A place to grow

The Church News is featuring "Relief Society Moments" in commemoration of the organization's 150th anniversary on March 17, to highlight acts of service through Relief Society.

It was 1979 and Florence Sargent knew that something was terribly wrong in her life. Besides living in fear of her landlord and the mailman (who brought all those bills she couldn't pay) she and her alcoholic husband were neglecting their three sons. In desperation, Florence started attending Parents Anonymous in Boston.Self-discovery gave her strength to begin a new pattern of service and volunteer work for others. For three years she guest-lectured at area universities and nursing schools as an outreach worker for Parents Anonymous.

During this time she also volunteered as a sponsor for a battered women's shelter in the Boston area. Again, she drew upon her painful life experiences to help women from dysfunctional homes.

Since childhood, Florence had maintained a strong faith in Jesus Christ. Combining that faith with a better self-image gave her added strength to pay her bills and to stop smoking. "I see now," she recounted, "how I was being prepared to hear the gospel."

In the summer of 1986 the missionaries knocked on her door and gave her a Book of Mormon. Four months later she was baptized. After her conversion, Sister Sargent's troubled marriage ended.

She faced that first Christmas on her own, barely able to provide necessities. Just before the holidays, however, some Relief Society sisters gave her an envelope with enough money for Christmas and the assurance that they would never let her fail.

Sister Sargent discovered early on that Relief Society was a place for her, "to really grow, to be accepted, to receive support, love and encouragement. There," she stated, "I can find good role models to help me be the person I want to be."

Sister Sargent serves as Relief Society counselor in the Boston Branch in the Boston Massachusetts Stake. It seems to be an appropriate calling for a woman who has devoted so much time and energy to educating non-members and members alike on such an important issue. - Susan Cutler Leininger, Weston Ward, Boston Massachusetts Stake.

(Another in a series of "Relief Society Moments." Illustration by Deseret News artist Reed McGregor.)

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