When Dorothy Newsome talks, her speech is punctuated with scriptural references, which she uses as naturally and effectively as breathing.
"I might just talk until my cup runneth over," said Sister Newsome, Milwaukee City Branch's first Relief Society president, in a recent Relief Society meeting.Sister Newsome received most of her early religious training from her mother, as she read scriptures to Dorothy and prayed with her. They attended the little neighborhood church in the bayous of Bastrop, La., where she was born and reared. Her favorite scripture is the 23rd Psalm, and now, since she loves the Book of Mormon also, the entire chapter of Enos is her number-one choice for guidance and comfort.
Sister Newsome was visiting in Madison, Wis., when LDS missionaries were tracting in her friend's neighborhood. She wanted to learn more, and she received the fullness of the gospel in Milwaukee, where the missionaries found her.
She was attracted mainly by the humility of the LDS people. She had long been a follower of Jesus, but the blessing of taking the sacrament and covenanting with the Lord every week particularly appealed to her.
Her entire attitude about life and death changed. The Word of Wisdom was an important new teaching for her, and the idea of families being sealed together forever strongly appealed to her, because in the churches to which she had belonged, men often did not attend services with their wives.
"Just the atmosphere" caused her to wish to be in the LDS meetinghouse.
Reluctant to talk about herself, she did say that she reads the scriptures and other inspirational books frequently, listens to classical music and takes long walks when she has time.
She always loved to watch over the elderly in church and community, so her calling as Relief Society president matches her interest.
Sister Newsome's goal for Relief Society is for the sisters to progress in the gospel and be self-reliant, with ultimate dependence on God. She is an ideal role model.
She said her greatest problem in leadership is trying to blend several different cultures and have them "come together."
Sister Newsome taught in the Primary before she was called as Relief Society president. She taught the children with love and explained the gospel while trying to impress upon them the heroes of the scriptures.
She previously taught the Gospel Essentials class, combining her grasp of the scriptures with an ability to express herself. Several said it was the best class they had ever attended.
Devlin, her 14-year-old daughter, helps her care for a foster child, Jasmine, a bright toddler with perfectly braided hair. This service gives Sister Newsome time to care for a handicapped woman.
In 1982, a tragedy changed Sister Newsome's life drastically. A drunk driver struck and killed Dacyl, her 7-year-old daughter. Sister Newsome suffered emotionally and stopped attending her other church for a time.
Sister Newsome joined the Church more than four years ago. Last March, she went through the temple.
"It was such a sacred, thrilling experience for me, like I never felt before," she said. "It helped me gain the strength I needed. I admire all of the temple workers so much and know they truly dedicate everything they do to the Lord."