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:
- 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?
- 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?
- Do our homemaking mini class plans respond to the various needs of the women in our ward?
- 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
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:
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