Mormons Celebrate Relief Society Anniversary

News Story

March includes two important celebrations for Latter-day Saint women. While March 8 marks International Women’s Day (a global celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women), March 17 marks the date when the Relief Society (the official women’s organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) was organized.  

Women’s contributions shape the communities in which they live. We recognize the many women worldwide whose accomplishments strengthen communities and change the world.

Latter-day Saint women remember the words found in the Book of Mormon: “[Jesus Christ] inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; … and all are alike unto God” (2 Nephi 26:33). In celebrating and honouring women of the Relief Society, we acknowledge the wise words of Barbara W. Winder, the 11th general president of the Relief Society of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, when she said,  “We can have unity in diversity and diversity in unity. We don’t have to be like one another to enjoy sisterhood."[1]

To honour and celebrate these two important occasions, following are nine stories of ordinary Latter-day Saint women doing extraordinary things. Click on the links provided below to read each of their stories.

                                                                  

Eileen Bell

The Relief Society organization was founded in 1842 in Nauvoo, Illinois, and currently has over 7.1 million members in over 170 countries and territories.[2] In Canada, there are thousands of women from coast to coast who are part of one of the oldest and largest women’s organizations in the world.

Eileen Bell is a radio news anchor in Edmonton, Alberta, and has been a broadcaster for 40 years. She enjoys radio because of all the interesting people she gets to meet and interview. >>Read Eileen Bell’s story here.

 
                                                                                                  

Karen Pruden Shirley

Latter-day Saint Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich said, “Women have always contributed to the economy of their society — always!” Her advice to women is to “blossom where you’re planted.”[3]

Karen Pruden Shirley is a Métis woman residing in Langley, British Columbia. She is a retired lawyer of Indigenous law and a recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal. >>Read Karen Pruden Shirley’s story here.

                                                                                                  

Lindsay Luc

The Relief Society motto is “Charity Never Faileth.” In his addresses to the female Relief Society of Nauvoo, Joseph Smith emphasized charity and purity. “Let your hearts expand — let them be enlarged towards others.”[4]

Lindsay Luc volunteers for the Canadian Red Cross, Quebec Division, and serves as a board member for Religions for Peace. >>Read Lindsay Luc's story here.

                                                        

Esther Caron

Eliza R Snow, the second general president of the Relief Society, delivered a message to women: “It is the duty of each one of us to be a holy woman.”[5]

Esther Caron is a professionally trained dancer and the Primary president of her local congregation. She has been teaching dance for over a decade in the Ottawa–Gatineau area. >>Read Esther Caron’s story here.



                    

                                                        

Vesna Sokol Higham

“In addition to charitable work, Latter-day Saint women in Nauvoo took their first collective political action.”[6] Women knew that their voice in politics was needed, so they signed petitions, sought redress from the government and eventually worked hard as suffragettes to ensure the right to vote for women.

Vesna Sokol Higham, a city councillor for Red Deer, Alberta, hopes to build a better community for her children and their children by leaving a legacy of vision, integrity and engagement, but most of all faith. >>Read Vesna Sokol Higham’s story here.


                               
                                                        

Deborah Northcott

In the early days of the Relief Society, “the prolonged poverty of refugees from Missouri and the influx of convert immigrants from the British Isles necessitated and expanded ministry [of Relief Society] to the poor.”[7]

Deborah Northcott and her husband from Medicine Hat, Alberta, co-founded Canadian Humanitarian, a registered non-political, non-religious Canadian charity. Since 2009, she has worked as a full-time volunteer and developed the Holistic Child Centered Network model to offer emotional and physical support to vulnerable children as they re-enter school, improving the completion rate of primary and secondary education. >>Read Deborah Northcott’s story here.


                              
                                                        

Rachel Desjourdy

“The minutes of the Nauvoo Relief Society vividly demonstrate charitable activities as members reported specific needs and discussed how to meet them.”[8]

Rachel Desjourdy works to support students at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, to have a successful university experience even though they may have a disability, chronic illness or mental health issue. >>Read Rachel Desjourdy’s story here.




                             
                                                     

Dr. Lorraine Wright

“The early Relief Society worked to fund medical training for women.” Later their work expanded to include public and private welfare agencies and a “more varied and extensive educational program.”[9]

Dr. Lorraine Wright lives in Calgary, Alberta, and travels nationally and internationally to teach health-care professionals how to assist families who are suffering with serious illness. >>Read Lorraine Wright’s story here.


                            

                                                     

Betty Wang

Betty Wang’s volunteer work in Vancouver, British Columbia, with new immigrants to Canada serves to strengthen her conviction of her own Latter-day Saint faith. >>Read Betty Wang’s story here.








 

Brittany A. Chapman, a historian in the Church History Department, spoke of the founding women of Relief Society when she said, “These women leave behind a legacy upon which we can draw inspiration and strength. When we remember their stories, they become part of our own and help us to live better lives.”[10] 

May these modern stories of Latter-day Saint women inspire each of us to carry on the important work of building and strengthening communities.

 

[1] Janet Peterson and LaRene Gaunt, Faith, Hope, and Charity (Utah: Covenant Communications, 2008).

[2] https://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/women-in-the-church

[3] https://whitneyjohnson.com/janika-dillon-interviews-laurel-thatcher-ulrich/

[4] Jill Mulvay Derr, Carol Cornwall Madsen, Kate Holbrook and Matthew J. Grow,

The First Fifty Years of Relief Society (Utah: Church Historian’s Press, 2016), xxi.

[5] Ibid, 8.

[6] Ibid, 384.

[7] Ibid, 7.

[8] Ibid, 8.

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