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What does counseling together in Relief Society look like?

Relief Society General President Camille N. Johnson encourages women to share ‘what’s in your heart’ during Sunday meetings

Recently, when Relief Society General President Camille N. Johnson was in Costa Rica, she saw an example of counseling together in a ward Relief Society of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The Relief Society presidency had prayerfully considered what subject they could counsel about at the beginning of their Sunday meeting, President Johnson explained.

“They had learned that there were a number of sisters in their ward that, while endowed, did not hold current temple recommends,” she said on social media this week. “And so that was the subject about which they counseled: how they could increase the desire of the sisters in their ward to have a current temple recommend.”

The discussion was a beautiful one, President Johnson said, with many sisters contributing. “They came up with new ideas, those that the presidency and ministering sisters could incorporate to bless the lives of their sisters with an increased desire to worship in the house of the Lord.”

President Johnson hoped this example would help other ward Relief Societies think about the kinds of things about which they could counsel at the beginning of their own Relief Society meetings. She said women have expressed interest and asked questions about counseling — and how to make it better.

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What is counseling in Relief Society?

At the very beginning of ward or branch Relief Society meetings — on the second and fourth Sundays of each month — right after the opening prayer, Relief Society sisters have the opportunity to counsel together about subjects that mean the most to them.

It is a tender time where women have the opportunity to share their most personal feelings about what is happening in their lives, all with a focus on the Savior Jesus Christ, President Johnson said.

“What is in your heart, or what keeps you up at night? All of this is counseling about the work of salvation and exaltation,” she said on social media earlier this year.

General Handbook section 9.2.1.2 says Relief Societies meet on Sundays for the following purposes:

  • Strengthen faith.
  • Build unity.
  • Strengthen families and homes.
  • Make plans to assist God in His work of salvation and exaltation.

“The meeting begins with prayer,” the handbook explains. “A presidency member then conducts any business. For example, the sisters may counsel together about aspects of participating in God’s work of salvation and exaltation. Sufficient time should then be given to meaningful gospel instruction and discussion.”

The meeting then focuses on topics in one or more talks from the most recent general conference, with topics prayerfully selected by the ward Relief Society presidency based on sisters’ needs. Hymns may be sung to enhance a lesson, and the meeting should end with a prayer.

Women in the Philippines meet together in Relief Society.
Women in the Philippines meet together in Relief Society. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Beginning the meeting by counseling together can be “a natural lead-in” to the gospel instruction and discussion portion of the meeting, President Johnson told the Church News.

During this counseling time, the presidency member who is conducting has an opportunity to model what is hoped for in the remainder of the meeting: meaningful gospel instruction with a focus on the Savior.

Counseling about the work of salvation and exaltation

God invites all to come unto Christ and participate in His work of salvation and exaltation by:

  • Living the gospel of Jesus Christ.
  • Caring for those in need.
  • Inviting all to receive the gospel.
  • Uniting families for eternity.

Each of these topics can be something about which Relief Society sisters counsel together.

Relief Society leaders support members in living the gospel of Jesus Christ. They emphasize exercising faith, repenting, increasing in self-reliance and making covenants with God by receiving ordinances. Such ordinances include the temple endowment. (See section 9.2.1.)

As followers of Jesus Christ, sisters have a responsibility to reach out in love to those in need. Individually and as a Relief Society, they seek ways to serve others in the ward and community. Where it is available, JustServe.org suggests community service opportunities. (See section 9.2.2.)

Members of Relief Society have a responsibility to invite all to receive the blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ: “In presidency and Relief Society meetings, the Relief Society presidency discusses ways the sisters can invite all to receive the blessings of the gospel.” (See section 9.2.3.)

Members of Relief Society support members in uniting families for eternity. This includes making covenants with God by receiving ordinances, including the temple endowment, and doing temple and family history work.

In presidency and Relief Society meetings, the Relief Society presidency discusses ways the sisters can participate in these efforts. Presidency members also plan ways to help members increase their understanding of and desire to receive sacred ordinances and make covenants with God in the temple. They encourage sisters to worship in the temple regularly where possible. (See section 9.2.4.)

And for more about the work of salvation and exaltation, see General Handbook Chapter 1.

President Johnson said she hopes that local Relief Society presidencies will get started on counseling.

“And sisters, as you participate in Relief Society, speak up and speak out,” she said. “Our dear Prophet [President Russell M. Nelson] asked us to do that. This is a sweet opportunity for you to share your feelings — what’s in your heart.”

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