“Relief Society Keeps Me Singing,” Ensign, Oct. 1978, 23
I might have continued to enjoy Relief Society without being aware of the many ways it has helped me, had it not been for a dreary spring morning and a perceptive comment from my small daughter.
While rushing through the dishes that morning I looked out the kitchen window at dark clouds and blowing snow. Ordinarily, the weather would have made me feel gloomy, but the words of a favorite hymn, “The Wintry Day, Descending to Its Close,” kept going through my mind and I began humming.
From the breakfast table my little one called, “Bet it’s Relief Society day!”
“How did you know?” I inquired. “Did you see me reading my lesson book?”
“You probably heard me tell your sister to meet us at the church after school.”
“Nope.” She was grinning.
“Well, then, I must have told you last night that you would get to play with your friends in the nursery today.”
“No, mama,” she giggled. “You were singing!”
“What are you talking about?” I asked. “What has my singing got to do with its being Relief Society day?”
Watching for my reaction she answered slowly, “Every other morning you’re grouchy!”
I admit morning is not my favorite time of day, but I hope she was exaggerating my reaction to it. However, in her own way she had perceived that going to Relief Society made me happy. And I started thinking then about why I was so enthusiastic about Relief Society.
Relief Society offers me a variety of friends. There I enjoy getting acquainted with and gaining an appreciation for women of all ages, many whose backgrounds, talents, hobbies, politics, and ideas are quite different from my own. Caring about these women helps me want to serve them and their families.
Since Relief Society proclaims service to mankind as one of its reasons for existence, my own feelings about service have certainly improved.
Some years ago, for instance, a brother in our ward mentioned that his wife and several of their children had the flu. I sympathized and asked routinely if I could do anything to help. He surprised me by saying, “Yes, you could bring our dinner tomorrow night.”
All the next day I complained about spending my valuable time preparing a meal for his family when he was well and perfectly able to feed them himself. What a contrast that was to the happy feeling I experienced recently while preparing dinner for the family of a sister who was recuperating from surgery.
What happened between these two experiences to change my attitude? Discussions in Relief Society about compassionate service have helped; the examples of joyful service in our ward have been even more influential. So many sisters are anxious to serve that in some instances it seems one practically has to sign a waiting list.
I receive great encouragement from Relief Society in my role as a woman. The remarks of an elderly Relief Society sister one day came at a time when I felt burdened with caring for two small children and was not convinced that I wanted to spend the next twenty years cooking, cleaning, and washing diapers. “I’m very grateful I’m not raising my family now when the women’s lib movement is so strong,” she stated. “I didn’t especially like staying at home all the time, nor did I get much reward at first from having children. I had always wanted to be a doctor, and I felt my talents were being wasted. If jobs for married women had been available and encouraged in my day, I expect I would have left home to work and hired someone else to care for my little ones. But now that I look back I can see what great joys I would have missed.”
This kind of reassurance from other women encourages me to disregard claims that caring for home and children is insignificant. My feelings of discouragement have often been overcome as I have reflected upon the vision of faithfulness and service that the Relief Society has given me. Now, years after her comment, my older children are maturing and I, too, can testify of the joy that comes from nurturing children.
Relief Society gives me a chance to polish my talents, discover new ones, and even learn to do things for which I have little talent. I have always liked to give talks, debate, and participate in dramatic activities. Yet for several years after college I had little opportunity to use those skills except during frequent debates with two-year-olds who were seldom impressed with my brilliant logic. Lately, however, I have helped write and direct programs and have presented poetry and stories in Relief Society. For a while I had thought mostly of the praise and forgotten the hard work of entertaining. Now I remember. Still it is a pleasure to use my talents again.
I felt good recently when someone quoted the words of Brigham Young: “Beautify your gardens, your houses, your farms” and “Let the beauty of your adorning be the work of your hands.” (Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1977, pp. 302, 214.) I have made drapes, quilts, and couch covers and helped apply wallpaper and panelling to beautify our home. I now find satisfaction in making clothes for myself and my children, even though I disliked sewing when I was young and certainly never considered it one of my talents. Many of these new skills were direct results of demonstrations in Relief Society.
I do not sing well. In fact, one of my teenage friends used to stop singing when we sat together in church so that everyone would know the musical mistakes were mine and not hers. But in one ward, I was really needed as part of a small group singing for stake preparation meeting. While we sang that day, I realized for the first time what it means to sing praises to the Lord. Although I still do not sing well, because of practice in Relief Society I have experienced a happiness I might otherwise never have known.
Many successful projects with our children are the direct result of ideas other women have shared. One sister related that because she raised her family during the depression and they had to work hard in their garden to raise food for the family, she entertained and taught her children during those hours with gospel stories. By reviewing at night Book of Mormon, Bible, or church history stories, she could retell them in detail to her children the next day. Her efforts fostered love of the gospel in her children and also helped them enjoy work. Now we tell gospel stories in our family while working together, brushing snarls from long hair, and traveling.
Sometimes in Relief Society my learning is intellectual excitement. Several years ago at Christmastime we saw slides showing the Madonna and Child painted by various artists. Frankly, I had to admit that I liked the postcard-type pictures better than the famous paintings in which Mary is dressed in fifteenth-century Italian clothes. “Perhaps if we knew more about great art, we’d like it better,” a friend challenged.
The only book about art in our house was one volume about the Renaissance from a ten-volume set of world history books. It was difficult reading, but when I had finished it several weeks later I had a much better understanding of what the great artists accomplished.
That aroused my interest in world history so I read two more volumes, and before my interest lessened I had finished half the books in the set.
Perhaps there are other groups that would help me enjoy sisterhood, womanhood, talents, and learning, but, for me, in one final area of influence-renewed spiritual zeal—no other group compared with Relief Society.
When I first attended college and learned about Sunday morning Relief Society, I was reluctant to participate because I felt it was just for older women. Before the year was over, however, one of the things I missed most on weekends home was the spiritual lift I received from attending Relief Society. I really learned to fast and pray and feel close to the Lord, especially when I prepared my lesson.
Now when I do not feel in tune with the Lord, I remember those days and am comforted to know that I can be close to the Lord again if I try. Relief Society is organized, planned, and carried out through inspiration. Weekly attendance helps me live God’s laws and receive his help.
A conversation some years ago with a friend was influential in my commitment to attend Relief Society. I had just “retired” after a short teaching career and was enjoying staying home. The arguments for women’s liberation were just beginning to surface, but I had never given them much thought until my friend pressed, “If you don’t go back to work, won’t you be wasting all those years of education?”
My answers were not very convincing to her. “Look, I know you,” she insisted. “You don’t like to cook or sew. You never even enjoyed babysitting as a teenager the way the rest of us did. You are a good student and like to perform. You like to be out with people. You’ll be bored in a few years at home.”
“Well,” I countered with perhaps a touch of smugness, “I have Relief Society.”
“You can’t tell me that a meeting once a week will supply all your needs outside your home,” she protested.
Since then, I have discovered we both were right during that discussion. Being content at home has been more difficult for me than I anticipated. But belonging to an organization that fosters sisterhood and a desire to serve, encourages womanhood, develops talents, stimulates learning, and increases spirituality does make me happy. In fact, it keeps me singing.