The faces of Relief Society

No matter what a woman does, it's who she is individually that brings a spirit of sisterhood and unity to Relief Society, said Elaine L. Jack, Relief Society general president.

"Diversity brings about richness and strength to Relief Society," she explained. "We hope that all women, regardless of their backgrounds, will feel a part of Relief Society."By contributing wisdom and experiences, each woman can add to the rich association of this great organization. As we blend together, we complement and support each other in Relief Society."

As local units plan their Relief Society sesquicentennial activities (commemorating the 150th birthday of the Relief Society March 17), the organization's general presidency hopes each unit's celebration involves all sisters and recognizes their individual strengths.

According to the celebration guidelines, at the heart of each local celebration should be a "Celebrate through Service Project" that involves all sisters in meaningful service and allows them to develop and exercise charity, enjoy a unified sisterhood, and plan and carry out one or more local service projects that will bless people living in their community.

"The sesquicentennial service project will bring sisters together as they become involved in suggesting, in giving and in working on the project," remarked Chieko N. Okazaki, first counselor in the Relief Society general presidency. "There are so many different forms of participation.

"By involving sisters in service projects, we will gain more strength in sisterhood. These service projects will give them a greater sense of value and worth. Sisters can't help but feel a necessary part of Relief Society when they are involved in such a way."

Aileen H. Clyde, second counselor in the Relief Society general presidency, added: "Just as our founders offered what they had, now we can do the same by asking, `what can I do?' We hope the sisters will sit down, perhaps at a homemaking meeting, and talk about what the needs are in their area and what they can do to help."

There was considerable diversity among the founders of Relief Society, Sister Clyde explained. Some were rich, poor, married, single, educated and uneducated. Their common faith bound them together. It's that same faith that unites women today in the sisterhood of Relief Society.

"The concept of really understanding and blessing the lives of individual women through Relief Society is a major emphasis to us. This organization will grow and be able to meet the needs of the sisters of the world to the degree that we understand the importance of the individual woman.

"Seeing and meeting other sisters is one way to value diversity," Sister Clyde continued. "The value of looking at many visages is that we can see differences and we can appreciate them rather than worry about trying to be the same."

The worth of souls is great in the sight of God, Pres. Jack commented. Third Nephi illustrates that worth when the Savior took time to have each person, one by one, feel the wounds in His hands.

"Each person is important. We value every individual independent of their circumstances," she said.

Sister Okazaki agreed: "Our unique experiences in race, age, economics, marital and professional status help us teach each other. These experiences help us understand many of life's circumstances. They add to our ability to feel unity and sisterhood for each other."

Sister Clyde added: "The fact is we have been created uniquely, and to ignore that or desire to be some other way is to try to do something we cannot do and should not do. We glory in the strength of our worldwide sisterhood.

"We hope something can be done that connects a sister to Relief Society who may be wavering or feeling not a part for whatever reason. Hopefully this says to her, `I do belong. They want me. I can make a contribution here.' "

If these women say that enough, they will know that it is true, she continued. "We know many women who have said they don't belong at Church and in Relief Society. We hope that all we do could cause someone to say, `Oh, they mean me.' "

Sisters can feel a part of Relief Society when they are recognized in some way, given opportunities to serve or to lead others, the Relief Society general presidency explained.

"As diverse as they are, women come to Relief Society for sisterhood and spiritual nourishment," Pres. Jack said. "Everyone is valued and needed."

Instead of comparing themselves to other women, sisters would be better served to cultivate an appreciation and respect for one another, she explained.

"It's critical to have a confirmation that you've chosen the right way, that you have a secure testimony that you've done the best after your own spiritual soul searching, and that you are accepting of what you have chosen. The key is your own individual testimony and reliance on the Lord."

(Additional information)

Photo book notes sesquicentennial

A photographic essay book representing the nearly 3 million Relief Society members in 130 countries and territories will be available Feb. 7 at LDS bookstores.

The book, titled Something Extraordinary: Celebrating Our Relief Society Sisterhood, was published by Deseret Book at the request of the Relief Society general presidency to commemorate the organization's sesquicentennial, March 17, 1992.

More than 5,000 photographs were submitted, with the final selection of 323 photos representing the five continents where members live. A brief message from the Relief Society general presidency to all adult female members of the Church serves as text for the book.

Photos featured on this page are among those submitted for the book.

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