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Members of the Relief Society around the world are marking the 175th anniversary of the world’s largest women’s organization. The Relief Society of Nauvoo was organized by early members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Illinois on March 17, 1842.
Emma Smith, wife of Church prophet Joseph Smith, spoke on the purpose of the society minutes after she became the first president. “To seek out and relieve the distressed,” she said. That was quickly expanded to include the spiritual as well as temporal needs of the Saints.
Rather than a Churchwide “event,” Sister Linda K. Burton, Relief Society general president, is encouraging the Relief Society’s more than 7 million members to remember the milestone during meetings in their local congregations. Other suggestions include taking a family name to the temple, continuing participation in the Church’s “Light the World” service initiative launched in November or reaching out to women working with the youth or the girls and young women of the Church.
As the worldwide Church marks the anniversary, Sister Burton announced an update to the Relief Society purposes document in a post on her Facebook account.
The updated document now states that “Relief Society helps prepare women for the blessings of eternal life as they increase faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and His Atonement; strengthen individuals, families, and homes through ordinances and covenants; and work in unity to help those in need.”
Sister Burton explained that these changes resulted from her presidency’s effort to seek the Lord’s guidance in knowing “what essential things He would have us focus on to continue moving His work forward.”
“We were impressed that He would first have us help His beloved daughters understand the doctrine of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, that their faith and righteousness might increase,” the Facebook post reads.
Sister Burton has served as Relief Society general president for nearly five years. She hopes the changes will result in a better understanding of “the divine identity and eternal work and purpose that each sister in Relief Society has.”
Read more about the history of the Relief Society and insights from the Relief Society general presidency in the March issue of the Church’s Ensign magazine.