Relief Society: Doing something extraordinary
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Just as sisters in the early days of the Church gathered often to go about doing good, Relief Societies around the world today are working together to plan and carry out projects as a way to commemorate the 170th anniversary of the Relief Society. Whether it is doing work within their own families, wards or communities, the work that moves forward is blessing all who are involved. The purposes of Relief Society are the same as they were in the early days of the Church — to increase faith, strengthen families and provide relief.
Six months ago, Daughters in My Kingdom: The History and Work of Relief Society was published and given to every member of the Relief Society to act as a guide and resource in helping sisters understand their responsibilities. As individuals look to the teachings found within the publication, they are able to understand their purposes and strengthen others around them.
Some examples of how sisters are carrying out those purposes include involvement in temple and family history work, sharing the gospel and improving in the ministry of visiting teaching.
Organize and encourage sisters to participate in a temple or family history work experience.
Sister Silvia H. Allred, first counselor in the Relief Society general presidency, recently shared how the temple made a difference in her own life many years ago, even though it was located far away from where she was living.
"There are very sacred experiences that are very hard to describe, and I would say that this experience was one of those in that category," Sister Allred said. "I had joined the Church in November 1959, when there was only one small branch, and we met in a rented home in downtown San Salvador with only a few members. A good Sunday attendance might have been sixty. The dream of having a temple was never entertained in my mind because it was not even a possibility or a vision that I could have."
It wasn't until after the first stake in El Salvador was about to be organized in 1973 that the first temple trip took place, traveling to the then-closest temple in Mesa, Arizona.
"For decades, not even the possibilities of going to the temple were in the minds of the members in El Salvador. Then, after going to the temple the members saw families being sealed and enjoying the blessings of worshiping in the temple. At this point, we started dreaming of and preparing for a temple in our own country.
"A few years later, in 1983, the temple was built in Mexico City shortening our travel to the temple. Then, the following year, the temple in Guatemala City put us only hours away from a temple. But the dream of having a temple in El Salvador still seemed very remote and we thought we'd never get a temple here."
More than two decades later, the San Salvador El Salvador Temple became a reality when President Henry B. Eyring dedicated the 135th temple in the Church on Aug. 21, 2011.
"This was a dream come true for all the members who had sacrificed so much, especially for those who may attend the temple only once in their lifetime, as well as others who have had the opportunity to go repeated times to the temple. All of a sudden, this dream comes true, and we're to have a temple in El Salvador. As I sat there at the cultural event, seeing the stadium with more than 2,500 young people performing, celebrating the dedication of the temple, I could not contain my tears.
"I remember when I joined the Church at age 15 — which was the same age as the youth performing — there were only a handful of us. And now, I had a stadium full of young people, plus all the adult members that were cheering for them."
Because Church membership has grown so much in that area in the past few decades, two sessions of the cultural celebration put on by the youth were held, giving many people the chance of seeing the event. As Sister Allred sat watching, she realized how much the Church had grown in that area, and remembered the many missionaries from El Salvador who were serving as missionaries outside of their native land.
"At that moment, it was something that came to me as one of the loving kindnesses of the Lord," Sister Allred said. "And my heart was filled with love and gratitude for having the privilege of being there.
"Then sitting in the celestial room of this magnificent and beautiful temple, seeing the faces of many of these special members who have endured and stayed faithful for so many years even when they didn't have a temple close by, was something that I could not describe."
Missionary work and improving the ministry of visiting teaching.
Sisters are also encouraged to reach out to others in their personal sphere of influence and participate in missionary work. In the publication Daughters in My Kingdom, it says that the Savior calls His disciples to work with Him in His ministry, giving them the opportunity to serve others and become more like Him. Each sister has the opportunity to watch over and strengthen sisters — one by one — through Relief Society and visiting teaching. Visiting teaching is another way for individuals to encourage others to come back into activity in the Church.
A visiting teacher, Donna Nelson from the Cedar Hills 2nd Ward, Cedar Hills Utah Stake, said that visiting teaching is "the greatest call in the Church."
"Not only are we serving, but we benefit too because we have the Spirit of the Lord with us and we also have the opportunity of getting to know another sister and another family," said Sister Nelson. "And there's a great deal of love that comes from that. The Lord is really with us because ... He knows we care. And there's a special spirit that comes ... [as] He opens the doors and the very things we need to know about our sisters."
It is through thinking about and praying for one's assigned sister that individuals are able to learn and grow.
"The sisters have become a part of our lives..." she said. "In visiting teaching, the purpose in my mind is that we are sisters going out watching over each other. ... Our goal is to get to know the sisters, to love them and to serve them."