Mormon Journal

By Elder Mark E. Petersen


Why Every Woman Needs Relief Society

… Worldliness is increasing at a frightening rate. I do not speak of sin and corruption alone. I speak also of worldly philosophies and ideologies which now compete with the gospel for our acceptance and adoption.

We are too prone to accept the wisdom of the world rather than the humble advice of leaders of the Church.

Now is the time to remind ourselves that God has restored his gospel and that it is given to us as a way of life—our way of life—God’s way of life.

When the Prophet Joseph Smith organized and established the Church, he included in that organization, the women’s Relief Society. Do we realize the significance of that?

Relief Society was made a part of the restored church by action of the great restorer, Joseph Smith. It was given to the women of the Church in Nauvoo during the formative period of the Church. It was intended to fill a great need. It was expected that it would be perpetuated down through the years. It was to accomplish certain specific ends. For example:

1. It was to make better Latter-day Saints of us all.

2. It was to build stronger homes.

3. It was to strengthen our marriages.

4. It was to help us rear stronger Latter-day Saint children.

5. It was to help us make the Golden Rule function better among us as we render compassionate service to others.

6. It was to strengthen our communities and make our neighborhoods better places to live.

7. It was to educate our sisters in successful ways to solve their personal problems.

8. It was to give them an appreciation of good literature and other cultural advantages to enrich and broaden their lives.

9. It was to help our women see their inspired role in life as partners with God in the high estate of wives and mothers.

10. It was to help our sisters to know that Mormon women are not second class citizens; that they are not confined and circumscribed; and that they need not look for liberation in the avenues of the world.

Inasmuch, then, as Relief Society is the inspired and God-given organization for the women of the Church, is it not needed by every Latter-day Saint woman? What Mormon woman can say to the Relief Society, “I have no need of thee”?

Relief Society is vital to the welfare of every Latter-day Saint woman. But more than that, it is also essential to the welfare of every Latter-day Saint family. Otherwise, why would the Almighty have made it an integral part of his modern kingdom?

Since the Relief Society program will benefit the entire family, the whole family should support it and encourage all sisters to participate in it. Children should want their mothers to attend and learn how to be better mothers. And certainly fathers, of all people, should earnestly desire their wives to become a part of this great organization. Husbands should even selfishly desire this in the interest of better homemaking, of improving the atmosphere of the home, and of increasing its efficiency. But especially should fathers support it as a means of bringing into the family circle that portion of the restored kingdom of God which is available only through the Relief Society. Every husband and father should actually sponsor the attendance of his wife in Relief Society. It should be a “must” in every household.

Many women do not attend Relief Society. They have not yet seen the opportunity it affords. They have not yet learned that Relief Society is given us to help solve many of the problems that are now baffling the women of today.

The full import of the restored gospel seems not yet to have dawned upon them. This is more regrettable since it is only through this gospel that we may truly serve the Lord and receive his blessings, and his blessings will bring us peace.

And keep in mind that Relief Society is a part of his program.

Be Relief Society missionaries. As you do so, you will be as saviors on Mount Zion to thousands. Their souls are precious; their families are precious in the sight of God. As you bring in these women, you may be bringing salvation to their entire households.

So, sisters, as a means of saving souls and strengthening families, let us endeavor to bring every woman to Relief Society.

She Was the Mother I Had Never Known

My mother died when I was only six, and the longing to know her always gnawed at my heart, especially during my teen years. I wanted to know about her activities, her dates, her clothes, if she ever taught Sunday School (that was my job at the time). So when I was eighteen, I made a book and dedicated it to my future eighteen-year-old daughter, so that she would know about my life.

Then, several years after my marriage, my mother’s father gave me a small notebook he had found. It was a five-month diary of my mother’s, beginning with her high school graduation in 1917. How thrilled I was to read her own thoughts and feelings at last, rather than getting second-hand reports. I found out what her daily activities were: washing and scrubbing and cooking for her family since her own mother had died two years before.

But she found time for other things: in five months, she saw twenty-four movies. I found out about her dates, her excitement in traveling to the old Saltair resort on the shores of the Great Salt Lake, of strolling through Liberty Park in Salt Lake City on Sunday afternoon, and of faithfully, every week, teaching her Sunday School class.

Then, in the fall of 1975, a cousin brought from California a photo album that had belonged to my mother’s sister, containing several dozen photos of my mother. My heart’s desire was fulfilled. She was always smiling—sparkling. And her clothes! Velveteen skirts, beribboned blouses, (blouses trimmed with ribbons), large brimmed hats loaded with flowers.

Seeing these pictures and rereading the words she wrote, I feel very close to my mother. When I meet her again, she won’t be a stranger.

“A Small Taste of Love”

When I first met Bert Braack in the early 1930s he was nearing the end of his search. He had taken the Bible admonition, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Matt. 7:7), as his personal invitation to prayer, and it had brought him a challenging answer.

Bert’s mother died when he was nine, and his father, an atheist who wanted no part of religion, ran preachers off with a gun. The large family of children received no religious and little moral training. Drinking, smoking, and swearing were a way of life with them.

Yet as Bert grew to maturity and left home to make his way in the world, he says there was a deep craving within him. He wanted desperately to know if there was a God. And if so, what was that God like?

He began attending different churches and reading the Bible. The words in Matthew prompted him to ask for himself, and so, like the youthful Joseph Smith, with an intense desire to know the truth, he offered his first prayer: “If you are there, God, let me know and I will do what you want me to do.” And as he knelt, he says, “A great peace engulfed me, my heart burned within me, and a joy such as I had never known flowed over me. I felt as if I were completely immersed in a great spiritual essence.”

For three days this feeling remained with him, and during all that time, he says, “I hardly felt my feet touch the ground. The pure love of God seemed to completely encompass me, and it was wonderful. During this time I loved everything. I had never cared much for children, but now a great love flowed out from me toward them. I had cursed the rain; now, drenched in it, I loved every minute of it. If this is a small taste of the love of God that fills the celestial kingdom, no wonder the lamb and the lion can lie down together and there is nothing to hurt or make afraid.”

After three days this great joy left him, and he felt he had lost the most precious thing in the world. In great agony of soul he prayed to God to restore it, but he was left on his own. Only now there was a great difference—he knew there was a God. He knew God was real, for he had felt his love and power. He knew God would answer sincere prayer, for his prayer had been answered.

Then came a time of soul-searching. He had made God a promise. He would keep it. He would do what God wanted him to do—if only he could find out what it was. Determined to put his life in harmony with the truth, he first felt God would want him to change his life, so he quit smoking and drinking and tried to overcome other faults.

Then, surely God would want him to learn the truth. He began to study the Bible. Later he read the Koran, works on Buddha, Confucius, and other religious philosophers. The religion shelves at the public library became his schoolroom. He could not rest until he gained knowledge of the truth.

“The local protestant minister was a sincere man who wanted to baptize me,” Bert recalls, “but I gave him a strange answer. I told him that it would do no good for him to baptize me because he didn’t have the authority. I don’t know why I felt this way, but I knew it was true.”

At this point Bert arranged to move to Raymond, Washington, where he remembered seeing many churches. There he began questioning the ministers. “What is God like? Describe him to me. If I met him walking down the street would he be a man? Is he six feet tall, or more?”

The answers were not satisfying. He was told he could not meet God, that God couldn’t walk, that he was not any size but was something that filled the universe.

One day he noticed a small tract at his sister’s home called Rays of Living Light. He read it excitedly and asked his sister where it came from. “If you had been out on the desert for days, dying of thirst, and someone gave you a drink of clear, cold water, you would feel as I did when I read that tract,” he says. “I knew it was the truth. It was as if I were dying of thirst for the truth, and now I had received a small cup of it. I wanted more.”

Bert’s sister told him that her doctor, who was something called a “branch president” in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, had given it to her. She thought they were called “Mormons,” too.

Soon Bert had some well-marked tracts, a Book of Mormon, and an invitation to attend church. It was at the doctor’s office I first met my husband, Bert Braack. I next saw him in church. He attended all the meetings. His searching questions kept the members busy studying for the answers.

At last he had found someone who could explain God to him. Joseph Smith’s description of God and Jesus rang true. He could understand a God with a real, tangible body—a God who could walk and talk, one he could meet face to face and who could love with the great love he had felt once before. After a long search, he knew he had found the church with authority to baptize him, and since his immersion one autumn day in the cold Willapa River, his testimony has never faltered.