Relief Society Lesson 22: Doing Good to Others

This lesson has a lot of potential. The trick will be to inspire your sisters to think big about ways they can serve others without leaving them feeling guilt-ridden if they can’t do a lot right now.


When you hear the term, “doing good to others” or the term, “service,” what people come immediately to mind and why?  (Mother Teresa, Jesus, Clara Barton, abolitionists, etc.)  After women have shared their answers, comment on the person that most inspires you in this category and why. Personally, I’d go with Mother Teresa. Make the point that these people serve in different ways, different capacities, different areas. Doing good to others is broad, and there are many ways to go about it, large and small.)


Be Friends To the World:

“To do unto others as we would have others do unto us.” This is according to the law and the prophets. [See Matthew 7:12.] These are principles we should and must learn. … We should be friends everywhere and to everybody. There is no Latter-day Saint that hates the world: but we are friends to the world, we are obliged to be, so far as they are concerned. We must learn to extend our charity and labor in the interests of all mankind. This is the mission of the Latter-day Saints—not simply confine it to ourselves, but to spread it abroad, as it of necessity must be extended to all mankind.”

I really liked this quote. I love the phrases, “we are friends to the world” and “we should be friends everywhere and to everybody.” There’s an expansiveness in Snow’s words and tone, and I appreciate the fact that he is emphasizing connections between all humanity. How does this notion that we are friends to the world jive with other commonly touted Mormon phrases, like “Be in the world but not of the world.” Is there a discrepancy between Snow’s attitude and that common phrase about not being of the world? How do we reconcile these two positions — being friends to the world but not of the world?


Everything Seems Illuminated When we Help Others:

“We should have before us a strong desire to do good to others. Never mind so much about ourselves. Good will come to us all right if we keep our minds outside of ourselves to a certain extent, and try to make others happier and draw them a little nearer to the Lord. … When you find yourselves a little gloomy, look around you and find somebody that is in a worse plight than yourself; go to him and find out what the trouble is, then try to remove it with the wisdom which the Lord bestows upon you; and the first thing you know, your gloom is gone, you feel light, the Spirit of the Lord is upon you, and everything seems illuminated.”

I loved the last three words here — “everything seems illuminated” when we try to help others and share their burdens. What everyday experiences have you had with this? With helping others and then feeling lifted up and better for having made that connection and that effort? While the class is thinking, share your own experience of helping others and then being lifted and illuminated as a result.


Don’t Be Afraid to Think Big

It’s important to inspire your sisters about the vast potential we have to serve and help others. It’s important to inspire them to think big, think creatively in our efforts to do good to others. Lots of service happens within the church, and that’s terrific, but what are ways we can serve outside of our ward boundaries? Be creative and think big. Do you know of people who have seen a need in the world and just done something about it?  While the class is thinking, show them this AMAZING I’m a Mormon video. It’s about a French fashion designer named Cecile Pelous who sold her house to open an orphanage in Nepal. This will make everyone teary and awed at her extraordinary courage and vision. Be sure to click on CC so you can get captions.


Chieko Okazaki’s reflections on service and on Cecile Pelous’ extraordinary acts of service are interesting.

“Kigatsuku means an inner desire to do something good without being told. When you see a need, do what you can to meet that need. It’s okay if no one else has seen that need, and it’s okay if thousands of people don’t immediately jump on your bandwagon. If you and I thought exactly alike, one of us would not be necessary. But the world needs each one of us – our separate gifts, our separate creativities, our separate perceptions.

At a BYU women’s conference some years ago, I was thrilled by Cecile Pelous, a former Relief Society president and fashion designer from Paris who spends every penny she can save or raise and three months of each year in India, serving the poor. She’s definitely a kigatsuku person. When she sees a need, she doesn’t just tell someone else about it. She personally does something.

She was once asked, ‘Why are you in India doing all of that on your own? Don’t you know the Church is supposed to do that?’

Her reply: ‘This is the Church. Me. I’m a member of this Church, and this is the Church doing this.’

As a former Relief Society president, she speaks of how frustrated she would get when ward members expressed a desire to serve but did nothing. She says, ‘Too often it seemed like I had to take their hands and put their fingers on the right buttons and say, ‘Now push. Now do it.’ Everything had to be done under some direction of the Church. We just don’t see the opportunities all around us to serve and to help.’

For some, she says, the Church becomes a blinder, preventing them from seeing the whole picture. ‘Yet really the Church is there to remove any blinders we might have. It’s not there to tell us we can’t have friends outside the Church or to prohibit us from getting involved in non-LDS sponsored projects.’ …

May I suggest that when you see a need, you consider that your perception is the Spirit’s way of giving you a little calling, a little job that comes directly from the Lord, not necessarily from your bishop. Be Kigatsuku. Say yes to these little callings. Some of them will last only ten minutes; others may last a lifetime.”  Chieko Okazaki, Sanctuary 183-185

I loved the quote of Cecile saying “This is the Church. Me.” And how she takes responsibility for alleviating needs around her, whether or not the Church was directing her to do it. I also love Chieko’s suggestion that we say yes to these callings from God to do things to help others.

On a similar theme, this story of an 80 year old woman who sold her house and moved to the Philipines to start an orphanage made me teary. Feel free to briefly comment on this as well in your lesson. I love the idea that age does not have to hinder our actions or our vision.


What if There’s No Joy in Service?

I believe that that sense of lifting and joy often happens when we serve, but sometimes, it doesn’t. What do we do then? Read Chieko’s reflections on this to the class:

“I’m sure you’ve heard dozens of lessons and heard hundreds of talks about the importance of service and the joy it brings. But what if the joy isn’t there? What then? Well, at that point, we often make a terrible mistake. We feel wretchedly guilty and redouble our efforts, make longer lists, have worse experiences and reproach ourselves more. We take on more projects. We work more anxiously toward some product…. And the joy gets further away.

Is your service a joy or a job? Sometimes we over-program ourselves. We take on too much. We take on things that are too elaborate. We become so weary in doing good that we can no longer do it well.

I feel that service is a duty and a responsibility, but it is also voluntary, not compulsory. If your service is starting to feel like a job, then you need to change things to get the joy back. I think that often the problem is that we are no longer choosing. We are not seeing needs. Someone else is. And we are not responding to the need of an individual whose need we see. We’re responding to a third person who has noticed the need and who is assigning us to take care of it. We are product oriented on the task instead of process oriented on the rhythm of seeing a need, meeting a need. We are not person oriented on the individual. ….

So if the joy feels like a job, see if you need to reevaluate your circumstances. You know what your resources are and the demands on them. There comes times in every life when there’s just nothing left to give. … Accept that you are in a season of depletion, and do not add guilt to your burdens as you wait for renewal.” 41-42, Cat’s Cradle

Have there been times in your own life where you have felt depleted from giving and giving and giving? How did you heal step back, institute boundaries, and then and heal from the depletion? How did you come to find joy in service again? 


We have infinite capacity to do good in the world, to see problems, to devise plans to help, and to carry them out. Keep your eyes open to the needs in your own community. May God be with us as we each work to develop that sense of kigatsuku, of the desire to do good without being told. May God be with us as we think expansively about our abilities to help one another.






Caroline is a PhD student in Women's Studies in Religion and mother of three.

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2 Responses

  1. Rachel says:

    I love that quotation about Latter-day Saints not hating the world, but being a friend to the world. To me that sounds so much more hopeful and so much more true to real life experience, as this is the world that we have now. This world is where we love, learn, and labor. There are more people in this world than just our fellow Latter-day Saints (though I agree that it is important to serve them, too).

    Then I loved Chieko’s language about looking for needs ourselves, and how what we see as a need may be different than what someone else sees. This doesn’t mean that what our eyes see is wrong, and that we should not step in, or that that work is not valuable.

    Thank you for this lovely lesson guide, Caroline!

  2. Jeremy says:

    Thanks for putting the effort into your lesson outline above.

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