Relief Society: A Call to Minister

  • 8 March 2011

“Ministering happens when we’re touching hands and looking in eyes and answering questions,” Julie B. Beck, general Relief Society president, told nearly 10,000 at a devotional in Idaho.

“The real work happens when we touch someone individually.” —Julie B. Beck, general Relief Society president

Not long after being abandoned by her husband, Jenny (name has been changed) moved with her several small children into a new ward. Feeling that ward members saw her as another burden, Jenny felt unwelcome.

One day, while sitting alone in Relief Society, she heard of a sister who had recently had a baby. Though Jenny didn’t know the new mother, she decided to take dinner to her. Not long after, Jenny heard of another sister who had undergone surgery that week. Jenny took dinner to her as well.

After repeating this unassigned, unannounced service for others over the period of several weeks, Jenny found that as she ministered to others, she had made new friends, had been comforted and strengthened, and had been fully introduced into her new ward.

“She was a single mother, she was needy, and she did need help,” said Sister Julie B. Beck, Relief Society general president. “But she also recognized that she had something in her to give and that if she wanted to have a friend, she should begin by being a friend. . . . She understood who she was and that her state was not a definition of her identity.”

Speaking to nearly 10,000 women and priesthood leaders from 45 stakes in southeastern Idaho, USA, Sister Beck taught that belonging to the Relief Society is a call to minister in the Savior’s name.

“Our work is to help each other get to eternal life with our Heavenly Father and have the blessings that He promised us if we were faithful,” she said. “We are part of the Lord’s work of salvation.”

A Call to Bless and Be Blessed

During the two sessions held on Saturday, February 26, 2011, on the Brigham Young University–Idaho campus, Sister Beck covered a wide range of topics. One recurring theme was fulfilling the purposes of Relief Society.

“Our purposes are . . . to increase faith and personal righteousness, to strengthen families and homes, and . . . to seek out and help those in need,” she said. 

Sister Beck said that at one point or another, often on a daily basis, each of us is one of the needy. However, she said, “don’t ever assume that the person you’re talking to doesn’t need something also.”

As we turn outward and serve others, we ourselves will be blessed. “The poor will always be with us,” she said, “the poor in spirit, the poor in heart, the poor in the things of the world. They’re placed there to sanctify [us]. It is as we work on the Lord’s work that we become sanctified, because the problems are bigger than we are and the solutions can come only from heaven.”

Ministering with the Spirit

Sister Beck told of a young couple with two young children and a new baby. Because the father had just broken his leg, Sister Beck and her husband decided to visit.

They could hear the baby screaming as they approached. When no one answered, they peeked in and saw the two toddlers making a mess in the kitchen. While her husband cleaned up the kitchen, Sister Beck heard the husband call for help. She found him completely immobile with his broken leg and holding the inconsolable baby, who obviously needed a diaper change. 

Taking the baby, Sister Beck finally found the wife in the living room, unable to escape her visiting teachers, who were reading the Visiting Teaching Message out of the Ensign.

“Would you ever do that?” Sister Beck asked. “You might . . . [if] you think visiting teaching is making an appointment and reading the lesson.”

Meeting another’s needs, whether temporal or spiritual, requires spiritual preparation, Sister Beck taught. Without the guidance of the Holy Ghost, “we don’t have the help of our Heavenly Father in doing His work.”

She also taught that “if visiting teachers or home teachers are preparing with the Spirit when they go into that home, they will know some things to look for, or they will be aware by the Spirit of whether they might need to take care of something.”

(Read more on what Sister Beck taught about visiting teaching and following the Spirit.)

Preparing to Minister

In addition to suggesting prayer, fasting, scripture study, and other ways to prepare before making a visit or teaching a lesson, Sister Beck encouraged the sisters to engage in lifelong preparation, which will make them more useful in the Lord’s hands. 

“The longer I am at this business, the more I feel the privilege of helping our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, in Their divine work,” she said. “This isn’t about a job . . . in the Church. This is about a calling to serve as the Lord’s hands.”

Sister Beck asked the women to become articulate in sharing their testimonies by studying the scriptures. She encouraged them to develop their talents to be used to build up the Lord’s kingdom. She urged them to seek revelation by asking questions and to share what they know. She challenged them to get over the excuses they have allowed to keep them from doing the Lord’s work.

“This is a sacred opportunity,” she said. “We can invent all the issues we want to not do the Lord’s work. But if we choose to come into this great society, this wonderful sisterhood that is here to provide relief, then we become part of the Lord’s work.”

(Read more on what Sister Beck taught about developing talents.)

By Word and Deed

Though Sister Beck was meeting with nearly 10,000 people, it was obvious to observers that she was as concerned about individuals as she was asking the audience to be.

One young sister, a new convert, asked a question in the morning session about how she could teach with more confidence. “Stand right there again,” Sister Beck said, telling her to move back into the light so everyone could see her. “Look at that face,” she said. “You’re irresistible already.”

“She was so tender with those asking the questions,” said Mary Lou Wilding of Sugar City, Idaho. “She was careful and . . . [addressed the] questions so tactfully and with such kindness.”

Sister Beck visited with choir members as they finished warming up before the meeting. She spent her lunchtime between meetings visiting with local stake presidents and their wives. After the final session she spent nearly an hour greeting a long line of sisters hoping for a word and a hug. Finally, she consented to an interview though she faced a four-hour drive to get home after a long day.

“The real work happens when we touch someone individually. . . . The ministering happens when we’re touching hands and looking in eyes and answering questions,” Sister Beck said.

“It’s easier to say something than to do [it],” said Katelyn Dickson, a student at BYU–Idaho in attendance. But “when you see someone doing things that they say, it gives you hope and strength that you can do it too.”

(Read more on what Sister Beck taught about planning meetings and preparing lessons.)

A Balanced Life

While the call to minister as a Relief Society sister adds richness to a woman’s life and can draw her nearer to the Savior, Sister Beck recognizes that it adds more things to do in a woman’s life. 

“Some days you are going to feel guilty. . . . No woman ever has enough time, enough energy, and enough strength to do all the good things that are in her mind to do,” she said. 

Sister Beck encouraged the women to seek the guidance of the Holy Ghost in prioritizing their lives and promised that the Lord accepts their personal best and will bless them for their efforts.

“The Lord knows who you are because it is His work,” she said. “He will strengthen and magnify you.”

She testified that “the Lord has blessings for His daughters. . . . We don’t have to be worried; we just have to be faithful.”

(Read more on what Sister Beck taught about finding balance.)