Emma Smith

Relief Society celebrates 175th anniversary and updates their purpose statement.
The LDS women’s group, Relief Society, is celebrating its 175th anniversary. The Relief Society is for women aged 18 and over and is one of the largest women organizations globally. In full, the group is called The Relief Society of Nauvoo. It was formed by early members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Illinois.

The society began on March 17th, 1782. Minutes after being bequeathed the responsibility of being the organization’s first President, Emma Smith spoke of the purpose of the group. She cited that the group had been formed so as “To seek out and relieve the distressed.” Over the years, this purpose’s range has widened to include both the spiritual and temporal needs of the Saints. Emma was the wife of the church’s prophet at the time, Joseph Smith.

Celebrations this year, however, did not include a churchwide event. Instead, Linda K. Burton who is the current Relief Society General President had encouraged members to remember how far they have come and what they have achieved as an organization over time. She told them to do so during their congregational meetings held within each locality. Other suggestions had also been made to support the celebration of the organization’s anniversary. These included taking a family name to the temple and re-energizing works under the church’s “Light the World” service initiative which began in November. Further, the group asked its members to reach out to the youth within their localities as well as help the young women and girls who are members of the church.

Also in line with marking the anniversary, Sister Burton further announced that there had been additions to the Relief Society purposes statement. In a post she made on her Facebook account, the organization’s president said the updated document was in line with increasing the group’s work further in Jesus Christ. She said the changes were as a result of from her efforts as president to acquire guidance from the Lord. She says she wanted to know “what essential things He would have us focus on to continue moving His work forward.”

The document currently outlines the purpose of the group saying the “Relief Society helps prepare women for the blessings of eternal life as they increase faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and His Atonement; strengthen individuals, families, and homes through ordinances and covenants; and work in unity to help those in need.”

On the Facebook post, she reiterated the group’s principal purpose of guiding women through matters of faith. Part of the post read, “We were impressed that He would first have us help His beloved daughters understand the doctrine of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, that their faith and righteousness might increase.”

Sister Burton has served as general president of the Relief Society for almost five years. The organization currently has over seven million members worldwide. Along with the changes, Sister Burton hopes there will be an increased understanding of “the divine identity and eternal work and purpose that each sister in Relief Society has.”

In an interview, Sister Burton explained that members knowing their purpose within the organization would result in greater improvements in other people’s lives. She said that if sisters can always have their purpose within their thoughts, then “we’re going to make a big difference in people’s lives.”

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