Transition to Relief Society

Relief Society leaders in Goteborg, Sweden, often assign older sisters - some in their 80s - to serve as visiting teaching partners with 18-year-old sisters. As almost "grandmother/granddaughter relationships" form, the young women have been loved into Relief Society activity by these older women.

A Salt Lake City stake has an activity where Young Women and Relief Society leaders honor 18-year-olds as they enter the world's oldest women's organization by giving them a bookmark and a hug. A ward in West Valley City, Utah, has members of the Young Women presidency go visiting teaching to the mothers of young women about to "graduate" into Relief Society. The young women are then included in the visit to familiarize them with Relief Society. (Please see related article on page 9.)These types of success stories are what members of the Relief Society and Young Women general presidencies hope are occurring throughout the Church in making a smooth and joyful transition from Young Women to Relief Society.

"Let's help these young women prepare to go to Relief Society, to look forward to going to Relief Society, to want to go to Relief Society," said Margaret D. Nadauld, Young Women general president. "Let them know Relief Society is the greatest, oldest, largest women's organization on the face of the earth. And what a priceless gift it is to belong to it."

Sister Nadauld and Relief Society Gen. Pres. Mary Ellen W. Smoot, along with Sister Smoot's first counselor, Virginia U. Jensen, and Sister Nadauld's second counselor, Sharon G. Larsen, met with the Church News to discuss this transition. The four auxiliary leaders, who are all Relief Society sisters, emphasized the importance of this period of time in a young woman's life.

"There is a sisterhood in Relief Society that every woman, no matter her age, needs," Sister Jensen explained. "Whether they know it or not, they need it and are fed by it. Relief Society is a divinely inspired organization, organized by a prophet of God. Young 18-year-old women may not realize they need that, but they all need it."

Continuing, Sister Jensen, whose responsibilities include the 18-year-old new Relief Society members, said that this time in a young woman's life is "so very important because it seems to be a time when young women can fall through the cracks. A lot of friends are going on missions and you can go to a different ward to a missionary farewell and be absent in your ward. You are out there in nowhere land. But if you have a commitment in your Relief Society, a position, and there can be `watchcare' over you, you don't

fall into the habit of non-attendance."

Sisters Smoot and Nadauld and their counselors spoke of several ways local Relief Society and Young Women leaders can help young women make the transition:

Work together. "That's what we taught in our open house

at general conference timeT," Sister Smoot said, "for the Relief Society president to put her arms around the Young Women president and Primary president and say, `How can we help you? We're all Relief Society sisters. We're here to bring families to Christ. What can we do to help one another?' "

Sister Nadauld added that it's important that Relief Society and Young Women leaders communicate with one another. She also emphasized the importance of a positive attitude on the part of Young Women leaders about Relief Society - an attitude that "will be reflected by the girls who they lead."

Include young women in Relief Society. Including them while they are still in Young Women, the four auxiliary leaders agreed, helps young women feel as if they are already a part of Relief Society. Sister Nadauld said: "It helps the young women when they start working hand-in-hand with the Relief Society in compassionate service. It helps them learn the work of women as they are preparing for womanhood."

Sisters Nadauld and Smoot and their counselors also said one way to include young women in Relief Society is to have the young people teach a lesson in Relief Society. In addition, they suggested having new members of Relief Society teach lessons from the time they enter Relief Society.

"When the young women come into Relief Society, it's like bringing a breath of fresh air. I sat in a lesson not too long ago where a 20-year-old was teaching. It was one of the very best Relief Society lessons I've ever been in. I've never seen a teacher in Relief Society get input from the other members of the class like this young girl could."

Have a special event marking the entrance of young women into Relief Society. Sister Smoot said this could be as simple having a special breakfast for new Relief Society sisters. The importance, the four auxiliary leaders said, is not in the event but in the reaching out.

Catch the vision. Sister Larsen emphasized: "Give the older women the vision that these young girls know something. I think the wonderful thing about main-streaming is you can learn from each other. The younger women can learn from the experience of the older ones . . . .

"And the younger ones," Sister Nadauld said, finishing Sister Larsen's thought with enthusiasm, "can help the older ones with ideas of what their children are dealing with and suggestions for how parents might deal with problems they're facing in raising a family. Their input is invaluable."

Sister Jensen aptly added, "They have a richness to exchange."

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