“What Relief Society Does for Three Single Women,” Ensign, Feb. 1976, 62–63
In some ways, Johna de St. Jeor, Carol Clark, and Kristen Theurer aren’t completely typical in their relationship with the Relief Society. They’re the three unmarried members of the Relief Society General Board. From there, though, they could be any three single women anywhere in the Church.
Carol describes herself as a “convert” to Relief Society. “If I were to choose between baking a cake and reading a book, 99 percent of the time I’d read the book,” she says. “I’m just not the homemaking type.” Jogging, writing (her A Singular Life was published last year), and racquetball are also high on the list.
Her turning point came when she was called as homemaking counselor in the Cambridge, Massachusetts, student ward and discovered that those early morning lessons gave an “unbeatable spiritual tone to my Sundays.” She found the atmosphere stimulating, the people exciting, and the opportunities for compassionate service vital.
Kris confesses, “I’d never attended Relief Society until I was called to the board.” She was twenty-three when that happened, very much involved in her teaching, graduate degree, outdoor sports, music, antiquing furniture, and sewing—interests she still holds.
Johna, on the other hand, had grown up in Relief Society, and homemaking has always been one of her interests. When her military father was stationed in Peru, Johna remembers attending Relief Society with her mother and working a lot with the sisters during the family’s assignment to Guatemala. In her “spare” time, she teaches macrame at a community school and branches out into decoupage, water coloring, and ceramics.
All of them have enthusiastic things to say about the value of the Relief Society for unmarried women. Johna prizes “the companionship with other women. Some people get stuck in a dead-end job and never meet anyone. And some married women only get involved with their family. Relief Society is a way of providing new interests for everyone.”
Kris feels that one of the great facets of Relief Society is education. “In Relief Society lessons, instructors can focus on individuals and their needs in ways that would be difficult for, say, a speaker at a sacrament meeting. The smaller classes at Relief Society promote the individual approach.”
Carol feels that the Relief Society especially gives her a chance to be a helpmeet for the priesthood. “In my ward, as a visiting teacher, I’m helping the priesthood; I’m helping the bishop keep track of the sisters in the ward.”
Of her general board assignment, she comments, “Some people think it’s glamorous. It’s not. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. We cry over these assignments, sometimes.”
But all of them cherish the spiritual growth that comes to them with their assignments. Kris remembers being sent to a regional conference two months after she’d been called to the board. “I’d attended Relief Society once by then, and there I was, supposed to tell women who’d been on their stake boards as long as eleven years how to implement a program. I thought, ‘This is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard of.’ But I didn’t want the program to be a failure so I spent days praying and preparing. Finally I felt I could say to the Lord, ‘Here I am. I’m here to do thy work.’ I went in and gave that presentation and felt knowledge and understanding coming to me so that I could answer the questions. I felt that I had accomplished the work I was sent to do. That was my testimony that the Lord could take a stick and work miracles.”
Johna shares a miracle she saw in Guatemala. “My mother was called to be Relief Society president, but she knew very little Spanish so I spoke for her. Most of the sisters couldn’t read or write. When they met, the one sister who could read would read the lesson to the others. We started with ten women. Before we left, sixty were coming regularly, and they could give lessons. Somehow they learned to read. Those wonderful sisters who had never had a chance to learn were giving spiritual living lessons and cultural refinement lessons. It’s my testimony that Relief Society really changes lives.”
Carol added another insight. “It’s so great working with our presidency. I believe they work under inspiration. I’m chairman of the Young Adult-Young Special Interest committee, even though I’m the youngest on that committee in age and seniority. To me, it says that the presidency listens to youth. Relief Society is the most stimulating, most exciting organization I could be involved with. It’s the Lord’s organization for women.”