“‘Gifts of Bright’: Relief Society Strengthens My Family,” Ensign, Mar. 1987, 9
Each month when I let Relief Society sisters in my door, bright beams of provident living is the happy result. Sister Felshaw’s exceptional sewing talent shines on in the handiwork of my oldest daughter. Sister Rammell’s persistent good cheer in the face of heavy responsibilities leaves a residual glow that encourages more smiles more often. Sister Dean’s amazing organizational skills and tips on family tending are reflected in our household’s more economical and satisfying methods of handling day-to-day living. Sister Roach’s gracious integration of duty, service, and attention to personal and household appearance is an example that still sparkles in the minds of my daughters.
The gifts of bright continue. Flashes of insight often come to family members who have participated over the years in the many family home evening sessions that I crafted from week-before Relief Society lessons. The sisterhood of Relief Society provides a dazzling display of faith and good works that illuminates the path I am trying to follow to eternal life.
In Revelation 12:1, the perfected church of God is personified as a woman clothed with the sun. [Rev. 12:1] In the same way, I picture female members of our church as women clothed with the sun. Such are the women of the Relief Society of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I’ve learned that it is prudent, practical, proper—and wonderful—to associate with such women.
Off and on (admittedly, too infrequently) I turn my mind, heart, and hands to the effort of strengthening others. And I know that off and on all one and three-quarters million sisters of my special women’s organization are heeding the direction to “bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light.” (Mosiah 18:8.) If I involve myself with such a group, I cannot resist moving toward a brighter light simply because I put myself within their numbers, many of whom know well what kindly nudgings need to be made.
I pause and recall a lesson concept or two taught in Relief Society before taking disciplinary action with a child. I muse upon a brief comment made in passing by a visiting teacher and decide I must greet my husband cheerily when he comes home—even though it has been a rainy day outside and a jam-on-the-carpet day inside.
Heartfelt testimonies of gratitude blossom when a dedicated teacher plants rich reminders of truth in a Spiritual Living lesson. So instead of just sighing contentedly at the freshness of a clear, warm, long-awaited spring day, I kneel and give thanks for secure cycles and new beginnings. My youngest daughter kneels with me, getting a valuable experience in gratitude that I could never have orchestrated on my own.
I hear some after-meeting talk about a couple of astounding ward compassionate service projects that have developed, with no fanfare, simply because the women of the Church care about one another. I determine to follow through on my long-delayed resolve to write letters to some dear and lonely sisters in an area where our family used to live. My husband adds a paragraph to each letter.
Much of Relief Society teaching has the basic underlying urge toward charity: “How much larger your life would be if your self could become smaller in it; if you could really look at other men [and women] with common curiosity and pleasure. … You would break out of this tiny and tawdry theatre in which your own little plot is always being played, and you would find yourself under a freer sky, and in a street full of splendid strangers.” (G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday Image Books, 1959, pp. 20–21.) I’ve realized that the people I profess to love the most—my family members—are sometimes like strangers. Relief Society has helped me to observe those splendid strangers with real interest. We’re learning to do more skipping together under a freer sky.
Would I ever have known that within daughter Marin at such a tender age existed the ability for putting together whimsical culinary wonders? She and I would never have created the beautiful gingerbread Christmas train had not certain skilled sisters in Relief Society shared their talents.
Relief Society has helped me know Chaleen better in a number of ways. This daughter with learning disabilities would not have experienced the delight of poetry had I not been exploring further some beauties of a Relief Society lesson when Chaleen happened to be nearby. Now we often read poetry together, and I learn through Chaleen how to delight more fully in the intricacies of sound.
New ideas, too, on practical household management never cease as the Relief Society moves onward, week to week. I follow some suggestions to finally organize the family records. Our middle daughter helps. To my surprise and great satisfaction, she becomes enthralled with genealogy, wanting her own book of remembrance and spending much time copying records with exactness.
A Relief Society crepe-making demonstration gives me incentive to try recipes more complex than I’ve attempted for years. My family is impressed. My daughters pick up the challenge to be more adventurous in cooking.
I watch the flashing needles long enough to be enticed into trying some quilting. Ideas emerge. I help organize an effort to get the less-inclined-to-quilt gals in my extended family to prepare a family quilt for Mother and Dad Dibb.
Relief Society makes work seem like fun. As I try moving in new directions of household management and environmental enhancement, I’m surprised to perceive feelings of satisfaction that I had associated previously only with spiritual matters. I come to see the connection more clearly. My family has experienced physical enjoyments and down-to-earth helps that wouldn’t have entered our lives had I not attended Relief Society.
Because I, a novice at home canning, am asked to help our local expert with a canning demonstration, my children and husband are exposed to a new world of knowledge that has us all peeling, slicing, and tasting in togetherness.
A Relief Society demonstration on matting and framing makes me finally get some of my children’s unique drawings out of drawers and boxes and up on display. Rooms and self-images are brightened. Lagging talents are again pursued more fully.
Relief Society also sharpens my awareness, and I pass on what I learn as best I can. I actually find myself explaining some nuances of a classical musical selection to a teenage daughter—who winces but nevertheless listens. The tantalizing bits of foreign literature that were worked into some Relief Society lessons seem more relevant as I find ongoing mention in Church publications of such groups of Saints as those in the Gavidia and Usututan wards of the San Miguel El Salvador Stake. New corners of the world seem more interesting as I realize there are members of my organization there—women whose cultures are different but whose eternal goals are exactly the same as mine. My mouth is anxious to pronounce their names. My mind is ready to consider carefully what they perceive to be beautiful. I realize more and more that “I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the culture of all the lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible.” (Mahatma Gandhi, Young India—1924–1926, New York: The Viking Press, 1927, p. 460.)
Our family once played host to a young girl from Spain for a three-week study program. Immediately, our children were happily open to appreciating the richness of Maite’s heritage. The attitude of excitement toward learning about other cultures had been established, to a large extent, because of my enthusiastic comments and reports for years concerning information garnered at Relief Society about faraway countries.
As my Relief Society school continues, my sense of security increases. I take comfort in knowing that there are many, many good women ready, able, and willing to help me wrest my way through the problems of this life. Countless times, Relief Society members have smiled my frowns into history. “The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters” (1 Tim. 5:2) have been my constant support, and line upon line, lady by elect lady, the lives of all my family members have been improved.
Hurray! Over 1,750,000 disparate, exciting, and talented ladies of light stand ready to help me steady and uplift my household. A preposterous assumption? No. It is an expression of the reality that I know for sure after having spent most of my married life as an active member of the Relief Society of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
How fortunate I am to be plugged into a network of experts on tastiness, tidiness, serenity, and serendipitous adventures in all that is virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy! I give a little to the richness and brightness. My household and I receive much more.
May our front doors, back doors, garage doors, and all windows of our houses ever be open to Relief Society.
If my family and I do succeed in achieving the level of spiritual success that our Father in Heaven expects, we know we will have to give much credit to my being linked to an organization of “holy women … who trusted in God.” (1 Pet. 3:5.)