Relief Society is the women’s organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Its purpose is to help prepare women for the blessings of eternal life as they increase faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and His Atonement; strengthen individuals, families, and homes through ordinances and covenants; and work in unity to help those in need.
All adult women in the Church are members of Relief Society. Through Relief Society, sisters “receive a vision and assurance of their identity as daughters of God” with lives of purpose and direction (Daughters in My Kingdom: The History and Work of Relief Society , 171). Sisters also increase their self-reliance, enlarge their talents, expand their knowledge, strengthen families, and reach out to those in need. These ministering, leadership, and teaching opportunities strengthen women in their efforts to become disciples of Jesus Christ.
The First Presidency stated, “We testify that the Lord has restored the fulness of the gospel through the Prophet Joseph Smith and that Relief Society is an important part of that restoration” (Daughters in My Kingdom, ix).
The Relief Society was organized in March 1842 by the Prophet Joseph Smith. It was originally called the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo, and Emma Hale Smith, the wife of Joseph Smith, was selected as its first president. Shortly before Joseph Smith organized the Relief Society he explained that the sisters would be organized “after the pattern of the priesthood.” He also taught, “The Church was never perfectly organized until the women were thus organized” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith , 451).
“While little is known about a formal organization of women in the New Testament, evidence suggests that women were vital participants in the Savior’s ministry” (Daughters in My Kingdom, 3). Paul wrote to the Roman Saints, saying, “I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea: that ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also” (Romans 16:1–2).
Historical records of the Church in our dispensation describe the devotion of early Relief Society women as they bore testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ and served the sick and poor among them to build up the kingdom of God. Relief Society provided opportunities for Latter-day Saint women to expand their influence and to bless their families, wards, stakes, communities, and nations. Throughout its history, members of the organization have spoken up regarding relevant issues of their time. Relief Society continues to provide such opportunities for women today.