As Sister Julie B. Beck, Relief Society general president, has traveled the world, she and her counselors — Sister Silvia H. Allred and Sister Barbara Thompson — have visited with thousands of Latter-day Saint women. During those visits, the members of the Church's Relief Society general presidency like to listen to the questions women have. They write them down and pray about them.
"I have been touched by the questions that come from the sisters," Sister Beck said during BYU Women's Conference in May 2011. "It gives me an understanding of the broad spectrum of the experience you're having, the difficulties and the joys in your lives and the things you are trying to accomplish."
Sister Beck explained that many of the answers to the questions Latter-day Saint women ask can be found in the history of Relief Society. "History helps us learn who we are and our importance to the Lord," she said in a Church News interview. "It connects us and binds us with the covenants we have made. That's why it is important."
Daughters in My Kingdom, a book that was released last fall, details the history and work of Relief Society and will help the women of the Church learn about their important role as a daughter of their Heavenly Father.
The 208-page book is intended to be a personal and family resource to support women and their families and strengthen them in their responsibilities. The history is unique because it is written for an international audience; the heritage of Latter-day Saint women is shared by those who live in more than 170 nations and who speak more than 80 different languages.
In many ways the book is a testimony of Jesus Christ; from the women in their history Latter-day Saint women today can learn to live as He lived.
At Women's Conference at BYU last year, Sister Beck explained, "This isn't about causes or advocacy groups, because we have an advocate. Our Savior, Jesus Christ, is our advocate with the Father. And we stand with Him, doing His work, working for His great cause."
Women can learn many important things from the history of Relief Society:
First, Relief Society strengthens and supports women in their identity as daughters of God. "For verily I say unto you, all those who receive my gospel are sons and daughters in my kingdom," the Lord said (Doctrine and Covenants 25:1).
President Gordon B. Hinckley said, "Let me say to you sisters that you do not hold a second place in our Father's plan. You are an absolutely essential part of that plan" (Daughters in My Kingdom, p. 143).
And James E. Talmage, who was ordained an apostle in 1911, taught that "the world's greatest champion of woman and womanhood is Jesus the Christ" (Daughters in My Kingdom p. 3).
Second, Relief Society is a restoration of an ancient pattern of discipleship. Through Relief Society, the Savior is inviting Latter-day Saint women — as He invited Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42) — to take part in His work.
Joseph Smith taught that "the Church was never perfectly organized until the women were thus organized" (Daughters in My Kingdom, p. 7).
Further, President Joseph F. Smith said Relief Society "is divinely made, divinely authorized, divinely instituted, divinely ordained of God" (Daughters in My Kingdom, p. 7).
Third, Relief Society, when it functions properly, is a manifestation of charity. "Wherefore, the Lord God hath given a commandment that all should have charity, which charity is love. And except they should have charity they were nothing," the scriptures teach (2 Nephi 26:30).
President Thomas S. Monson has taught charity is important because "we are the Lord's hands here upon the earth, with the mandate to serve and to lift His children" (Daughters in My Kingdom, p. 103).
Fourth, the history of Relief Society is a history of noble, faithful women.
Joseph Smith knew the women of the Church needed to be different from the women of the world. "[Relief Society] should be a select society, separate from all the evils of the world, choice, virtuous and holy," he taught (Daughters in My Kingdom p. 15).
The Prophet Joseph also said, emphasizing the spiritual importance of the organization with the temporal importance, that "Relief Society is not only to relieve the poor, but to save souls" (Daughters in My Kingdom p. 24).
Fifth, through Relief Society, women learn about and are strengthened by an inseparable connection with the priesthood. "Men have no greater claim than women upon the blessings that issue from the Priesthood and accompany its possession," taught John A. Widtsoe, who was ordained an apostle in 1921 (Daughters in My Kingdom, p. 127).
President Spencer W. Kimball also emphasized the need for Relief Society sisters to work with the priesthood. "There is power in this organization [Relief Society] that has not yet been fully exercised ... nor will it until both the sisters and the priesthood catch the vision of Relief Society" (Daughters in My Kingdom, p. 142).
As women of the Church study the history of Relief Society, they will come to know that their identity as daughters of God is precious beyond compare. And they will come to know that Relief Society is so much more than a Sunday class; it is a way the Lord organizes His daughters into His discipleship.
In the introduction of the book, the First Presidency wrote a message to the women of the Church: "We express our love and admiration for you and recognize that you are beloved daughters of Heavenly Father and dedicated disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. You are part of a great worldwide sisterhood."
That knowledge alone may be all the women of the Church need to know to answer the questions on their minds.