I doubt that I'm alone in my feeling somewhat apprehensive about what will actually be included in this new Relief Society history. Of note, is the fact that this is the only authorized history of the LDS women, in the Church. That's significant! And because of this significance, as an LDS Woman, I personally feel a need to prepare myself to receive it in the proper spirit.
First and foremost I've decided that I need to keep in mind that this history of Relief Society is to appeal to women in the Church, globally. Which means, that I'm not expecting to read anything that would only be applicable, or of concern, to those living here in the United States. With this understanding, I think I'll be much more prepared to receive not only what is included -- and not, but also the reasons why. I think this perspective is going to be very important for many sisters living here in the United States.
I've bolded my own topic headings above quotes from Sister Beck's transcript...
Mormon Church is a GLOBAL organization
I have been touched by the questions that come from the sisters. And it gives me understanding of the broad spectrum of the experience you’re having, the difficulties, and the joys in your lives, and the things you are trying to accomplish.
Most important issues facing LDS Women today
Over the past few years in Women’s Conference, we’ve concentrated on a few things that we’ve hoped would help bless and strengthen you. We’ve talked about Relief Society as being about relief which word is defined as lifting up, and lifting us to a higher level of achievement and behavior and accomplishment in the Lord’s kingdom. We’ve talked about being strong and immovable. We’ve delineated the purposes of Relief Society. We’ve talked about families and what should be happening in families. And last year we mentioned the lioness at the gate and that protective feeling we should have as women over our homes and our hearths.
New history of Relief Society resource
Last fall in the General Relief Society, we talked about a history of Relief Society. And with the approval of the First Presidency, we announced that a history of Relief Society was being prepared for the sisters of the Church and that sometime this year, in 2011, that would be made available to the sisters of the Church, and that is true. That will be made available to you sometime this year. And you don’t need to worry about when it’s coming; you just need to know it will be here and settle your souls about that. It doesn’t really matter when it comes.
Relief Society history helps LDS Women understand role
As we’ve prepared this history for you, there have been many opportunities to learn, and there are some things that have come out in that preparation that have delineated some themes for learning. Stories—it’s not so important to have a linear historians history in the Church, but it is important to know our spiritual heritage and responsibility. And what are the themes that emerge in that spiritual heritage of what the Lord wants us to accomplish? This history actually provides a context for learning for the sisters of the Church. There are a few things that I’ll talk about today that I’m hoping, as history becomes ever more important to us, that we will learn, things that I have learned, and that we all who have worked in preparation of this have learned, and things that I am hoping my granddaughters will learn as they read and study Relief Society history. History helps us learn who we are and our importance to the Lord. It connects us and binds us with the covenants we have made. That’s why it’s important.
Relief Society strengthens and supports role of LDS women
The first thing I had learned from the history of Relief Society is that it strengthens and supports the unique identity of daughters of God. Our Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, love, value and rely on their daughters. God’s daughters, we know, have equal importance in His sight with His sons. They have unique responsibilities and duties in the plan of salvation, and they share some responsibilities in the plan with Heavenly Father’s sons. They also have a unified purpose in our Heavenly Father’s plan with His sons. There is an interesting, exciting, and unique female identity of greatness, richness, that is choice beyond comparison. And this identity that the Lord has given us and that we understand through the gospel of Jesus Christ, is in direct contrast to the debased and devalued identity of women that we find in the world today. We find an elevated, strong identity that comes from our Heavenly Father. This identity and purpose can only be fully understood through a spiritual confirmation. There is an intellectual study that can be made, but a spiritual confirmation is what teaches us who we are and what we are to do. There is much out in the world that is false by way of identity. There are identities of sensuality, women seeking power, prestige, money, leisure—all of these things are different identities. But the identity of a daughter of God is precious beyond compare, and rich, and full. We know that women are the guardians of the hearth and the home. And they have the responsibility for the hearts and souls of men and women and the children of our Heavenly Father. They are given this powerful and influential leadership role. Female responsibilities include being a wife, include being a mother, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a friend. This is all about nurturing, teaching, and influencing. These are non-negotiable responsibilities. We can’t delegate them. We can accept them and live them, but these are things we understood before we were born, and we can’t negotiate with the Lord about whether or not these are our responsibilities. They have been part of the plan from the beginning; they are not going to change because of any clamor to the contrary. These are our responsibilities.
Our responsibilities as LDS women
Our Heavenly Father loves His daughters, and because He loves us and the reward at the end is so glorious, we do not get a pass from the responsibilities we were given. We cannot give them away. They are our sacred duties and we fulfill them under covenant.
Relief Society is the restoration of pattern that existed anciently
Relief Society is a restoration of a pattern that existed anciently. There is evidence of this in the scriptures. I call that bread crumbs. You find the bread crumbs or the links or the nuggets that teach that. There is evidence of this in the testimony of living prophets. There is evidence of this in the Spirit confirming that this is so. Understanding the heritage we have, that this organization is a restoration of something that existed anciently, helps us understand that we are not a footnote in history or a sidebar in the Lord’s work—that we are an essential part of building the kingdom and we’ve been organized to do such.
Unique duties and responsibilities of LDS Women
So this restored pattern of discipleship we have in Relief Society provides an alignment for God’s daughters with His purpose, and helps us learn our unique duties and responsibilities. It also unifies us with men who hold the priesthood in the Lord’s work.
Relief Society today and how it is organized
I have asked sometimes, “Why do we have a Relief Society president on the general level and the local level?” And the reason we have a president is so we can have an organization, and we have an organization because we have a purpose; and when we have a purpose there is an expected work and outcome. Relief Society isn’t just a feel good, get together, let’s enjoy each other, do anything, anytime, anyplace for any reason—this is part of the Lord’s work. It has a president at every level, and a purpose that was delineated by the Lord and His holy prophets. This work needs a specific outcome. In a worldwide organization, it can grow exponentially, country by country, and provides a system of watchcare, and sisterhood, and discipleship and education that is growing every day.
Purpose of the Relief Society
The purposes of Relief Society, as determined by the Lord, are to help us increase faith and personal righteousness, strengthen families and homes, and seek out and help those who are in need. That’s why we exist. The outcome is that we will improve women individually and as a whole and prepare for eternal life; that we will build the Lord’s kingdom and homes and wards. We’re not entertainers. This is the Lord’s business of salvation. That’s the business we’re in. So we teach like the Savior taught, and we teach, and we teach, and we build the Lord’s kingdom. This isn’t about causes or advocacy groups, because we have an advocate. Our Savior, Jesus Christ, is our advocate with the Father. And we stand with Him, doing His work, working for His great cause.
Proper function of Relief Society
…Relief Society, when functioning properly, is a manifestation of charity. Charity is much more than a feeling of benevolence. It is more than virtuous living. It is living as Christ lived and being as He is. It is more than niceness. It is what we are to become.
The Relief Society Motto
A hundred years ago when the General Relief Society Presidency selected the motto for Relief Society as Charity Never Faileth they knew what they were doing. This motto was distilled by women who had been taught by Joseph Smith and understood the purpose of Relief Society. Joseph taught and taught and taught this more excellent way to the sisters. He taught them about becoming holy and using this organization to learn how to become like the Savior. Sisters, it’s more than benevolence. It is becoming like the Savior, utilizing the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
Relief Society is inseparably connected to the Priesthood
I’ve learned through studying the history of Relief Society that we have and live with an inseparable connection to the priesthood. The Prophet Joseph Smith put the sisters in the position to receive all the gifts, blessings, and privileges of the priesthood. We need never confuse the idea of those who hold the priesthood in trust, with the priesthood. The priesthood is God’s power. It is His power to create, to bless, to lead, to serve as He does. The priesthood duty of every righteous man is to qualify for the blessing of holding that priesthood and trust for the Lord so that he can bless his family and those around him. And I will say the priesthood duty of sisters is to create life, to nurture it, to prepare it for covenants of the Lord. Don’t confuse the power with the keys and the offices of the priesthood. God’s power is limitless and it is shared with those who make and keep covenants. Too much is said and misunderstood about what the brothers have and the sisters don’t have. This is Satan’s way of confusing both men and women so neither understands what they really have. Sisters and brothers each have every ordinance, every gift, and every blessing available to them to get back to our Father in Heaven, and no one, male or female, is left outside of those blessings to qualify for exaltation. There is a unity in the council and the covenant that is required us to get there. Neither the man nor the woman can ascend without the other. We are inseparably connected in that way. And I understand how special women are. I understand how special men are. And together we’re more special. We become what the Lord wants us to become.
Understanding the Relief Society connection to Priesthood comes through revelation in holy temples
Sisters, I’ve said before, I hope you go to the temple and pay attention. Pay attention and listen and look and learn and feel and understand what is happening, and the blessings and the gifts of the priesthood that come through the covenants and ordinances of the gospel.
Young women are prepared to receive the priesthood—the temple covenants in Young Women. And Relief Society was given the responsibility to firm up that maturity and get women prepared for the temple. Joseph Smith gave that assignment to the Relief Society and it has never been taken away from them. It is one of the major responsibilities of the Relief Society, to prepare young women and women for temple covenants.
God's Power comes to each of us through ordinances
We learn from reading the Doctrine and Covenants that in the ordinances of the gospel, the power of godliness is manifest. And we have those ordinances of baptism and the Holy Ghost, of conferring of the priesthood for men, of the endowment and the sealing, and there is a power of godliness that comes to each of us in each of those ordinances. That power is our goal, and the Lord has promised that. The Holy Ghost is a precious revelator that is given to all faithful women and men, and this teaches us to know and do what we need to do.
Getting Relief Society history into our hearts: Some of Sister Beck’s concluding thoughts…
“I hope as it becomes available to you, that the power and strength of these things will settle upon your hearts and that other lessons the Lord has to teach you personally will emerge in your study. We’ve learned about our female identity and duty in the Lord’s plan. It is bigger than knowing I am a child of God. It’s an expectation to live and choose and make progress into God’s life—not only to accept His plan but to fulfill it.”
“I’m grateful for Relief Society, not only for its beginnings but for what it is today. And I’m just beginning to have a glimpse of what the Lord has in mind for his daughters. The vision that comes to me sometimes is so glorious and staggering and humbling and thrilling. It is difficult to contemplate. It is part of that vision of Daniel of the stone rolling forth to bless the earth. The Lord expects and requires that His daughters participate in building His kingdom in bringing to pass what He calls His strange act.”
“Until the history of who you are is in your hearts, you won’t be as strong as you could be. Rather than prepare for a product, I would suggest that you prepare yourself to receive the Lord’s message for you. Go to the temple, pray, and live and become what the Lord would have us all become. The answer to the anger, to the entitlement, to the resentment, the apathy, is in the Relief Society of this Church. It is the response and the defense and the offense going forward.”
These are simply brief excerpts from Julie B. Beck's talk, and by no means are they inferred to be her complete thoughts on each topic. A careful reading of her entire address HERE will give you, personally, deeper insights into each of these main points - and better help you to receive, by the spirit, Daughters of My Kingdom: The Work and History of the Relief Society. Also, as you can see by the links I've included below this post, much care has been taken over the last year to prepare the sisters of the LDS Church for this new Relief Society resource.
I'm planning on addressing most of these topics in individual posts over the coming months, using the new Relief Society history resource -- that is sure give us many more insights into what the Lord would have the women of His Church understand about who we are, and why we are here at this particular time in the history of the world!
And one last thought... I wonder what the interest will be, if any, of LDS men in general, in this new history of Relief Society???
UPDATE 9/1: I finally received a copy and HERE are my initial impressions!
Deseret News - New Book 'a recipe' on how to be an LDS woman (strange title, if you ask me;)