- From its beginning, the Relief Society has led out in charitable work. At the first meeting, President Emma Smith said, “Each member should be ambitious to do good.”
Church leaders have clarified the purpose of the Relief Society.
- “To save souls opens the whole field of human activity and development,” Elder John A. Widtsoe later declared. “Relief of poverty, relief of illness; relief of doubt, relief of ignorance—relief of all that hinders the joy and progress of woman. What a magnificent commission!”
In the early days of the church, the women of the church desired to form a sisterhood, an organization to build themselves into something greater than they currently were. The Prophet Joseph Smith saw their desire and promised to seek the Lord's guidance on organizing the women of the church under the direction of the Priesthood.
- The Relief Society was organized upon the initiative of the women of Nauvoo. Desiring to organize a society to promote sisterhood and to accomplish benevolent works, a group of women asked Eliza R. Snow to draft a constitution and bylaws. When Joseph Smith learned of this, he asked that the sisters be called together so that he could provide “something better for them than a written Constitution.” One sister recalled his saying, “I will organize the women under the priesthood after the pattern of the priesthood.”
- In his first formal instruction to the newly founded organization, the Prophet said he was “deeply interested that [the Relief Society] might be built up to the Most High in an acceptable manner.” He taught that “when instructed we must obey that voice … that the blessings of heaven may rest down upon us—all must act in concert or nothing can be done—that the Society should move according to the ancient Priesthood.”
The Relief Society was not organized so that the men could tell them what to do. It was organized as a separate organization, a organization that is part of the church with its leaders working with the priesthood to do greater things.
- The Prophet declared that the Relief Society was to receive instruction and direction from the priesthood leaders who presided over their activities. Like the quorums of priesthood holders in the Church, the Relief Society was to be self-governing, but it was not to be an independent organization. It was an integral part of the Church, not a separate church for women.
- The Prophet Joseph Smith made the Relief Society an official part of the Church and kingdom of God. This opened to women new opportunities for receiving knowledge and intelligence from on high, such as through the temple ordinances that were soon to be instituted. Similarly, as the Prophet promised them in connection with their charitable service, “If you live up to your privileges, the angels cannot be restrained from being your associates.”
President Oaks emphasized the authority that the Relief Society has been given and how it is organized just like a priesthood quorum in the church.
- President Joseph Fielding Smith explained: “While the sisters have not been given the Priesthood, … that does not mean that the Lord has not given unto them authority. Authority and Priesthood are two different things. A person may have authority given to him, or a sister to her, to do certain things in the Church that are binding and absolutely necessary for our salvation, such as the work that our sisters do in the House of the Lord.”
Finally, President Oaks talks about the importance of women and mothers in society today. They have such an important role in helping our sons and daughters becoming what the Lord expects of them.
- We cannot overstate the supreme importance of the task our Father in Heaven has assigned to the mothers, who are the teachers and workers and standard-setters in the homes of the Latter-day Saints. The mothers in those homes give the impressionable sons and daughters of God their earliest and most formative orientation for their mortal journey toward eternal life.
- The common objective of brotherhood in our priesthood quorums and sisterhood in our Relief Societies is to bring men and women together in the sacred marriage and family relationships that lead toward eternal life, “the greatest of all the gifts of God.”
I have been blessed in my life by so many women in the church. Their love and devotion to God's work has made it possible for me to become the man I am today. From my mother to my wife, to my daughters, I have been blessed to see these amazing women lead and guide their homes and families towards eternity. I will forever be grateful for those women in my life that have been taught how to be a great women in Zion and how to care of the nurture the spirits that they are responsible for. The women I love and respect are amazing examples of the great women this world needs today.