I had run out of sightseeing time, my one July day in Nauvoo, Illinois. The Midwest summer heat and humidity had gotten the better of me, besides. “It’s just a replica,” I told myself that night, trying to justify my decision to skip a tour of the Red Brick Store. But before I pulled out of Nauvoo the next morning, I realized I just couldn’t leave without visiting the reconstructed place where the Relief Society was founded on March 17, 1842.
As I sat on a second floor bench, I thought of the great women who had gathered to form what is now one of the largest and oldest women’s organizations in the world. I love what Lucy Mack Smith wrote a few days later on March 24 in the Relief Society Minute Book: “We must cherish one another, watch over one another, comfort one another and gain instruction, that we may all sit down in heaven together.” Eliza R. Snow, who succeeded Emma Smith as the second Relief Society general president, later wrote, “Paul the Apostle anciently spoke of holy women. It is the duty of each one of us to be a holy woman.”
Some of my most sanctifying experiences have come when I have served in Relief Society. Many of my best friends and mentors have come from my Relief Society associations. And certainly most of the tender mercies in my life have come from the hearts and hands of my Relief Society sisters.
When Bonnie Parkin was called as Relief Society general president, it was easy for Akemi and me to root for, and pray for, Relief Society. After hearing her first General Conference talk, Akemi wrote a note, “Go, Grandma Bonnie! Go Relief Society!” We were thrilled to get to visit her in her Church headquarters office in April 2003. Bonnie said to the 12-year-old Beehive girl, “Kemi, you sit right here in my chair – now that’s the look of a future Relief Society president!”
When Akemi called me Monday night with the news that she had just been called to be the second counselor in her Cambridge University Ward Relief Society, I was – and remain – excited for her for the experience I know she will have. On past visits to Boston I’ve met some of the young women she will be serving with; they’re an impressive bunch. And she’s got a wonderful bishop.
I know the blessings will outweigh any sacrifice, for, after all, the Relief Society motto is “Charity Never Faileth.” I know the strength of our lineage of Lucy, Emma, Eliza, Bonnie, and many other great stake and ward Relief Society examples will be with this young presidency. To borrow words from Emily Woodmansee used in one of my favorite hymns, I know that they, on their errand of angels, with earnest endeavor and the Spirit’s divinest tuition, will truly succeed. Go, Cambridge University Ward Relief Society!