By Rosemary Campbell
Relief Society presidencies from across the world gathered in the Tabernacle March 30 and 31 to listen to the counsel of the Relief Society general presidency.
Sister Julie B. Beck, Relief Society general president, welcomed the sisters and asked what questions they wanted answered by the end of the leadership training session. She encouraged the women to write them down and listen to the Spirit to gain the answers they needed. As she began, Sister Beck stressed the importance of remembering that the purpose of Relief Society sisters is the same as the Lord's purpose — to help each other toward salvation.
The responsibilities of leaders encompass the purposes of a Relief Society — serving the Lord and assisting the bishop in helping sisters prepare for eternal life and increase faith, strengthen their families and reach out to those in need.
"Strong families are not an accident," Sister Beck said. "They take thought and intention and preparation and skill."
Preparing spiritually, participating in councils, ministering and teaching the gospel provide that path to fulfilling those responsibilities.
Sister Beck focused on revelation, pointing out that it is an essential gift given to women in the latter days and that it is the single most important skill a Relief Society president, a teacher, a mother and an 18-year-old woman can have.
"Personal revelation, I think, is the most needed, most underutilized skill Latter-day Saint women have available today. She can be talented, creative and intelligent, … but if she doesn't have the ability to get revelation in the moment she needs it, she will never be effective in her calling," Sister Beck said. "And with that, the most uneducated, humble, illiterate sister can do powerful work. That's how important revelation is."
Sister Silvia H. Allred, first counselor in the general presidency, addressed the changes regarding Relief Society meetings implemented to better help women achieve their goals.
"You need to find out [the bishop's goals] so you can work in harmony with your bishop and he will support you in your efforts and in your meetings," Sister Allred said. "We would ask you to discuss this with your bishops and your stake presidencies, how you could strengthen the working relationship between the Relief Society president and the priesthood leader."
Ward and stake Relief Society presidencies need to work in the same direction as the priesthood leaders, she said.
Sister Barbara Thompson, second counselor in the presidency, spoke about the Church's welfare program and the Relief Society's role in compassionate service. Leaders are not expected to do everything by themselves.
"Involve all the sisters in the ward to care for the poor and the needy," she said.
Sister Thompson referenced many pamphlets, booklets and Web sites with information about welfare and self-reliance. Reading from the book Providing in the Lord's Way, she explained the welfare plan, which is to build character in the members of the Church, givers and receivers.
She emphasized how important it was to have the organization of Relief Society and priesthood leaders in Haiti and Chile who knew what they needed to do when earthquakes hit.
To end the meeting, Sister Beck spoke of the importance of helping young single adult women transition into Relief Society. They shouldn't get lost.
"We love you ... we thank you," she said. "It isn't easy, but it is a rewarding and wonderful service that changes us, and our hearts are never the same once we've worked in this kind of work."