- I will speak to you tonight of the great legacy those who went before you in the Relief Society have passed on to you. The part of the foundation they laid for you which seems to me most important and persistent is that charity is at the heart of the society and is to come into the heart, to be part of the very nature, of every member. Charity meant to them far more than a feeling of benevolence. Charity is born of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and is an effect of His Atonement working in the hearts of the members. There are many benevolent groups of women who do great good. There are many who have overpowering feelings of sympathy for the unfortunate, the sick, and the needy. But this organization is unique and has been from its start.
The sisters of the pioneer era were asked to help in many areas. Out of that help developed plans and structures that helped the early settlers build stronger communities. One of the first things that they help organize was a hospital and helped get training for people to staff it.
- Under the leadership of women of great vision and capacity, the Relief Society took the lead in starting charitable services which did not exist on the frontier for those in need. They created a small hospital. They supported women in going to the East to get medical training to staff it. That was the beginning of one of the great hospital systems in the United States.
Several other things were created out of this great organization. Here are a few that President Eyring lists:
- They began programs which became over the years the worldwide LDS Family Services programs.
- They created a grain storage system so effective that they could respond to a request for help from the federal government in a time of war and crisis.
- They began what became the Primary and what became the organization for young women in the Church.
- They created their own magazine for women.
- They became one of the largest organizations for women in the world.
- They were also in the leadership of organizations for women in the United States.
- The Relief Society was at the heart of the beginning of the Church’s power to give humanitarian aid across the world. Leaders of nations, when they visit Utah, express awe and admiration for what the Church is doing for the poor and the victims of war and natural disaster across the world.
As the church grew, the ability to keep things at the local level faced many challenges. It was determined that the Relief Society needed to be ran locally and not from church headquarters.
- The only system which could provide succor and comfort across a church so large in a world so varied would be through individual servants near the people in need. The Lord had seen that coming from the beginning of Relief Society.
The Lord inspired a program that is in place today. Visiting teaching was created to keep things local, to watch over sisters wherever they were, and to inspire sisters to be involved in the physical and spiritual nourishment of those around them.
- Two Relief Society sisters accept their assignment to visit another as a call from the Lord. That was true from the start. Relief Society officers organized members who they knew had faith to give compassionate service when it was beyond the power of two assigned visiting teachers. It was always close to home, among acquaintances. Members teach the gospel in local meetings and bear testimony of the Savior and of the Restoration. Daughters watch over mothers. Mothers listen to, teach, and care for daughters.
President Eyring points out that the priesthood leadership of the church has always had a respect for the things the sisters do and the sisters respect the priesthood in return.
- A wonderful part of the heritage of Relief Society is evident in the way the priesthood has always shown respect to and received it from the Relief Society in turn. I have seen it as you have. My family’s bishop said to me years ago, with a smile, “Why is it that when I go to someone in the ward in need, your wife always seems to have been there ahead of me?” Every bishop and branch president with any experience at all has felt the gentle prod of inspired example from the sisters of the Relief Society. They help us remember that for all, both women and men, there will be no salvation without compassionate service.
In our day, this heritage of service, compassion, and charity, can continue to be passed from generation to generation. He reminds us that charity is part of who we are and is passed to future generations heart to heart.
- You pass the heritage along as you help others receive the gift of charity in their hearts. They will then be able to pass it to others. The history of Relief Society is recorded in words and numbers, but the heritage is passed heart to heart.
I am appreciative of the Relief Society in my families life. Compassion, love, and charity are all things that build stronger bonds throughout society. But they also build families and allow families to recognize the Lord's hand in their lives. My family has been blessed by a visiting teacher inspired to pick up the phone and ask if there is anything that is needed. I have seen my wife be inspired to drop something off to a sister that she didn't know was in need but was blessed by the inspiration given to her. The legacy of the Relief Society is found in the hearts of the sisters reaching out to give service life the Savior would. With such an organization in place in God's kingdom, the works of righteousness will continue to move forward.