Updated Relief Society Declaration
The lds.org website changed this last week, with an update to the Relief Society Declaration. Obviously a lot has been cut, it’s much shorter. Let’s see the differences between the old and new versions, and what was deemed to be important enough to keep.
- For starters, the implied reference to God being more than only masculine in gender in the first line.
- The declaration no longer mentions charity, which pointed us towards our motto: Charity Never Faileth.
- Following the promptings of the Holy Ghost, directly recommending prayer and scripture study.
- Marriage is not mentioned in the new declaration, leaving families and homes to cover that idea.
- Motherhood is no longer required to be ennobling, and womanhood is not expected to be inherently joyful.
- The phrase about loving life and learning.
- Standing for truth and righteousness. No more linking to the YW motto.
- Sustaining the priesthood as the authority of God on the earth.
- More than an oblique mention of temples (no need to rejoice), now referring only to covenants and ordinances.
- Understanding our divine destiny.
- Heavily referencing our duty and aspiration of becoming more like our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
- Being unified and united in our purpose of serving others of God’s children.
- Faith is recognised as the core of our journey in life and the gospel.
- Directing our priorities towards eternal life and exaltation.
- Strengthening homes and families.
What was added?
- Individuals are identified as also needing to be supported and strengthened.
- The Atonement is mentioned specifically, drawing attention to the primacy of its importance in our lives.
I like the way that the new declaration makes fewer prescriptive statements about what we as women will experience by virtue of being members of the church. It’s not necessary to enjoy the temple to be obedient to our covenants. Yes, life is better when we love it, but when we don’t, we don’t lose our eternal blessings, and we’re not less a part of Relief Society. I miss the connection between Young Women and Relief Society with removing the “stand for truth and righteousness” phrase, and I wonder if they’ll change “strengthen homes and families” in the young women theme to “strengthen individuals, families and homes”, to help the transition between the two auxiliaries feel more comfortable and make Relief Society more familiar.
I hope that we reference this new declaration a lot more than we did the old one. There’s less specificity in the new document, but that can be an advantage. It keeps the importance of unity and service, and elevates the importance of the Saviour and His atonement. Focussing on this as our purpose, and allowing women to create a locally relevant curriculum and projects that meet the needs of the communities in which they live.
The increase of focus on individuals seems encouraging, especially if it leads to more discussion of women as people rather than the roles they fill. It’s almost too much to hope for, but I look forward to the General Women’s Session of Conference, and I kind of expect them to base the talks around this theme. It’s possible that the changes were made too recently, especially because they didn’t hold the change back to reveal the new declaration and poster at conference, but I hope they wanted us to have a chance to ponder and process the changes as part of our preparation for listening to the words of the General Relief Society Presidency.
It’s not the Declaration that I would write, but stripped back to basics, and with the new additions, it feels more broadly applicable to our worldwide sisterhood.
Did you have a special affinity for the old Relief Society Declaration? What do you think of the new one?