Local Relief Society Organizations
Each local congregation, called a ward or branch, has a Relief Society organization with a Relief Society Presidency, secretary, teachers, visiting teaching coordinators, and other Relief Society callings. A ward's Relief Society organization works under the direction of the Bishop and stake Relief Society organization, which in turn is under the direction of the General Relief Society Presidency.
General Relief Society
The General Relief Society Presidency consists of three women, a president and two counselors, who are called to lead the worldwide Relief Society organization of the Church. The General Relief Society works under the direction of the First Presidency. Each year a General Relief Society Meeting is held and all Relief Society sisters worldwide are invited to attend, either in person or by watching/listening to the broadcast by radio, TV, or over the Internet.
Relief Society Worldwide
Not only is the Relief Society a worldwide organization but it is the largest women's organization in the world.1 Relief Society manuals, books, documents, and other Church resources are translated into numerous languages and made available to local congregations worldwide.
Relief Society Motto
The Relief Society's motto, "Charity Never Faileth," as seen on the Relief Society seal, is taken from the following scripture in The Book of Mormon:
"And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.Purpose of Relief Society
"Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail—
"But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him"2 (emphasis added).
The purposes of Relief Society are to:
- Increase faith and personal righteousness
- Strengthen families and homes
- Seek out and help those in need
History of the Relief Society
The Relief Society was established after the pattern of the priesthood3 by the Prophet Joseph Smith. On March 17, 1842, twenty women, of all ages and situations, met with the Prophet Joseph and two members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Emma Smith, wife of Joseph Smith, was called as the first Relief Society President. Emma chose two counselors to serve with her: Sarah M. Cleveland and Elizabeth Ann Whitney.4 Later Eliza R. Snow served as secretary.
During the meeting Emma said, "We are going to do something extraordinary,"5 which they did. Regarding the establishment of the Relief Society Joseph Smith said, "The Church was never perfectly organized until the women were thus organized."6
General Relief Society Presidents
Below is a list of all the women who have served in the Church as the General Relief Society President.
- Emma Hale Smith (1842-44)
- Eliza Roxcy Snow (1866-87)
- Zina Diantha Huntington Young (1888-1901)
- Bathsheba Wilson Smith (1901-10)
- Emmeline Woodward B. Wells (1910-21)
- Clarissa Smith Williams (1921-28)
- Louise Yates Robison (1928-39)
- Amy Brown Lyman (1940-45)
- Belle Smith Spafford (1945-74)
- Barbara Bradshaw Smith (1974-84)
- Barbara Woodhead Winder (1984-90)
- Elaine Low Jack (1990-97)
- Mary Ellen Wood Smoot (1997-2002)
- Bonnie Dansie Parkin (2002-7)
- Julie Bangerter Beck (2007-present)7
1. See Relief Society on Wikipedia.
2. Moroni 7:45-47.
3. See "Visiting Teaching Message: Under the Priesthood and after the Pattern of the Priesthood," Ensign, March 2011.
4. Daughters in My Kingdom: The History and Work of Relief Society. Salt Lake City, Utah. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2011, p 13. Print.
5. Daughters in My Kingdom, p 14.
6. Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith. Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2007, p 451. Print.
7. Daughters in My Kingdom, p 185.