Why I Love Relief Society

IMG_1992Olea has decided 2013 is a year of discovery, both of the world around her (she is currently living in the south of France, her first time overseas) and the potential within her. She would describe herself as open-hearted and optimistic (she loves words starting with an o), and her best friend tried to convince her to use the word “wise”, but clearly that didn’t work.

I have always felt a special connection to the sisters in my life. I loved the Young Women’s program, and often it was the only place in my life that I felt I belonged. When I moved from Adelaide to Melbourne, at the end of high school, to join my family who’d been there all year, I was looking forward to joining Relief Society. I had visited during holidays, and spent time with the young women, but when I went to Relief Society, I felt accepted and wanted in a deeper way than I ever had before. In classes, I was encouraged to share my experiences and testimony, and my needs and opinions were considered when planning activities, though I was only 18 and new to the ward. Our ward was very small when I first arrived – it had just been split, and wasn’t much bigger than a branch – and over the course of 6 years, we moved to a new building (from our rented hall-plus-a-few-classrooms) and now we are worried around Stake Conference times in case of more splits.

My first activity, as part of the new Enrichment focus that encouraged small groups organised by sisters, was a book club. We met monthly in a sister’s home and read, among others, The Pilgrim’s Progress, Don Quixote, something by Charles Dickens that I have since removed from my memory, Love in the Time of Cholera, The Lovely Bones and My Sister’s Keeper. We discussed authors’ intentions, favourite characters and unexpected plot twists. We discussed our families and friends and personal experiences, we shared philosophical views and argued about ideas, sometimes even relating to the book we’d read, often until (and occasionally after) midnight.

Even as more and more sisters were added, and the needs changed from predominantly mid-30s to late-40s sisters to a much broader spectrum, the feeling of acceptance and love didn’t change. Each new sister was welcomed into our family and her experiences became important to us, whether it was the struggle of becoming a single-mother of teen boys, or longing and hoping for children with her husband of many years through international surrogacy.

Because of Relief Society, I have a sister who has 2 children from a previous marriage, 3 older step-children, and 2 babies with her husband. I have a sister who lives on a farm with horses and dogs, alone since her partner passed away, and content with her current singlehood. I have a sister who expected her new home to be ready when she was pregnant with her third daughter, and now has a fourth, living in a home with no sink or light fixtures, and a husband who works long hours at his job and then comes home to renovate until the early hours of the morning. And she’s starting her own business, in clothing retail. I have a sister who struggles with depression, teaches primary school students now that her children are both in high school, and works hard at a marriage even on days when she’s not sure why. I have a sister who’s more like a mother and mentors and guides me so that, when I see how she sees me, I know how Heavenly Father sees me. And when we work together and she accepts my offerings of love, and tells me that my perceived-inadequacies are a beautiful part of me, I feel closer to heaven because I feel close to her.

I love Relief Society because I love my sisters. Every single one. They each inspire me, encourage me, show me their weaknesses and ask for help when they need it. They share their deep thoughts and spiritual yearnings with me. They teach me and are patient with me, and expect me to have things to teach them. Their joy gives me joy, their sorrow brings me sorrow, their testimony strengthens my testimony. Through their hardships I learn strength and faith, and through my trials I am comforted. When I am in Relief Society, or discussing literature with my sisters, or crafting together, or caring for their children – when my life is connected to theirs, I feel charity, the pure love of Christ. And charity never faileth.

12 thoughts on “Why I Love Relief Society

  1. Thank you for the reminder of why I love Relief Society, too. Your passion for the relationships you have built with these women makes me want to reach out even more to the sisters around me. Beautiful.

  2. It is so nice to see that many feel this way. I, unfortunately, don’t. I would love to love RS but I just haven’t had that experience. I divorce my RM and was basically shunned (despite the fact that we had 4 kids & I needed support).I married again and we have 3 more children. I stress at church because our RS meeting is in the chapel and my youngest gets restless and wants to run around like crazy, so I am unable to remember the last lesson I heard. I was diagnosed with a brain tumour & Uterine cancer and received NO SUPPORT (not even a visit from my visiting teachers).Support unfortunately is not universal.

  3. sarita and Kerri, thank you so much for the kind words.

    Sara, I definitely understand that not every sister has the same experience. Sounds like you’ve been having a hard time. Do you have a sisterly support network in another way than through RS? And I definitely think it takes active work from every sister to keep her guards down and not judge other people – a hard problem to solve, because it involves so many individual women. Do you have any ideas for improving things?

  4. Sara, there are always women in the room with heartache. And there are always kind women in the room. Seek them out. Either way, you will be better for it; you’ll be able to soothe someone else’s hurt feelings or you’ll feel a kinship.

    Because of my experiences, I know what Sara is talking about, but I soldier on. I actually love Relief Society, too, but it can be a gauntlet at times, especially, I think, in Utah.

    Nice post.

  5. I also love Relief Society too and have gained many friendships with women I might never have associated with otherwise. I have also, at times, felt alone in Relief Society and struggled to relate to some of the other women there. I always feel a little sad when I hear about wards where women feel shunned or left out because Relief Society has so much potential for good in our lives, yet too often it becomes a place for hurt. When I hear stories like Sara’s I ask myself if I have been that person in my ward–have I really been reaching out and enlarging my circle like I should be?

  6. I’ve loved all of my Relief Societies, each ward or branch giving new opportunities to learn, laugh and love. I’m much more cautious (due to life) about reaching out to people now, but RS is where I find those people I feel safe to reach out to.

    Jessie said “Have I really been reaching out and enlarging my circle like I should be?” which struck a cord. I’m not comfortable with being chatty with a large number of people, but I’ve spoken to my RS President and let her know that if she needs someone to do something, to let me know, and that fits specific needs better than a group sometimes would.

    Sara, I’m sorry you’ve had such a lack. I hope you have support now.

    Thanks for the post, Olea!

  7. Olea, thank you for your beautifully articulated piece. It sounds like you were open enough to share and your sisters shared as well. What a gift of love and charity you have given one another. We all need sisters.

    Too often I think we are afraid of sharing because we think that others will judge us and often when a sister has shared with me she follows it up with a disclaimer like “I’m sorry for dumping all that on you”. Oh, my, we all struggle, we all need help, we all need to feel we are ok.

    Sara I am so sorry that you have had this experience. Hang in there, this can be a forum for speaking how you feel and somewhere in that ward there is a sister who understands. I will pray for that for you.

    Thank you Olea for reminding me that relationships are what RS is all about.

  8. I love RS for the same reasons. RS has taught me to reach out to those who may need a little extra love and support. By doing that I’ve been able to make some wonderful friends.

    I’m so sorry Sara that you have had to experience that in RS. I had a similar experience after having child #4 (via c-section) and then my husband had back surgery 6 weeks later. I did not know who my visiting teachers were. I finally called the RS president and asked her for help. I just needed help getting the older children where they needed to go for a couple of weeks. Sometimes you need to just speak up and if that person won’t listen keep asking until someone does.

  9. I just love RS too. Such an odd assortment of people but I find that most have beautiful hearts.

  10. Sara, I, too, have found that sometimes we need to ask. A lot of times I think people are afraid or clueless about our needs, ebpven when it can seem so obvious, I think, too, that RS can only fulfill its purpose fully when we are able to help each other and risk in ways that require us to seek help and to help in less obvious ways. In the quiet heart is so often true sorrow that the eye can’t see, and there is sometimes no other way for our needs to really be knonpwn except to risk. And then risk again. There’s so much trial and error in learning to be of one heart and one mind.

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