Relief Society is always in the back – or front – of my mind. Probably because I so strongly self-identify as a Mormon woman, and I am proud of its rich heritage. Despite this strong self-identification, however, I often struggle with it. I recently took a brief sabbatical from it for a 2 or 3 months, but am now back pretty regularly since I feel a responsibility to support it with my presense now that I have a Relief Society calling that I am particularly drawn to.
My recent journeyings have caused me to reflect on the best – and worst – of Relief Society (in my opinion.) Some of my comments refer to my personal experience, others deal with my thoughts on RS in general.
After you read the following, please let me know some of your bests and worsts of RS. I would love to discover how my perceptions and experiences compare with yours.
Best of Relief Society
* The aforementioned rich heritage. I love Emma Smith and her vision of a charitable organization ready to leap in and help wherever and whenever needed within the community.
* On the same note, I love its empowered past. Relief Society presidents who hobnobbed with Susan B. Anthony and other suffragists. Outspoken editorials in the Women’s Exponent. Visible and respected leaders who had the ear of Mormon women (and men). Financial and curricular independence from “the priesthood.” (Ahhh, the good ol’ days 🙂 )
* The cute old ladies who smilingly attend every week.
* The way so many RS women are ready to jump in and help out when there is someone in need.
* Visiting teaching. I actually think it’s a great idea (though I haven’t done mine in 5 months) to help people form connections and bonds. Whenever I go VT, I really only focus on that aspect, as I find it too uncomfortable to jump from social chitchat to a spiritual lesson.
Worst of Relief Society
*The weak lessons. Most teachers I see really struggle with the current manuals, and many lessons I have seen have devolved into half hour lectures with basically no discussion. Other lessons I have attended do have a discussion component – generally personal – but are weak in regards to delving into the scriptures and discussing doctrine.
*(Related to the above) The lack of humor. Sometimes I go and stand outside Elders Quorum. I’m always struck by how good a time all the guys are having. Shouting out quips, joking with one another, laughing a lot. This doesn’t really happen in RS in my experience.
* The cliques (am I spelling that right?). But perhaps little social groups such as these are unavoidable in any organization that involves people of different ages, backgrounds, etc.
* The visual aids, ubiquitous decorating choices, and food bribery. Maybe I’m missing something, but a tablecloth and vase of fake flowers just isn’t all that important to me. On the same note, I’d far rather have people spend time coming up with some good questions than spend time making posters or buying candy or chocolate. (Though I must admit, at the time I’m always glad to grab that candy. Anything to get some stimulation after 3 hours at church.)
* The lack of visibility of the General Relief Society Presidency. Most have heard me sing this song before, but I so, so, so want to have some strong female leaders in this Church. It’s really difficult for me to belong to an organization that doesn’t feature women’s voices more prominently.