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May 14, 2015
The Real Issue
Attending Relief Society Activities
by Cyndie Swindlehurst


I donít like attending Relief Society activities. Itís not that I donít like the people or appreciate the effort, but the last thing I want to do in the evening or on the weekend is hang out at church. I donít need to make new friends, listen to a speaker or make a do-dad. I need to spend time with my husband. My mother, however, thinks I should go to Relief Society activities. What do you think?


I think you should listen to your mother.

But not because you are wrong when you say that you donít need new friends, information or do-dads. If you say that you already have enough of these things, I believe you. I am also sympathetic to your need to spend time with your husband. Husbands and wives need to spend time together, and your familyís schedule or other constraints may prevent you from attending weekend or evening activities.

Further, I understand completely if you just donít feel like going to activities, whether or not you have the time. Not every activity sounds fun or enriching. And if you prefer to watch TV or do your ironing instead of going out, I wonít argue with you.

However, ďDo I want to go?Ē is not the only question you should ask yourself when a Relief Society activity has been scheduled. Relief Society, like church in general, is not just about getting your needs met. It is also about being part of a group that sustains and fellowships its members.

Relief Society activities are not mandatory (Handbook 2, section 9.4.2), but they are vastly more successful when the women who can attend, do attend.

Which is why I think you should listen to your mother. You may not decide to take her advice, but you should at least consider why she gave it, as well as its substance. Mothers often know things from experience that daughters have not yet discovered. It is good to ponder a motherís advice, even when you donít feel inclined to take it.

Perhaps your mother gave you this advice because she sees you holding back from being fully integrated in your ward and wants you to participate more fully. She probably believes that both you and other members of your ward would benefit from your attendance and participation.

So the next time a Relief Society activity is announced, I think you should consider several items in addition to whether the topic sounds interesting to you.

First, supporting the person in charge. Planning church activities is not, in my opinion, an enviable assignment. Not only do you have to plan something you hope will be useful and enjoyable to the members of your organization, you have to wait around nervously to see if anyone shows up. You are also, very often, treated to blunt criticism of your efforts.

It is therefore a kindness to the person in charge when you attend a Relief Society activity, even if it does not sound like your cup of tea. It is especially considerate to attend if the person in charge is new to the ward or new to her calling. Your presence is a visible expression of support for her.

Second, helping your wardís fellowship efforts. Relief Society activities promote friendship and affection among the women in your ward. For members who have just been baptized or who have just moved into your ward, activities provide new social opportunities to replace the ones they left behind.

For long-time members, especially the women who work in Young Women and Primary, activities provide an opportunity to refresh old relationships and meet the new people in the ward. And for less active members, activities can be a step towards regular attendance.

But for all this effort to bear fruit, active women who are well integrated into the ward must attend the activities and befriend those women who are not well integrated. The Relief Society presidency and committee cannot run the meeting and give the class and sit next to each attendee. Therefore, the job of extending individual attention to new, less active and visiting women must be filled by other women who attend the meeting.

Do not excuse yourself from this duty to fellowship by saying you are not that important and that no one will notice if you are not there. It is true that your absence may not be noticed, but that is not the point. The point is that your presence will be noticed and greatly appreciated, especially if you sit with or talk to a person you do not know.

Third, service. Even if the activity does not meet your needs, it probably meets the needs of other women in the ward. You can help it succeed, and thereby help those women, by attending.

If you visit teach or are friends with a less-active woman, a woman who is new to the ward or a woman who is too shy to go alone, you can help her enjoy the activity by attending with her. You could offer to drive a woman who would like to go, but who does not have a car or who does not drive at night.

Finally, a word about the inevitable handouts and do-dads that Relief Society activities tend to produce. If these are neither useful nor enjoyable to you, you donít have to make, take or keep them.

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