Sister Julie B. Beck: Relief Society, quorums, a safety and refuge in these difficult days
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Quorums and Relief Societies are meant to be a safety and a refuge in these difficult days and to support and strengthen the identity, roles and responsibilities of Heavenly Father's sons and daughters, said Sister Julie B. Beck on Jan. 17.
"What the Lord envisioned regarding quorums and Relief Society has not yet been fully utilized," said the Church's Relief Society general president. "Many quorums and Relief Societies are at present much like sleeping giants waiting for you to breathe new life into them."
Speaking to thousands of BYU students gathered in the BYU Marriott Center for a campus devotional assembly, Sister Beck explained why Latter-day Saints are organized into quorums and Relief Societies. "Inasmuch as the Lord chose to organize us in this way, it is important for us to seek for a greater understanding as to why we are thus organized and then to seek to fulfill the vision He has for us," said Sister Beck.
She said many people have the mistaken identity that a priesthood quorum and a Relief Society is "merely a class or a place to sit during the third hour of Church on Sunday," when, in fact, "being part of a Relief Society or quorum is a designation for a way of life."
She said the purposes of Relief Society are "to increase faith and personal righteousness, strengthen families and homes, and seek out and provide relief for those who are in need." The purposes of the quorum, she added, are "to serve others, build unity and brotherhood, instruct quorum members in the doctrines and principles of the gospel, and watch over the Church."
Sister Beck said she drew from the scriptures and the words of prophets to illustrate five important reasons Latter-day Saints are organized into quorums and Relief Societies:
One of the reasons the Church has quorums and Relief Societies is to organize its members under the priesthood and after the pattern of the priesthood, she said. "Our God is a God of order, and all that He does to build His kingdom He does through His priesthood patterns," she said.
One of the patterns is the organization of wards and stakes, each with a geographic boundary, explained Sister Beck. "Each ward is guided by a bishop who holds the keys, or the Lord's authority, for his ward. He is the shepherd of the Lord's flock within his ward and has the charge to see to the temporal and spiritual needs of that flock. … His responsibility is monumental and is the more difficult because he is only one man who cannot possibly watch over all of the sheep at once. The quorum and Relief Society leaders are seen by the bishop as undershepherds who magnify, enhance, and distribute his watchcare."
Sister Beck explained that the formation of a presidency, sustaining those who are called to lead, and receiving revelation are also priesthood patterns.
"When Joseph Smith organized Relief Society, he said the sisters were 'to get instruction through the order which God has established — through the medium of those appointed to lead.' This ability and promise regarding personal revelation is one of the remarkable blessings that come to every quorum and Relief Society presidency. The Lord said that each of us was to learn our duty and act in the office to which we are appointed, He provided a way for us to do just that."
A second reason Church members are organized into quorums and Relief Societies is to focus Heavenly Father's sons and daughters on the work of salvation and to engage them in it, said Sister Beck.
"Quorums and Relief Societies are an organized discipleship with the responsibility to assist in our Father's work to bring about eternal life for His children. We are not in the entertainment business; we are in the salvation business," she said.
The work of salvation includes missionary work, retaining those who are converted, participating in family history work and temple work, improving temporal and self-reliance and taking care of the poor and needy. "These are honorable and heavy responsibilities," she said. "They connote a sacred trust and imply a significant contribution to the Lord's work of salvation, a work that is both a burden and a blessing. ...
"When we are organized into Relief Societies and quorums, our personal discipleship is extended and we become engaged with others in the saving work that was modeled by the Savior. It is never modest or inconsequential. It forces us to a higher path of discipleship and a greater spiritual maturity."
Sister Beck said the Lord's work of salvation is "guided by the Spirit, who confirms our actions, assures us of the Lord's approval, and supplies the true joy that comes with an affirmation of our success."
A third reason Church members are organized into quorums and Relief Societies is to help bishops wisely manage the Lord's storehouse, she said.
"The Lord's storehouse includes the time, talents, compassion, materials and financial means of the members of the Church," she said. "The talents of the Saints are to be used to help care for the poor and the needy and to build the Lord's kingdom."
Bishops, she explained, have charge of the Lord's storehouse, and they depend on the quorums and Relief Societies to help them seek out and care for all in their wards.
Sister Beck said if Church members were left to themselves, they might prefer to care only for the popular, charming and grateful people in their wards. "It is much more challenging to care for those who are difficult to love, who have grave and complicated challenges, or who do not seem to appreciate our help."
One of the most significant ways this kind of watchcare is apportioned is through home teaching and visiting teaching, she explained.
A fourth reason why Church members are organized into quorums and Relief Societies is to provide a defense and a refuge for Heavenly Father's children and their families in the latter days, said Sister Beck.
"We are all in the midst of a mortal experience," she said. "We all chose this experience, and the Lord will ensure that we all have one. An age-old anti-Christ deception implies that people who are smart enough or rich enough can avoid challenges. This is not so. … As our times become ever more difficult, the faithful brothers and sisters in the quorums and Relief Societies are to protect the homes of Zion from the shrill voices of the world and the provocative influence of the adversary."
Sister Beck told the students that whatever their mortal experience, they can have a feeling of fellowship and the support and strength of many around them. "It is in the sisterhood of Relief Society and the brotherhood of the quorums that we should find refuge and protection from the storms of life and calamities of the latter days," she said.
The fifth purpose for being organized into quorums and Relief Societies is to strengthen and support Later-day Saints in their family roles and responsibilities as sons and daughters of God, said Sister Beck.
"Though many of our responsibilities in the Church are parallel, Heavenly Father's sons and daughters each have unique and distinct responsibilities in the family and in the Church. Quorums and Relief Societies are to teach our Heavenly Father's sons and daughters and inspire them to prepare for the blessings of eternal life," she said. "Our Father sees the potential of His sons and His daughters to be family leaders. Therefore, everything we do in quorums and Relief Societies is to help the Lord with His mission of preparing His children for the blessings of the eternal life He envisions for us. In these settings we are meant to learn how to become part of our Heavenly Father's eternal family."
She said the quorum and the Relief Society assist family leaders and future family leaders and "help them establish patterns and practices of righteous behavior and covenant keeping in their lives."
The work of the quorum and Relief Society clarifies the unique identities and responsibilities of sons and daughters of God and unifies them in defense of His plan, Sister Beck said. "Each of us is a beloved daughter or son of God with sacred responsibilities," she explained. "In our quorums and Relief Societies we are to be taught and inspired to become who our Father in Heaven created us to become."