“Correcting the Morals and Strengthening the Virtues of the Community”

Next Sunday in my ward the Relief Society and the priesthood quorums will study Chapter 39, “Relief Society: Divine Organization of Women.” In this chapter are several statements about the future of Relief Society, including these two:

Emma Smith: “We are going to do something extraordinary. … We expect extraordinary occasions and pressing calls.”

Joseph Smith: The Relief Society is “to assist by correcting the morals and strengthening the virtues of the community.”

What do you consider to be the things of greatest significance that the Relief Society has done on an international, national, or local level?

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About John Mansfield

Mansfield in the desertA third-generation southern Nevadan, I have lived in exile most of my life in such places as Los Alamos, Baltimore, Los Angeles, the western suburbs of Detroit, and currently the northern suburbs of Washington, D.C. I work as a fluid dynamics engineer. I was baptized at age twelve in the font of the Las Vegas Nevada Central Stake Center, and on my nineteenth birthday I received the endowment in the St. George Temple. I served as a missionary mostly in the Patagonia of Argentina from 1985 to 1987. My true calling in the Church seems to be working with Cub Scouts, whom I have served in different capacities in four states most years since 1992. (My oldest boy turned eight in 2004.) I also currently teach Sunday School to the thirteen-year-olds. I hold degrees from two universities named for men who died in the 1870s, the Brigham Young University and the Johns Hopkins University. My wife is Elizabeth Pack Mansfield, who comes from New Mexico's north central mountains and studied molecular biology at the same two schools I attended. We have four sons, whose care and admonition, along with care of my aged father, require much of Elizabeth's time. She currently serves the Church as Mia-Maid advisor, ward music chairman, and choir director, and plays violin whenever she can. One day, I would like to make shoes.

13 thoughts on ““Correcting the Morals and Strengthening the Virtues of the Community”

  1. This is an important topic now that we are a Mommy blog. In my experience, the Relief Society is consistently the group at Church that gets most of the real work done. In my ward in Brazil, there were about 60 active women in Relief Society and maybe 10-15 men in Priesthood. That about says it all.

  2. What do you consider to be the things of greatest significance that the Relief Society has done on an international, national, or local level?

    International – I can’t think of anything. Yes I can – the making of leper bandages.

    National – I can’t think of anything.

    Local – I have seen Relief Societies do some very good things for hospitals and care centers. One RS made quilts for every new baby at the hospital for a year. I was tremendously proud of them. I have also been impressed with the RS literacy programs I have seen implemented.

    But mostly, isn’t about 95% of the work of an RS intended for internal purposes, like taking meals to one another in case of illness? I don’t discount that, it is important to do, but it doesn’t have much to do with the larger arena. And I think we have pretty much re-defined the scope of a woman’s work to the home now. No other success etc. The BYU women’s conference will always have a compassionate service angle where they prepare leper bandages or literacy kits, but almost all of the talks will emphasize the importance of the woman in the life of her husband and children. I’m not sure there is much left over for leadership of national and international good works.

  3. I’ll bet you’re unaware of the major projects of the international Relief Society to promote literacy, and to save the lives of uncountable children through teaching mothers principles of nutrition, water sanitation, an better hygiene, and also by promoting and providing vaccines for killer childhood diseases. The RS provides casseroles to new mothers here because in many of our wards, sisters and their families are so well cared for that they really need little else beyond emotional support — the program in other parts of the world is very much adapted to local conditions.

    My ward RS has worked one-on-one with a branch RS in Zimbabwe, raising funds and helping them get cooking oil and candles when no formal humanitarian aid is permitted to enter that country. I have no way of knowing how many and what other such projects are being quietly performed by the RS.

    Even in the U.S., though, even here in Utah in well-developed wards among longtime members, it’s the Relief Society president who most often is personally responsible for solving the welfare needs of individual families. This goes so far beyond handing over a welfare check signed by the bishop. The RS president must also work with the woman in the family to teach whatever is needed to help the family become self-reliant: she sits with the woman making up the grocery list of items to be picked up at the Bishop’s Storehouse. She teaches menu planning. She stands next to the woman in the kitchen teaching her how to cook nutritious meals in order to help the family learn how to stretch their budget. She teaches her how to do housework, and how to teach her children. Because of the confidential nature of anything involving finances, much of this load falls on the RS president personally — some can be delegated, but not much. In some cases, as in my ward, I suspect from hints I’ve picked up from remarks about our RS president’s schedule, she is also personally responsible for sisters whose problems go beyond what most visiting teachers can handle — I know she has arranged transportation for the daily 12-step meetings of more than one ward member, and I suspect that goes beyond arranging for cars to the point of convincing a wavering girl to get into the car and actually attend the meetings; and because of her particular profession, I know she is frequently involved in locating doctors and medical facilities who will treat un- and underinsured ward members. So there’s a lot going on locally that you may never be aware of, unless you’re directly involved.

    I think that the most significant thing is that the RS is always *there,* and when we’re doing our job right, it looks to you like we’re only concerned about Sunday centerpieces and the occasional casserole.

  4. From my experience, the Church could not function without the sisters of the Relief Society. I can’t tell you how many times I have attended a meeting of the ward council where the RS president wasn’t briefing the bishop on a situation in the ward that would otherwise go unnoticed. The sisters are definitely plugged in to what is happening and monitor the pulse of the ward.

    This may or may not have anything to do with the disproportionate time the sisters spend on the phone versus the brethren. ;-)

    If I am ever cursed to serve as a bishop, I can only hope and pray for a dedicated and effective relief society presidency. It’s like giving the bishop a third counselor!

  5. I work at the NHQ of the American Red Cross, and the set-up of the RS reminds me a lot of our current structure. Every day local Red Cross chapters respond to over 200 “small” disasters (house fires, etc.)that displace families. Like the Red Cross, I think the Relief Society has an amazing global impact, but the work is done locally.

  6. I think they make my job as high priest group leader much, much easier.

    However, I’m still bitter about the women getting chocolate for Mother’s Day, and we got nothing on Father’s day…..

  7. Rameumptom: Clark Goble, one of the M* bloggers, owns a chocolate business. Jump on over to his web site and buy yourself some delicious artisan chocolate. You’ll feel much better! ;-)

  8. A family in our ward had their house burn down this morning. The HPGL told me that between homeowner’s insurance and the Red Cross, their immediate needs are being met. Thanks, JillEE!

  9. Brian,

    I have had some of Clark’s chocolate. It is truly divine. Unfortunately, I can’t afford it all the time, at least not without a serious help from Congress’ stimulus package. Do you think I could score a few million dollars in stimulus money for chocolate research?

  10. I am teaching this lesson on Sunday and it is helpful to read the comments here and become more aware of services performed by various Relief Societies. That is actually why I asked John to post this topic. Here is my own answer to the post’s question.

    Internationally I think of projects I have been involved with such as making leper bandages, assembling hygiene kits and making quilts for disaster victims. (It makes me wonder how much of the supplies the Church brings into a disaster area have come from individual Relief Society units.) Also, I just learned that the RS released its stored wheat at the end of WWI to the US government for use in helping war-torn Europe.

    Nationally, I think of the public leadership of President Barbara Smith in helping defeat the ERA. Also I think for a while there was a national project to increase literacy. I did help tutor one girl, but I don’t really know what happened with that project.

    Locally, I have had the opportunity to help with various projects like making baby quilts for single mothers to take their babies home from the hospital in. Once we made games and treats to cheer up the children in a local children’s hospital. Another time we made tiny gowns for premature babies who die after birth. (This was desired by the hospital staff to help give the baby a little more humanity during the parents’ short time with their child.) Several times we have collected food for a local homeless shelter. Several times we have given needed gifts to local families for Christmas. My mom’s RS provides dinner for the people at a nearby homeless shelter once a month. They have been doing this for more than 25 years. (They did it every week for at least 8 years.) Her RS also did physical therapy for a sister with multiple sclerosis several times a week for 12 years. I know of another RS that did patterning exercises for many months with a severely autistic boy and successfully helped him to learn to crawl.

    Personally, the RS has helped me by bringing in meals when my children have been born, when we have moved, and when my father-in-law died. They have provided childcare many, many times. They have helped clean my house on moving day or when we were getting our house ready to go up for sale. In addition, I have received a lot a wisdom, knowledge, and encouragement from the older and more experienced women on topics like cooking, sewing, toilet-training, scouting, disciplining children…. I have been particularly blessed by visiting teaching. The women I have taught and those who have taught me have become some of my best friends. It is a comfort and security to know that I have someone I can call on if something goes wrong. (Because that does happen sometimes!)

    So I would definitely say that the Relief Society is doing something “extraordinary” and “strengthening the virtues of the community.” I can’t really think of ways that RS is correcting the morals of the community–except through individual example to neighbors and support of missionary work. Of course, raising moral children has a permanent effect on the morals of the community. Maybe the RS could do more in this regard.

  11. I like your articles on your site, but it appears as though your RSS feed is getting a 404 error? Maybe it has something to do with your host. I just thought from webmaster to webmaster I would warn you of this problem so you don’t miss out on potential subscribers! If it still works for you have a friend try it, could be keeping out external connections.

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