The purpose of Relief Society has not changed in 155 years, said Elaine L. Jack.
"From the organization of the Relief Society on March 17, 1842, we have felt the charge given us by the Prophet Joseph Smith," Relief Society Gen. Pres. Jack said. That charge, according to the Relief Society Handbook, included not only helping the needy, but also saving souls.An important element of this charge - which continues today - is its support of the Church's welfare system, she explained. "Everything we do in Relief Society is related to welfare, whether it's lessons, whether it's homemaking, whether it's canning, whether it's visiting teaching. This all comes under the welfare umbrella.
"Welfare goes beyond meeting immediate and urgent needs," she continued. "It encompasses everything. It's reaching out to those in need, and building emotional and spiritual strength to meet the challenges of today. I would like to expand the thinking of Relief Society leaders so they understand the over-arching principles of welfare. I never think about welfare without thinking of the welfare of souls."
Pres. Jack referred to the role of Relief Society in the welfare system as related in A Leader's Guide to Welfare: Providing in the Lord's Way: "While the bishop is responsible to help ward members meet immediate needs, the priesthood quorums and the Relief Society have the responsibility to help members resolve long-term needs. To fulfill this responsibility, priesthood quorum leaders and Relief Society leaders should become well-acquainted with members and regularly visit their homes. They teach members to live providently, provide for themselves and their families, and care for others. They direct priesthood quorum and Relief Society members in teaching new skills to the needy and helping them to become self-reliant."
And it is through Relief Society that the principles of welfare can be taught and practiced in the home, Pres. Jack noted.
For example, literacy, which is a basic welfare principle, begins in the home. "A family that reads together learns how to solve problems," Pres. Jack said. "Learning together in the home is something that's going to benefit everyone. We know that the mother sets the tone in the home. A mother who loves learning is going to gather her children around her and teach them how to learn."
Other welfare principles supported and reflected through Relief Society are health; work; home storage; resource management; and social, emotional, and spiritual strength. This month, as Relief Society sisters throughout the world celebrate the anniversary of this organization, they might reflect on the counsel of Joseph Smith in a subsequent Relief Society meeting May 26, 1842: "Said Jesus ye shall do the work which ye see me do . . . . These are the grand key words for the Society to act upon."
These vignettes on pages 8-9 exemplify how Latter-day Saint families today are living by these "grand words."
Reading to your children when they are young can kindle in them a desire to read and learn, Brian North of the Olathe (Kan.) 2nd Ward surmises.
"If that desire can be kindled," he continued, "they have a head-start all the way through education."
From the time their four daughters were very young, Brother North and his wife, Wendy, have read to them. "We take time at night to read to them, whether it be from the scriptures or from other good books. We've taken the time to read to them so they'd take an interest in reading."
And, thus far, it has worked. The two older children, Erika, 13; and Gina, 10; like to read. Brother and Sister North hope the trend carries over to Keri, 6; Sarah, 2; and to the baby they are expecting.
"I thinks it helps in their vocabulary and in their schooling," Brother North explained. He added that, in addition, stories from good books and from the scriptures can teach young people decision-making and problem-solving skills, and the consequences of actions.
For Kathy Haslam, climbing a mountain isn't a problem; it's a solution to a problem.
Sister Haslam, her husband, Mark, and their three children, Dan, 17; Bryan, 13; and Julie, 10; began hiking as a family about four years ago to become more physically fit. Today, the family, members of the Rancho Bernardo 1st Ward, Poway California Stake, regularly hikes Mt. Woodson in nearby Romona, Calif., and/or take walks together around their neighborhood or at a local school track.
"Hiking together is a bonding time. It's a time to talk," Sister Haslam explained.
She added: "I feel better when I exercise. I've struggled with depression, and exercise is a natural anti-depressant."
Brother and Sister Haslam hope that regular exercise will also enhance their ability to serve as the years pass. "Hopefully, by exercising," Sister Haslam added, "we will be better prepared to serve missions in our 60s and work in the temples in our 70s."
Mc KENNEY, VA.
Susan M. Henshaw of the Petersburg Branch, Richmond Virginia Chesterfield Stake, provides a good example of the benefits of dry-pack canning. A manager at the cannery in Richmond, Sister Henshaw not only teaches families how to use a dry-pack sealer, but she also uses it frequently herself.
In a letter to the Church News, she explained how her family, including her husband, Douglas W. Henshaw, and children ages 17 years to 10 months, benefits from this type of food storage: "Dry packing food for our family's use and storage is an activity that all of us like to be involved in. These canned and bottled foods gives us a sense of security and peace of mind.
"We are teaching our children to be prepared, as the prophets counseled us, not only for today, but also for the future. We also feel blessed to help others in their time of need by sharing this food.
"The Lord continues to bless us to find new ways and means to add to our food storage."
MEDICINE HAT, ALBERTA
With most families being stretched several different ways these days, conflict over resource management can occur in the home. But Ken and Darcy Nielson of the Medicine Hat (Alberta) 3rd Ward have found a way to avoid such conflicts. On a regular basis, they gather as a family after family home evening to discuss schedules, activities and budget.
"We plan our week so that we know where everyone is going and what they're doing," Sister Nielson said. In addition, Brother and Sister Nielson include their children, Tessa, 14; Megan, 12; Nicole, 6; and Janae, 8; in discussing expenses for family activities.
The children, Sister Nielson continued, also keep track of money they earn and are taught personal budgeting, including the paying of tithing.
Managing resources as a family, she explained, has helped them avoid confusion and misunderstanding. "The children just seem to know what there is and their expectations come in line with that. It gets rid of conflicts I see other families having."
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH
Through reaching out to others in need, Joye Billings has found truth in the scripture, " . . . he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it." (Matt. 10:39.)
"When you serving others, you gain something from it. There's a light. I've been with widows in their homes and felt the presence of Jesus Christ," she said.
Sister Billings of the Holladay 8th Ward, Salt Lake Holladay South Stake, has tried to instill this principle in her eight children by including them in her service activities, which includes recording the histories of elderly people living in her ward or neighborhood. Frequently, when she goes to the home of an elderly person to record a personal history, Sister Billings takes along one or more of her children to take notes or operate the tape recorder.
In the past, the soft-spoken mother has also been involved in providing foster care for American Indian children, one of whom she adopted - her first child, a daughter who is now 29. Today, Sister Billings continues to take family members, including grandchildren, to help her reach out to others in need.
As a little girl growing up on a farm in Washington state, Ruth Orien learned the value of work. "We had fields to plow, the hay to get in and the cows to milk. My brother and I grumbled, but since then we've commented on the lessons in life we've learned," Sister Orien recalled. "It is extremely valuable to learn how to work at a young age."
Today, Sister Orien of the Anchorage (Alaska) 10th Ward is teaching her children the value of work. "It's a little hard to do when you don't live on a farm, but you can look for projects. For example, last summer we needed a new roof. My husband did it himself with our four boys. All day long, they hammered nails and worked."
This type of self-reliance, she added, can save money. Recently, the Oriens needed to fix some sinks. Rather then hire a plumber, Sister Orien and her 14-year-old son, Jason, got out a fix-it-yourself book and went from sink to sink throughout the house. "It was a good feeling to accomplish this project together," Sister Orien related. "And Jason has learned a good skill."