Updated Relief Society Declaration

Old RS Declaration (click to enlarge)

New RS Declaration (click to enlarge)

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.

What’s missing?

  • 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.

What stayed?

  • 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?

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11 Responses

  1. Marivene says:

    I have a bookmark from 2011 with “Relief Society Purposes” on it. There are 3:

    Increase faith and personal righteousness
    Strengthen families and homes
    Seek out and help those in need.

    I like that one. I use it to mark my place in the book I read over the phone with my grandson most nights. He reads a few paragraphs, then I read however many he read, & then he reads again.

    • Olea says:

      Whoops! Slightly embarrassing, but thank you for the information, Marivene.

      I love that idea, reading aloud is so cosy and special, and that bookmark is kind of fitting when you’re meeting at least two of the purposes then 🙂

      Do you think you’ll switch to the new bookmark?

  2. Chris says:

    The RS Declaration was introduced in 1999 by Sister Smoot. It was replaced with the Three Purposes of Relief Society during Julie Beck’s presidency. The recent changes by the current RS Presidency are to the Three Purposes, not the Declaration. The current changes actually ADDED verbiage – to the beginning statement and each of the purposes. I like the additions they’ve made.

    • Olea says:

      Ah hah! Thank you, Chris. I’ll blame my youth for not recalling the earlier replacement of the RS Declaration with the Three Purposes.

      I really like the additional focus on unity and individuals, too.

      • Chris says:

        Yes, you’re right… you are delightfully young and I’m exceeding my expectations in the age area. ( almost old???) Just happened to be in the Stake RS presidency when the Declaration came out. It was a parallel document to the Proclamation on the Family. The Declaration has faded, while the Proclamation lives on and on.

  3. Caroline says:

    Thanks for this post, olea! Very interesting. I do wish they had used God in the three purposes statement, instead of Heavenly Father. God leaves open room for Heavenly Mother.

    • Olea says:

      Yes, or even being slightly more explicit and referring to Heavenly Parents in the stated purposes of a program aimed at women.

  4. Caroline says:

    And, referring to the previous three purposes statement that Chris mentioned above — I think I like the old one better. If one of the purposes of RS is to strengthen home and families, I prefer to leave it at that, as opposed to adding on that bit about ordinances and covenants. Seems to me there are plenty of ways to strengthen homes that that have nothing to do with ordinances. Maybe I’m just being grumpy right now. But honestly don’t see the advantages of the added verbiage in the revised statement of purpose.

  5. Chris says:

    I’m very glad they added the word “individuals” to the second purpose. Individuals as in – each woman. And individuals as in – women without a spouse or children. It shows recognition that every person is important, and that each of us exists even without marriage and children. It validates our various circumstances. It’s nice (and quite unusual) to be so prominently included.

    • Olea says:

      Yes, I agree completely. Individuals and unity cover the various relationships we enter into, in families and friendship groups and professional settings.

  6. Hedgehog says:

    Well, I don’t know that the 3 purposes (which I’ve never heard of) actually replaced the declaration which my ward had us reciting on a weekly basis (much to my horror and disgust – I mention it here: https://wheatandtares.org/2013/09/12/why-talk-of-the-divine-feminine-isnt-helping-or-i-want-to-scream/) back in 2013…
    I’d be delighted to see the back of it, and have it replaced with something altogether simpler!

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