After the previous nine chapters discuss themes throughout the history of the Relief Society, this concluding chapter is the call to add yourself to that history. This chapter is full of great quotes and it would be very easy to pick your favorites, read them, and then discuss them, which is what I’ll do here.
Daughters of God
This section has a quote from M. Russell Ballard that I really like. As an opening activity, I would have this written up on a board and ask the class to pick out traits listed in it and circle them or list them on the side. I highlighted some of them here:
“We believe in and are counting on your goodness and your strength, your propensity for virtue and valor, your kindness and courage, your strength and resilience. We believe in your mission as women of God. … We believe that the Church simply will not accomplish what it must without your faith and faithfulness, your innate tendency to put the well-being of others ahead of your own, and your spiritual strength and tenacity. And we believe that God’s plan is for you to become queens and to receive the highest blessings any woman can receive in time or eternity.”
I think it is interesting to note that the most-used word is strength.
When I was growing up, one of my Young Women’s leaders moved away. One of her last Sundays at church was a Fast Sunday and one of her non-member neighbors came to church with her. This neighbor went up to the pulpit and talked about the service that my YW leader had done for her and said, “When I look at her, I see Christ. She looks like Christ to me.” I think that is probably one of the highest compliments I’ve ever heard. These traits highlighted above are all Christlike traits. And not only are we like Christ, because we take on Christ’s name at baptism, we walk every day as if we are Christ himself and can be saviors for others and ourselves. When I went to the Relief Society minutes where the quote from this chapter is found, the minutes note that Joseph Smith stated, “It is an honor to save yourselves.”
True Charity, a Legacy Passed from Heart to Heart
In this section, I like Elder Eyring’s quote,
I will speak to you … of the great legacy those who went before you in the Relief Society have passed on to you. The part … which seems to me most important and persistent is that charity is at the heart of the society and is to come into the heart, to be part of the very nature, of every member. Charity meant to them far more than a feeling of benevolence. Charity is born of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and is an effect of His Atonement working in the hearts of the members. …
The sentence “Charity meant to them far more than a feeling of benevolence” struck me. I would even say it’s more than filling out a tithing slip or making dinner for someone. After the last section and thinking about how we are like Christ, I think that charity asks us to see Christ in the people around us. The chapter tells some stories of charity demonstrated in the lives of the women in a family, but I think it would be neat to have a story of your own to share or have the group share their own stories.
My Turn to Serve
What I like about this next section is the stories of service relating to death. Now, I’ll be the first one to say that I get worn down by the third, fourth, fifth, etc. dying child story in a single conference weekend. Talking about death can be draining and sometimes feels emotionally manipulative. But I liked the emphasis on the service rendered during the time of death. I think that because it can be difficult in our culture to discuss death and grief, having examples of appreciated service can be helpful for when we find the people around us, or ourselves, in mourning. This is really where we can “mourn with those that mourn” and the Relief Society can really live up to its name. Again, personal stories are great for this, but it’s sometimes nice to have the stories from the manual if it’s too hard to share personal stories about grief.
“Lead the World… in Everything that is Praiseworthy”
This is the rally cry and ultimate urging of this book: band together, pick up your tools, and be amazing. The heading for this section is not passive and is not timid, and neither should we be. What I really like is the phrase “everything that is praiseworthy.” If you think about all the things that are praiseworthy… well, it’s a lot of things! Art, science, performance, parenting, mediating, etc. I can’t think of too many non-criminal activities that aren’t praiseworthy. So take charge and live the best you can.
At this point, I think I would ask the class if they can identify what is keeping them back from doing something “praiseworthy” that they’ve always wanted to do and if it’s possible to remove that. That can provide a lot of discussion.
For me, the biggest hinderance to this is feeling like it’s too late, that I should have done all those praiseworthy things earlier. I’d write off things, “I can’t become a great pianist- I didn’t start lessons at 5!” or “I’d never be able to contribute anything to my field of study- only young people in college do that.” However, earlier in this chapter, the phrase, “potential as holy women” is used, and when I think of a “holy woman” I imagine a wizened and thoughtful older woman. There is still time!
I also get held back if I worry that I won’t succeed or if I can’t give the time needed for success. But even a little bit is a success.
In preparing for this lesson, I listened to the TED talk Unlock the intelligence, passion, and greatness of girls by Leymah Gbowee, peace and women’s rights activist and Nobel laureate. Trigger warning: rape, incest.
In watching her tell her story, I was impressed by what she and the girls and women she talked about were able to accomplish in such a short time. Gbowee got involved in activism in 1998 and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011. She admits that she wasn’t saving the girls asking to be saved at the beginning. While a listener might say, “Just take that little girl in!” And maybe it wasn’t the best choice, but maybe it was. Our lives don’t have to be perfect to make things better. I also think of the character Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. His change of heart was near the end of his life and that’s ok, too. Or if you’d like a non-fictional character, there are plenty of scripture stories like Saul/Paul in the New Testament, or the woman caught in adultery: “Go and sin no more.”
I think the biggest concern with discussing this chapter is feeling like we have to do it all and immediately. Sometimes “leading in all that is praiseworthy” requires a nap or a break. And knowing your limits is praiseworthy, too.
The chapter finishes with a reminder that,
“The charge to lead out in everything that is praiseworthy, Godlike, uplifting, and purifying is a demanding one. It always has been. But individual Relief Society sisters are not alone in accepting this charge. They are part of a great organization, founded by priesthood authority and strengthened by the teachings and declarations of prophets.”
One of my favorite aspects of Mormonism is the idea of Zion and that we are all working for that, and we are all working together. We believe that Zion has happened on earth at least a couple of times (Enoch’s city, the Book of Mormon peoples post-Christ’s visit), and so it gives us hope that we can again create it. It’s hard, but not impossible and let’s get to it!
What questions/thoughts would you like to add? Also, a Happy Relief Society anniversary to all today!