"An answer has come that the sisters of the Church should know and learn from the history of Relief Society. Understanding the history of Relief Society strengthens the foundational identity and worth of faithful women."
This answer came to Sister Beck in her plea "to help His daughters be strong in the face of the 'calamity which should come upon the inhabitants of the earth.'" When Sister Beck gave this moving talk in October at the Relief Society General Meeting I wasn't entirely sure how it could help me but I took it in faith. Besides I love history and know there is much we can learn from history. While I took it in faith and believed her I didn't too much about it until this past week.
This past week I was able to get my hands on two histories of Relief Society. The first was the Centennial History of Relief Society, 1842-1944. The second book was called, "The History of Relief Society, 1842-1966. I devoured these books and then I studied again and again Sister Beck's words. I am seeking to learn what personal messages the Lord has for me that I can be "strong in the face of the 'calamity which should come.'" Through this pondering many thoughts have come as well as actual action steps.
The first was to share my find with my mother and sister. My sister immediately latched onto the idea of using the Centennial History for her book at our Relief Society Book Club Meeting. Now the book would be passed among a few more in our ward, success! This led to much discussion and memories among the three of us. We remembered the "old Relief Society scrapbook" that was at the church. A plan was made to redo it digitally and make a hard copy thereby securing the old pictures and histories. Permission was given from the Bishop and a counselor.
This week I have worked on retyping the histories and my mom will scan the pictures when I finish. This has been a wonderful project so far. I am a third generation resident of this town and so I have heard of these wonderful sisters from long ago through stories through the years. They are coming alive to me as I learn about the history of the Relief Society in my little community and see their pictures. They are real people.
From these combined histories I am coming to see who I am and what I need to do as Sister Beck taught. I have learned and have been reminded that Relief Society has always been about serving others. The early sisters did this by sewing for the temple workers, sewing the temple veil, making burial clothing and sewing for the Indians as well as needy families. They were innovative in solving problems and had keen eyesight to recognize potential problems and plan for them. They worked hard to promote home industry for the needy and encourage those able to add their talents to fundraising and bazaars. They were proponents of mother and children's health; working to establish nursing education and creating hospitals. They worked tirelessly during the War Years to support the troops through bond sales and soap donations. They instituted the Visiting Teaching Program to reach out to all sisters. They loved music and organized "Singing Mother Groups" through the Stakes of Zion. Perhaps my favorite was their dedication to mother education through weekly classes.
On my local level in my ward I have read of their tireless fundraising projects to build a large ward building to meet in. They worked hard to provide the weekly classes and provide social events for the sisters in our town. They walked miles to complete visiting teaching appointments and visit the sick. They provided meals to the church farm workers and supported the priesthood brethren in their assignments. They helped prepare bodies for burial as no funeral services were available. They also put in hours and hours of sewing time to make clothing for those in need and to prepare bazaar items for fundraising. They never seemed to stop working hard to bless others.
While studying I noticed some thoughts that currently stand out:
- They sewed A LOT
- Mother Education was extremely important to them and this included Literature such as Shakespeare, biographies, lots of poetry, American Literature, modern drama……
- Developing talents of: sewing, knitting, quilting, weaving, crocheting, flower-making, writing, singing, painting, teaching, event planning, leading, etc.
- Encouraged nurturing and creating
- Sisters needed to gather together often to socialize
- The R.S. goal of helping sisters find joy and testimony in their role of wife and mother was vital
Learning the history of Relief Society has unified me in heart to the sisters I know now and also to those who worked tirelessly before me and left me a great legacy. I realize that I am not alone in this great work. There are many who have worked, are working and will work in the future to prepare the earth for the Savior to return. There are many more that are side by side me both in Spirit and in body than I had realize. Through this I have come to see that I can change to become even more who the Lord wants me to become. I can fulfill my mission and be a strong wife and mother during this day when Satan tries to beat the door down on me and make me become as "'silly women' who worships a variety of 'strange gods.'"
I add my testimony to Sister Beck that learning our history through the Relief Society will help us to become strong against the "growing climate of entitlement, excuse, apathy, and enticement."
All quotes are from Sister Beck's October 2010 talk.