As a female member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, I also belong to the largest women’s organization in the world, the Relief Society. Officially organized in March of 1842, Relief Society is “an auxiliary to the priesthood.” In its earlier beginnings, women of the church envisioned their society as a service organization, as suggested by Sarah Melissa Granger Kimball’s idea of establishing a constitution to formalize the community’s sewing circle.
Within the confines of the Mormon Church, the rest of the story is well known: Sarah’s friend Eliza R. Snow wrote the document and took it to Church President Joseph Smith who praised its contents but added that the Lord had something better in mind for the women of the church. It’s my understanding that the “better part” included organizing the women as an auxiliary to the Priesthood AND adding teaching to service; thus the sewing circle also became a learning circle.
While church leaders, including Joseph Smith and Newel K. Whitney, attended early meetings to teach “new things” to the women, the organization eventually turned to its own members to teach one another. And so it continues today.
Yesterday, March 19, 2011, the women of the Eagle Mountain Utah North Stake celebrated that occasion by meeting together at the nearby church. As women do, we adorned the “cultural hall” in springtime pastels; we sang, prayed, and lunched together, and we taught one another. As in times gone by, a priesthood leader shared his thoughts, but it was women serving, teaching, and inspiring one another that lay at the heart of the occasion.
I know today’s Relief Society may not be my grandmother’s Relief Society – her social would have been the annual bazaar, complete with quilts and pot luck dishes instead of a celebration featuring balloons and a catered buffet – BUT it is still a most amazing organization whose past and present fascinate me.
NOW and THEN …