You’ve heard your mothers, grandmothers, aunts, friends, and just about every other female you know talking about it for months: It’s the Relief Society sesquicentennial celebration. This month, the organization celebrates its 150th birthday.
You might be wondering what that has to do with you, since you’re happily involved in Young Women right now. It won’t be that long, though, until you too are part of Relief Society. It really is something to anticipate with excitement.
And just in case you’re a little bit nervous about moving on, members of the Relief Society General Board want to answer some of your most-asked questions.
Q: Isn’t Relief Society just for mothers and grandmothers? What does it have to offer me?
A: Relief Society is for every woman in the Church who is 18 or older. It offers you—
A chance to build your own testimony of the gospel without having to rely so heavily on others.
Many ways to develop your own self-esteem and celebrate your individuality through broadened opportunities for Christlike service.
Opportunities to learn to love and serve others.
Skills and advice for strengthening family circles.
A feeling of unified sisterhood with the other women of your ward.
Q: What exactly is Relief Society?
A: It is one of the oldest and largest (three million members) women’s organizations in the world. The Lord established it by priesthood authority through the Prophet Joseph Smith. Its purpose is to help you “come unto Christ” by learning and applying gospel principles while you grow and develop as a woman.
Relief Society involves Sunday meetings much like you attended in Young Women, with lessons on rotating topics of spiritual living, home and family education, compassionate service, and social relations.
There are also monthly homemaking meetings. These are flexible meetings with topics as varied as car maintenance, museum trips, cooking skills, and principles of emotional and mental well-being, with many opportunities for service in the Church and community. You can give input through your homemaking leader if there’s a skill or interest you would like incorporated in your homemaking program.
Q: Can younger women be involved in leadership roles in Relief Society?
A: Yes. We need young women. We benefit from your enthusiasm and learn from your ideas, skills, and talents. A willingness to serve and learn matters more than age. Young women make great teachers, choristers, pianists, counselors, and visiting teachers, and you make an important difference just by participating.
Q: How can I get more out of a lesson that seems to be geared toward married sisters with children?
A: Lessons are for now and for the future. You may think they apply only to mothers, but you can apply many of those same principles at home right now with your parents and siblings or roommates and friends.
Your input and opinions can contribute valuable ideas to these lessons as well. In participating in the lessons, you, as a learner, have equal responsibility with the teacher in making the lesson become relevant to the needs of the sisters there, young and old.
Q: What exactly is the purpose of visiting teaching, and will I be able to do it? I’m a little uncomfortable with the prospect of visiting sisters who are a lot older than I am. What will we talk about?
A: All sisters can be visiting teachers. It is a great opportunity to build friendships with sisters you might not otherwise get to know. Every sister has the gospel in common, and from there your relationship can branch out to meet other needs. And don’t forget, you’ll have a companion there to help.
Q: Does Relief Society have extra activities like we did in Young Women?
A: Relief Society does have extra activities—socials, service projects, sports and recreation, homemaking, and occasional midweek activities, all geared toward gospel principles.
Q: What am I expected to do in Relief Society?
A: Just come! Show up. Share your youth and energy with other sisters and learn from their experiences. Contribute to lessons. Participate in activities. You will probably be asked to use your talents in some way or to serve on a committee or hold a calling.
Q: How can I make a contribution when there are so many older sisters with so much more experience involved?
A: Contribution is not necessarily a function of your experience or age. You bring your own talents, testimony, interests, and diversity. There are wide varieties of experience—age is irrelevant.
Q: What can I do, and what will the organization do, to make the transition comfortable for me?
A: Transition is not necessarily difficult, and you’ll go through many more in your life. Think of those you’ve already been through. What will you do? Love, serve, share, laugh, cry, grow. What will they do? The same.
Q: If my mother doesn’t go to Relief Society, who can I sit with?
A: Be aware that there are others who are probably wondering who they can sit by. Sit by someone who needs you, or someone you may need. This is an opportunity to get to know someone you’ve never met before and discover a new friend.
You’re almost 18. You’ve nearly completed Young Women, with all its thrills, growing experiences, and spirituality. So what do you have in common with Sophia Robinson, Sophia Marks, and Bathsheba Smith?
They were your age when, on March 17, 1842, they went to an important meeting in the Lodge Room of Joseph Smith’s red brick store in Nauvoo—the organizational meeting of the Relief Society.
They were three younger women among the 20 women present.
The Prophet encouraged those in attendance to develop (among other things) their ability to care for the poor, the needy, the destitute, the lonely, and others with special needs.
When you turn 18 and step from Young Women into Relief Society, you’ll be one among three million, but you’ll be just as important and needed in your ward or branch as those young ladies were in the Relief Society led by Emma Smith and Eliza R. Snow!