Onward and Upward
July 1987

“Onward and Upward,” New Era, July 1987, 46

Onward and Upward

Is there life after Young Women? “Yes!”

“If you’re in service all your life, that’s the best way to have happiness,” says one sister who recently made the transition from Young Women. “And Relief Society gives us that opportunity.”

“I’m scared.”

“Me too.”

“I love it here. Why do we have to leave?”

“Well, they say we have to move onward and upward, but I don’t know. What if they don’t accept us there?”

“I’ve heard they’ll welcome us with open arms, but will we have anything in common with them?”

“Who knows? At least we’re not alone though.”

There comes a time in every girl’s life when she has to find out: Is there life after Young Women?

That question can be answered with an emphatic “Yes!”.

When you complete your Laurel class, there’s a fantastic program waiting that is designed to be a natural follow-up to the Young Women program. It’s called Relief Society.

“Relief Society?” you might say incredulously. “Isn’t that where my grandma goes to sew quilts and my mom goes to learn about raising kids? What does that have to do with a young, single woman who’s ready to go out and take on the world?”

You’d be surprised. Yes, quilting and mother education lessons occur in Relief Society sometimes, but there’s more—much more. Relief Society has something for everyone from 18 to 80 and beyond. It’s hard to believe just how much Relief Society has to offer you, personally.

You see, while the young men you grew up with in your ward are busy preparing to serve the Lord and being called to far off lands to teach the gospel, you too need something to help prepare you for missions, marriage, and life in general. You too need an opportunity to grow through Christlike service. And Relief Society offers just the help you need.

“I have watched those young women who are attending Relief Society, and I’ve seen how they’re growing spiritually, as well as growing in skills in their everyday lives,” says Sister Louie Keeney, Relief Society president of the Los Angeles California Stake.

“When I first thought about going to Relief Society,” said Rebecca Waterhouse, of that same stake, “I thought all the lessons would be about husbands and kids and things I couldn’t really relate to. But I found that a lot of the lessons dealt with things like human relationships, relationships with Heavenly Father—things that are really important to me right now.”

“I found that the family lessons were important too, because they help me understand my parents better, and they give me the advice I need to be a good parent when the time comes,” said Marci McLaughlin, of the Huntington Beach Second Ward, Huntington Beach North Stake. “And the homemaking nights are fun too. I love having an activity like that to go to each month—it’s something fun I can do with my mom. Sometimes we’ll go and each learn a different skill. Then we’ll come home and teach each other.”

Marci’s Relief Society experience was positive from day one. Any doubts she had about leaving the secure nest of her Laurel class flew when, on her first day in Relief Society, she was spotlighted. Relief Society President Liz Douglas had contacted Marci’s mother and found out all sorts of fun, interesting things about her. Sister Douglas then presented a rose to Marci and presented Marci to the rest of the sisters in Relief Society. Everyone there welcomed Marci with open arms, and she immediately felt the strong bonds of sisterhood.

“In Relief Society, there are common bonds of friendship that transcend the ages,” says Westwood Second Ward Relief Society President Leona Mattoni. “The sisters, both young and old, can learn so much from each other. Sometimes the older sisters in the ward think the youth of today are perhaps a little flighty, and it’s good for them to work with the younger girls and see just how responsible they are. On the other hand, sometimes the younger women feel they are completely alone in the problems they face, and how enriching it can be to find that there are other women who have gone through the exact same dilemma and have come through it all right.”

“Relief Society really gives you the opportunity to interact with people of all ages,” says Kathryn Keeney, one of the younger members of the Westwood Second Ward Relief Society, and daughter of Sister Keeney, the stake Relief Society president. “When you’re so involved with other things in your life, whether it’s your career or your school, a lot of times you only interact with people your own age. But we can learn so many things from people in other generations. One of my best friends is over 80 years old, and I just love to be with her.”

But isn’t it a bit intimidating to suddenly be on equal footing with your mother’s friends—sisters who knew you before you could walk? And with sisters who know all the ins and outs of Relief Society, since they’ve been attending for years?

“The best way to get around that scared feeling is to get very involved from the first day,” says Sister Jennifer Ragsdale, Young Adult adviser in the Denton Texas Stake. Her stake encompasses a number of universities, so there are a lot of young single adults in the wards. The Relief Society presidents usually know the young women are coming, however, and have callings ready for them.

“I know of one girl who was very active in Young Women,” said Sister Ragsdale, “but when she came to Relief Society, she was suddenly intimidated with her mother there. But this girl was very talented musically, so they asked her to be the Relief Society chorister. Now she’s on her own and doing a wonderful job. She’s teaching us new, fun songs and feels very comfortable in class.”

You’d be surprised at the number of contributions you, as a new member of the Relief Society, can make. When Nicole Lamb was asked to help her mother give a lesson on record keeping, she wasn’t really sure there was much she could do. After all, her mother kept a detailed journal of daily events, while a lot of space in Nicole’s journal was taken up with drawings she’d made that expressed how she felt. But the sisters in Relief Society raved about Nicole’s contribution.

“It was such a personal expression,” said Sister Mattoni. “I thought what a delight it would be someday for her grandchildren to sit down and go through her journal. From someone half my age, I learned that you could do so much more than just write in a journal.”

Probably the greatest way to contribute to Relief Society from the very beginning is to render service. “Your life is not full without service,” says Sister Keeney. “It is so very easy to become self-involved, but giving to others is one of the things that makes you happiest of all. Relief Society offers so many opportunities for service. Visiting teaching is one such opportunity.”

You’ll become involved in visiting teaching, whether you’re the one visiting or the one being visited, when you first enter Relief Society. Many girls see it as a way to make some very close and deep friendships with people they might not get to know had they not been assigned to visit them.

And there are other opportunities for service as well which let you use your own special talents. “We have found that the young, single sisters are some of the biggest helps in the stake,” says Sister Keeney. “They are always looking for ways to help the sisters through service. One time we needed someone to come teach the Korean sisters in the stake how to make hamburgers and hot dogs and pizza, because their children were asking for American food, and the mothers didn’t know how to prepare it. So the young, single sisters showed them how, and they were really edified to be able to serve in that manner.”

Of course, each girl who begins attending Relief Society will have a unique experience. If you’re going away to school you might find yourself in a university ward, where most of the sisters in Relief Society are young and single like yourself. Or, if your ward has enough single adults, you might find Relief Society classes just for single adults.

“It’s really great to learn about and discuss the gospel as it relates to our own life situations,” says Elaine Toronto, President of the Monument Park Fourth Ward Single Adult Relief Society in Salt Lake City. “We’re at that point in our lives, many of us just coming out of high school, when we have growing testimonies and we believe in the gospel, but we need to prove it to ourselves. We need to show that we believe in it enough to give our time, our efforts, and our prayers to building up and maintaining a program of our own. Up to that point, we’ve had a lot of advisers telling us how to do things. But now we have the great opportunity to take more of the responsibility for a successful program on our own shoulders.”

A strong sense of self-worth is extremely important to someone whose life is going through major transitions, and what girl’s isn’t at age 18? Most girls are either graduating from school, working, or furthering their educations, and life can be quite difficult.

“No matter what you’re doing and how frustrating things can become,” says Nicole, “you can always be growing in the gospel, so at least you’re making spiritual progress. And you can feel very satisfied with that. Relief Society can be a big factor in your spiritual growth.”

There are many other benefits that come from Relief Society activity. “When I was filling out my job application,” says Kathryn, “I realized that there were other applicants with just as much education, and just as much job experience and things like that, but my Church experience had given me an edge. My goodness, when I think of all the jobs my mother is qualified for just because of her Relief Society experience, I’m just amazed. I can’t wait to have that same kind of experience—not only for the job market, but just to make me a more capable person.”

So yes, you’re right. Relief Society is a place where your mother goes to learn about raising kids and your grandmother goes to sew quilts, but you can learn a lot from it too. “Relief Society teaches homemaking skills and generalized living skills that make strong, capable women who can then function either alone or in a good marriage,” says Sister Mattoni. “Good, strong marriages come when good, strong men and women unite. You’ve got to first and foremost have something solid there for yourself before you can build something solid together.”

Now, if you’re still worried about moving onward and upward into Relief Society, a closing quote from Relief Society General President Barbara W. Winder should put your mind at ease. “We welcome you, our young single adults, into the sisterhood of Relief Society. Here you can build on the gospel principles and values taught you in your earlier years.

“Relief Society can provide rich, gospel-related experiences and can be a blessing for each of you. Within this loving sisterhood, you can enlarge your testimonies, learn the value of strong family ties, and develop commitment and dedication. Through Christlike service, you will be able to prepare for the challenges of life.”

Photography by Jutti Marsh

Whether they’re visiting teaching, learning new skills in homemaking meeting, or studying the gospel, younger members of the Relief Society find that it helps them interact with other women of all ages. “There are common bonds of friendship that transcend the differences,” says one Relief Society president.