Ask Angela: I'm not comfortable with Relief Society yet, but trying to change

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  • Quagthistle Hays, KS
    Sept. 30, 2013 5:43 p.m.

    I can relate to a feeling of not fitting into Relief Society. As a single sister who is not very able-bodied, there is little that goes on in or related to Relief Society that helps me in my life. Nevertheless, I attend because I know that, even if I never get anything out of it, I might be a blessing to someone else. I go out of my way to talk to people who seem to be sitting alone. I volunteer to read in class, and I use my best reading voice when I do (to do justice to what I'm reading and so teachers will want me to read for them). I also color pictures during class (because keeping my hands busy with something mindless helps me listen and pay attention better - you never know when something said in RS might help a friend with a problem they are facing). In short, yes, RS can feel isolating to women who don't fit into the standard mold, but perhaps focusing on what you might be able to give someone else will help you feel more like attending.

  • SMlmt Angel Fire, NM
    March 20, 2013 7:01 p.m.

    Wow! Great question! First and foremost I count myself very blessed, I love going to RS and can't wait to get there but sad too because it goes by so fast. To chris46: your right! lecture is the last thing I want and while I am the's hard to carry on a conversation about the lesson when our lives are so busy that no one reads the lesson. Hence, Allen#2: your very correct! If we all take a little time to prepare for the class, whether it be SS or RS it makes a big difference in our attitude when we get there. I speak from experience, been there, done that. Only when I put forth effort to participate by keeping up with the lessons do I really come out feeling fulfilled. My ward sisters are awesome! and our problem is we want to socialize like a real family would, when we all get together.

  • joe5 South Jordan, UT
    March 19, 2013 4:35 p.m.

    Disclaimer: Male; but this is not limited to RS. SS and PH have their share of "willful absentees."

    I decided years ago that my sustaining vote meant something. So I sing (horribly) to sustain the chorister and organist. I read SS and PH lessons before Sunday to sustain the teacher. I keep my eyes focused on Sacrament meeting speaker to sustain them. I've found that I can sustain others with very little inconvenience to myself.

    The key is what I focus on. Instead of my petty grievances, I focus on the Savior and imagine Him in church with me. I focus on the members of my ward and how I can make the meeting better for them rather than how to make it better for me. It's not always easy. The talks and lessons haven't improved and I still have a bad day now and again. But I enjoy all the meetings so much more than I did before.

    One prophet taught that pride is the love of self over the love of God or the love of others. Society tells us to make time for yourself. The gospel teaches to forget yourself. That works much better.

  • Strider303 Salt Lake City, UT
    March 18, 2013 11:07 a.m.

    May a man comment? I have two daughters, one still single in her forties. I can't relate the all pain that my oldest daughter has related to me when only marriage, family and children are headlined in the RS meetings. As a widower I was able to deal with the priesthood lessons on family and husband-wife issues because I had a least been there (and am "there" again) but as many members are single for whatever reason there is a great need for leaders to be sensitive to the needs and feelings of the adult single people. I know the doctrine on families, but the gospel also teaches love one another, service and personal growth. I sometimes cringe when speakers tout "perfect" marriages or families, either their own, another's including General Authorities. Mine was and is not in that mold, I am in my seventh decade and the odds of having more than one or two natural grandchildren are slim and none, and Slim left town. Don't ignore families but remember there are women, and some men, for whatever reason eat, pray, worship, seek joy and cry alone.

  • SLC gal Salt Lake City, UT
    March 18, 2013 10:41 a.m.

    I would go on a gander that the letter writer is early 20's and stuck going to her family ward. Likely everyone is either newly wed or nearly dead.

    It's hard to be in that position. If it's an option, going to the Singles Ward helps. (I only had the opportunity to attend a few times, and RS was a lot more comfortable with sisters my own age - also single!).

    But single or not, spiritually, everything is still applicable. Think of the homemaking discussions as studying for the future. Approaching things with a sense of humor also helps.

  • sigmund5 Salt Lake City, UT
    March 18, 2013 8:54 a.m.

    Would more women be engaged in RS if women were given more power in how RS money and major decisions being made? I think this would help improve attendance of younger more progressive women who feel marginalized by the male dominance of the church.

  • Rita52 ANN ARBOR, MI
    March 17, 2013 8:23 a.m.

    Everything the Lord has put together in His Church is designed to help us come back to Him. That said, there is the concept of seasons, of there being a time and place for everything. I have found that "why" is a much better question to ask than any other. Why is it so difficult to attend RS? Young children driving you nuts? Then perhaps they need you more than the sisters do, and only going to RS on days when you have fewer challenges makes sense. You don't feel you "get enough" out of it to make the time worthwhile? What is the real reason behind that? Think deeply about it, pray about it. What does the Spirit say?
    Knowing truly your why will help determine what Father wants you to do, which is the most important why of all.

  • Sandee Spencer Longwood, FL
    March 17, 2013 7:40 a.m.

    I love Redneck Bubba's suggestion to talk to the Relief Society president. Teacher's that are unsure and struggling often do find it too scary to proffer many questions or illicit many comments. But with some gentle guidance they can begin to try and when met with warm and genuine input from the class it can just get better and better.

    For Latcatin RS does teach "the ideal" as far as what we hope and strive for but one of the real benefits I've found in attending Relief Society regularly is that through shared comments and examples I have really gotten to know about the personal lives of many of the sisters and to hear their unique and inspired ways of fitting the ideal to their personal situations.I remember hearing one young mother that was a nurse that worked long shifts that began before her children left in the morning, share that their morning Family Prayer was offered at a designated time. No matter where each of them was (and mom was at work) at 7:10 they each stopped and offered up a prayer for their day and for their family.

  • Firefly123 Mapleton, UT
    March 16, 2013 11:45 p.m.

    “The (work) of … Relief Society … (is the) relief of all that hinders the joy and progress of women.” Widtsoe

    Hmmmm. I found true joy and feel I've made MUCH more progress since I started skipping RS and SS. Three hours of Sunday meetings, particularly with children of any age, borders on torture.

  • JRJ Pocatello, ID
    March 16, 2013 10:07 p.m.

    You said, "I don't see the point in that part of the Sunday service," yet you said you had made a commitment to go. Why lie to yourself? President Kimball said, "Just Do It" even before Nike did. If you had the priesthood would you attend priesthood meeting? Well, the lessons come from the same books believe it or not. I'm currently in the primary and would so love to go to RS on occasion (actually all the time, but my calling is currently in the primary).

  • Jemezblue Albuquerque, NM
    March 16, 2013 5:37 p.m.

    Thanks Angelea! Another Great article.

    I, too, have had, and continue to have problems going to RS because I am a single sister. It is very hard to attend when the lesson is about motherhood or marriage. AND right now, I am the RS chorister! What I do is my calling first and foremost. Then, I try to understand the lesson and work on my Spanish, since I am attending a Spanish-Speaking Ward. I try to make these lessons work for me, but I still do have problems. If I have to step out for that one lesson, then as least I am attending the rest of the year. Sometimes I can help out else where in my ward during that time. However, I keep on going because I know the church is true and I know that other sister's needs have to be met too. :)

  • garybeac Chapel Hill, NC
    March 16, 2013 4:19 p.m.

    It's my impression that women of highly structured religions are much more orthodox than their men. Women think about the fundamentals, like food and shelter and opportunities for their kids to grow up to be people who can feed and shelter their grandchildren. Orthodoxy is a way of ensuring the faithfulness of husbands. I think that this is why many women who weren't raised in the Church find RS narrow and rigid. Good luck with fixing this problem. We're all wired to do whatever we think it takes to survive.

  • latcatin Biloxi, MS
    March 16, 2013 4:11 p.m.

    I think crafts are a waste of time and resources, I was blessed with only 2 sons and no daughters, and I am now in graduate school full time. I tire of all of the self-righteous posturing and lecturing about the ideal LDS family that causes so many of us to question our self worth. I usually read the lessons on my own and then just see if they need help in primary. I do want to be at church and I have thoroughly enjoyed friendship with individual sisters, but I have seldom felt that the church ladies had a sincere interest in me beyond making sure the numbers are good. I am sure that it is mostly a personal problem, but I have yet to have an experience that changes my mind.

  • Gracie Boise, ID
    March 16, 2013 3:37 p.m.

    To chris46: "Teachers in Relief Society often don't realize that it is a class and not a lecture opportunity."
    The whole of your message says better what I was thinking than I can formulate right now.

    To Pasmith: "lately the lessons have turned into "getting to know you" sessions and travelogs."
    I find that often is the case too. We have great and copious bulletins but all announcements somehow need to be repeated verbally, discussed at length, and then the "memorable moment" can go on a long time. I can see why the teachers then feel rushed with their lessons, especially when they seem to believe they have to make sure not to miss a thing they'd planned to say, not giving much or any time for class interaction. The best teachers recognize we're all in this learning curve together. No one's the class authority other than the Spirit, and He knows what those of us in the class need to concentrate on for that session.

  • ijw Holladay, UT
    March 16, 2013 3:02 p.m.

    Another perspective on this-I am old enough to remember when those of us that worked (married or single) could not attend a morning week day Relief Society meeting and were just not considered part of the Relief Society in many wards. There were no hard feelings as that was just the way it was. Along came the three hour block and how blessed we all were to have the opportunity to be part of the Relief Society. Yes, I have been in wards where I felt I didn't fit in and sometimes three hours is a long time. But, Relief Society has been a blessing in my life with lessons, serving and getting to know that everyone in that room (or even not attending) is having struggles with life. It seems the Church is emphasizing class discussion more. My ward has a lot of it that is truly meaningful. We laugh and cry together and develop a bond of friendship and sisterhood to give us emotional and spiritual strength that is so needed in this world we are living in. Hope all sisters can find this joy and strength.

  • mhilton Lancaster, CA
    March 16, 2013 2:22 p.m.

    Wow! This is a great question, along with some responses that resonate in my heart. I very much dislike going to R.S. but am obligated because I have a calling in there...I'm the only sister in the ward besides the one in Primary, who plays the piano. I struggle with the way the sisters teach, that they read out of the lesson manual and don't really give a "lesson". I agree, with the other sister, who said some "teachers' don't include comments because they don't want to be sidetracked from their talks. I have a testimony of the Gospel, and of the prophets, so I go, but it is rarely fulfilling for me. I'm just glad I'm not the only one. Hang in there, sister. Sometimes, life is just hard but we have to get through things we don't always enjoy to find things we do. I, too, missed the R.S. birthday party this week and chastised my VT for not reminding me since I was not at church last week. We have got to do a better job in watching out for others in our same situation.

  • DUPDaze Bakersfield, CA
    March 16, 2013 1:50 p.m.

    Having been on the leadership side, I can tell you that your leaders deeply want that hour to be spiritually refreshing, inspirational, shared and helpful. They struggle with wanting to remain faithful to their leaders and the curriculum goals, while keeping it all relevant to each group.

    I feel that the format can get in the way. It's too bad that you don't have a 20-30 minute segment for age groups, then return for the shared time. Handing out a survey, discussing more in class, and "chucking" the lesson once a month could motivate and invigorate. Modern times have only changed the methods, not the goals.

  • lytehowz USA, CA
    March 16, 2013 1:25 p.m.

    I appreciate the subject of this discussion so much! I too have had moments of doubt that I "fit in" at Relief Society meetings, but found out that I was (and still am) getting more from attending than not. Now I am a teacher in RS and always strive to keep in mind that the majority of sisters are "empty nesters" and seniors. We are so blessed to have our lessons being inspired from the Prophet Lorenzo Snow this year! So many wonderful, uplifting messages about the Gospel and the strengthening of our Faith, not just focusing on child-rearing or family issues (all though that can still be appropriate for grandmothers and aunties to hear too). And yes, it does take a little getting used to, staying for all 3 meetings, but honestly, it gets easier and the blessings that come from your devotion and commitment far outweigh any type of inconvenience. So sisters, please allow the other sisters in your ward to be blessed by your presence and share your thoughts and sweet testimonies. It will help to strengthen and unite in sisterhood, the way Heavenly Father desires us to be.

  • RetiredCPO Chula Vista, CA
    March 16, 2013 1:09 p.m.

    "When obedience becomes a quest instead of an irritant, in that moment God will grant you power from on high (paraphrased)"--Ezra Taft Benson. The transformative irritant-to-quest moment became more clear to me by way of analogy: when we conscientiously obey all traffic laws, even the ones that make no apparent sense, we have in that moment the freedom to travel nearly anywhere, anytime. Chronic citations ('me' driving) progressively interferes with freedom by making it more costly to drive. A drunk driving arrest brings that freedom to a stop. We can use our freedom to obedienty act to serve others (which is what we are here to learn, right?), or we can be acted upon by our own self-centered fears and desires. Angela correctly advises: the choice is between what good can I bring to my sisters versus how best can I serve myself? I once placed my arm around a sister's shoulders who at that time obviously needed the reassurance. That one moment literally changed the course of our lives forever. A year later that same sister, a registered nurse, would tend my wounds and help me recover from cancer surgery, chemo- and radiation therapies.

  • Redneck Bubba FORT MILL, SC
    March 16, 2013 12:03 p.m.

    As a male I have never been to Relief Society but I have seen many of the same issues in Elder's Quorum. I would never question anyone's faith or committment, so I will echo what some others have said; the amount you enjoy and/or get out of any class is directly proportional to how much you put into it. If you come prepared, pay attention and take the oppurtunity to ask or answer questions or make insightful comments then the time not only flies by but you know that you learned from and added to the lesson. I know that it would be very difficult for me to it through any class where I did not participate. Also compliment teachers that do a good job, they appreciate it and try to keep up the good work. If you have concerns about lesson content or tone feel free to talk to the RS or EQ presicent in a constructive way. They want you there and they want everyone to get something out of the lessons, having been in the EQ presidency before, there is a lot to do so it is easy to miss some things without feedback.

  • Californian Santa Ana, CA
    March 16, 2013 11:18 a.m.

    Go with the attitude of what you can contribute to the lesson, service projects, sustaining leaders, and lonely sisters instead of with a "what's in it for me?" attitude.

  • Joe_Libertarian San DIego, CA
    March 16, 2013 10:46 a.m.

    It sounds like relief society is a great way to ensure women keep doing the work God intended for women.

    March 16, 2013 10:32 a.m.

    I just missed our RS birthday dinner on Thursday. I didn't hear about it because I was out of town over the weekend for a wedding. I happened to see a little something about it in passing on Facebook. I felt left out because no one from RS emailed me to tell me about the birthday dinner. I didn't know if I should bring something or what was going on so I stayed home. I feel, since I have been a primary teacher for the past year, that I no longer truly belong in RS. I love the sisters. We have a lot of fun together. It's just something in me that keeps me from attending activities. I know I should be more involved, but I always seem to have other things to do. Excuses for not going. I know I need to go and socialize with my sisters. I love them and they have been wonderful friends. I just can't seem to get myself there.

  • Pasmith St Petersburg, FL
    March 16, 2013 10:14 a.m.

    I have been in the church all my life. I am really struggling with RS now as well. I think things just cycle. When I was young I didn't feel I fit in. It is really hard for new 18 year olds to feel they belong. Now my kids are grown and every thing seems to focus on new moms and I don't feel anything applies to me, especially since lately the lessons have turned into "getting to know you" sessions and travelogs. When I sit down in the room and it is so crowded that the only empty seat is the one next to me, that's tough. However, I go because I love the Lord and I trust that this, too, shall pass. It will get better. Changes are hard to adjust to. I recognize that I am partially responsible. I should be more social. Thats hard for me.

  • chris46 SALT LAKE CITY, UT
    March 16, 2013 10:07 a.m.

    Relief Society has been hard for me, too. The reason has nothing to do with my commitment, the level of my faith, or being able to deal with the three-hour time block. Teachers in Relief Society often don't realize that it is a class and not a lecture opportunity. I find they often don't encourage comments because they don't want to get side tracked from the message. However, this is one place where Elder's Quorum succeeds. After two hours of instruction, Relief Society should be a place for women to discuss the lesson material. It has nothing to do with not believing strongly enough. It is difficult to just listen to how we are supposed to be. It should be an opportunity to discuss how we all strive to follow the prophets' advice. I frequently find myself giving a different perspective. And, I am always stopped by people who thank me for my comments. In our attempt to be better, we have to remember to allow people to be imperfect and give them space and time to work on bettering themselves. The Savior certainly followed this principle.

  • gonzofordollars OREM, UT
    March 16, 2013 8:57 a.m.

    We each fight many battles in our life. We fight the battles of going on missions, staying morally clean, temple marriage – the first and only time – Sacrament Meeting attendance, Sunday School attendance, Priesthood and Relief Society attendance, personal prayer, scripture study, tithing, fast offering, weekly Family Home Evening, family prayer, scripture study, home and visiting teaching, and the list goes on and on never seeming to end. Every battle won is a victory of sorts; however, I submit to you that each of these battles can be won before the necessity of fighting them begins.

    Our love for the Savior develops to such an extent that it does not matter what Heavenly Father asks us to do. We find that whatever we are asked to do “tastes” good to us. We no longer have to fight the battle of living a moral life or going to Church or anything else that is righteous if we have really accepted the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ and gained a testimony of and are converted to this divine work.

    I would say more, but I have no more space.

    March 16, 2013 8:32 a.m.

    Great suggestions from Angela.

    Uncommitted members give the same excuses for not attending Sunday School or Priesthood Meeting. People who have attended all 3 hours have no difficulty but 3 hours appears too long for others (of all ages) until they have committed to attend and have attended all 3 hours for a few months.