I continue to thrill in reading and learning about the early history of the Relief Society. This month for our book club meeting we discussed, A Centenary of Relief Society 1842-1942. I enjoyed the opportunity to relook at some interesting events.
In addition to several readings I also took the time to read from The Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. On page 201 is a “synopsis of the Prophet’s Remarks to the Female Relief Society.” It reads,
“President Joseph arose. Spoke of the organization of the Female Relief Society; said he was deeply interested, that it might be built up to the Most High in an acceptable manner; that its rules must be observed; that none should be received into it but those who were worthy; proposed a close examination of every candidate…thus have an select society of the virtuous, and those who would walk circumspectly; commended them for their zeal, but said sometimes their zeal was not according to knowledge. One principal object of the institution was to purge out iniquity; said they must be extremely careful in all their examinations, or the consequences would be serious.” (March 30, 1842) D.H.C. 4:570
In another section (see page 239) the Minutes of a Relief Society Meeting, held June 9, 1842, were given where Joseph Smith spoke. The notes read,“Said it is no matter how fast the society increases, if all the members are virtuous; that we must be as particular with regard to the character of members now, as when the society was first started; that sometimes persons wish to crowd themselves into a society of this kind when they do not intend to pursue the ways of purity and righteousness, as if the society would be a shelter to them in their iniquity.
“He said that henceforth no person shall be admitted, but by presenting regular petitions, signed by two or three members in good standing in the society, and whoever comes in must be of good report.”Today in the church we do not have to apply to participate in Relief Society. However, I see great value in giving ourselves some self-inspection regarding Joseph Smith’s words. Elder Christofferson recently spoke of this. He said,
“Eventually, much of our chastening should come from within-we should become self-correcting.”Joseph Smith states we must be worthy, virtuous, walk circumspectly be zealous with knowledge, engage in ongoing purging of our iniquity, high character and of good report. I observe areas from my own life that I need to work on.
The topic of virtue in itself could be discussed indefinitely. Virtue being, “A pattern of thought and behavior based on high moral standards” (see Preach My Gospel and For the Strength of Youth). There is more to virtue than simply being chaste. It would include not gossiping, judging righteously, humility, having charity, being positive, pure & kind thoughts,….I think that virtue covers pretty much all my faults! Grrr!I recognize these words from the prophet as an opportunity to reflect on my own conduct. I see I have many areas to improve on; aligning myself more fully to the purposes of Relief Society helps me to be more effective in my work of building Zion through my family and through Relief Society.
The great pronouncement given by Joseph Smith to the Sisters also applies to us as individuals, “I now turn the key to you in the name of God and this Society shall rejoice and knowledge and intelligence shall flow down from this time.” I seek the blessings of knowledge and intelligence. What great promises are ours when we live up to our potential!