Putting the “Relief” Back in Relief Society

Kent Larsen has an interesting post on timesandseasons.org about the original purpose of the LDS Church Relief Society:

While we think we understand its purpose based on what the women’s organization does today, the things that Relief Society does have changed radically since its founding in 1842. . .  Before the welfare program was developed in the 1930s, the Relief Society WAS (Kent’s emphasis) the welfare program.  It collected and stored foodstuffs for later distribution to the poor, seeing to the welfare of everyone it could service.

As Kent’s blog post notes, this role can also be seen in the historic hymn “As Sisters in Zion” with words by Emily Hill Woodmansee.  The lyrics have changed through the years, but below is a quote from the original:

  • Its purpose, indeed, is to comfort and feed
  • The honest and poor in distress and in need.
  • Oh!  the Daughters of Zion, the friends of the poor,
  • Are exemplars of faith, hope and charity, pure.

I’m not a member of the Relief Society, for biological reasons, so this next comment may be unfair.  But I feel that a reemphasis on helping the poor, particularly in developing countries where most of the growth in the LDS Church is currently occurring, could be a valuable task for the modern-day Relief Society.

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3 Responses to Putting the “Relief” Back in Relief Society

  1. Pingback: Sunday in Outer Blogness: Musings Edition! » Main Street Plaza

  2. rogerdhansen says:

    According to the “Ensign” (Aug 2013), the visiting teaching message of August is titled “Welfare.”

    “The purposes of Church welfare are to help members become self-reliant, to care for the poor and needy, and to give service. Welfare is central to the work of the Relief Society, President B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency, has taught:

    “[The Lord] has from the beginning of time provided ways for his disciples to help. He has invited His children to consecrate their time, their means, and themselves to join with Him in serving others . . .

    “He has invited and commanded us to participate in His work to lift up those in need. We make a covenant to do that in the waters of baptism and in the holy temples of God. We renew the covenant on Sundays when we take of the sacrament.””

  3. rogerdhansen says:

    On June 9, 1842, the Prophet Joseph Smith charged the sisters in Relief Society to “relieve the poor” and to “save souls.” These goals are still at the heart of Relief Society and are expressed in our motto, “Charity never faileth” (1 Corinthans 13:8). (from the “Ensign” Aug 2013)

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