On this Day in Church History the Relief Society was organized (March 17, 1842)
180 years ago today a group of twenty women gathered with the Prophet Joseph Smith in the upper room of the Red Brick Store in Nauvoo, Illinois.1 Three of them would later become Presidents of the Relief Society.2 “I now turn the key to you in the name of God,” the Prophet said.3 “We are going to do something extraordinary,” said Emma Smith, first Relief Society President.4
They were indeed extraordinary women. The original members of the Relief Society were given a divine task. “Emma became the first woman in the new dispensation to receive the blessings of the endowment.”5 Before the temple opened thirty women received their temple blessings.6 When the Nauvoo temple was finally completed these women became the first female temple workers. They went on to administer temple blessings to thousands of faithful women.7
Reading about the history of the Relief Society is a reminder to me of the Lord’s love for women. He wants to bless us with strength. He wants to enrich our lives through empowerment.
From those original twenty members the Relief Society has grown to a membership of over seven million women.8 The temple ordinances that are administered by women and for women continue to bless us 180 years later. My aunt Tracey Grow is one of those women. I was inspired by a talk she recently shared at church about how the temple has blessed her life.
“I am closer to the Savior and Heavenly Father when I go to the temple. I learn more about them, gain more understanding, and feel heaven close,” she wrote. “My gratitude has increased very much because of the temple. I see God’s hand in everything and thank Him for all His works on this earth. He talks to me more frequently and I hear Him more often because of the temple. In the temple, His voice is easier to hear without the distractions of the world and the influence of Lucifer. There has been many times I have gone to the temple to have a serious talk with Heavenly Father. It is there I can hear answers. It is there I can feel peace.” You can read her full talk here.
What an inheritance we receive as members of the Relief Society. As I learn about the women who came before me I am in awe. As I think of all the kindness and love shown to me by members of the Relief Society I am humbled.
The women of the Relief Society have embraced and encircled me with their love no matter where I’ve been in my life and no matter what I’ve gone through. Their motto is “Charity Never Faileth”9 and they have proven the truth of those words with their deeds.
- They have prepared meals for my family after the death of loved ones.
- They have invited me to stay in their homes.
- They have given me and my children clothes.
- They have visited me in hospitals.
- They have befriended me when I have felt alone.
They are the living, breathing, shining examples of this famous scripture:
“Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
1. Holzapfel, Jeni Broberg & Richard Neitzel. Women of Nauvoo. Salt Lake City, Utah. Bookcraft, 1992. Chapter 7: The Relief Society—Sisters Unite, 106.
4. Holbrook, Kate & Reeder, Jennifer. At the Pulpit: 185 Years of Discourses by Latter-Day Saint Women. The Church Historian’s Press 2017. Chapter 3: We are Going to do Something Extraordinary, Emma Hale Smith.
5. Holzapfel, Jeni Broberg & Richard Neitzel. Women of Nauvoo. Salt Lake City, Utah. Bookcraft, 1992. Chapter 9: A Key is Turned—Ancient Covenants Restored, 125.
6. Holzapfel, Jeni Broberg & Richard Neitzel. Women of Nauvoo. Salt Lake City, Utah. Bookcraft, 1992. Chapter 9: A Key is Turned—Ancient Covenants Restored, 126.
7. Holzapfel, Jeni Broberg & Richard Neitzel. Women of Nauvoo. Salt Lake City, Utah. Bookcraft, 1992. Chapter 11: Handmaidens of the Lord—Sisters in the Temple, 158.
8. Relief Society in Action, March 20, 2020. Newsroom, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.