When Belle S. Spafford was called to be the Relief Society General President in 1945, providing a building for the women of the Church was one of her first priorities. Once plans were approved, $1 million needed to be raised to complete the building. One hundred thousand Relief Society members were asked to donate $5 each, and the First Presidency of the Church would match their donation dollar for dollar. To meet the quota, the women held fundraisers such as bake sales, cookbook sales, and dances. By the end of 1948, all of the necessary funds had been raised.
Groundbreaking for the Relief Society Building took place on October 1, 1953, and construction was completed on October 3, 1956. The architect was George Cannon Young, whose design was partly based on the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. The exterior of the building has decorative wheat stalks as a symbol of preparedness and plenty. Wheat storage was a major hallmark of the Relief Society efforts through the mid 1940s, and the wheat stalk symbolized the unity and purpose of the Relief Society organization. The Relief Society building is the closest of any building on Temple Square to the door of the Salt Lake Temple, fulfilling the hope of early leader Sarah Granger Kimball—to have a Relief Society building in the shadow of the temple (see The Story of the Relief Society Building
The Relief Society Building provides insights on the history of the Relief Society. Exhibits include stories of women of the Church as well as art such as the original Minerva Teichert painting Christ in a Red Robe. The welcome room in the building is decorated with unique artifacts donated by Relief Society sisters from around the world while the building was under construction.
The main floor of the building also houses a room where the female leaders of the Church regularly meet together. The room showcases paintings of all past presidents of the Relief Society organization.
The building is also the headquarters offices for the general presidencies of the women’s and children’s organizations of the Church: the Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary.
Visitors can tour the main offices of the Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary organizations as well as exhibits highlighting the contributions of Relief Society members.