"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
August 5, 2013
Back in Relief Society
by Kathryn H. Kidd

After seven (count ‘em!) years of serving in the Young Women, I wanted to return to Relief Society just about as much as I wanted dental surgery. To say we live in a transient ward is an understatement. I knew fewer than half the people who sat in the classes, and the ones I didn’t know, didn’t know me.

What’s more, the Young Women in our ward are on my wavelength. I understand them. They understand me. I taught their big sisters when they were twelve years old, sent them off to college, and until recently I was teaching the little sisters. We had a history going — a history I no longer shared with at least half of the women in Relief Society.

I didn’t like any of this. I knew for six months that I was going to be released from Young Women, to the point that I kept asking the president if she was sure she hadn’t asked for me to be released. As the Book of Mormon so eloquently puts it, I was so certain I was going to be released that I “wearied her with my teasings.”

(As a little aside, I don’t want to pretend this was a huge spiritual prompting that told me I was going to be released. It might have been, but it was just as likely that the Powers That Be in our ward realized that with my post-coma brain I am not yet capable of teaching a herd of turtles. Knowing that I was going to be released could have been the result of good, old-fashioned common sense.)

For whatever reason, I dreaded the day when I would have to return to Relief Society. Finally the day came. I was already in the room when most of the women entered, having attended the Gospel Essentials class the hour before. Fluffy is a front-row seater, so I was firmly affixed front and center in the room. Nobody could miss me.

Apparently, I was wrong about that. After seven years away from Relief Society, no mention was made that I was in the room, much less that this was my first week back after a little more than seven years. I wasn’t expecting confetti, mind you, but after seven freaking years I had maybe expected a, “Hi, Kathy. Welcome back.” I didn’t get it.

I felt about as welcome as a fly in a punchbowl. It was an icky sensation, and the fact that I knew it was a simple oversight didn’t make me feel the slightest bit better. The only thing that could have made it worse was to be sitting in the front of the room, where the voices making comments behind me were voices I couldn’t match with faces — assuming I knew the faces to make the match.

The next week I sat in front of the back wall, up against the cabinets. I could see who was making the comments this time, but I didn’t feel the slightest bit more welcome or more loved. It was ridiculous. I knew I had about a zillion friends in the room. It was only the other 1.2 zillion who were strangers.

But even knowing that half the women in the room knew me and were kind enough to love me anyway should have made the feel warm and fuzzy. It didn’t. Insecurity, thy name is Kathy.

The third week, a friend had returned from her family’s overseas assignment in Beijing, and she chose to sit next to me and visit before the meeting. It was great to visit with her, and I was glad to see that she was welcomed back with all the bells and whistles. But I was still an outsider, and I was sad about that.

Last week, things changed. Two ladies of long acquaintance plopped down next to me — one on either side — and said, “We’re here to be your posse.” A third one overheard them and said, “I want to be in your posse too,” and she plopped down on the same row.

It was cool. Mary sat between the end of the row and me, and that meant she could trip any troublemakers with her walker before they ever got to me. Lorraine, her daughter, is a flaming Democrat who could protect me from marauding liberals (just as I could protect her from any raging conservatives). The third lady, Hilarie, is about 6’2” before she puts on the six-inch stiletto heels she customarily wears, so she is a force to be reckoned with. She could protect me from anybody. Together, the four of us could conquer the world.

After all those weeks, I finally felt as though I had a place in Relief Society. It doesn’t matter whether my posse sits with me next week, or even whether they remember they called themselves my posse. What matters is that I know that I am loved.

In a conference address to the priesthood, President Gordon B. Hinckley gave a quote that all of us — even those of us who did not attend the priesthood session — have remembered ever since:

With the ever-increasing number of converts, we must make an increasingly substantial effort to assist them as they find their way. Every one of them needs three things: a friend, a responsibility, and nurturing with “the good word of God” (Moro. 6:4). It is our duty and opportunity to provide these things.

President Hinckley was right. Every new church member does need those three things. But I can tell you from my own experience that even old church members need exactly the same blessings to keep them from withering on the vine.

We all need friends, or at least people who love us and support us. Lorraine and Mary and Hilarie reminded me last week that I have more friends in our ward than I could shake a stick at, if I were a stick-shaking kind of person.

We all need callings. I just got released from mine, but I hope there is a new one on the horizon. Callings make us feel needed, because we are needed. If we don’t fulfill our responsibilities, others know that something isn’t right.

And we all need nurturing with “the good word of God.” I’ve got that one in spades. Nobody feels more blessed by God than I do — even if I’m sitting in Relief Society.

A week ago, I felt as though I might be withering. Now I’m thriving, and all it took was a kind gesture from some new and old friends. I wonder who else in our ward might be withering. Who of our congregation needs me — or someone like me — to make them feel loved and valued among our family of saints?

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About Kathryn H. Kidd

Kathryn H. Kidd has been writing fiction, nonfiction, and "anything for money" longer than most of her readers have even been alive. She has something to say on every topic, and the possibility that her opinions may be dead wrong has never stopped her from expressing them at every opportunity.

A native of New Orleans, Kathy grew up in Mandeville, Louisiana. She attended Brigham Young University as a generic Protestant, having left the Episcopal Church when she was eight because that church didn't believe what she did. She joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a BYU junior, finally overcoming her natural stubbornness because she wanted a patriarchal blessing and couldn't get one unless she was a member of the Church. She was baptized on a Saturday and received her patriarchal blessing two days later.

She married Clark L. Kidd, who appears in her columns as "Fluffy," more than thirty-five years ago. They are the authors of numerous LDS-related books, the most popular of which is A Convert's Guide to Mormon Life.

A former managing editor for Meridian Magazine, Kathy moderated a weekly column ("Circle of Sisters") for Meridian until she was derailed by illness in December of 2012. However, her biggest claim to fame is that she co-authored Lovelock with Orson Scott Card. Lovelock has been translated into Spanish and Polish, which would be a little more gratifying than it actually is if Kathy had been referred to by her real name and not "Kathryn Kerr" on the cover of the Polish version.

Kathy has her own website, www.planetkathy.com, where she hopes to get back to writing a weekday blog once she recovers from being dysfunctional. Her entries recount her adventures and misadventures with Fluffy, who heroically allows himself to be used as fodder for her columns at every possible opportunity.

Kathy spent seven years as a teacher of the Young Women in her ward, until she was recently released. She has not yet gotten used to interacting with the adults, and suspects it may take another seven years. A long-time home teacher with her husband, Clark, they have home taught the same family since 1988. The two of them have been temple workers since 1995, serving in the Washington D.C. Temple.

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