Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are “keenly aware” of the challenges women face in the world, Relief Society General President Jean B. Bingham said.
“I have had the opportunity of being in many, many meetings and observed and counseled with the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the First Presidency — and President [Russell M.] Nelson individually — and I can tell you, to a person, they are engaged in helping women realize their potential,” she said.
President Nelson has pleaded with the women of the Church to study priesthood power and learn of the “spiritual treasures” that are theirs. “The heavens are just as open to women who are endowed with God’s power flowing from their priesthood covenants as they are to men who bear the priesthood,” he taught in the October 2019 general conference.
Days before the 179th anniversary of the organization of the Relief Society, President Bingham spoke in a Church News podcast about the influence of Latter-day Saint women and their vital role in bringing others to the Savior. The podcast episode will be released tomorrow, March 16.
Episode 22: ‘Charity Never Faileth’ even in a pandemic — President Bingham celebrates 179 years of Relief Society
“I know that if we can harness the power of the women of Relief Society, no power on Earth can stop this good work,” President Bingham declared.
“My message to all of my sisters who may be wondering where their place is in the Church is to absolutely affirm that your place is in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, giving your talents and time and abilities to lifting and blessing those around you.”
Physical and spiritual relief
At the first meeting of the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo on March 17, 1842, President Emma Smith stated, “We are going to do something extraordinary.”
Today, the Relief Society is one of the world’s largest, oldest and most diverse women’s organizations in the world. What began as a small gathering in the red brick store in Nauvoo, Illinois, now includes 7.5 million women in 220 countries.
Reflective in the organization’s name, “one of the main purposes is to relieve suffering, whether it’s physical or spiritual,” President Bingham said. “And that is a power for good that Relief Society sisters all have a responsibility for.”
Early in its history, the Relief Society wrote and published the Woman’s Exponent, a newspaper by and for women that fostered unity, expounded gospel principles and influenced the suffragist movement in the United States.
With many mothers and babies dying in childbirth in their communities, the Relief Society sent women to medical schools in the eastern United States to become doctors, nurses and midwives. They later started the first maternity hospital in Utah.
President Bingham also described early Relief Society efforts to grow, harvest and store wheat — which provided food for survivors of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and was sold to the U.S. government to alleviate shortages after World War I.
More recently, in May and June 2020, more than 57,500 volunteers from around the state of Utah sewed nearly 6 million masks to help healthcare workers on the frontlines of COVID-19. Similar mask-sewing efforts have been carried out around the globe.
And currently, the Relief Society is sponsoring programs to alleviate child malnutrition in various locations and to enhance literacy for women, the latter she highlighted during an address on International Women’s Day.
Relief Society sisters bless families and communities, as well as individuals, President Bingham said. “One of the strengths of the organization is caring one by one for each other, making sure that each woman has a safe place to find support and encouragement as she learns and progresses.”
“Women who belong to Relief Society serve others in an astounding variety of ways,” she said. “Because of their faith in Jesus Christ, they follow His example in loving and lifting those around them. And because of their understanding of Heavenly Father’s plan of salvation, they reach out to help others understand their divine worth — that we are all children of God. …
“Wherever I go around the globe, from Scotland to South Africa, or Chile to the Czech Republic, or the Philippines or Farmington, Utah, I know I can count on women of the Relief Society to welcome me as a sister. I have felt that throughout the world.”
‘You are needed’
Recognizing there are many young women who feel apprehensive or hesitant about participating in Relief Society, President Bingham said she has a three-word message for them: “You are needed.”
“We need your energy and your talents, your faith, your creativity, your drive, your knowledge,” she said.
Avoid the distraction of thinking that Relief Society is for “old ladies,” President Bingham counseled. “It really is for every woman, from age 18 to 108 and beyond. It can be as relevant, as fun and as invigorating, as it is comforting and reassuring of individual worth.”
“I think one of the wonderful benefits of participating in Relief Society is the opportunity to have friends of all ages from all walks of life,” she said, adding that “we learn from each other and we strengthen each other as we share testimonies and talents.”
For those struggling to find their place in Relief Society, President Bingham said, “So often, we feel like we need to have someone give us direction. We don’t. Use your own initiative, your own inspiration, your own personal revelation to find ways to bless.”
Receiving personal revelation is “critical,” she added. It is essential to making decisions and knowing how to move forward — even amid difficult circumstances.
“There are so many things in this world that can distract, divert, deceive us if we do not go to the source of perfect truth. We are agents unto ourselves, so when prophets give us direction we can ask God and know the truth for ourselves.”
As President Bingham and other women leaders have participated in various councils with the senior leadership of the Church, “unfailingly they solicit and consider seriously our input,” she said.
“I’ve seen many things change because of women sharing a perspective in those councils. … It is delightful to be open and candid and share and feel that my perspective is valued and understood and acted on. That is something that I hope every woman can experience in her leadership opportunities in the Church.”
Latter-day Saint women have “untapped potential” in leading, lifting, loving and strengthening others, President Bingham said. “And when we forget ourselves and go to work, as the expression goes, we’ll be able to accomplish more than we ever imagined. …
“I have seen women and men work together to make a difference, to change lives, to strengthen the good in the world. And I know that that is our mandate, and we need to choose to do that. We can do that. I know that this is the Lord’s work, without a doubt. It’s not the work of man. Heavenly Father allows us to help one another for us to grow and become more like Him.”