"The more you trust and rely upon the Spirit,
the greater your capacity to create."

~Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Saturday, September 5, 2009

RELIEF SOCIETY: DIVINE ORGANIZATION OF WOMEN

This month, I have to teach a week early. I'm sharing my lesson outline below for those who have said they appreciate these posts. The entire lesson can be found here: http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?hideNav=1&locale=0&sourceId=7ca8b00367c45110VgnVCM100000176f620a____&vgnextoid=198bf4b13819d110VgnVCM1000003a94610aRCRD)
RELIEF SOCIETY: DIVINE ORGANIZATION OF WOMEN
“If you live up to your privileges, the angels cannot be restrained from being your associates.”
FROM THE LIFE OF JOSEPH SMITH
In the spring of 1842, members of the Church in Nauvoo were busily occupied with the work of building the Nauvoo Temple. Two such members were Sarah Granger Kimball and her seamstress, Margaret A. Cook, who, while talking together one day, decided to combine their efforts in order to help the temple workmen. Sister Kimball said that she would provide fabric so that Sister Cook could make shirts for the men. The two women decided to invite other sisters to join them in forming a ladies’ society to further their benevolent efforts. Sarah Granger Kimball recalled: “The neighboring sisters met in my parlor and decided to organize. I was delegated to call on Sister Eliza R. Snow and ask her to write for us a Constitution and By-laws, and submit them to President Joseph Smith prior to our next Thursday’s meeting.”

After looking over the proposed constitution and bylaws, the Prophet pronounced them the best he had ever seen but then said: “ ‘This is not what you want. Tell the sisters their offering is accepted of the Lord, and he has something better for them than a written Constitution. I invite them all to meet with me and a few of the brethren… next Thursday afternoon.’ ”

Accordingly, on March 17, the Prophet, accompanied by Elders John Taylor and Willard Richards, met with 20 women of all ages in the upstairs room of the Red Brick Store. The Prophet officially organized the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo and taught those present about the purposes of the new organization. The sisters elected Emma Smith as president of the Relief Society, and Emma selected her two counselors. The Prophet then read a revelation received 12 years earlier in which the Lord assigned Emma to collect hymns for publication and designated her as an “elect lady” (D&C 25:3). Emma Smith rose to speak, emphasizing the society’s vast potential: “We are going to do something extraordinary… We expect extraordinary occasions and pressing calls.”

Since those early days of the Relief Society, the women of the Church have remained a tremendous force for good. At a meeting held a week after the Relief Society was organized, Lucy Mack Smith, the Prophet’s mother, gave the sisters counsel that extends to millions of women in the Church today: “We must cherish one another, watch over one another, comfort one another and gain instruction, that we may all sit down in heaven together.”

Read the statement by Emma Smith at the top of page 450:

Emma Smith rose to speak, emphasizing the society’s vast potential: “We are going to do something extraordinary… We expect extraordinary occasions and pressing calls.”

Why do you think Relief Society sisters are able to accomplish extraordinary things?
  1. called of the Lord
  2. led by men of God
  3. divine duties – the “errand of angels”
In what ways have you and your family been blessed through the efforts of Relief Society sisters?
  1. friendship
  2. food
  3. funerals
  4. Visiting Teaching program
Read the counsel from Lucy Mack Smith at the bottom of page 450:

At a meeting held a week after the Relief Society was organized, Lucy Mack Smith, the Prophet’s mother, gave the sisters counsel that extends to millions of women in the Church today: “We must cherish one another, watch over one another, comfort one another and gain instruction, that we may all sit down in heaven together.”

In what ways do Relief Society sisters follow this counsel today?
  1. develop loving relationships with each other & our visiting teaching sisters
  2. be cognizant of needs/challenges of others
  3. be available/approachable to help
  4. LISTEN, sympathize, empathize
  5. teach – share our experiences, offer guidance, bring a message/lesson when we visit teach
  6. When it’s hard to do these things, keep an eternal perspective; Christ loved ALL men.
THE RELIEF SOCIETY, ORGANIZED UNDER THE PRIESTHOOD AND AFTER ITS PATTERN, IS AN ESSENTIAL PART OF THE CHURCH
The Prophet Joseph Smith organized the Relief Society “under the priesthood after the pattern of the priesthood” (page 451).

Sarah Granger Kimball recalled that shortly before the Prophet Joseph Smith organized the Relief Society, he said: “I will organize the women under the priesthood after the pattern of the priesthood… The Church was never perfectly organized until the women were thus organized.”

How does this set them apart from other service organizations in the world?
  1. divinely organized according to God’s plan
  2. power in the priesthood / sustained by the hand of God
  3. led by divine guidance & inspiration
Why do you think the Church was “never perfectly organized” until Joseph Smith organized the Relief Society?
  1. God’s plan includes ALL of his children
  2. We have innate qualities and divine duties as women of God.
THE RELIEF SOCIETY ENABLES WOMEN TO ACT ACCORDING TO THEIR BENEVOLENT NATURES, GIVING CARE TO THOSE IN NEED
The Family: A Proclamation to the WorldAll human beings – male and female – are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.
  1. gender specific roles – men & women have divinely different qualities, talents, and abilities to develop and use for the benefit of the gospel
Doctrine & Covenants 88:125 And above all things, clothe yourselves with the bond of charity, as with a mantle, which is the bond of perfectness and peace.

How do the responsibilities of Relief Society sisters today compare to the assignments the sisters received from Joseph Smith?
  1. have faith in leaders & pray for them
  2. listen to God’s counsel
  3. be sympathetic
  4. give relief to poor, destitute, widows, & orphans
  5. provide relief for strangers
  6. tend to the wounded heart of the distressed
  7. be benevolent & kind
  8. open doors to the weary traveler
  9. share with the hungry & unclothed
  10. practice holiness
  11. remain pure & innocent
  12. feed the Lord’s sheep
  13. have no strife among us
  14. repent
  15. do not be self-righteousness
  16. be honorable
  17. don’t gossip
  18. speak kindly of others
Read the first full paragraph on page 452:

“Said Jesus, ‘Ye shall do the work, which ye see me do.’ [See 2 Nephi 31:12.] These are the grand key-words for the society to act upon.”

In what ways do opportunities to give service help us become more like the Savior?
  1. As we emulate Him, we become more like Him.
  • “As I have loved you, love one another.”
  • Shepherd
  • Healer
  • Teacher
  • He sacrificed for others
THE RELIEF SOCIETY ENCOURAGES WOMEN TO PRACTICE HOLINESS AND TO INSTRUCT ONE ANOTHER
Read the first paragraph on page 453:

“The Ladies’ Relief Society is not only to relieve the poor, but to save souls.”

What do you think it means to save a soul?
  1. lead others to the path of salvation
  2. sustain them along that path

In what ways do members of the Relief Society fulfill this responsibility, both temporally and spiritually?

TEMPORAL
Feed families
Teach homemaking skills
Play dates
Book club

SPIRITUAL
invite sisters to attend meetings & activities
offer to carpool/babysit so they can attend church/temple/etc.
make them feel welcome
comfort & mourn with them (suffering loss can be a huge test of faith)

Review the second full paragraph on page 452 and the fourth paragraph on page 453:

Willard Richards reported: “The [Female Relief Society] meeting was addressed by President Joseph Smith, to illustrate the object of the Society – that the Society of Sisters might provoke the brethren to good works in looking to the wants of the poor – searching after objects of charity, and in administering to their wants – to assist by correcting the morals and strengthening the virtues of the community.”

“You must put down iniquity, and by your good examples, stimulate the Elders to good works.”

What can Relief Society sisters do to stimulate good works among priesthood holders?

  1. set a good example
  2. be supportive & encouraging
  3. create opportunities for them to serve
What can priesthood holders do to support Relief Society sisters in their work?
  1. set a good example
  2. be supportive & encouraging
  3. create opportunities
Read the paragraph that begins at the bottom of page 453:

Willard Richards reported: “President Joseph Smith read the revelation to Emma Smith, from the book of Doctrine and Covenants [D&C 25]; and stated that she was … to expound the scriptures to all; and to teach the female part of the community; and that not she alone, but others, may attain to the same blessings.”

Doctrine & Covenants 25:1 Hearken unto the voice of the Lord your God, while I speak unto you, Emma Smith, my daughter; for verily I say unto you, all those who receive my gospel are sons and daughters in my kingdom. 2 A revelation I give unto you concerning my will; and if thou art faithful and walk in the paths of virtue before me, I will preserve thy life, and thou shalt receive an inheritance in Zion. 3 Behold, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou art an elect lady, whom I have called. 4 Murmur not because of the things which thou hast not seen, for they are withheld from thee and from the world, which is wisdom in me in a time to come. 5 And the office of thy calling shall be for a comfort unto my servant, Joseph Smith, Jun., thy husband, in his afflictions, with consoling words, in the spirit of meekness. 6 And thou shalt go with him at the time of his going, and be unto him for a scribe, while there is no one to be a scribe for him, that I may send my servant, Oliver Cowdery, whithersoever I will. 7 And thou shalt be ordained under his hand to expound scriptures, and to exhort the church, according as it shall be given thee by my Spirit. 8 For he shall lay his hands upon thee, and thou shalt receive the Holy Ghost, and thy time shall be given to writing, and to learning much. 9 And thou needest not fear, for thy husband shall support thee in the church; for unto them is his calling, that all things might be revealed unto them, whatsoever I will, according to their faith. 10 And verily I say unto thee that thou shalt lay aside the things of this world, and seek for the things of a better. 11 And it shall be given thee, also, to make a selection of sacred hymns, as it shall be given thee, which is pleasing unto me, to be had in my church. 12 For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads. 13 Wherefore, lift up thy heart and rejoice, and cleave unto the covenants which thou hast made. 14 Continue in the spirit of meekness, and beware of pride. Let thy soul delight in thy husband, and the glory which shall come upon him. 15 Keep my commandments continually, and a crown of righteousness thou shalt receive. And except thou do this, where I am you cannot come. 16 And verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my voice unto all. Amen.

What can we learn from this about each sister’s responsibilities and opportunities?
  1. we are called of God to be teachers (in our classes, in our homes, among our friends/associates)
  2. we are expected to be knowledgeable in the scriptures
  3. we have a responsibility for the spiritual growth of our fellow sisters
THE RELIEF SOCIETY ENCOURAGES WOMEN TO FOLLOW THE EXAMPLE OF THE SAVIOR IN SHOWING MERCY AND AVOIDING STRIFE
The Prophet warned against “feeding on the faults of others” (page 454):

“If you would have God have mercy on you, have mercy on one another… We are full of selfishness; the devil flatters us that we are very righteous, when we are feeding on the faults of others.”

What do you think this means?
  1. We may form an elevated opinion of ourselves by looking down on others.
  2. This may be a way of subconsciously defending our own shortcomings.
How might this attitude hinder the efforts of the Relief Society – or any quorum or group in the Church?
  1. prevent us from loving those who we deem unworthy
  2. cause us to think they don’t “deserve” our service
  3. make others feel unloved or unwanted
What can we do to feed the Lord’s sheep rather than feed ourselves on their faults?
  1. pray for patience and understanding
  2. pray for guidance to know what they need from us
CLOSING OBSERVATIONS & TESTIMONY
Consider following verses from Proverbs 31:
10 Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies. 11 The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. 12 She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life. 13 She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands. 14 She is like the merchants’ ships; she bringeth her food from afar. 15 She ariseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens. 16 She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard. 17 She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms. 18 She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night. 19 She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff. 20 She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy. 21 She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet. 22 She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple. 23 Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land. 24 She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant. 25 Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come. 26 She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness. 27 She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness. 28 Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her. 29 Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all. 30 Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised. 31 Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.

Bear testimony of the holiness of the Relief Society

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