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Sarah Jane Weaver
Sister Yoko Sato, left, walks with her visiting teacher, Sister Hideko Hosoya, around the Sapporo Japan Temple grounds.

On March 17, 1842, 20 women gathered in the upper floor of the red brick store as the Prophet Joseph Smith, holding the keys of priesthood authority on the earth, organized the Relief Society. Today, the Relief Society embraces more than 7.1 million women throughout 188 countries.

On the eve of the organization’s 175th anniversary, women from around the world share what it means to belong to “the Lord’s organization for women” and how it blesses their lives.

To mark this historic milestone, the Church News is collecting experiences, feelings or insights from LDS women about Relief Society and what it means to belong to this worldwide sisterhood. Please send your comments to Rachel Sterzer by email (rsterzer@deseretnews.com) or postal service (LDS Church News, 55 North 300 West, Salt Lake City, UT 84107).

Eveline Krell of the Belgrano Ward, Buenos Aires Belgrano Argentina Stake | Photo courtesy Eveline Krell

Eveline Krell

Belgrano Ward, Buenos Aires Belgrano Argentina Stake

Relief Society in 2017 looks to me as a reliable safety net that provides me with the support and help I need as a woman. It allows me to reach my potential in all areas of my life, such as being a mother, a professional at work, a spouse, or as a member of the community. To be surrounded by women with different talents and backgrounds never fails to amaze me. I learn so much from each of them! Certainly, I devote myself to serve in this organization because of the profound love I feel for my sisters. Service opportunities are all around, whether they could be organizing a food calendar for a new mom, enjoying a classical concert to celebrate our sisterhood, or promoting education among the youth. When I participate in Relief Society activities my faith in the Lord increases and I find joy in womanhood.

Maroun Akiki, Roula Chalhoub, and Christopher Akiki are members of the Beirut Branch in Lebanon. | Photo Sarah Jane Weaver

Roula Akiki


Beirut Lebanon District Relief Society president

Because of my calling, I have had the opportunity to travel to different countries in the Middle East … not only to teach the sisters the gospel, their worth in the eyes of their Heavenly Father and their responsibility to help build the Kingdom of God on earth, but also to encourage them, to listen to their worries, struggles and most of the time to wipe their tears and come up with solutions to lighten their burdens. A strong bond with these sisters has been built that will go beyond this mortal life. Their stories and trials have humbled me and made me remember my blessings whenever I felt like murmuring. I have learned a lot from them and grown to love each one of them personally as I served and taught them. After each visit, I return home leaving a part of me with my sisters. Their faces and the look in their eyes asking me to stay longer with them remain with me. I will never be the same person I was before.

Wendy Thompson of the Huckleberry Ward, Syracuse Utah Bluff Stake. | Photo Julie Heaps

Wendy Thompson

Huckleberry Ward, Syracuse Utah Bluff Stake

I love Relief Society. It has blessed my life in so many ways. It has given me wonderful opportunities to get to know other women through visiting teaching, callings and service. I have been blessed by their examples and have felt their love and, in turn, through them, have felt my Heavenly Father’s love for me. The Relief Society is to me the hands of the Savior reaching out to help lift one anothers’ burdens. I know that through the Relief Society I have been lifted and comforted through my trials.

I now serve as a Young Women president and I feel the best way I can serve the young women is to do what Relief Society has taught me and that is to love them.

Kana Takei

Relief Society president of the Nakano YSA group, Tokyo Japan Stake

Kana Takei, center, Relief Society president of the Nakano YSA group, Tokyo Japan Stake, and her counselors. | Photo courtesy Kana Takei

A Relief Society president is very busy. I want to do many things for the sisters. When I was the Relief Society counselor I did not know the president was that busy. Sometimes I feel very tired. But I feel happy more than tired. I think about the sisters of the YSA group every day.

Every sister is very busy nowadays. They need to feel love from God and know of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the gospel. I want to serve as a disciple of Jesus Christ and be like a hand of God.

The sisters do hard work visiting teaching, fulfilling their Church callings, doing missionary work, and serving other people. There have been many service opportunities in the last month. There was a big wedding ceremony at our group, a brother whose apartment burned down, and sisters needed to be a temple baby sitter for the family ward. It was busy, but I felt the Spirit closer more than usual, the power of the Atonement and God’s love for the sisters.

Lately, I think very carefully about the YSA sisters. I think about them from the bottom of my heart and one by one. I really love them and respect them. Lately.Lately, I understand a little bit more about how Heavenly Father loves us like I love the sisters. I know they are daughters of God. My opportunity to serve in Relief Society makes me a better person. I am thankful for all my opportunities.

Adriana Lopez of the Naucalli Ward, Mexico City Lomas Verdes Stake. | Photo courtesy Adriana Lopez

Adriana López

Naucalli Ward, Mexico City Lomas Verdes Stake

To me, Relief Society is a wonderful organization where we can gain so much knowledge. We can have joy in sharing the talents that we have. It’s exciting to be a part and see how much good we can do for families.

For me, catching the vision of Relief Society came with time. I joined the Church when I was 18 years old. At first it was a little bit difficult because I didn’t understand any of the terms. Serving in callings helped me, but what has done more for me is the visiting teaching program. I feel you can gain much strength when you go and visit the sisters, not only to share the message but share many other things. You learn with them and from them. You learn to love them. You get the vision serving. I think it’s a wonderful program.

There is much work to be done. I think we need to get the sisters excited about the work of Relief Society and help them catch the vision. We can get them excited about this, about the things they can learn and the things they can share. Many lives can be blessed, not only the lives of the sisters but their families and their friends and the community.

Ilza Maria Alves Piros of the Aldeia da Serra Branch, Alphaville Brazil Stake | Photo courtesy Ilza Piros

Ilza Maria Alves Piros

Aldeia da Serra Branch, Alphaville Brazil Stake

When I became a member of the Church in 1977, I was a young wife and mother without any experience (I was 24 years old). The Relief Society helped me and prepared me to fulfill these new roles in my life. The focus of Relief Society at that time was to help women develop themselves as wife and mother in their homes. I was very privileged at that time in that context.

I am a great fan of Relief Society and I defend it with all my heart. In Relief Society, we can find a solid ground to grow, especially for the young adults. Knowing that the Relief Society is the largest organization of women in the world helps us feel the strength and courage to defend its moral values, which have been despised each day more and more.

Today, I am 64 years-old. I can see the legacy of faith and perseverance the Relief Society helped me to build along the years. This legacy has been passed to my daughter, daughters-in-law and granddaughters.

Juana Elvia Torres de Wong, Lima Peru Santa Patricia Stake Relief Society president, right. | Photo courtesty Juana Elvia Wong

Juana Elvia Torres de Wong

Lima Peru Santa Patricia Stake Relief Society president

Being the stake Relief Society president allows me to visit and get to know all the sisters in the stake. It helps me develop love towards all of them, especially for their leaders, who are helping the families directly. As a presidency, we seek revelation to fulfill our responsibility. We all love our Savior Jesus Christ. We recognize Him as our Savior and we are happy to be a part of our Heavenly Father’s work. To belong to this organization that was established by God, to strengthen our faith in our Heavenly Father, His Son Jesus Christ and His Atonement, it humbles me and inspires me to give more of my time, talents and resources. I know, without a doubt, that I am very blessed by my Heavenly Father. I feel His love for my family and for myself. I am grateful to have this special calling.

Judith Akpene Mettle-Nunoo, Accra Ghana Stake Relief Society president. | Photo courtesy Judith Mettle-Nunoo

Judith Akpene Mettle-Nunoo

Accra Ghana Kaneshie Stake Relief Society president

Throughout my service as stake Relief Society president, I have been fortunate to learn from the book Daughters in My Kingdom and have been reminded of the important role the Relief Society plays in the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Comparing the pioneer days to now, I can testify that the purposes of Relief Society have not changed. I like the expression made by Sister Donna Packer, “a worldwide circle of sisters.” I believe that it excellently describes the Relief Society now in 2017.

Serving about 900 sisters within seven wards, I have seen sisters unite in efforts to increase faith and personal righteousness, strengthen families and homes and help those in need.

This year, as we celebrate the 175-year anniversary, we hope to extend our love and circle of sisters to female inmates in a local prison in our community. Through it all, I have been blessed with peace of mind, which makes it possible for me to be able to smile amidst trials. I have developed attributes like patience, forgiveness and tolerance of which I struggled with in the past. Also, wherever I find myself, I feel at home knowing that I have Relief Society sisters around the corner that I could turn to for support.

Blanca Alvarado of the Don Justo Ward, Guatemala City Stake. | Photo courtesy Blanca Alvarado

Blanca Alvarado

Don Justo Ward, Guatemala City Stake

Forty-four years ago, when I was 18, Relief Society blessed my personal life in many ways; but today, the greatest blessing for me is to know that although my daughters and their families live far from me, there will always be one or two, or many Relief Society sisters, who will be willing to help them in any need. It is a great blessing to have that comfort.

Being a part of the Relief Society means to have incredible friends from whom I have learned to be a better human being in my roles as a daughter, sister, wife, mother, grandmother ... in every aspect of my life. There is no better guide for me than the Relief Society.

Jeanetta Boza of the San Jose Pinula Ward, Guatemala City Stake | Photo courtesy Jeanetta Boza

Jeannette Boza

San Jose Pinula Ward, Guatemala City Stake

I have been greatly blessed by this organization. Relief Society has helped me to want to develop attributes I never thought I could have, such as compassion, love, and charity. Attributes, which may not be fully developed in me, but to a certain extent exist. It has helped me understand what the Savior has done for me. It has helped me to desire to be more Christ-like and to obtain His attributes so that I can go and help my fellow women.

Belonging to the Relief Society means feeling complete. It means feeling part of a family. It is knowing that someone is interested in me; that there are people who are watching over me in the same way that I am watching over them. Relief Society is my family.

Lynda Fernandez Dunna, Hyderabad India Stake Relief Society president | Photo courtesy Lynda Dunna

Lynda Fernandez Dunna

Hyderabad India Stake Relief Society president

As the motto of Relief Society says “Charity never faileth,” Relief Society has blessed me with an understanding of the pure love of Christ. A testimony that has so strongly influenced my life to know that Christ’s love is always there for me no matter what kind of difficult situations that I go through. … With a different traditional culture that I live in, it is always helping me to stand for the right and choose the Lord. The testimony of the sisters has always strengthened me, their example of faith helped me in my trials, and the influence of brave women who never give up on any kind of afflictions that they are going through helped me to be strong.

I am grateful to be part of this organization that helps me to grow spiritually, helps me to fulfill various roles of a woman in family and in the society that I live. Sister Barbara B. Smith said, “the important thing is to reach out in love to serve someone every day.” This is the greatest opportunity that I receive in many ways because I am part of this organization. The Lord’s love is shown to me as I learn and apply those principles in my daily life. I know He lives and Heavenly Father loves me so much and helped me to make the decision to accept the gospel and be part of Relief Society.

Lynne Dickey, center, with her counselors in the Johannesburg South Africa Stake Relief Society presidency. | Photo courtesy Lynne Dickey

Lynne Dickey

Johannesburg South Africa Stake Relief Society president

As our presidency visits the wards in our stake we see true pioneers. There are many sisters who are first-generation Latter-day Saints. They are examples of embracing all that the gospel has to offer. They are filled with gratitude with how their lives have changed by learning from the various programs of the Church.

Over 30 years ago, as a young Relief Society sister, I visited a branch where one of the Relief Society leaders gave a well-prepared, eloquent lesson. Afterwards I learned that this sister had never learned to read or write before joining the Church, even though the men in her family had professional university degrees. Now she could read, lead and teach with confidence. She was grateful for the dignity and confidence that this gave her. She was grateful for changes that the gospel brought to her marriage, as she and her husband had been learning the value of family councils. They consulted on decisions together — a new tradition for them. Over time I saw this sister take the creative skills she learned in homemaking and use them to bring in extra money to improve their living conditions. This is now not an uncommon story. We get to see the gospel in action.

As leaders, we are busy training, teaching and showing by example; but the learning is reciprocal. We learn from the faith and gratitude of the sisters. And I have come to know women need each other.

Stella Ajilong, Kampala Uganda North Stake Relief Society president. | Photo courtesy Stella Ajilong

Stella Ajilong

Kampala Uganda North Stake Relief Society president

I was baptized into the Church in 1995 and came with three boys ranging in age from 3 to 7 years old, two of them were my biological children. As a single mother, the responsibility of providing for my family squarely rested upon my head. Although I was employed, my salary was very small and could barely meet the basic needs of life. One of the cherished lessons I learned from Relief Society class was that it was possible to have joy and happiness amidst difficulties of life.

Heavenly Father is faithful and said He, “I the Lord am bound when ye do what I say, but when ye do not What I say, ye have no promise” (Doctrine and Covenants 82:10). Being a member of Relief Society has blessed me, members of my family and all others of Heavenly Father’s children whose lives I have touched.

Maria Morena Baylon of the Masagana 1st Ward, Antipolo Philippines Stake. | Photo courtesy Maria Baylon

Maria Morena B. Baylon

Masagana 1st Ward, Antipolo Philippines Stake

I am grateful to my mother, who taught me and has implanted in me this great trust and love of the Relief Society organization. The program honed me during my young single adult years, when I got married and then as I had children of my own. I have learned so much, not just with the lessons and programs of the Church, but also from the experiences of the sisters around me. I have seen how the organization helped build the confidence of sisters who now are leaders. This is true of me as I have served in various callings in our ward and in our stake. The organization gives us this distinction that is now known to the world — “Charity.”

Marlina Kharlamova of the Moscow Russia Stake. | Photo courtesy Marina Kharlamova

Marina Kharlamova

Moscow Russia Stake

My Church sisters are a great blessing for me. Some of them have become my closest friends but even those who haven’t they are my sisters and it means a lot to me! Their hands helped me so many times. They hugged me when I was crying, they cooked something delicious or dietary when I was upset or very sick, they gave me a piece of chocolate when I needed to feel love. Their service for me and my family gave me rest that we needed. There is one sister, her name is Raisa, who calls me almost every Friday. She is older and much wiser than me. She asks me about my life, tells about hers and each time we finish I feel how much she loves me. Through her I feel not only her big love but the love of my Heavenly Father that makes me stronger.

This is a very powerful organization. I would say an enterprise that has been creating a lot of kindness as a product and shares it for free with the whole world. There is too much evil in the world now but Relief Society sister’s hearts will never stop producing love, kindness, charity, mercy and hope for good.

There are no perfect women in Relief Society but there are women who are doing their best each day to become better children of God. They are doing their best to make their Heavenly and earthly parents happier each day. Their examples uplift many people and families in the world.

rsterzer@deseretnews.com

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