“9. Relief Society,” General Handbook: Serving in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (2020).
“9. Relief Society,” General Handbook.
Purpose and Organization
Relief Society helps God’s children prepare to return to His presence. As daughters of heavenly parents, members of Relief Society “expound scriptures,” “exhort the church,” lift hearts, and “cleave unto the covenants [they have] made” (Doctrine and Covenants 25:7, 13).
Relief Society is a divinely instituted organization for all adult women in the Church. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that the purpose of Relief Society is to save souls and relieve suffering. He stated that the Church of Jesus Christ was not fully organized until the sisters were so organized.
Members of Relief Society work together to help accomplish the work of salvation and exaltation. They serve others, fulfill covenant responsibilities, build unity, and learn and live doctrine.
The motto of Relief Society is “Charity never faileth” (1 Corinthians 13:8). This motto is reflected in the Relief Society’s seal.
Membership in Relief Society
Relief Society is a lifelong sisterhood. All adult sisters 18 and older are members of Relief Society. They are members even if they cannot attend Relief Society meetings.
A young woman may begin attending Relief Society when she turns 18. She counsels with her parents and bishop about the timing. By age 19 or when moving from home, such as to attend a university or serve a mission, she should participate in Relief Society.
Married women under 18 are also members of Relief Society.
For information about unwed parents under age 18, see 38.1.5.
Adapting to Local Needs
Some wards have a very large number of active adult women. For these wards, the bishop and stake president may authorize having more than one ward Relief Society. Each Relief Society has its own presidency. If possible, each Relief Society should have members with a variety of ages and experience.
Participating in the Work of Salvation and Exaltation
God invites all to come unto Christ and participate in the work of salvation and exaltation by:
Living the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Caring for those in need.
Inviting all to receive the gospel.
Uniting families for eternity.
Relief Society leaders plan Sunday meetings, activities, ministering, service, and other interactions to help women participate in the work of salvation and exaltation. Members of the Relief Society and elders quorum work in unity to accomplish this work.
For more information about the work of salvation and exaltation, study chapter 1.
Living the Gospel of Jesus Christ
Relief Society leaders support members in living the gospel of Jesus Christ. They emphasize exercising faith, repenting, increasing in self-reliance, and making covenants with God by receiving ordinances. Such ordinances include the temple endowment. See 1.2.1.
Gospel Learning at Home
When members learn and live the gospel at home, their conversion to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ deepens. Relief Society leaders encourage sisters to study the scriptures and the words of living prophets, individually and with their families. Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families and other resources can supplement their study.
Home evenings are an important way to learn the gospel at home. They are usually held weekly on Sunday, on Monday evening, or at another time. They could include prayers, gospel study, testimonies, singing, and fun activities.
Gospel Learning in Relief Society Meetings
Relief Societies meet on Sundays for the following purposes:
Strengthen families and homes.
Make plans to help accomplish the work of salvation and exaltation.
Meetings are held on the second and fourth Sundays of the month. They last 50 minutes. The Relief Society presidency plans these meetings. A member of the presidency conducts.
The meeting begins with a presidency member conducting any business. For example, the sisters may counsel together about aspects of accomplishing the work of salvation and exaltation. Sufficient time should then be given to meaningful gospel instruction and discussion.
Relief Society meetings focus on topics in one or more talks from the most recent general conference. The Relief Society presidency prayerfully selects messages to discuss based on sisters’ needs. Hymns may be sung to enhance a lesson. Meetings should end with a prayer.
For more information, see ComeFollowMe.ChurchofJesusChrist.org.
Relief Society presidencies may plan activities. These activities strengthen sisters and give them opportunities to serve together. Most activities are held at times other than on Sundays or Monday evenings.
The Relief Society president oversees these activities. She may ask a counselor or another sister to take the lead in planning and carrying them out (see 9.3.4). Presidencies discuss activities with the bishop as part of their planning.
Caring for Those in Need
As followers of Jesus Christ, sisters have a responsibility to reach out in love to those in need. Individually and as a Relief Society, they seek ways to serve others in the ward and community. Where it is available, JustServe.org suggests community service opportunities.
For more information about how members of the Relief Society and elders quorum care for those in need, see 22.6.2.
Ministering is caring for others as the Savior would. Sisters receive ministering assignments from the Relief Society presidency. For more information, see chapter 21.
Ministering sisters seek to understand and respond to the needs of those they serve. Members may need short-term assistance at times of illness, births, deaths, job loss, and other circumstances.
When needed, ministering sisters ask the Relief Society presidency for help. The presidency may recommend calling a service coordinator to organize these efforts (see 9.3.4).
The Relief Society and elders quorum coordinate efforts to address short-term needs (see 22.3.2). The bishop may provide fast-offering assistance if needed.
In some locations, bishops have the option to provide members in need with a bishop’s order for food and other basic goods. The bishop generally assigns the Relief Society president to meet with the members and fill out the order form. However, he may also assign the elders quorum president. A counselor in the Relief Society or elders quorum presidency may be assigned if the president is unavailable. The assigned leader submits the completed form to the bishop for his approval.
For more information, see 22.6.2 and “Welfare Resources” in Leader and Clerk Resources.
Long-Term Needs and Self-Reliance
As coordinated by the bishop, the Relief Society and elders quorum presidencies help members with long-term needs and self-reliance. They teach principles of temporal and spiritual self-reliance. See chapter 22 and “Self-Reliance” in the Gospel Library app.
If a person or family needs assistance, the Relief Society and elders quorum presidents counsel together, as coordinated by the bishop, about how to help (see 22.4).
The Relief Society president, elders quorum president, or another leader helps the person or family develop a Self-Reliance Plan. Ministering sisters or brothers can also help with the plan. Often, other members of the Relief Society or elders quorum have skills or experience that can help. All who assist treat information with confidentiality. For more information, see 22.3.3 and 22.8.
When a Ward Member Dies
When a ward member dies, Relief Society and elders quorum presidencies offer comfort and assistance. Under the bishop’s guidance, they can help with the funeral.
If possible, deceased members who were endowed are buried or cremated in temple clothing. The body of a woman may be dressed by her husband or by an endowed female family member. If a family member is not available or would prefer not to do the dressing, the bishop may ask the Relief Society president to invite an endowed sister to dress the body or oversee the dressing. For more information, see 38.5.8.
Relief Society and elders quorum presidencies, ministering brothers and sisters, and others continue to offer comfort and assistance after the funeral.
Inviting All to Receive the Gospel
Members of Relief Society have a responsibility to invite all to receive the blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ (see Mosiah 18:9). They do this by sharing the gospel, strengthening new members, and reaching out to those who are less active.
In presidency and Relief Society meetings, the Relief Society presidency discusses ways the sisters can invite all to receive the blessings of the gospel.
The Relief Society president assigns a member of the presidency to help lead member missionary work in the ward. She works with the assigned member of the elders quorum presidency to coordinate these efforts (see 23.5.1).
The assigned member of the Relief Society presidency participates in coordination meetings to coordinate inviting all to receive the blessings of the gospel. The ward mission leader, who may be a member of the elders quorum presidency, leads weekly coordination meetings. The purpose of these meetings is to coordinate inviting all to receive the blessings of the gospel. They also include ward missionaries, an assistant in the priests quorum, a presidency member of the oldest Young Women class, and full-time missionaries.
Uniting Families for Eternity
Members of Relief Society support members in uniting families for eternity. This includes:
Making covenants with God by receiving ordinances, including the temple endowment.
Doing temple and family history work (see 1.2.4).
In presidency and Relief Society meetings, the Relief Society presidency discusses ways the sisters can participate in these efforts.
The presidency encourages sisters to learn about their family history and about temple covenants and ordinances. They also encourage sisters to attend the temple regularly where possible.
The Relief Society president assigns a member of the presidency to help lead temple and family history work in the ward. She works with the assigned member of the elders quorum presidency to coordinate these efforts (see 25.2.2).
The assigned member of the Relief Society presidency participates in coordination meetings to coordinate temple and family history work. These meetings are held regularly. The ward temple and family history leader, who may be a member of the elders quorum presidency, leads temple and family history coordination meetings (see 25.2.7). They also include an assistant in the priests quorum, a presidency member of the oldest Young Women class, and temple and family history consultants.
Relief Society Leaders
The bishop usually meets with the Relief Society president monthly. They discuss the work of salvation and exaltation, including the service of ministering sisters. They also discuss (1) the progress and needs of sisters in the ward and (2) Relief Society meetings, instruction, and activities.
Relief Society Presidency
Calling a Relief Society Presidency
The bishop calls a woman to serve as the ward Relief Society president. If the unit is large enough, she recommends to him one or two women to serve as her counselors. The bishopric considers her recommendations and extends the callings.
A member of the bishopric presents presidency members in a sacrament meeting for sustaining. The bishop sets apart the Relief Society president. A member of the bishopric sets apart her counselors.
The bishop or one of his counselors presents sisters who are called to other Relief Society callings for sustaining in a Relief Society meeting. See 9.3.3 and 9.3.4.
Some small units may not have a Young Women or Primary president. In these units, the Relief Society president may help parents plan instruction for youth and children.
The Relief Society president has the following responsibilities. Her counselors assist her.
Serve on the ward council. She serves as (1) a member of the council who helps address needs in the ward and find solutions and (2) a representative of the Relief Society (see 29.2.5).
Lead the Relief Society’s efforts to participate in the work of salvation and exaltation (see chapter 1).
Organize and oversee the service of ministering sisters. Coordinate ministering assignments with the elders quorum presidency, meeting at least quarterly. Seek the bishop’s approval for ministering assignments. Hold ministering interviews at least quarterly. See chapter 21.
Under the bishop’s guidance, counsel with adult members of the ward. Only the bishop counsels ward members about matters of worthiness, abuse, and approval to use fast-offering funds. See Counseling Resources.
With the elders quorum presidency, help lead efforts in the ward to invite all to receive the blessings of the gospel (see 8.2.3 and 9.2.3).
With the elders quorum presidency, help lead temple and family history work in the ward (see 8.2.4 and 9.2.4).
Coordinate the Relief Society’s efforts to strengthen young adult sisters in the ward, both single and married. One counselor may be assigned to serve with young single adults (see 184.108.40.206).
Meet with each member of Relief Society individually at least once a year. Discuss the well-being of the sister and her family.
Teach sisters their covenant responsibilities.
Oversee and help improve teaching in the Relief Society (see chapter 17).
Plan and conduct Relief Society meetings.
Oversee Relief Society activities (see 220.127.116.11).
Help young women prepare to participate in Relief Society (see 9.4).
Oversee Relief Society records, reports, and finances (see LCR.ChurchofJesusChrist.org). A secretary may help (see 9.3.3).
The stake Relief Society presidency teaches the ward Relief Society presidency about these responsibilities. They may do this during stake leadership meetings and by visiting ward Relief Society presidency meetings (see 29.3.4).
Through her service, the ward Relief Society president supports the bishop in focusing on the youth and on his unique responsibilities.
The Relief Society presidency and secretary meet regularly. The president conducts these meetings. The agenda could include the following items:
Plan how to strengthen sisters and their families.
Plan how to help accomplish the work of salvation and exaltation.
Coordinate missionary work and temple and family history work.
Respond to counsel and assignments from the bishop.
Respond to assignments from ward council meetings.
Prayerfully consider ministering assignments.
Review information from ministering interviews. Plan ways to identify strengths and help meet needs. (See chapter 21.)
Consider sisters to serve in Relief Society callings and assignments.
Plan Relief Society meetings and activities.
The Relief Society presidency may recommend a sister to serve as the Relief Society secretary. A member of the bishopric calls her, presents her for sustaining in a Relief Society meeting, and sets her apart.
The secretary’s responsibilities could include the following:
Prepare agendas for presidency meetings and Relief Society meetings.
Take notes in meetings and keep track of assignments.
Schedule ministering interviews (see 21.3).
Prepare and submit quarterly reports of attendance and the number of ministering interviews held.
Help prepare an annual budget and keep track of expenses.
The following additional callings may be helpful. The bishop and Relief Society president discuss whether they are needed.
Relief Society teachers to teach in Sunday meetings.
A service coordinator to help plan and carry out service to people in need (see 18.104.22.168). Assistants and committee members may also be called.
An activity coordinator to help plan and carry out Relief Society activities (see 22.214.171.124). Assistants and committee members may also be called.
Assistant secretaries to help the Relief Society secretary.
Ministering secretaries to organize ministering interviews and help prepare quarterly reports.
If these or other callings are needed, the Relief Society presidency recommends sisters to serve. They make these recommendations to the bishopric. If the bishopric approves, a member of the bishopric calls them. He presents them for sustaining in a Relief Society meeting and sets them apart.
As needed, the Relief Society presidency may assign sisters to help with Relief Society efforts in other ways. Sisters with short-term assignments do not need to be called and set apart.
Helping Young Women Prepare to Participate in Relief Society
The Relief Society presidency works with young women, their parents, and Young Women leaders to help young women prepare to participate in Relief Society.
Leaders also provide ongoing opportunities for young women and Relief Society sisters to develop relationships. Serving together as ministering sisters is one valuable way to make connections.
Leaders help young women understand their covenant responsibilities. When it would be helpful to have a young woman minister to a particular sister, she may be assigned as a ministering sister when she is willing, able, and mature. She may be assigned beginning in the year she turns 14. Young women serve as companions to Relief Society sisters (see 21.2.2).
When young adults join Relief Society, the Relief Society presidency gives them opportunities to serve and share their strengths. The presidency also helps them prepare to make and keep sacred temple covenants (see 27.1.1).
Stake Relief Society Leaders
The stake president calls and sets apart a woman to serve as the stake Relief Society president. If a stake is large enough, she recommends one or two women to serve as counselors and another to serve as secretary. These women are called and set apart by a member of the stake presidency or an assigned high councilor. For information about the responsibilities of the stake Relief Society presidency and secretary, see 6.7.1 and 6.7.3.
The stake president meets regularly (usually monthly) with the stake Relief Society president or presidency. They counsel together about the work of salvation and exaltation. They also discuss (1) the progress and needs of sisters in the stake and (2) Relief Society meetings, instruction, and activities.
The stake Relief Society presidency instructs ward Relief Society presidencies in their responsibilities for missionary work and temple and family history work. They do this under the direction of the stake presidency. High councilors are assigned to assist. See 23.1 and 25.2.
If the stake has a young single adult committee, a member of the stake Relief Society presidency serves on it. The same is true if the stake has a single adult committee. (See 126.96.36.199.)
Additional Guidelines and Policies
Members with Disabilities
The Relief Society presidency gives particular care to members with disabilities. For information about helping these members, see disability.ChurchofJesusChrist.org; see also 38.8.27 in this handbook.
As needed, the Relief Society presidency works with the bishop, elders quorum presidency, and ward council to help members learn to read and write.