“Knit Together in Love,” Ensign, Oct. 1993, 22
Transitions in life can be difficult, but with extra attention given to each incoming young woman, the transition of young women into Relief Society can be a happy, fulfilling step from youth into adulthood. Quite literally, the first time an eighteen-year-old joins the other women of the ward in Relief Society, she moves from the sisterhood of Young Women to join the Relief Society sisterhood that will be hers throughout the remainder of her life.
The following young adults remember how they felt when they made the transition into Relief Society:
“Coming from Young Women to Relief Society was quite a leap! My first year in Relief Society was a wonderful, growing experience. I finally made the adjustment when I was given a calling. This calling really stretched me. Without it I don’t think I would have gotten to know the sisters in the ward for a long time.”
“I enjoy Relief Society when the teachers and leaders want to hear from us—even ideas that may help them with their children. Young adults have a lot to offer, and we are often overlooked. We know a lot about what faces the children of these women.”
“The transition was easier because the women in my ward extended themselves as friends and made me feel welcome.”
“For two years I had been Laurel president, and I loved it. When I left, I missed the Young Women organization. But the sisters in Relief Society made me feel so welcome and loved. They treated me like an adult.”
“The first week I came to Relief Society, someone sat by me. That made a difference. I was afraid I’d be all alone.”
“I am from a small branch, and Relief Society has been a wonderful experience for me. Most of the sisters in my branch are retired and have grandchildren. Their love and wisdom comfort me. They always invite me to share my feelings, just as they do. The Spirit is strong in our meetings. I’ve been serving in Primary these past few months, but the sisters always make me feel welcome and invite me to homemaking. It’s the love they express that makes me feel so comfortable.”
“The thing that helped me make the transition from Young Women to Relief Society was that during our first meeting the president explained that in Young Women, we had already enjoyed the sisterhood of the gospel and had been doing the same things that Relief Society teaches. Relief Society just helps strengthen our testimonies and enhances the friendships and support we felt in Young Women.”
“Young Women and Relief Society are marvelous organizations,” says Elaine L. Jack, Relief Society general president. “The overarching goal of both is to help women come unto Christ. We are completely united in this goal and work together to accomplish it.
“I served for three years in the Young Women general presidency before I was called to serve as Relief Society general president,” continues President Jack. “I feel the same desire among women to seek the Savior as I felt among the young women. Experience levels may be different, but the women of the Church, whether younger or more mature, are a powerful force for righteousness.”
Janette C. Hales, Young Women general president, adds, “Life is full of transitions. But that’s the way it ought to be. Just as girls grow physically, they also grow spiritually. It is natural that a girl leaves Primary and moves into Young Women. She leaves Young Women and becomes a member of Relief Society. It’s a healthy, wonderful thing to be part of the Lord’s organization for women. I consider my membership in Relief Society to be a great blessing in my life.”
The general presidents of both organizations emphasize that the scriptures make unity a matter of importance. Alma told his people “that they should look forward with one eye, having one faith and one baptism, having their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another.” (Mosiah 18:21.) As young women become members of Relief Society, they should feel “knit together in love” with the sisters they have left in Young Women and those they greet in Relief Society.
President Jack enthusiastically says that “nurturing should be a part of what we do as Relief Society women. We don’t have to wait until young women are eighteen to reach out to them and to build bridges of understanding to them.
“Unfortunately, in some areas of the Church there are erroneous stereotypes about Relief Society. Some young women may still think of Relief Society solely as a place for older women. It’s our job to help them understand that Relief Society, like Young Women, exists to bless their lives and to help them learn the principles of the gospel.
“Relief Society leaders can build bridges to young adults so they can come to understand that our motto, ‘Charity Never Faileth,’ is based on gospel principles, as are the Young Women values they repeated each week in their Young Women meetings.”
The transition from Young Women to Relief Society can be a happy part of entering the world of adulthood. Working together, leaders in the Young Women and Relief Society programs can help young women become young adults in an environment of loving concern and meaningful service. The transition from Young Women into Relief Society should be a season of growth, satisfaction, friendship, and spiritual enlightenment.
Young Women general president Janette C. Hales believes that Young Women leaders can do a great deal to help young women move more comfortably into Relief Society. “Paul described our joining together like this: ‘We, being many, are one … in Christ.’ (Rom. 12:5.) It is possible for us to come together in ways that are meaningful to women of all ages and situations,” she says.
“It’s an important part of a Young Women adviser’s calling to teach that the transition of young women into Relief Society is part of a much larger transition that young women make as they graduate from high school and pursue college and other interests.”
President Hales urges Young Women leaders to do the following:
“Prepare young women to understand adult roles. “The six years a person spends in the Young Women program will help prepare her for the rest of her life,” says President Hales. “We can never be satisfied with simply helping young women enjoy their teen years. We can help them focus on building character so that they will be adult women who see to the needs of others.”
A Young Women adviser could help provide opportunities for Laurels to interact with Relief Society members. At times older women feel shy and unsure, just as young women do on occasion.
Give young women meaningful callings. “When leaders do all the work in Young Women, it may seem easier in the short term, but it is detrimental in the long term,” says President Hales. “The young women need to learn how to organize, plan, prepare, execute, and evaluate activities and meetings. More importantly, they need to continue enjoying the experience of being called and set apart by priesthood leaders and knowing the joy that comes from serving in the Church.”
Talk with Relief Society leaders before young women enter Relief Society. Let them know about each young woman so they can include her appropriately.
Teach young women about Relief Society. The attitude of a Young Women leader often heavily influences the young women. If leaders speak negatively about Relief Society, the young women might pick up those attitudes. Teach young women to anticipate many new and fine experiences in Relief Society.
“A major responsibility for a smooth transition into Relief Society lies with that organization’s leaders,” stresses Relief Society general president Elaine L. Jack. “Our Relief Society should be a place where members are nurtured through the many transitions they face as adult women. Entering Relief Society is only the first of many changes that will come to each woman. She will face changes as she graduates from school, chooses to obtain further education, or to work, goes on a mission, and as she becomes a wife, a mother, and a member of a new ward, and so on. Relief Society leaders can do much to help young adults feel important and needed.”
President Jack urges Relief Society leaders to do the following:
Know the young adults. Learn the names of all young women in the ward. Become familiar with the Young Women program and the Young Women leaders.
Find common ground with young women. At a discussion in one Relief Society meeting, an 18-year-old and an 81-year-old were asked to discuss their first dates. Both were pleasantly surprised to learn the similarities between two experiences that were decades apart.
Include young single adults. Give them opportunities to teach, engage in compassionate service, visit teach, and otherwise fully participate in all aspects of Relief Society.
Serve as mentors and shepherds to young adults. Relief Society can be one of the best learning grounds for a young woman. In Relief Society young adults can find role models who will help them learn what it means to be productive, righteous Latter-day Saint women.
Visiting teaching assignments can be structured so young single adults visit each other, but partnerships can also include an experienced woman who can instruct and demonstrate how one becomes a truly compassionate visiting teacher.
Utilize the board member responsible for young single adults and also the Young Single Adult representative to help orient young women to Relief Society. Since young women have probably enjoyed social activities and interaction during the week as Young Women, the Young Single Adult Representative can also “conduct Relief Society meetings and midweek activities for young single adults.” (Relief Society Handbook, Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1988, p. 19.)
Relief Society leaders may also encourage young adults to participate in the Latter-day Saint Student Association (LDSSA) at the nearest institute of religion. Activities of many types are generally part of LDSSA programs.
Relief Society leaders can visit the Laurel class and present a preview of Relief Society to seventeen-year-old Laurels. This preview helps young women “get acquainted with their new leaders, recognize some of the opportunities they will have, and help them look forward to becoming members of Relief Society.” (Relief Society Handbook, p. 4.)