A global sisterhood: Relief Society to gather on March 17

‘We are one as a Relief Society, as a global sisterhood’

Since 1842, the objective of the Relief Society has been to bring the relief of Jesus Christ, both temporal and spiritual, to people around the world.

And temporal and spiritual relief always go hand in hand, said President Camille N. Johnson, the Relief Society general president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“It’s not just about filling bellies; it’s about filling hearts and people feeling the love of our Savior. And I think that as I seek to exemplify Him, I feel the love of my Savior and my Heavenly Father,” she said in a recent episode of the Church News podcast.

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This month, women around the world will have an opportunity to commemorate the 182nd anniversary of the Relief Society and hear a message from Church President Russell M. Nelson directly for them on Sunday, March 17.

Ward and stake Relief Societies are invited to gather — along with young women turning 18 in 2024 — to hear from President Nelson, and then President Johnson and her counselors, Sister J. Anette Dennis and Sister Kristin M. Yee. The time for the meeting is up to local Relief Societies.

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The recorded messages will be followed by an opportunity to bear testimony.

In the past, local Relief Societies used to have testimony meetings, where women who might not stand up in front of a full congregation were willing to speak in that smaller setting.

“So we are hoping that they will have the opportunity in that same experience here to express their testimony of Jesus Christ,” President Johnson said. “I know for myself, each time I have the opportunity to declare my witness that Jesus Christ lives, my own testimony is strengthened. There’s something about standing on your feet and saying it out loud.”

Women of all ages meet in Relief Society
Women of all ages meet in Relief Society in this file photo. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

‘Extraordinary occasions and pressing calls’

When the Relief Society was organized on March 17, 1842, the 20 women gathered upstairs in the Red Brick Store had two missions — to relieve suffering and to save souls.

Sister Yee said the purpose of the Relief Society has not changed.

“When we come together to celebrate, we’re not just celebrating a date, but we’re commemorating or we’re celebrating our purpose that the Lord has given us as women upon the earth, to do His work and to help God’s family come unto Him and receive exaltation,” Sister Yee said. “It’s the same beautiful, powerful, ultimate objective.”

Sister Dennis said it is beautiful to think about women all over the world meeting on the same day. “We are millions strong. And we are a global sisterhood. And part of that coming together is to help us feel like we are unified, that we are one as a Relief Society, as a global sisterhood.”

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Sister Yee said any time a meeting is held for women, more people come than expected. “We are all hungry to be together and gather in His name. Something always wonderful happens when we come together.”

President Johnson agreed. “There’s something almost tangible when the sisters come together, and you invite them to reflect upon the blessing it is to be a woman to be a covenant daughter of God, to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.”

Young women belong to the Relief Society when they turn 18. President Johnson said young people want to be a part of a global movement for change and to make a difference in the world , she said, “and what greater cause could they be engaged in than that of the Relief Society, bringing the Savior’s relief to our sisters and brothers everywhere?”

What belonging to Relief Society means to the general presidency

Sister J. Anette Dennis, Relief Society General President Camille N. Johnson and Sister Kristin M. Yee, pose for a portrait in the Bishops’ Storehouse at Welfare Square in Salt Lake City.
Sister J. Anette Dennis, first counselor in the Relief Society general presidency, left, Relief Society General President Camille N. Johnson and Sister Kristin M. Yee, second counselor in the Relief Society general presidency, pose for a portrait in the Bishops’ Storehouse at Welfare Square in Salt Lake City on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

As Sister Dennis met with a group of women in Jamaica last year, they sat in a circle and shared some of the challenges and hard things they had been going through — and in return they received support and expressions of love.

“In that group, as they shared, they were able to strengthen each other and lift each other and bear one another’s burdens, and it was so beautiful. And to me, that’s what Relief Society is,” Sister Dennis said.

When Sister Yee was in her mid-20s, she made a beautiful friendship with a woman in her mid-60s through visiting teaching — now known as ministering.

“You’d look at us and think, ‘There’s nothing in common between these two.’ Different lives, different things we were doing,” she said. “... We’d walk and talk, and she and I just became the closest of friends. And we prayed together for each other’s needs and found the Savior amidst us as we sought to help one another.”

During a ministering visit with a family in the Philippines, President Johnson noticed a woman in the home sitting back behind a curtain and invited her to come and join them and share her testimony.

“I felt so distinctly she was the reason that we were there,” President Johnson said. “… [A]ll of us can be that one who addresses the needs of the one if we are sensitive to the promptings of the Spirit and have a sincere and open heart with the desire to bring the Savior’s relief to others.”

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