Relief Society – World’s Largest/ Oldest Wom. Org.

Encyclopedia of Mormonism – Relief Society


Author: Mulvay-Derr, Jill

Author: Cannon, Janath R.

The Relief Society is the official adult women's organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and is an essential part of the structure of the Church at general, stake, and ward levels. The organization provides opportunities for association, leadership, compassionate service, and education. Through the Relief Society, "women of the Church are given some measure of divine authority particularly in the direction of government and instruction in behalf of the women of the church" (J. F. Smith, p. 5).

The motto "Charity Never Faileth" expresses the commitment of Relief Society members to love and nurture one another and to minister graciously to the needs of Church members and others. The binding sense of sisterhood that characterizes the Relief Society is founded upon the women's common faith and enhanced by the lessons, activities, and interpersonal involvements that constitute the Relief Society program. Current lesson materials for a weekly Sunday class focus twice a month on spiritual themes; the other two weeks have lessons on compassionate service and on home and family education. Lessons on cultural refinement and varied interests provide an optional midweek activity for interested sisters. Once a month, a midweek homemaking meeting features instructions for visiting teachers, a short home management lesson, and miniclasses emphasizing homemaking arts, Welfare Services projects, and individual and family development. Members especially appointed as "visiting teachers" are expected to make regular contacts with each woman once a month in her home, or more often if needed.

When the Prophet Joseph Smith organized the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo in 1842, he stated that the restored Church of Jesus Christ could not be perfect or complete without it. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith later confirmed that "the Relief Society was revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith as a fundamental part of the gospel" (J. F. Smith, p. 4). As an integral part of the Church organization, the Relief Society functions in close connection with, rather than independent of, the ecclesiastical priesthood structure. Ward Relief Society presidents work with bishops, stake Relief Society presidents, with stake presidents, and the general Relief Society presidency, with designated General Authorities in what has been described as "a companionship relationship-not inferior or subordinate, but companion, side-by-side" (B. B. Smith, p. 11). Final decision-making responsibility rests with priesthood leaders.