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]

The oath and covenant of the priesthood and the doctrine of the priesthood apply to us, dear sisters. Are we doing all that we have covenanted to do? In order for women to fulfill their destiny, we need to be righteous warriors in the cause of our Lord, Jesus Christ.  


Brethren, may I repeat what a prophet has said about Relief Society women.

“People wonder what we do for our women. I will tell you what we do. We get out of their way, and look with wonder at what they are accomplishing.” [7]

Don’t be afraid to allow righteous women to act upon their righteous inspiration. There are plenty of us who are loyal to our prophet, faithful, and truly inspired to carry on the work of the Lord.

And to both brethren and sisters, I repeat the words of David A. Bednar:

“We have a role to play. I pray we will keep pace with the hastening—that we will not just simply do what we have always done the way we have always done it.” [8]

We cannot continue doing the same thing in our Relief Societies hoping for a different result. Ask sisters what they need in order to be strengthened. Provide opportunities to learn, experience, and grow spiritually. Unite sisters so they know who the true enemy is; that all sisters may come together to stand against the adversary and all his many causes.

Back in 1913, the fifth General President of the Relief Society, Emmeline B. Wells, worried that the topics discussed in Relief Society paralleled the popular secular interests of other American women and counseled, “We are getting too far away from the spiritual side of our great work, and from the thought that inspired the first organization of the Relief Society. The Society stands first for spirituality, and then for charity and mercy.” [9] I can’t help but wonder what she would think of our Relief Society activities today.

Julie B. Beck put new emphasis on the sacred work of Relief Society several years ago; our most recent directive. Read her talk and gain renewed determination to emphasize spirituality in your Relief Societies. “Using Relief Society meetings appropriately will increase the ability of the Relief Society to work in powerful ways.” [10]

Righteousness is the absolute key. We need women who will put the Lord first in their lives; not second, fifth, or whenever we can get to it. Yes, we’re busy. Yes, we’re imperfect. But if we want to be a part of this great work, we can no longer wait for a better time in our lives. Jesus Christ needs us NOW. He needs faithful, strong women NOW. He needs change to happen NOW. He needs us to act NOW.

My husband loves college football. He always tells me that a great defense wins championships. So, when I read about the great battles in the war chapters of the Book of Mormon, I think about the power of a strong defense. Captain Moroni spent all his time building up defenses at the gates of every city. It’s the defense that stops the opposition from scoring and winning the game. We preach our doctrine to defend truth. We rely on the spirit to direct our path. And we depend mightily upon the Lord to fight our battles. Sometimes He asks us to wait patiently, other times He asks us to stand our ground in order to make our voices heard. But He never asks us to join the ranks of the wicked causes surrounding us.

Sister Burton reminds us how each person can be prepared “in a manner which never had been known.” The world will never teach us how to defend our liberty, our lands, and our families. Only the Lord can show us how to fortify our loved ones, and stand protected and victorious.

“As we consider this parable as a pattern for temple preparation, consider the words of a latter-day prophet who taught that ‘the oil of spiritual preparedness cannot be shared.’ President Spencer W. Kimball helped clarify why the five ‘wise’ young women could not share the oil in their lamps with those who were ‘foolish’ when he said: ‘Attendance at sacrament meetings adds oil to our lamps, drop by drop over the years. Fasting, family prayer, home teaching, control of bodily appetites, preaching the gospel, studying the scriptures—each act of dedication and obedience is a drop added to our store. Deeds of kindness, payment of offerings and tithes, chaste thoughts and actions … —these, too, contribute importantly to the oil with which we can at midnight refuel our exhausted lamps.’” [11]

Ninth General President of the Relief Society, Belle S. Spafford, said, “The spirit of the gospel will always exist within this society in direct ratio to the strength of the testimonies of the women who make up its membership. … The Lord will come unto Relief Society; he will make his abode with us, and the blessings of heaven will rest upon our beloved society so that it will continue to move forward in a glorious manner if we who make up its membership will but love the Lord and keep his commandments.” [12]

Every year since 1842 we have celebrated the opportunity to renew our conviction to the holy purpose of Relief Society. May we, along with our sisters throughout the past 175 years, stand strong in defense of righteousness. We cannot let any of their sacrifices go unanswered. Heavenly Father counts on us, His daughters. If not us, then who?


[1] Julie B. Beck, “What Latter-day Saint Women Do Best: Stand Strong and Immovable,” October 2007.

[2] Russell M. Nelson, “A Plea to My Sisters,” October 2015.

[3] Sheri Dew, “Awake, Arise, and Come Unto Christ,” BYU Women’s Conference, May 1, 2008.

[4] Jeffrey R. Holland, Church News, 17 February 2007.

[5] Sheri Dew, “We Are Women of God,” October 1999.

[6] Linda K. Burton, “Priesthood: A Sacred Trust to Be Used For The Benefit of Men, Women, and Children,” BYU Women’s Conference, May 3, 2013.

[7] Gordon B. Hinckley, “Full Text: President Hinckley’s Speech at the National Press Club,” Deseret News, March 9, 2000.

[8] David A. Bednar, “Learn, Teach, Hasten the Work in the Lord’s Way,” Church News, July 11, 2014.

[9] Emmeline B. Wells, Relief Society General Board Minutes, December 10, 1913. Quoted in Women of Covenant by Derr, Cannon, Beecher, p. 189.

[10] Julie B. Beck, “Relief Society: A Sacred Work,” October 2009.

[11] Linda K. Burton, “Prepared In a Manner That Never Had Been Known,” October 2014.

[12] Belle S. Spafford, “The Spirit of the Gospel, the Soul of Relief Society,” The Relief Society Magazine, March 1949, p. 148-150.

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Jan Tolman

Jan Tolman is a wife, mother of six, and grandmother of seven. She is a writer, as well as speaker, on the history of the Relief Society at www.ldswomenofgod.com. Several articles, written by her on Relief Society history, have been published in the Deseret News. She has taught Institute and served as a docent at the Church History Museum. She urges everyone to learn something new about Church History, and especially about the incredible women of LDS faith.

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