Hope for the Relief Society


I’ve long been a fan of Neylan’s idea of giving a “major task” (within the church structure) to the Relief Society organization. See Neylan’s article – here.

I think is type of idea would be a great step in making the Relief Society (and its women) more solid, more spiritual, more whole and more equal.

The Relief Society certainly has tasks (ie: teaching gospel lessons, building community, serving food, visiting teaching, coming closer to God), but there is nothing concrete and focused that requires infrastructure within church hierarchy, specific direct action, and unifies the sisters under a single banner.

Having such a task or project could benefit the Relief Society (and its women) in several specific ways.

  • It would gives a nod to the original vision (relieving the poor & saving souls) of Joseph and Emma, while allowing us to move forward in our own inspired, original way. (ie: how do we relieve the poor in 2016 & what does it mean to save souls today?)
  • It could start to equalize men and women in the church governance structure. If the task was large enough and complicated enough (ie: managing all church welfare including farms, canneries, and distribution or managing all temples including building and training) then the women of the Relief Society would need some sort of middle management (like unto quorums of seventy) to bridge the Relief Society General Leaders with Stake Leaders. It could ultimately build a balancing infrastructure next to the patriarchy.
  • The effort would build many skills with the women of the church including managerial skills, speaking skills, organizing skills and leadership skills. (see President Nelson’s talk from General Conference 2015)
  • It would also allow the use of myriad spiritual gifts including blessing, healing, faith, nurturing, speaking in tongues, humility. (see my own thoughts on President Nelson’s talk)

In the recent General Women’s session, President Burton announced a new program: I was a Stranger. Could this be a major task / project that could unite the women in the way I envision? Could this be a step in equalizing the Relief Society quorum with the male quorums in the church? Could this be a leap into developing divine skills and Christ-like attributes more deeply within our sisters?

What do you think?


Suzette lives in the Washington DC area and works as a Professional Organizer. She enjoys blogging and serving on the Exponent II Board. Her Mormon roots run deep and she loves her big Mormon family which includes 20 nieces and nephews, 6 sisters, 5 brother in laws, 2 parents - and dozens of cousins. Her favorite things about church are the great Alexandria wards, temple worship, and all things Visiting Teaching.

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10 Responses

  1. Amy Hoyt says:

    Nice job Suzette! The “I Was A Stranger” program reminds me so much of the work of the early RS, particularly under Amy Brown Lyman, when “helping the needy” was a major component of RS work and social work really drove the agenda of LDS women. I think this a a great post and a good step forward for LDS women.

  2. spunky says:

    I love that the church is doing this! I hope it goes to the levels you envisage so we can help in stopping human trafficking and other ills in addition to the refugee crisis. I mostly love that it feels like the women of the church finally have something of substance to do; certainly we’ve always had something of substance to do, but in most prior church direction, it seemed like the women were simply being assigned to reinforce and support patriarchy. This is different; it has nothing to do with only following men, but actually helping men, women and children.

    In thr end, this new direction feels much more real and hopeful, and I hope it reaches the levels you suggest it might.

  3. Emily U says:

    I’m glad you brought this up, Suzette. I like that “I was a stranger” encourages innovation on the local level. But it also feels a bit like an “unfunded mandate” to me. Will RS women be given help from Church resources to do the good work they are being encouraged to do? What if the RS president could allocate fast offerings to get good things done?

    To answer your questions, I think these projects certainly have great potential to unite women in the development of Christ-like attributes, but no, I don’t think this will do much in equalizing the RS with priesthood quorums. I don’t see the RS as a quorum, but I’d be willing to give that idea more thought.

    • Andrew R. says:

      A quorum is three things:
      1 – a brotherhood
      2 – a class (learning place)
      3 – a service unit

      Please tell me how this does not equate to RS?

      • Ziff says:

        Oh, Andrew R. Can you hear yourself type? A BROTHERHOOD? You’re not even paying attention.

      • Andrew R. says:

        Really? Can you hear yourself. I was writing what one is. If you were to translate it to something of a female equivalent, like say RS, it would be sisterhood – the other two don’t change.

        Why is RS not already the equivalent of a priesthood quorum? In terms of what it does for members and others? I always thought it was.

    • Andrew R. says:

      ” Will RS women be given help from Church resources to do the good work they are being encouraged to do?”

      RS have always had, and will continue to have, resources to do the good work – certainly no less, and often more, than priesthood quorums.

      “What if the RS president could allocate fast offerings to get good things done?”

      There is nothing to stop an RSP requesting Fast Offering from the Bishop. But I am not sure what you are suggesting. The use of FO is limited. It is not there, for instance, to purchase humanitarian aid – there are already resources for that.

  4. Carolyn Nielsen says:

    A positive that I see is that this is missionary work in the tradition of Jesus’ earthly ministry.

  5. Kathy says:

    Thanks for sharing this idea of a major task. There’s so much relief that’s needed in the world and I love the prospect of the Relief Society owning their piece of that work.

  6. Ziff says:

    I really like this idea, Suzette. Particularly your second point sounds like undoing the work of correlation on RS, and making it its own independent organization again, which I think would be so good for the Church.

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