Category Archives: Relief Society

What Is Self-Reliance, and How Do We Embrace It?

This is a General Conference Odyssey post.

(April 1976 Welfare Session.)


Back in the old days, they had a welfare session of conference where they taught principles of self-reliance. We no longer have a “ full session” like this, but we still talk A LOT about self-reliance. Instead of food storage, garden growing, and homemaking skills, today our leaders remind us to stay out of debt, get a good education, and upgrade computer and work skills.

We live in a different world, but it isn’t all that different.

The Church is coming out with an updated program on self-reliance. But reading Sis. Barbara B. Smith’s talk reminded me of the evolution of Relief Society meetings where self-reliance has always been the main focus.

First, they were called Work Days because the sisters would get together regularly to work toward a common goal. In the early days, in the Salt Lake Valley, the sisters literally worked together to make items to be sold in their consignment shops. They also learned how to buy, sell, and trade on the Stock Market (because of the wheat they were growing and managing).

Later, the name changed to Homemaking as mothers were looking at ways to make their homes better places. They canned food items together, rolled bandages to be sent off to war, and took classes on nursing, well-baby care, social services, and gospel study.

Later still, these meetings were called Home, Family, and Personal Enrichment meetings, shortened to Enrichment Night. As the world changed, it became more desirable to add intellectual enrichment to a woman’s life. Over the years, however, the objective was always to provide security to a woman for herself, her family, and her home.

All of these meetings had one purpose: to bless and strengthen families.

Sister Smith (former Relief Society General President) spoke at this Welfare meeting and listed these four considerations:

  1. Are we as Relief Society officers motivating and actually training the sisters in the necessary skills of family preparedness, and then helping them to put these into practice?
  2. Are we counseling among ourselves and with our priesthood leaders so that adequate and realistic plans for home storage and production are being developed and carried out?
  3. Do our homemaking mini class plans respond to the various needs of the women in our ward?
  4. Are we helping the sisters know how to estimate needs and replenish their home production and storage program?

This list can easily be applied to today. Listen to our most recent directive listed in Handbook 2:

“To supplement the instruction in Sunday meetings, Relief Society sisters may participate in additional meetings. These may include service, classes, projects, conferences, and workshops. In these meetings, sisters learn and accomplish the charitable and practical responsibilities of the Relief Society. They learn and practice skills that will help them increase their faith and personal righteousness, strengthen their families and make their homes centers of spiritual strength, and help those in need. They learn and apply principles of provident living and spiritual and temporal self-reliance. They also increase in sisterhood and unity as they teach one another and serve together.”

The handbook even offers a list of the very most important things we should be focusing on in order to take care of our families.

Marriage and Family


Self-reliance and provident living

Compassionate service

Temple and family history

Sharing the gospel

All of these can be categorized as topics having to do with the welfare of the family. The handbook additionally invites Relief Society presidencies to decide how often to hold any or all of these activity meetings. In other words, meetings aren’t just monthly anymore. They can be weekly, bi-weekly, on-going, etc. And many different classes can be going on during any given week; all according to the needs and interests of the sisters in the ward.

Church programs come and go, but Relief Society has always been in the business of strengthening families and saving souls. I wonder how much stronger our families would be if we organized classes that got us talking more openly about our struggles with self-reliance. Really working to overcome the pressures of the world is what true self-reliance is. Sadly, the world is enslaved by monetary and other debt more than ever before.  Sis. Smith warned,

“We have been told that the gaining of this independence will come to Church members only in proportion to their obedience to the word of the Lord in this matter. Obedience brings security and self-sufficiency. It breeds confidence and a peaceful attitude.”

Spencer W. Kimball said in the same session:

“There are many people in the Church today who have failed to do, and continue to argue against doing, the things that are requested and suggested by this great organization [the Church].”

Nothing has changed between his day and ours. He continues:

“And so my feeling is today that we emphasize these two scriptures:“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” And the other: “Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? … We talk about it, we listen to it, but sometimes we do not do the things which the Lord says. So we would do well to listen to what we have been told and to follow it explicitly.”

What are we waiting for?

Additional General Conference Odyssey posts:

Zion, when we have built it  Marilyn Nielson

Family Preparedness G

Welfare: Living The Royal Law

This is a General Conference Odyssey post for the Sunday morning Welfare session of October 1975.

General Conference has changed much over the years. One such change has been the Welfare session, which used to be held in the early hours of Sunday morning, before the actual Sunday morning session. It was typically attended by both male and female leadership where temporal issues were addressed. This session was discontinued in the 1980s.

But because this week we are talking about welfare, I thought I would run through the fascinating history of this spiritual–though temporal–law. It was during the years of World War I, the Depression, and World War II that the church seriously focused on the welfare needs of its people. The Relief Society played an important role in its development.

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Celebrating Relief Society’s 175 Years Renews Our Conviction

Relief Society





It’s true! Celebrating our Relief Society’s 175 years renews our conviction. We are all daughters of a loving Heavenly Father. As Julie B. Beck said, the Lord is counting on His daughters to

“… do our part as women under the Lord’s plan, we must stand strong and immovable in faith, strong and immovable in family, and strong and immovable in relief. We must excel in these three important areas which set us apart as the Lord’s disciples. Through Relief Society we practice being disciples of Christ. We learn what He would have us learn, we do what He would have us do, and we become what He would have us become. When we gather with this focus, the work of Relief Society is relevant whatever your circumstance—whether you are 18 or 88, single or married, have children or not, or whether you live in Bountiful, Utah, or Bangalore, India.” [1]

We are God’s Female Army. So,


Russell M. Nelson really means that “the kingdom of God is not … complete without women who make sacred covenants and then keep them. [2]

And if

Sheri Dew really feels that by “unleash[ing] the full influence of covenant-keeping women, the kingdom of God would change overnight.” [3]

And if

Jeffrey R. Holland really believes that “something is going to be asked of this dispensation that’s never been asked before.” [4]


Relief Society sisters need to step it up. As Sister Dew put it eighteen years ago,

“This is a call to arms, it’s a call to action, a call to arise. A call to arm ourselves with power and with righteousness. A call to rely on the arm of the Lord rather than the arm of flesh. A call to ‘arise and shine forth, that [our] light may be a standard for the nations’ (D&C 115:5). A call to live as women of God so that we and our families may return safely home.” [5]

Sisters, our power comes from priesthood power. Our early sisters understood it, lived it, and set the standard for it. Now, it’s our turn to understand how the priesthood works through us. Consider these suggestions made by President Linda K. Burton:

“Two sections have been especially revelatory to me. I recommend them to you for your careful and prayerful consideration. First, the oath and covenant of the priesthood, which can be found in D&C 84:33–40. I invite you to memorize those eight verses, sisters. By doing so, I promise you that the Holy Ghost will expand your priesthood understanding and inspire and uplift you in wonderful ways. 

Secondly, I would invite you to ponder Doctrine and Covenants 121:34–46 [the doctrine of the priesthood]. Look for the principles in these verses that govern the righteous exercise of priesthood power. Look for warnings and promises from the Lord, and apply them to yourself.” [6]

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Guest Stand: Teaching the Doctrine of Christ

doctrine“…we need women who have a bedrock understanding of the doctrine of Christ and who will use that understanding to teach and help raise a sin-resistant generation. We need women who can detect deception in all of its forms. We need women who know how to access the power that God makes available to covenant keepers and who express their beliefs with confidence and charity. We need women who have the courage and vision of our Mother Eve.”
– – A Plea to my Sisters, Elder Russell M. Nelson, CR October 2015 – –

A question has been burning in my mind.

Are we teaching the doctrine of Christ?

When we go to church on Sunday are we hearing and teaching the doctrine of Christ?  In our homes, are our children hearing the doctrine of Christ taught to them?

With all of the news of women in the world searching for something, I have turned my thoughts to Relief Society, and just church in general.  Through the years, I have spoken with and read about several women who “avoid Relief Society.”  I myself have had experiences of leaving Relief Society feeling worse than when I came or coming home from church exhausted rather than rejuvenated (Primary!!).  Part of this could be my own personal preparation (or lack thereof), but ultimately I feel uplifted and strengthened when a lesson is founded upon the teachings of our Savior rather than focusing on how we should be living.  With such a focus, Relief Society can quickly become a place where we compare and compete, sharing stories to “one up” each other. Our church meetings can be devoid of that motivation which inspires us to become better and to feel unified. Continue reading

Refugees: “What If Their Story Were My Story?”

refugees women's session ldsAs I sat in the congregation of the Conference Center, waiting for the women’s general session of General Conference to start, I was overwhelmed with the Spirit and with gratitude. My friend from Mormon Women Stand, Kathryn Skaggs, came from out of state to attend and offered tickets to me and my daughter.  It was a wonderful time to finally meet her face to face and to bask in the counsel we were about to receive from Church leaders.  I was amazed at how beautiful the pink flowers were and the pink and red lights illuminating the area behind the angelic choir.  I was humbled as I watched scores of women and girls of all ages gather together for this historic meeting, in such a beautiful building.  I knew in my heart we were all in for a magnificent feast and I was not disappointed.

The choir sang and I was overcome by the love that I felt for my beautiful daughter who I have known for her entire life, and also for my new friend, Kathryn, after having met her just moments earlier. As the choir sang, “I am a Child of God” and “Love One Another,” I could not keep the tears from falling.  Surrounded by faithful and radiating women and girls, Daughters of the Most High God, I felt love for them.  One by one, the speakers touched my spirit and even pricked my heart.  I felt myself being gently called to repentance while simultaneously being inspired and lifted with new ideas and generous thoughts.  I knew that the words I was hearing were inspired and I knew they were true.  Each testimony, each video, each song, pierced my soul. Continue reading

MWS: The First Fifty Years of Relief Society

At the recent Church History Symposium, historians expressed hope that every sister, in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, would have these two books in their bookshelves:  Daughters in My Kingdom and The First Fifty Years of Relief Society. These books “give roots” to our Relief Society. And as Kate Holbrook (one of the chief editors) said, “To understand where you are today, it’s important to understand where we’ve been before.”

Where Daughters in My Kingdom is a beautiful, simplified, as well as inspired volume of history, The First Fifty Years of Relief Society is a scholarly tome filled with original documents, letters, and journal entries. But, don’t let that scare you! These two books, used together, will serve as an incredible resource for women who desire to know how God works with his daughters, what He expects us to do, and just how much He cherishes each one. Continue reading

When You Think You Are Beyond the Gospel’s Light

When You Think You Are Beyond the Gospel’s Light

Want a stronger testimony? You might try to simplify things by just living the basic doctrines of the gospel.

Want a stronger testimony? You might try to simplify things by just living the basic doctrines of the gospel.

I remember the first time I felt like I was in over my head. I had just graduated high school and the bishop of our congregation, or “ward,” had invited me in to his office during Church. As we chatted about my plans for college and other things, he asked if I would accept a “calling,” or in other words, a church assignment. I was expecting him to ask if I would be the ward chorister or something. But instead, he asked me if I would accept the assignment to be the teacher of a group of teenage girls, or “Young Women,” in our congregation.

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, when a girl graduates from High School or turns 18, she stops attending the teenage girls’ classes, and attends the women’s class, the “Relief Society,” in the ward. I had been really looking forward to attending the women’s classes.

Here Am I, Don’t Send Me!

I was surprised, to say the least. Though I had already graduated, I was still seventeen, which meant that there could technically be a Young Woman in the group of girls who was older than I—the teacher—was. I felt very young and unprepared. I had never taught before. And to make things potentially even more strange, because I had just left the Young Women program, that meant that I was now expected to “teach” the peers and friends I had been in the program with for years! I felt very uncomfortable giving any kind of counsel in such a formal setting to girls that I loved to chat and hang out with. Would they think I was coming off as “holier than thou?” Would it change my friendships?
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Relief Society: A Holy Organization

relief societyMany don’t understand the majesty of which the Relief Society organization was founded. Over the years, we have lost the significance of the Relief Society. We have forgotten that we were organized “under the priesthood, after the pattern of the priesthood.” That gives us a power unlike any other women’s organization in the world. What exactly does under the priesthood, after the pattern of the priesthood mean? Continue reading

Feeling Left Out at Church? Try These 6 Things

KC_IMG_5556Have you ever felt left out at church, like you don’t fit into your ward, or that even as an adult, you are still not one of the “cool kids”? Have you felt like your ward does not need you and that maybe people in your ward feel like they would be better off without you there? If you have, you are not alone.

I have had the opportunity to live in many wards in various geographical locations in Canada and the United States. In every ward, there have been at least some people who feel left out and not a part of the ward culture, and in some wards, there have been many people who have felt that way. Sometimes, I have felt that way myself.

Feeling unwanted, unneeded, or even an outcast in our wards causes heartache. Sometimes, we may be causing our own isolation. For me, there have been times when I felt rejected by members of my ward and essentially isolated myself by sitting alone in the corner, not talking to anyone and not attending the activities. But most of the time, I think sisters feel isolated because the general population of the ward is not willing to open up and let other people into their inner circles. Some wards and some Relief Societies do have cliques.

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Mormon Women and Inequality

If you happen to be a feminist outside of the Mormon faith, it’s very likely that you believe one of the strongest critiques levied against The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon): that its theology wreaks with gender inequality and the membership dominated by a chauvinistic male hierarchy – the priesthood. I’ll even go one further… I bet the original source of that misguided understanding is a Mormon feminist.

The reason I can say that with such confidence (and no ill-will intended, just a fact) is that the majority of LDS women do not share that misperception or experience; I am among that majority. Not that we don’t see room for improvement in general male/female interaction within the Church, subject to human weakness – we do. But, we don’t confuse occasional abuses with doctrinal teachings — the expectation. Important distinction.

I greatly appreciate section 121 of the Doctrine and Covenants. The Lord straight up exposes the tendency of every man, when given authority, to use unrighteous dominion in its administration. He also warned that to do so would be the end of a man’s priesthood power. Sadly, the natural man, in so many ways, chooses to ignore this admonition, and the tender hearts of the Lord’s daughters are the frequent recipients of such ignorance. However, this is not the way the Lord intended it to be, but rather, knowing full well this was going to be a problem, called it out. Continue reading