Handbook 2:
Administering the Church

Relief Society

The Relief Society is an auxiliary to the priesthood. All auxiliary organizations exist to help Church members grow in their testimonies of Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the restored gospel. Through the work of the auxiliaries, members receive instruction, encouragement, and support as they strive to live according to gospel principles.

 

9.1 Overview of Relief Society

 9.1.1

Purposes

Relief Society prepares women for the blessings of eternal life by helping them increase their faith and personal righteousness, strengthen families and homes, and help those in need. Relief Society accomplishes these purposes through Sunday gospel instruction, other Relief Society meetings, visiting teaching, and welfare and compassionate service.

 9.1.2

History

The Prophet Joseph Smith organized the Relief Society on March 17, 1842. He taught that the Relief Society was organized for “the relief of the poor, the destitute, the widow and the orphan, and for the exercise of all benevolent purposes” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith [2007], 452). In addition, he taught that the Relief Society was “not only to relieve the poor, but to save souls” (Teachings: Joseph Smith, 453). The larger part of the work of Relief Society today is “to look after the spiritual welfare and salvation … of all the female members of the Church” (Joseph F. Smith, in Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith [1998], 185).

The Relief Society was “divinely made, divinely authorized, divinely instituted, divinely ordained of God” (Joseph F. Smith, in Teachings: Joseph F. Smith, 184). It operates under the direction of priesthood leaders.

 9.1.3

Motto and Seal

The Relief Society’s motto is “Charity never faileth” (1 Corinthians 13:8). This principle is reflected in its seal:Relief Society Seal

 9.1.4

Membership

All adult women in the Church are members of Relief Society.

A young woman normally advances into Relief Society on her 18th birthday or in the coming year. By age 19, each young woman should be fully participating in Relief Society. Because of individual circumstances, such as personal testimony and maturity, school graduation, desire to continue with peers, and college attendance, a young woman may advance into Relief Society earlier than her 18th birthday or remain in Young Women longer. Each young woman counsels with her parents and the bishop to decide what will best help her remain an active participant in the Church.

Young Women and Relief Society leaders work together to make the transition into Relief Society successful for each young woman.

Adult sisters who serve in Primary, Young Women, or other callings that prevent them from attending Sunday Relief Society meetings continue to participate in Relief Society. Visiting teachers are assigned to them, and they are assigned to serve as visiting teachers. They may also be given assignments to provide compassionate service and to teach classes at other Relief Society meetings when such assignments do not impose an undue burden on them.

Women under 18 who are married are also members of Relief Society. For other exceptions, see 10.12.4.

Women of other faiths who attend Relief Society are warmly welcomed and encouraged to participate.

 

9.10 Additional Guidelines and Policies

 9.10.1

Sisters Who Have Special Needs

Sisters who may have special needs include those who are ill, elderly, widowed, divorced, homebound, or bereaved and those who care for chronically ill family members. Other Relief Society members should offer help.

Sisters who have these and other special challenges may come to the Relief Society president with their concerns. She should listen, offer love and encouragement, and maintain appropriate confidentiality. If she learns of possible concerns with worthiness or sensitive family matters, she refers the sisters to the bishop.

For information about helping sisters with disabilities, see 21.1.26 and disabilities.lds.org.

 9.10.2

Dress Standards

The Relief Society presidency teaches sisters to be well groomed and modest in their attire. Presidency members help sisters understand that at Church meetings, their appearance and clothing should show reverence and respect for the Lord. Relief Society leaders also help sisters understand that when they go to the temple, they should wear clothing that is suitable for entering the house of the Lord. On these occasions they should avoid wearing casual clothes, sports attire, and ostentatious jewelry.

 9.10.3

Offering Support at Times of Death

When a death occurs in the ward, the bishop may ask the Relief Society president to contact the family to give comfort, assess needs, and offer assistance. He may request similar assistance from the elders quorum president and the high priests group leader. Melchizedek Priesthood leaders and Relief Society leaders coordinate these efforts.

In preparing for a funeral, the bishop may also ask Relief Society leaders to give service such as helping with flowers, meals, or care of children and providing a simple meal for family members after the funeral service. For additional information about funerals, see 18.6.

If possible, deceased members who were endowed should be buried in temple clothing. In some circumstances, the bishop may ask the Relief Society president to assign an endowed woman to dress or oversee the proper dressing of a deceased endowed woman. The bishop and Relief Society president ensure that this assignment is given to a person who will not find it objectionable. Guidelines for dressing deceased members are provided in Instructions for Clothing the Dead Who Have Received Their Endowments. Leaders may obtain these instructions from Church Distribution Services.

For additional instructions on dressing the deceased in temple clothing, the bishop may refer to Handbook 1, 3.4.9.

The Relief Society president, visiting teachers, and other sisters continue to offer support, comfort, and assistance to the bereaved during the period of adjustment following the death.

 9.10.4

Young Women Who Are Pregnant out of Wedlock or Who Are Unwed Mothers

See 10.12.4.

 9.10.5

Instructions about Temple Clothing and Garments

See 21.1.42.

 9.10.6

Finances

See 13.2.8.