Daughters in My Kingdom: A Worldwide Circle of Sisterhood (Chapter 6)

Posted by on March 13, 2013 in Mormon women, Relief Society Lessons, women | 11 comments

This is not my favorite book about Mormon women, but I loved this chapter. This opening quote by Boyd Packer showed what Relief Society can be for the women of the church

“This great circle of sisters will be a protection for each of you and for your families. The Relief Society  might be likened unto a refuge–the place of safety and protection–the sanctuary of ancient times. You will be safe within it. It encircles each sister like a protecting wall.”

As I read this quote, I was reminded of Spunky’s last two visiting teaching message write-ups. In February’s message, she shares a time when she felt alone and unloved in Relief Society, and in March’s she talks about a time when she found a friend and felt included by at least one person. I think we have all had similar experiences in Relief Society; I know I have. I have been in Relief Societies where I felt that no one knew me and no one cared whether I was there or not. But the one I currently attend is wonderful; they make me feel loved and welcomed even with my strong opinions. This chapter explores the best of what Relief Society can offer women.

Worldwide Sisterhood/ A Place of Refuge:

These sections share Boyd Packer’s story of traveling to wards behind the Iron Curtain. He asked the Relief Society sisters he spoke with if he could take a message back from them when he spoke at the next General Relief Society Meeting. One sister wrote “A small circle of sisters send their own hearts and thoughts to all sisters and begs the Lord to help us go forward.”

I love this statement. This is what Relief Societies can be, a circle of sisters reaching out to each other in love and compassion, all helping each other move towards God.

Relief Society is also described as a refuge from all kinds of struggles: physical, emotional and spiritual. In the early church, women supported each other emotionally and spiritually, as well as providing for the physical needs of the women involved. The same can be true today. Belle S. Spafford, the ninth General Relief Society President said “Through the years, Relief Society has been just as constant in its purpose  as truth is constant. The purposes that were important for a handful of women in Nauvoo are still-important to women world-wide. That is the miracle of Relief Society.”

So how can we make our Relief Societies look like a circle of sisters? How can we expand our love to the women around us?

How can we make Relief Society a refuge? What specific needs can we help to meet?

A Place of Influence:

The Relief Society has a strong history of being a force for good in and outside of the church. My favorite examples aren’t listed in this chapter (I’ll admit to not having read the entire book) so I thought I’d add a couple.

In the early days of the Utah church, Relief Society leaders were heavily involved in the women’s suffrage movement. They attended meetings of groups like the National Women’s Suffrage Association and called for the vote nationally and in the territory and state of Utah. Emmeline B. Wells, fifth General Relief Society President and editor of the original Women’s Exponent magazine, published articles in favor of suffrage in the Exponent.

President Wells also started a Relief Society grain storage program. She started it in 1876, and it continued for decades. At the end of World War I (1918), the Relief Society sold 205,518 bushels of wheat to the US government.

My favorite example in this chapter is about the construction of the Relief Society building  in Salt Lake City. In 1947 a plan for the building was approved and each Relief Society sister (at that point there were around 100,000) was asked to donate $5 for the building. Women all over the world sent donations, raising $554,016. Some women sent objects from their homelands to decorate the building. Belle S. Spafford, General Relief Society President at the time said this:

“This achievement represents great monetary value, but not monetary value alone Herein are represented many intangible values-values of supreme worth-appreciation for the honored position accorded women in the gospel plan; testimony of the divinity of the work of the society; and gratitude for the opportunity given the sisters of the Church to serve…; loyalty to leadership; unselfish devotion to a great cause. It is a reflection of the greatness that is inherent within the society.”

What I love about these examples is that they show the great things women can do when they work together. The Relief Society can do great things for the world and the church when all of us work together towards a common goal.

This chapter also shares examples of the great things Relief Societies do on a local level. 1992 was the 150th anniversary of the Relief Society. May Relief Societies celebrated by doing service in their communities. “[Sisters] made lap rugs in South Africa for those elderly in the home… They planted flowers around a clock tower in Samoa. And they did so many things with homeless shelters or providing books for children or painting homes for unwed mothers, that sort of thong.”

I think often we feel that we can’t do much with a small group of busy women, or we are afraid to try to make big changes in our community in case it offends someone or is outside the scope of Relief Society. But our history shows women involved in community actions and doing big and difficult things.

So what kind of service can we provide for our communities and the church? What do we want to help accomplish and how can we go about doing it?  How can we follow the example of action set by our foremothers?

Strengthening Sisterhood Through Expressions of Charity:

President Monson said “I consider charity-or, ‘the pure love of Christ’-to be the opposite of criticism and judging.” In my experience, the difference between Relief Societies where I feel welcomed and those where I do not is the level of charity expressed by the group. Some groups go out of their way to make everyone feel loved. They don’t judge others’ decisions or struggles. Other Relief Societies seems to demand conformity in exchange for acceptance. Often, this is unintentional. For example, one ward I attended just after I got married was full of young families. Most of the women had children or were expecting. Because of this, Relief Society lessons always seemed to shift towards motherhood, no matter what the topic was. I never felt I had anything to add, or that the lessons were helpful to me as I was focusing on school and a career. The activities tended to be oriented to young families and took place during the day when I was at school or work. It was difficult to get to know anyone, and I felt very alone. No one was actively mean, but there were expectations that I was not meeting that kept me from feeling involved.

Since the Relief Societies motto is “Charity never faileth” how can we show charity to the women around us? How do we make Relief Society welcoming to everyone?

Relief Society can be a powerful force for good in the lives of individuals, the church and the world. I love our history of change and our goal to show charity. This chapter gives us the chance to celebrate the great things Relief Society women have done and determine how we can carry that legacy on.

 

 

 

Related posts:

11 Comments

  1. Great lesson plan and thoughts on this chapter.

    I hate to go off on a tangent from your main post, but I want to ask about your very first sentence. Would you be willing to share titles of books that are some of your favorites about Mormon women (or link to a post if you already have one and I have missed it)? I would love some reading suggestions along this line.

    Thanks!

    • To be honest, I feel as if I’m outside of the “circle of sisters” right now. As YW President, I have virtually no contact with the Relief Society other than being a visiting teacher. I do miss the feeling of being with a room full of sisters each week. I know that I’ll be back in that circle at some point, but wish that there was a better way to keep those of us in YW and Primary connected better.

      • I was in Primary for two years recently, and I agree. It’s hard to feel involved when you aren’t there on Sunday. It’s hard; I wonder what could be done to include the women working in other organizations?

      • My mom has faced this too, as she has spent the majority of her adult years in either Young Womens or Primary. She often is not even aware of what the Relief Society activities are. For those in Relief Society, it seems an easy-ish thing to invite the women serving in the other organizations to Relief Society meetings that do not take place on Sundays. Newsletters or announcements could also be circulated to them.

        When the schedules used to be different, before the time of the block, was Relief Society on a separate night? If it was, I wonder if that helped with this problem. (Which is not to say I think we should go back to that…)

      • Rachel,
        If memory serves me (from reading, not experience)- Relief Society used ot be held on Tuesdays, either day or night, and that was mostly before the 1971 move to make all Mormon women of Relief Society. I think before 1971, RS stats on inclusiveness and participation would have been good, if only because women who wanted to participate in RS would have applied for membership. I think the fuel crisis of the 1970′s making transportation very expensive probably had a bigger effect on the church outside of Utah (i.e. those who “had” to drive or take public transport to church) and contributed to the creation of the “block.”

        In a way, the Tuesday thing might have been even harder to organize (or was Primary on Tuesdays at the same time as RS?), if only because of child-care issues. In a way, maybe the block makes women slightly more included because the RS meeting is at least on the same day and time as PH meetings?

    • Kindra, Juvenile Instructor just compiled an excellent (and thorough) list of books on Mormon women’s history here: http://www.juvenileinstructor.org/booklist-mormon-womens-history/#

      My only additions (if you’re not a history buff) are anything by Chieko Okazaki and Linda Hoffman Kimball.

      • Thank you!

    • Kindra, I’ll echo Emily and say that Chieko Okazaki is a phenomenal resource — for lessons, talks, etc. As for other books on Mormon women, one I return to often is Women of Covenant. It’s the definitive book about RS and contains wonderful stories. Claudia Bushman’s Mormon Sisters is great if you want info on 19th century Mormon women. And if you are interested in Mormon women and politics/activism, check out Pedestals and Podiums. Amazing stories there about suffrage, ERA times, etc. One book that will blow your mind (at least it blew mine) was Mormon Enigma, the biography of Emma Smith. Holy cow, she was an amazing person. There’s probably tons more, but that’s just off the top of my head.

      • Agreed with Emily and Caroline. :)

  2. “In my experience, the difference between Relief Societies where I feel welcomed and those where I do not is the level of charity expressed by the group. Some groups go out of their way to make everyone feel loved. They don’t judge others’ decisions or struggles. Other Relief Societies seems to demand conformity in exchange for acceptance. Often, this is unintentional.”

    I never thought of it this way, DG, but it makes a lot of sense and is beautiful in its simplicity. A great lesson!

  3. Beautiful lesson, DefyGravity. I love the nuances you have touched and further developed here, especially about overall sisterhood. Thank you.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>