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Anniversary to mark first big celebration of Relief Society in past century

The Relief Society's 150th anniversary celebration in 1992 will be the organization's first major celebration in 100 years, according to historic accounts of the Relief Society.

At the 50th anniversary in 1892, a jubilee was observed in various branches of the Relief Society throughout the Church.At Church headquarters an assembly was held in the Tabernacle on Temple Square with music by the Tabernacle Choir. President Joseph F. Smith, second counselor in the First Presidency, offered a prayer at noon, according to A Centenary of Relief Society. Several addresses were given, including one from Relief Society Gen. Pres. Zina D. H. Young, and a historical sketch was read.

"One of the important lessons which this grand jubilee will possibly teach or is likely to impress upon all is that of love and union," wrote the Woman's Exponent of March 15, 1892. "Love is the great power that will lift mankind to a higher plane, true love, the love that brings out all the best and noblest qualities of the human soul. The love of God and the love of our fellow men."

A letter of greeting from the Relief Society general presidency stated, "Let committees be appointed to assist in making preparations for the day, and to invite those who are to participate in the celebration, that none may be neglected or forgotten."

Although the letter dates back 100 years, it shares the same spirit felt today as the Relief Society general presidency and board have set forth guidelines for the 1992 celebration, remarked Carol Clark, Relief Society general board member.

Fifty years ago, in 1942, the 100th anniversary was postponed because of World War II. A grand Relief Society centennial celebration had been planned for April that year. Amy Brown Lyman was Relief Society general president at the time.

A membership drive had been under way to gain 100,000 members (a goal which was exceeded by 15,000); the pageant, "Woman's Century of Revealed Light," was scheduled for nine performances in the Tabernacle; and the usual two-day Relief Society conference was to be expanded to three days.

In various stakes and missions 15,000 Singing Mothers were practicing for a centennial concert in the Tabernacle; an international exhibit of handwork had been announced; and a centennial gift from the Relief Society, a bronze campanile with art panels by Avard Fairbanks at the base, was to be erected on Temple Square to house the Nauvoo Temple Bell.

But because of the war, the First Presidency requested the curtailment of all auxiliary activities requiring travel, and the Relief Society general board voted on Jan. 26, 1942, to postpone not only its grand celebration but also its regular conference.

Instead, a half-hour broadcast was given over radio. A Centenary of Relief Society, a centennial commemorative souvenir book, was published following the birthday anniversary.

Since that time, membership in the Relief Society has grown from 115,000 to 3 million women living in 135 countries throughout the world.

While much has changed, the thrust of Relief Society remains the same through the years as shown in a letter from the Relief Society general board in 1942: "May the women of Relief Society continue to trust in their God, make of their homes holy places, train up their children in the pure love of Christ, and clothe themselves with the mantle of charity, that in their homes and in their ministrations abroad they may exercise that charity which never faileth. May they go on unto perfection, sensing with ever deeper import as they continue to minister to God's children, the truth that `he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.' "

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