Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The History of Relief Society

"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
I have pages and pages of notes. So much to think about! One thing that is very clear is that their focus is now my focus on how I live my life and how I raise our daughter. This focus includes serving others, educating self and developing our talents. This is the curriculum. This is what is important to me now. Yes, that includes lots of sewing. Those who know me well are laughing because this is so painful to me. However, I've been repenting and we have been sewing up a storm in this house the last couple of months, really you would be surprised! The amazing thing is that I'm so happy now when I do it. I think that is because I'm focused on nurturing others when I'm sewing and striving to fulfill my role brings the Spirit (which yields peace and happiness).

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.


Misty said...

Thank you so much for sharing was an answer to prayer, and has inspired me in many ways I could never have anticipated (I have a sewing machine that is 2 years old and never been touched!)

The spirit was able to teach me so much through you.

Kestrel said...

Oh wonderful, I will definitely add those books to my "to read" list. The one I just got from the library is called "Women of the Covenant" and it is LONG, but it's about Relief Society and looks really in depth and interesting, but I haven't read it yet so I have no opinion. I'll let you know how it goes.

I wish I could sew better but I'm so scared of running a needle through my finger. I'm trying to find someone to teach me to hand sew - I don't know how to stitch or anything and can barely sew on a button and even then I bet I'm not doing it right.

Kellie, said...

I loved your post. I will have to look for those books. A few years ago I read a book about a quilt that was made by the first RS in SLC for a fund raiser. Each of the sisters who contributed was highlighted. It was very interesting.

kitchenrecovery said...

I'm glad you remembered about that talk, and shared with us what you've been reading.
I've felt the sewing pull, I put on my new year list that I want to sew a dress. I really need to study more about reading patterns and just get more comfortable with sewing. It always feels like it would just be an overwhelming project to take on when I think about hefting the sewing machine and supplies out, and trying to figure everything out being so inexperienced. sigh. gotta get there some time.

Amy said...

I too have been wondering about what we are to learn from the history of RS. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and the books.

Being A Mother Who Knows said...

The two books I listed are publications put out by the Relief Society organization many years ago. I found the two I read in the back of a fogotten closet in our Relief Society room.

If you do not know how to do handwork including sewing then I suggest getting a mentor. The older Relief Society sisters in your ward would LOVE to teach these skills. I have spoken to many who worry these arts are dying. They would love to pass on their sewing skills and keep the fire of sewing among Relief Society sisters going!

Kimberly said...

I heard that next year we are supposed to have new manuals that focus on the history of RS-is that true?

I keep feeling I need to learn how to sew, I have zero skill in this area. Could anyone point me to a good internet resource on it? Just hand sewing for now, can't afford a sewing machine.

Whole Food For The Whole Family said...

For those wanting to learn how to sew, the website has very easy patterns with pictures that detail every step of the project. The patterns are downloadable and meant for those who are just learning to sew. I have used many of their patterns and have been very happy with the results. They have women and children's clothing, home decor projects, and more. Just thought I'd share. I think it's great that so many women are wanting to develop their sewing skills!

Rebekah said...

As I read this wonderful post a scripture I recently read came to mind. It's D & C 82:13-19. Some things from these verses that stood out to me are in verse 14 "Zion must increase in beauty, and in holiness". I too have recently been drawn to learn sewing. The fashions of our day are fast becoming inappropriate so how then are we to increase in beauty and holiness if what we wear is not conducive to that spirit? Sewing for ourselves solves this issue.
When pondering the topic of consecration I always used to think we would have to give all our stuff (even sentimental trinkets) to the church to be evenly distributed amongst the saints. On reading verse 18 "...all this for the benefit of the church...that every man may improve upon his talent that every man may gain other be cast into the Lord's storehouse..." Not long ago some friends came over and we were talking about Zion and a little about the law of consecration. We agreed that in the event of the world as we know it changing drastically there may be a time when we need to fall back on more ancient knowledge and skills to provide for our needs: clothes, furniture, growing our own food, and caring for the sick and afflicted without modern medicines. Many I know in addition to myself have felt a pull to learn these things or TALENTS. Sewing (not just clothes but toys and even feminine hygiene pads), herbal and essential oil medicine, seed saving and gardening, various skills and knowledge to provide all needs for a family have been of interest in my circle. Even my mother and her sister knit their own socks. I can now see how skills and knowledge can be consecrated to the Lord’s storehouse. This, in my mind, would be more beneficial to all then my earlier thoughts of even distribution of stuff (which is, frankly, mostly junk).
Also, I was reading a magazine called the Backwoodsman. It had a article about making a knot reference board. I thought this would be a great skill for my family to learn and it would make for great wholesome recreation! Another article was about Old Timers Weather Lore that uses poems to teach signs to look for to predict the weather. Talk about great ancient and useful knowledge that I’m sure we could also gain from the older generations of our RS and church members in general and pursuits in learning these skills make for true wholesome recreation. Sorry this is so long….

Tricia said...

I snagged one of the RS Centennial History books out of our ward library a month or so ago with the same intent. It's sitting on my nightstand waiting... Thanks for the sneak peak at what I have to look forward to!

Cassandra said...

Whole Food For The Whole Family - Thanks for posting that sewing link! That will help a lot. :)

Deanna Householder said...

I LOVE to sew and did much sewing when I was a teenager - pants, skirts, prom dresses, etc. I even have a serger! I made my own temple dress that I wear currently. But, sadly, I think that was the last thing I made and that was in 1992! Interesting thought though for excuse has been it is so expensive now to sew, not a way to save money. So perhaps, I should now look upon it as an opportunity to serve in some way.