18 March 2010
My Love for the Relief Society
By Lavona Richardson
As we celebrate the birthday of today, March 17, 2010, I am thinking about Relief Society and the influence of being a member of this great women’s organization has been in my life. I first became a member of Relief Society as a student at BYU and now have been a member of that great organization for almost 60 years.
I remember the two years we were in Nauvoo and the opportunity I had to be in the Prophet Joseph Smith organized the Relief Society. Another year in Nauvoo as we met at the Red Brick Store I was invited to share with my Nauvoo missionary sisters some of my Relief Society experiences through the years. and reenact the organization of this great organization where it actually happened. One year we all dressed in our period clothes and reenacted exactly as it happened from the minutes of the meeting. I felt that I was there in 1842 when the
I enjoyed serving as a site missionary in the Sarah Granger Kimball home located on the banks of the Mississippi River. It was here where the idea of a women’s organization to help make clothes for the workers at the Nauvoo Temple first began. They planned to organize like other women groups of the day but Joseph Smith said it needed to be organized after the same pattern as the priesthood.
Today as I reflect back on the influence the Relief Society has had on my life I think of my mother, Irene Stratton Flake, who served in Relief Society most of her life and always expressed joy at being able to serve. Her birthday is on March 18th so at our home we celebrated both the Relief Society’s birthday and my mother’s birthday at the same time. As a young missionary in Mexico I was privileged to help organize the Relief Society in Aguascalientes and Monterrey. I remember being the translator for my mission mother and going with her to the new areas opened up in the mission to organize Relief Society in the new branches. I also helped write an article about Relief Society in our mission paper each month.
When I was a young mother with three small children, my husband Jay graduated from dental school and we moved into a new ward in Tempe where we knew no one. We were there less than a week when Marlene, our 2- year-old daughter, became seriously ill with Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Puerperal. She required a bone marrow test and lots of extra care. Sister Mills, my Relief Society visiting teacher learned of our needs and was there to help me with care of our baby and our 3- year- old making it possible for me to spend many hours in the hospital. She also brought in meals and was so Christ-like in her service.
A few years later Jay was seriously burned. He required dressing the burns several times each day for several weeks. Again a sweet Relief Society visiting teacher came to our rescue. Sister Wiehrdt, a registered nurse, appeared at our door shortly after the incident to help care for the burn. She came back to our home many more times to dress the burn and care for it.
One time I was assigned as a visiting teacher to a less active sister. I faithfully went by her home at least once a month but never was allowed in. Often I would leave a note or a loaf of bread at her door, with no response from her. After three years of faithfully visiting her each month, one day when I stopped to see her she came to the door and said, “I was praying that you would come.” Her husband had abused her and she needed to get out of her home. We were able to get ward members to help her with her special needs. Shortly after we were able to start giving her the missionary lessons and she started occasionally coming to our church meetings.
While Jay and I were on our mission in Indonesia I saw Relief Society and its motto “Charity Never Faileth” put into action as I witnesses a sweet Relief Society President of the Bogor Branch, Lily Lee administer to her little group of women and care for their needs. I was assigned as her shadow leader but instead she taught me about caring for the one. She planned lessons around the needs of the new members who needed so much and gave comfort and love as she taught and watched over her little flock. Lily became friends with Hartika as she was investigating the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She was at her baptism and encouraged others to fellowship her in the church, recognizing her special needs in a Muslim nation. Another member of Relief Society was Esther, who with seven small children never had enough of the material things in life to care for them Lily was always making some special treat to take over to the family for Home Evening and giving them encouragement as they struggled. I indeed saw love administered in the way I know Christ administed to those He was with. Lily taught me so much about caring for the one and being an instrument in the hands of God in doing his work in a little branch in a very remote area in Bogor, Indonesia. One of the things that I enjoyed doing in Indonesia was making “temple cakes” for the 8-year- old members of the branch as they were baptized and birthday cakes for the other members in my little “easy bake oven”. Most of them had never tasted cake as we have it and no one had ovens.
I memorized the theme of Relief Society and like to repeat it to myself when I am walking or have time to meditate. It says, “We are beloved spirit daughters of God and our lives have meaning, purpose and direction. As a worldwide sisterhood we are united in our devotion to Jesus Christ, our Savior and Exemplar. We are women of faith, virtue, vision and charity who increase our testimonies of Jesus Christ though prayer and scripture study, seek spiritual strength by following the promptings of the Holy Ghost, dedicate ourselves to strengthening marriage, families and homes, find nobility in motherhood and joy in womanhood, delight in service and good works, love life and learning, stand for truth and righteousness, sustain the priesthood as the authority of God on earth and rejoice in the blessings of the temple, understand our divine destiny and strive for exaltation.’
I am grateful to be a member of this great Relief Society organization and join with the other members of the church in wishing it a happy birthday. Relief Society has made me a better person. Lavona Flake Richardson