands will support their wives, and that both mothers and fathers will prepare their daughters for Relief Society. I encourage priesthood leaders to shepherd God’s daughters, young and old, into Relief Society—one of the many miracles of the Restoration. As we take these steps, we will be overwhelmed with gratitude for this sacred organization.
Because Relief Society is divinely designed, it blesses not only women but the family and the Church. I testify that it is a fundamental part of the Lord’s restored gospel because it abides in charity—His pure love. Of this I bear witness, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.