Since the birthday of the Relief Society is March 17, let’s take a moment to remember its presidents. Some are very well known, while others may be less so. All contributed mightily to the history and purpose of the Relief Society of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. See if you can guess the president whose legacy is described in each section.
1. Where Eliza R. Snow was known as the head of Relief Society, this president was known as the heart. She served the sisters as a midwife and nurse and headed the Silk Association.
2. As a young mother, she hated the idea of meeting with the “old sisters of the church.” While she was president, the women raised $500,000 for the Relief Society Building. She served as Relief Society general president for 29 years. During her tenure, she taught the value of the influence of a woman.
3. This head of the organization lived in the Lion House and was usually sitting to the right of Brigham Young at the dinner table and at family prayer. She wrote beautifully about the gospel and atoning sacrifice of our Savior.
4. She was able to feed her family on what was in their food storage for almost a year when employment was scarce. She spent her teens in New Zealand and served a mission with her husband in Seoul, Korea. She taught of keeping covenants with the Lord and gaining a personal testimony of the Atonement.
5. This leader was called to the Relief Society General Board under Sister Elaine S. Jack to help young women transition into the Relief Society and then was called as a counselor in the Young Women general presidency before serving as Relief Society president. She urged love and unity.
6. She appeared on the "Phil Donahue Show" to speak about the Equal Rights Amendment. She turned more than $2 million earned from Relief Society's "Wheat Project" over to the church when the current welfare program was established.
7. While she was president, the general offices of the Primary, Young Women and Relief Society moved into the Relief Society Building. The three auxiliaries began to work together with priesthood leaders. Programs were eliminated, revised and simplified. Her daughter later served as the Young Women general president.
8. This woman was the first general president to visit Relief Societies in Europe. She served mostly in the Mutual Improvement Association and was beloved by her girls. She was responsible for picking the colors of Relief Society, establishing Mormon Handicrafts and forming the Relief Society Singing Mothers.
9. Before serving as the Relief Society general president, she led the Relief Society’s Social Welfare Department for 15 years. She was called to be the general president after the outbreak of World War II and helped coordinate gathering and sending items for soldiers and members in war-torn countries.
10. This leader handled public affairs and hosting at the dedication of the Newel K. Whitney Store in Kirtland, Ohio. When she returned to Utah, she continued her work in public affairs until her call as the general Relief Society president. She also introduced the Relief Society Declaration.
11. She was the first Relief Society general president to be born outside the United States. As a young wife, she traveled for an hour and a half by bus, boat, subway and foot, by herself, to attend church every Sunday. She encouraged reading and gospel literacy.
12. She was the youngest in attendance at the very first Relief Society meeting in Nauvoo. As president, she encouraged home industry, mothers classes, self-sufficiency and temple attendance.
13. This sister spent her youth in Brazil. She refocused the Relief Society with three purposes in mind: faith, family and service. She also emphasized visiting teaching and spirituality in the sisters’ lives.
14. She graduated from the University of Deseret (now known as the University of Utah). She focused on teaching cleanliness in the home to maintain health standards and lower the mortality rate.
15. This leader wrote for and was editor of the Woman’s Exponent newspaper for many years. She worked tirelessly for the suffrage movement to allow women in Utah the right to vote.
16. She said of the Relief Society, “We are going to do something extraordinary.” She proposed and fought for the name the organization is known by today.
A. Emma Smith
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Sources: www.lds.org; www.deseretnews.com; "Faith, Hope and Charity" by Janet Peterson and LaRene Gaunt; "Women of Covenant: The Story of the Relief Society" by Janeth Russell Cannon, Jill Mulvay Derr and Maureen Ursenbach Beecher; Robison Family Scrapbook
Jan Tolman researches the Relief Society, its history, purpose and destiny at www.ldswomenofgod.com.