History of Relief Society Program Skit

Thanks to Becky Schultz of Sandy City, Utah for sharing this great skit!
I wrote the following Readers Theater for our Relief Society Birthday party, March 2006.  I had 2 narrators that took
turns with the narrator parts and had individual sisters read the parts of the Presidents.
The program took about 30 minutes.

Originally, it took about 45 minutes, but I felt that was too long for sisters interest, so sadly, I  cut it down.

You could add to it or vary it in any way you would like.  I encouraged each participant reading for the

Presidents to wear something, if possible, to appear like that president.  Some did and some didn’t.

Everyone loved learning about the very interesting history of Relief Society.

We had a display table of Relief Society Memorabilia and had dinner together before the program

For a favor, we handed out the accompanying Relief Society Time Line printed and rolled with gold and

blue ribbon tying it.  This is an Excel document and must be opened in Excel

I gleaned my information from several sources namely:

“March 1992 Ensign” and the “March 2005 Ensign”

Elect Ladies: Presidents of the Relief Society  by Janet Peterson

Women of the Covenant- The story of Relief Society by Jill Mulvay Derr, Janath Russell Cannon and

Maureen Ursenbach Beecher

The Relief Society Magazine- A Legacy Remembered 1914-1970 published by Deseret Book Company
History of Relief Society 1842-1966 published by The General Board of Relief Society, 1966.
HISTORY OF THE RELIEF SOCIETY

NARRATOR

COME ALONG WITH ME ON A JOURNEY THROUGH 164 YEARS OF EXTRAORDINARY

HISTORY OF OUR BELOVED RELIEF SOCIETY.

The RS was formally organized in 1842 but it had its beginnings in the 1830’s in Kirtland, Ohio during the

construction of the Kirtland Temple.  One day Brother Joseph entered the temple and saw the women

working together sewing the temple veils.  “Well, sisters, he said, “you are always on hand.  Mary was

the first at the resurrection; and the sisters now are the first to work on the inside of the temple.”

When the saints moved to Nauvoo a few years later, women again joined together to help with the building of

the Nauvoo Temple.  Sarah Kimball invited several neighbors to join with her in her parlor on March 4, 1842 to

sew shirts for temple workmen.  As they worked, they discussed the idea of a ladies aid society.  Their enthusiasm

grew as the hours went by and before the day was over, Eliza R Snow was commissioned to write a constitution

and bylaws to present to the prophet Joseph Smith.

A few days later Joseph told Eliza that the constitution was the best he had ever seen, but that the Lord had

something better for them than a written constitution.  He said,  “Invite them all to meet me and a few of the

brethren in the hall over my store next Thursday afternoon, and I will organize the sisters under the priesthood

after a pattern of the priesthood.”

On Thursday, March 17, 1842, 20 sisters and two of the 12, John Taylor and Willard Richards were present.

Addressing the group, Joseph put into words 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.”

At a later meeting he told them they were “ not only to relieve the poor, but to save souls.”

At that first meeting the women chose Emma Smith as their president and she then chose two counselors.

John Taylor ordained them and then gave Emma a blessing in which he blessed her that she might be a mother in Israel and look to the wants of the needy, and be a pattern of virtue and possess all the qualifications necessary for her to stand and preside and dignify her office, to teach the females those principles requisite for their future usefulness.”

Elder Taylor then suggested that the new organization be named the Nauvoo Female Benevolent Society.  Emma objected to the word benevolent because other corrupt organizations of the day included that word.  She said, “We are going to do something extraordinary.  When a boat is struck on the rapids with a multitude of Mormons on board, we shall consider that a loud call for relief; we expect extraordinary occasions and pressing calls.”  Well, her remarks were persuasive and the name chosen was The Female Relief Society of Nauvoo.”
EMMA HALE SMITH

This was a never to be forgotten time for the sisters of the Church of Jesus Christ.  My husband, the prophet Joseph told us that the church was never fully organized till the sisters were thus organized.

At that first meeting, Joseph donated a $5 gold piece and additional contributions brought the total donations to $10.62.  We elected sister Eliza Snow to be our secretary and in addition to those at the meeting we welcomed into membership 7 that were not there.  I then discussed the duties of the members to “seek out and relieve the distressed- that each member should be ambitious to do good.”  We were to meet each week to discuss and accomplish our duties.  In our second meeting we welcomed in 44 new members including Hyrum’s wife, Mary Fielding Smith and our dear mother, Lucy Mack Smith.  Mother Smith addressed our group saying “This institution is a good one.  We must cherish one another, watch over one another, comfort one another and gain instruction, that we may all sit down in heaven together.”

We met together thereafter each week and each week our numbers grew.  Each sister who became a member was voted in and agreed to actively participate.  Joseph attended several of our meetings.  On April 28 he told the sisters, “You are now placed in a situation in which you can act according to those sympathies which God has planted in your bosoms.  If you live up to your privileges, the angels cannot be restrained from being your associates.  I now turn the key in your behalf in the name of the Lord, and this Society shall rejoice and knowledge and intelligence shall flow down from this time henceforth.”   By summer our membership was so large that no building in Nauvoo could accommodate the women so we held our meetings outdoors in the “Grove” near the temple site.  The sisters had much to do in assisting the poor, welcoming the newly arrived Saints, and caring for the sick.

With membership well over 1100 and lack of indoor facilities during the winter, we did not meet from Sept 1842 to June 1843.  But our sisters continued to help one another

When our Relief Society meetings reconvened on June 16, 1843- we admonished our sisters in addition to helping the poor, to cast in our mites to assist the brethren in building the Lord’s House.” Our treasurer, Sister Coles reported the financial status of the society.  “$500 had been received and $400 had been spent doing much good and making the hearts of many rejoice.  .  We formed The Necessity Committee (forerunner of Visiting Teaching) in 1843 to search for those who were “poor and suffering.” During our second year, we held fourteen Relief Society meetings and again adjourned for the winter months.  We reconvened again in March 1844 counting   1341 as members of Relief Society.  This was our last formal meeting however, because over the next few months,  persecution of my Husband and the other saints escalated culminating with the death of my husband, Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum Smith.
NARRATOR

Thus nearly two years to the day after its organization, the Relief Society ceased.  Emma led the way in compassionate service during her short tenure not only by virtue of her calling, but also by her compassionate nature.  Emmeline B Wells recalled:  “Sister Emma was benevolent and hospitable.   She was beloved by the people of whom many were indebted to her for favors and kindnesses.”   Emma was called to go through many trials herself, not the least of which were the deaths of 7 of her 11 children and the martyrdom of her beloved Husband.  And though she chose not to go West with the saints and was no longer affiliated with the restored church, she continued throughout her life to act in the spirit of her office, which as she told the sisters in 1842 was to “seek out and relieve the distressed…to be ambitious to do good.”

The relief society would remain disbanded for more than two decades when it would be reorganized in a new place and under a new prophet.  But though not formally organized, the sisters had many informal meeting and gave much compassionate service during those years as they crossed the plains and settled in the Rocky Mountains.  Some wards in the valley did organize their own formal Relief Societies.  The nucleus of Relief Society was still intact, the flame still burned brightly.

Finally in 1866, President Brigham Young called upon all the wards to organize the Relief Society in each ward.  Eliza R Snow, who had helped keep the spirit of RS burning over all those years was given “a mission to assist them in organizing, and to take with her Sister Zina D Young.  “We recommend these Female Relief Societies to be organized immediately,” Brigham Young said.  “We have many talented women among us and we wish their help in the matter…You will find that the sisters will be the mainspring of the movement…Let a sister appeal for the relief of the suffering and poverty, and she is almost sure to be successful”

ELIZA R SNOW

I felt that my first important assignment was to rekindle the spirit of Relief Society  which I have loved and nurtured for 23 years and to reestablish its place in the Church.  I felt it very important to follow the pattern set in Nauvoo by the Prophet Joseph Smith.  I was the secretary then and I carried the minutes of Relief Society meetings held in Nauvoo west with me knowing that someday, our wonderful Society would be organized again. As sister Zina Young and I visited various wards, I told the Saints about that original Relief Society,  and bore my testimony of Joseph as a prophet of God. The name we used in the valley was The Female Relief Society.

While I was the Relief Society  President, I also helped organize and direct the Young Ladies Retrenchment Association 1869 and the Primary in 1878.  We were very busy with meetings as we organized these auxiliaries in all the wards.  We began a magazine in 1872 called the Woman’s Exponent in which women could find literary fulfillment and which later became a great voice for Women’s suffrage.

President Young asked me to collect handmade items from the sisters of the Church to display in Philadelphia at an exposition celebrating the US Centennial in 1876.  Because of the tremendous response, I realized that women could sell their hand made items to help with financial needs of their families and we started the Women’s Commission Store, which prospered.

During my tenure, there was a great need for women to serve as nurses, midwives, and even doctors.  Under the Relief Society, we organized classes in home nursing and midwifery and many young women including Ellis Shipp Reynolds and Romania Penrose Pratt were encouraged to go east to study medicine.  As these women returned to practice medicine in the Salt Lake Valley, President Young charged the Relief Society with establishing a maternity hospital, so I became the president of the Deseret Hospital, which served women for about 10 years.
NARRATOR

Eliza R Snow devoted much of her life to the women of the Church, nurturing the sisters for more than four decades and serving for 21 years as general president of the Relief Society.  Through all these experiences her spirit remained strong and vibrant.   She died at the Lion House on December 5, 1887 just a month before she would have been 84.

Zina Young was called to be the third general president of the RS. .   Zina and her family members were baptized in 1835- she by Hyrum Smith at the age of 14.  Zina knew the truth of the Book of Mormon by just gazing upon the book so close was she to the spirit of God.  She was a “sealed wife” of both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young even though at the time of her sealing to Joseph she was the wife of Henry Bailey Jacobs also a member.  Henry left her in winter quarters to go on a mission to England and after went to reside in California, never living with her again.  Zina came with the Young family the rest of the way to the valley.  She became known as Aunt Zina in the Young family and after taking an obstetrics course at the request of Brigham, she delivered all of the Young babies as well as others.      Zina was instrumental in establishing the Deseret Hospital.  She also started a nursing school and for a time headed a school of obstetrics.

When Brigham Young began to promote the silk industry as a cottage industry in the early 1870’s he charged Zina with the responsibility.  Even though she found the silk worms abhorrent having many nightmares of feeding them, she silently and stalwartly endured and fed millions of them herself and watched the silk industry enjoy a quarter century of success in Utah.
ZINA
As a young girl, my mother prepared me for my role in RS before it even existed.  In Kirtland, it was her custom to take me in her buggy with her as she hunted out the distressed and needy.  I was voted a member of Relief Society at the second meeting held in Nauvoo at the age of 21, and when Brigham Young reorganized the Relief Society, I was chosen treasurer.  I accompanied Eliza throughout the territory as we organized the Relief Society.  We were known as the heart and the head, I the heart and she the head, of Relief Society.  Together we traveled thousands of miles by wagon and carriage to Relief Societies throughout the territory.  Frequently on such trips, we two elderly ladies would have to make an unscheduled stop to repair a wagon wheel or fix a broken buggy tongue.  When we were unable to make enough mileage between settlements before nightfall, we camped out under the stars!

I was 67 years old when sister Eliza died in 1888 and President Young called me to be the third President of RS.  When I was set apart by President Woodruff, he blessed me that I would continue to have my heart “drawn out towards the sisters” and would “do much good and relieve the suffering of those who were sick and afflicted.”

I continued visiting Relief Societies in the widely spread out Mormon settlements in the west, encouraging local units to establish nursing classes and to improve medical care.  Before Utah gained statehood in 1896, I campaigned for the restoration of women’s voting rights that had been rescinded by the Edmunds-Tucker Act of 1887.

During my administration, the Relief Society became a charter member of the National Council of Women in which all of my successors have kept membership.  I was one of the vice presidents and attended a number of its conferences.  The Relief Society became incorporated in 1892 because of our assets and because of our involvement in the National Council of Women, the official name became The National Women’s Relief Society.

The church became too large for we general leaders to continue visiting local units so we invited representatives from each stake to attend the first Relief Society General Conference in the Assembly Hall on Temple Square on April 6, 1889, this conference to be held semiannually, then annually until 1970.
NARRATOR

Zina died in 1901 having served 13 years.  At her funeral, sister Emmeline B Wells said, “No woman was ever greater loved than she.   She was Aunt Zina to all Israel.  Fittingly inscribed on her gravestone is the Relief Society motto, “Charity never faileth.”

Sister Bathsheba Smith was called to replace sister Young.    Bathsheba was converted at age 16 by George A Smith, a cousin of the prophet and one of the early missionaries and apostles of the Church whom she later married.  Her family were southern aristocrats and she was ever a gracious woman.  She was the youngest woman at age 18 to be present at the meeting founding Relief Society.

BATHSHEBA

I was called to serve after the death of our beloved Zina and served until 1910.  I felt it important to continue on with the nursing classes that she had established, and being very interested in home industry and the importance of teaching and training children, in 1902 we introduced the first organized lessons to be given throughout the entire church which we called Mother’s Classes.  These lessons included instruction in marriage, prenatal care, child rearing, industry, obedience, honesty and reverence.

One of the important subjects affecting women of my time was Suffrage.  We supported the efforts of the National Women’s Suffrage Association.  I showed my support of this by talks to our Relief Society members and in articles in the Women’s Exponent.

Longing to have our own offices for not only Relief Society, but theYoung Ladies Mutual Improvement Society and the Primary, in 1896 we obtained permission from the brethren to raise money for and build our very own building.  They donated a plot of land to us close to the temple block.  You see, the Relief Society was completely self-supporting in our day- not only for our own needs, but the needs of the poor as well.  We raised our own funds for whatever we did.  The fund raising for our building moved forward during my presidency and we raised about $8,000.  But in 1908 plans were changed and the brethren asked us to share a building with the Presiding Bishopric and others and donate our money to that project- which we did despite our disappointment.  This is the Old Church Office Building on South Temple.

NARRATOR

Bathsheba , the last of the original 20 members of Relief Society passed away at age 88 in 1910.   Sister Emmeline B Wells in her 82nd year was called to replace her as the 5th president.  She was a dainty woman who stood barely 5 ft tall.  She summed up the theme of her own life when she said “I believe in women.”  The sisterhood of women and their causes filled her 93 years.    She married James Harvey Harris when they were both just 15.  They had a child who died when she was 16.  James went to find work elsewhere and never returned.  She became a plural wife of Newell K Whitney and when he died, she “proposed” to Daniel H Wells who married her as a plural wife.
EMMELINE

I had served in some capacity in the general relief society from 1866 so I was much familiar with the workings.  I became the editor of the Women’s Exponent in 1877 at its inception and remained deeply involved in it for the next 37 years.    It became a powerful voice for the suffrage movement.  I gained prominence in the Women’s Suffrage movement as I represented the Relief Society- becoming dear friends with Susan B Anthony in particular.

In 1876 Brigham Young asked me to direct a project for women of the Relief Society to store wheat.  It seemed a strange request for women, but my relief society sisters all around the territory got busy and gathered wheat.  We gleaned from the fields, sold our Sunday eggs, crocheted and sewed items to sell to buy wheat.  We gathered granaries full- as soon as enough money was donated we built our own granaries.  We stored 10,465 bushels the first season with the hope of 50,000 bushels the next season.  We donated the wheat to the poor and loaned or sold several thousand bushels to farmers for spring planting.  The wheat project continued to grow over the years and became one of the most successful long-term Relief Society  projects.  As a result, Utah grain eased the effects of a drought that ravaged southern Utah in 1899 – helped the survivors of the San Francisco earthquake in1906 and fed thousands during WWI when the Relief Society sold 100,000 bushels to the United States government  for $412,000.  Again in 1940 we used these funds to buy and store wheat.  This program continued under the Relief Society until 1978 when President Barbara Smith officially turned over to the First Presidency the Relief Society wheat program representing 225,291 bushels of wheat with a net worth of $1,651,157 and also wheat fund assets of over ¾ million dollars, thus ending 106 years of RS wheat stewardship.  Please notice the wheat in the RS symbol.

I was called in 1910 to be the president of Relief Society.  In my administration, the Relief Society  adopted the motto “Charity Never Faileth”.  Through our money raising efforts to support our charitable work, we owned real estate, granaries, dressmaking shops, cattle and sheep herds, and from those ventures thousands of dollars were dispensed to the poor and orphaned.  To meet the demands, we organized the Relief Society  Social Services Department in 1919.

We established study courses for Relief Society in theology, genealogy, art, literature, home science, obstetrics and nursing.  We encouraged each ward to shape its own programs based on these courses.

I published the last issue of the Women’s Exponent in February 1914 and we replaced it with the Relief Society Magazine, which among other things contained the Relief Society lessons and the monthly visiting teaching message when that became a part of Visiting Teaching.   I was very surprised when President Grant came to my home on April 2, 1921 when I was 91 and released me as I had supposed I would serve to my death as others had.
NARRATOR

Emmeline became ill and passed away just three weeks after her release.  The next three general presidents served during trying times with a lot of their attention spent in Social Services and Welfare work.   Clarissa Williams expanded the Social Services department, with Relief Society leaders receiving specialized training. Her successor Louise Robison, a shy self-effacing woman, and unlike her predecessors was a woman without education or money.  She was just the person to serve during the depression days because she understood the needs and situation of the common person.

Amy Brown Lyman served during World War II and was particularly cognizant of  the saints in Europe having served with her husband as the mission president there just before the war.  Of course a lot of her work dealt with the effects of the war.  Each of these presidents continued with an active role and participation in the National Council of Women

They were all wonderful women.  Let’s hear briefly from each.

CLARISSA

I began my Relief Society work when I was sixteen years old, going around the block as an assistant block teacher (later to be visiting teacher).”  It formed the foundation for much of the work that I have been able to do since.  As the Relief Society president, I was concerned about infant and maternal mortality rates and the high number of child and adolescent deaths, the lack of opportunities for the handicapped and the low standard of living for many women.

At the close of World War I, the US government forbade any group or individual to store large quantities of food.  We therefore sold our wheat from our storage program to the United States Government.  Relief Societys throughout the church found themselves with large amounts of cash since that was where the wheat was- in individual wards.  We recommended that these funds be centralized in the Presiding Bishops Office and that the interest there from be used for health, maternity and child welfare services.  We also funded camps for underprivileged children, health examinations for preschool children, a free milk fund and courses in home hygiene and care of the sick.

LOUISE

I was good friends with Clarissa through the Red Cross work during World War I.  When Clarissa was called to be the General Relief Society President I was present when she was sustained.  I listened while her counselors were announced- Jennie Knight as first counselor and Louise Robison as Second counselor.  I raised my hand in approval, surprised that the second counselor had a name so similar to mine.  I had never heard of her but I voted for her.  When I realized it was myself, I was so upset.  I did not have the ability or the background to fulfill this calling and I worried for days.  But the words of my good friend Anna Musser gave me comfort and courage.  “True, many people have money, but it is the poor and humble people that make up the Church.”

I established Mormon Handicraft in 1937 as a way for women to make money selling their handiwork.  The shop was a huge success and continued to be operated by the Relief Society until 1986 when it was turned over to Deseret Book for operation.

I established the Singing Mothers choruses which were a part of every ward Relief Society for many years

During my administration, we adopted the colors Blue and Gold as the official colors of Relief Society.

AMY

While in Chicago with my husband, Idid volunteer work at the famous social settlement Hull House where I became life long friends with its founder Jane Adams. This experience made me resolve to spend my life helping others.  I personally knew every General Relief Society President from Eliza R Snow to Belle Spafford.  I was one of the editors of the Relief Society Magazine.

We introduced the official Seal of Relief Society as it is to the present with its blue and gold colors and the name of Relief Society was once again changed for the final time to the Relief Society of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.   We did everything we could  to relieve the suffering brought on by the war.  We sewed clothing, knitted, and assembled first aid kits for the Red Cross among other things.

NARRATOR

Amy’s successor was Belle Spafford who served from 1945-1974.  Belle was an educated woman, teaching special education classes at BYU early in her marriage.        She had a warmth and affection for people that served her well throughout her life in her callings and social obligations.

BELLE

I wasn’t always converted to Relief Society.   As a young married woman I was always involved in the Young Women programs of the church, never attending RS until at age 30 my visiting teacher in a new ward invited me to go.  To be nice I agreed to go.  I attended the meetings regularly for a time, but was shocked when the Bishop asked me to be a counselor in Relief Society.  I responded by telling the Bishop that Relief Society was for women my mother’s age and I had no experience in Relief Society, and furthermore had no desire to learn!  I did accept the call but grudgingly and tried several times to get the Bishop to release me.  Each time he said just try it a little longer.  The third time,  I decided if  I were going to stay in the calling I would quit complaining and give it my best.  And I did enjoy it as I filled other Relief Society callings in the stake.  I was called to the General Board in 1935 when President Louise Robison gave me the assignment work for which I was not qualified- homemaking.  I also served as the editor of the Relief Society Magazine for 8 years.  When President Clark asked me to be the President.  I asked him if the rumor I had heard was true that Auxiliary Presidencies would only serve 5 years.  He looked at me over the rim of his eyeglasses and said, “You may not last that long, Sister.  I proved him wrong as I served for 29 years!

Perhaps my most significant accomplishment was the construction of the Relief Society Building.  Having been disappointed in our desires to have our own building in previous time, we were thrilled when the First Presidency gave us a plot of ground across from the temple and authorized us to raise funds to build a building. (Many wards had their own Relief Society buildings.) There were 100,000 dues paying members of Relief Society at that time, and we asked each member to contribution $5.00.  With sacrifice and effort we reached our goal of $500,000 and began construction in 1953 and dedicated our wonderful building in 1956.

I became a very influential member of the National Council of Women and also in the International Council.  When I first attended a national dinner meeting, I had trouble getting a seat at a table because I was a Mormon.  I finally approached the council president and asked her where I could sit since all the chairs seemed filled and she graciously asked me to sit next to her at the head table!  I was skeptical of the value of the Relief Society being a member of this council and approached President George A Smith about withdrawing from it as I could see little value to the Relief Society and it was costing a lot to travel to these meetings.  It surprised me when he said  “Do you always think in terms of what you get?   Don’t you think you should think in terms of what Mormon women can give to the world?  I suggest you take 2 or 3 of your board members and attend all the meetings and continue your membership.”  Through the years, I came to feel that the Relief Society made a valuable contribution to these organizations in our opinions and values shared.  In 1968,  I was nominated to be the President.  At first I turned it down, but in counseling with President McKay, he urged me to accept, which I did

Mine was a presidency of change as you can imagine spanning nearly thirty years.  With the Welfare department of the church becoming firmly established, the direct welfare work of the Relief Society naturally began to diminish. In 1970, the Relief Society Magazine was discontinued and the Ensign, New Era and Friend were established in its place.  The discontinuance of our beloved Relief Society magazine was difficult, but we supported the brethren in the decision to consolidate the church magazines.

Another change for us was our loss of financial independence when the Priesthood Correlation program was established in the 1970’s.  The Relief Society had always supported itself, and all its programs, even built our own building.  But with the welfare department firmly in place, it was agreed that this change would give Relief Society members more time for compassionate service and teaching the gospel if we were no longer concerned about generating and managing our own funds.  This was very new for us, but again we supported the Brethren.. The hardest part of this change was giving up our bazaars, beloved by the whole church.

Another change that went along with this in 1971, was that sisters would no longer pay dues which were at that time $1 a year.  From that time on all women in the church 18 years and older would automatically be enrolled without dues as members of Relief Society, and it would become the official women’s organization of the Church.  This really made our ranks swell and was a very welcome and looked for change when it happened.

NARRATOR

When Belle was released she wrote in her journal. “Twenty-nine and a half years have passed since that day, during which I have served under six of the Prophet presidents of the Church.  Heber J. Grant, George A Smith, David O McKay, Joseph Fielding Smith, Harold B Lee and Spencer W Kimball,  and their great and inspired counselors.  What a rare and marvelous blessing!

Well this pretty much brings us up to Relief Society as we know it today, except for a few significant changes in the last 30 years that I will mention.  Since Sister Spafford, we have had six wonderful leaders that have served Barbara Smith- whose presidency was embroiled in the time of the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment and who was an influential voice against its ratification and eventual defeat, Barbara Winder, Elaine Jack, Mary Ellen Smoot and our current President, Bonnie Parkin.

Many of us here have been a part of the changes since 1970.  Work Meeting became Homemaking Meeting in 1966 when Relief Society no longer needed to put such emphasis on raising money for welfare needs.  And then in 1971 when the RS came under the budget of the church and no longer needed fund raisers, mini-classes were born and activities were held to help the sisters of Relief Society be better wives, mothers, homemakers and spiritual leaders in their homes.  These activities developed over the years from basic help classes for sisters to wonderful crafting opportunities to fulfill our creative needs.  The purpose of Relief Society  was to bring sisters and their families to Christ.

In about 1999, Sheri Dew declared   “the day of the ‘doo dad’ is dead”!  The things we do in Relief Society need to fill our lamps, not just polish them.”  With the make up of Relief Society sisters being so diverse, Homemaking Meeting became Home Family and Personal Enrichment meeting.  And now in 2006, another change, Enrichment Meeting is no longer to be held monthly, but quarterly.

A dramatic change occurred in Relief Society, when the church went to the 3-hour block schedule in 1980 and Relief Society was no longer held during the week, usually on Tuesday, except for Homemaking meeting once a month.  Other changes in recent years include the announcement of the Proclamation on the Family introduced at a the RS Broadcast in 1995 and the publication of the Relief Society Declaration in 2000, and a renewed emphasis on Service in the last 10 years

Membership has grown to 4,500,000 women in 165 countries world wide. But regardless of time or place, Relief Society  still means lifting one another spiritually, loving and taking care of one another, and absorbing insight and inspiration from other women headed in the right direction.  When Emma Smith stated with no small amount of vision: “We are going to do something extraordinary”, she was certainly prophetic.  What has transpired through the past 164 years has been nothing short of extraordinary.  Women have responded magnificently to a multitude of pressing calls.  Relief Society spans the globe and represents women who come in every age, shape and color.  Throughout the world, other women’s organizations have come and gone.  But if anything, the relevance of Relief Society in the lives of women and its importance to the Church are greater today than ever.  And yet, as was articulated by Mother Smith, our basic goal as Relief Society sisters has remained the same, it is to “cherish one another, watch over one another, comfort one another and gain instruction, that we may all sit down in heaven together.”

line-olive

RELIEF SOCIETY TIME LINE
March 1842-1844 FEMALE RELIEF SOCIETY OF NAUVOO- BEGINS WITH 20 MEMBERS-ENDS WITH 1341 MEMBERS
1844-1866 NO CHURCH WIDE ORGANIZATION OF RELIEF SOCIETY, BUT SOME WARDS  ORGANIZED THEIR OWN  RELIEF SOCIETY
1866 FEMALE RELIEF SOCIETY IS ORGANIZED IN UTAH IN EVERY WARD
1870’S-1900 SILK INDUSTRY BEGINS UNDER RELIEF SOCIETY SUPERVISION- FLOURISHS FOR 25 YEARS
1876 WHEAT STORAGE PROGRAM OF RELIEF SOCIETY BEGINS- 102 YEAR PROJECT
1876 RELIEF SOCIETY SISTER’S HANDWORK DISPLAYED IN CENTENNIAL EXHIBIT IN PHILADELPHIA
RELIEF SOCIETY CENTENNIAL DISPLAY OF HANDWORK HELD IN SALT LAKE CITY
WOMEN’S COMMISSION STORE BEGINS
1877 WOMEN’S EXPONENT BEGINS PUBLICATION
1880 CHURCH JUBILEE- THERE ARE 300 BRANCHES OF RELIEF SOCIETY IN THE CHURCH
1882 DESERET MATERNITY HOSPITAL IS ESTABLISHED
APRIL 6, 1889 FIRST RELIEF SOCIETY GENERAL CONFERENCE IS HELD
1889 CHILD WELFARE EMPHASIS IN RELIEF SOCIETY
1890 RELIEF SOCIETY BECOMES A CHARTER MEMBER OF NATIONAL COUNCIL OF WOMEN
1892 RELIEF SOCIETY IS  INCORPORATED- NAME IS CHANGED TO NATIONAL WOMEN’S RELIEF SOCIETY
1898 DUES ARE INSTITUTED- 10 CENTS A YEAR PAYABLE IN OCTOBER.
1901 PLANS AND FUND RAISING BEGIN  FOR A GENERAL RELIEF SOCIETY BUILDING
1902 MOTHER’S CLASSES- FIRST ORANIZED LESSON MATERIAL FOR ALL RELIEF SOCIETIES
1906 RELIEF SOCIETY SENDS TRAIN LOAD OF WHEAT AND FLOUR TO SAN FRANCISCO EARTHQUAKE VICTIMS
1910 RELIEF SOCIETY MOTTO “CHARITY NEVER FAILETH” IS FORMALLY ADOPTED
1914 RELIEF SOCIETY DUES ARE INCREASED TO 25 CENTS PAYABLE JANUARY 1
1914 RELIEF SOCIETY MAGAZINE BEGINS PUBLICATION- WOMEN’S EXPONENT CEASES PUBLICATION
1915 FIRST GENERAL RELIEF SOCIETY HANDBOOK- “CIRCULAR OF INSTRUCTIONS”
1918 RELIEF SOCIETY WHEAT IS SOLD TO THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT FOR $412,000
1919 RELIEF SOCIETY SOCIAL SERVICES BEGINS- AMY LYMAN FIRST DIRECTOR
1920 DUES ARE RAISED TO 50 CENTS A YEAR-HALF STAYS IN WARD-HALF TO THE GENERAL BOARD
1923 VISITING TEACHERS BEGIN TAKING MESSAGES TO THEIR SISTERS
1934 SINGING MOTHER CHORUSES BEGIN
1937 MORMON HANDICRAFT BEGINS AS A COMMISSION STORE
1940-1970 RELIEF SOCIETY WELFARE WORK DIMINISHED AS CHURCH WELFARE DEPARTMENT DEVELOPS
1940 RELIEF SOCIETY ONCE AGAIN INVESTS IN AND BEGINS STORING WHEAT
1942 BLUE AND GOLD BECOME THE OFFICIAL RELIEF SOCIETY COLORS
1942 NAME OF RELIEF SOCIETY CHANGED TO RELIEF SOCIETY OF THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS
1956 RELIEF SOCIETY BUILDING DEDICATED- BUILT ENTIRELY BY RELIEF SOCIETY MEMBERS DONATIONS – $500,000
1966 WORK MEETING BECOMES HOMEMAKING MEETING- MINI CLASSES DEVELOP
1970 RELIEF SOCIETY MAGAZINE CEASES PUBLICATION- REPLACED BY ENSIGN FOR ADULTS
1970 RELIEF SOCIETY CEASES FUND RAISING-NO LONGER SELF SUPPORTING- UNDER BUDGET PROGRAM OF CHURCH
1971 ALL WOMEN OF THE CHURCH 18 AND OLDER ENROLLED AS MEMBERS OF RELIEF SOCIETY- NO MORE DUES
1970 NAUVOO MONUMENT TO WOMEN IS DEDICATED
1975 RELIEF SOCIETY GENERAL CONFERENCES ARE DISCONTINUED
1978 RELIEF SOCIETY TURNS WHEAT AND STORAGE FACILITIES OVER TO THE PRIESTHOOD
1980 CONSOLIDATED MEETING SCHEDULE OF CHURCH BEGINS- RELIEF SOCIETY TO BE HELD ON SUNDAY
1986 FIRST BYU-RELIEF SOCIETY WOMEN’S CONFERENCE
1992 FIRST RELIEF SOCIETY SATELITE BROADCAST-
1992 150 YEARS OF RELIEF SOCIETY
1995 THE FAMILY PROCLAMATION IS INTRODUCED AT RELIEF SOCIETY BROADCAST
1999 HOMEMAKING MEETING CHANGED TO HOME FAMILY & PERSONAL ENRICHMENT MEETING
1999 RELIEF SOCIETY DECLARATION INTRODUCED
2006 ENRICHMENT MEETINGS CEASE TO BE MONTHLY- WILL BE QUARTERLY
2006 4.5 MILLION MEMBERS OF RELIEF SOCIETY IN 165 COUNTRIES