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The General Relief Society Presidents Speak to Women

Image of Jesus and woman
image of E Hale Smith

Emma Hale Smith

First General President of the Relief Society, 1842–1844

“I desire the Spirit of God to know and understand myself, that I might be able to overcome whatever of tradition or nature that would not tend to my exaltation in the eternal worlds. I desire a fruitful, active mind, that I may be able to comprehend the designs of God, when revealed through His servants without doubting.”

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Eliza R. Snow

Second General President of the Relief Society, 1866–1887

“There are many of the sisters whose labors are not known beyond their own dwellings and perhaps not appreciated there. But what difference does that make? If your labors are acceptable to God, however simple the duties, if faithfully performed, you should never be discouraged.”

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Zina D. H. Young

Third General President of the Relief Society, 1888–1901

“Seek for a testimony, as you would, my dear sisters, for a diamond concealed. If someone told you by digging long enough in a certain spot you would find a diamond of unmeasured wealth, do you think you would begrudge time or strength, or means spent to obtain that treasure? . . . If you will dig in the depths of your own hearts you will find, with the aid of the Spirit of the Lord, the pearl of great price, the testimony of the truth of this work.”

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Bathsheba W. Smith

Fourth General President of the Relief Society, 1901–1910

“It is plainly necessary that women as well as men, cease not while life lasts to study diligently for the knowledge which is of greatest worth. When I heard the Gospel I knew it was true. When I first read the Book of Mormon, I knew it was inspired of God; when I first beheld Joseph Smith I knew I stood face to face with a prophet of the living God, and I had no doubt in my mind about his authority.”

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Emmeline B. Wells

Fifth General President of the Relief Society, 1910–1921

“I desire to do all in my power to help elevate the condition of my own people, especially women. I have desired with all my heart to do those things that would advance women in moral and spiritual as well as educational work and tend to the rolling on of the work of God upon the earth.”

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Clarissa S. Williams

Sixth General President of the Relief Society, 1921–1928

“This great trust which the Prophet Joseph Smith gave to women eighty years ago has been a great blessing, not only to the Relief Society women but to the communities in which they have lived. Through our organization the gospel has been preached, the needy have been looked after, the sick have been comforted, the downhearted have been cheered, a message of love and of blessing has ever emanated from Relief Society workers.”

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Louise Yates Robison

Seventh General President of the Relief Society, 1928–1939

“Although our records are well kept, there is no human power which can give an account of the deeds of loving kindness performed by our Relief Society members.”

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Amy Lyman

Eighth General President of the Relief Society, 1940–1945

“No work could be more important and satisfying than that of helping to raise human life to its highest level.”

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Belle S. Spafford

Ninth General President of the Relief Society, 1945–1974

“Women who become active in Relief Society grow to love it. Their knowledge and skills increase, their testimonies of the gospel become firmly rooted. There develops within them a desire to help in the building of the kingdom of God on earth. This influence they carry into their home and disseminate among the family members. The home then becomes enriched, a place where the Spirit of God may dwell, a home prepared to fulfill its divine destiny.”

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Barbara B. Smith

Tenth General President of the Relief Society, 1974–1984

“Women can begin in their own spheres— with their little children at home, among adult friends, in their extended families, and in their professions. But the important thing is to reach out in love to serve someone every day.”

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Barbara W. Winder

Eleventh General President of the Relief Society, 1984–1990

“It is vital that each sister have visiting teachers to convey a sense that she is needed, that someone loves and thinks about her. By assigning our women to do visiting teaching, we give them the opportunity to develop the pure love of Christ, which can be the greatest blessing of their lives.'

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Elaine L. Jack

Twelfth General President of the Relief Society, 1990–1997

 “I think of hope as a basketful of glorious spring flowers, each blossom representing one part of what my family, friends, and I hope for. Together these hopes are a radiant, abundant, fragrant bouquet. Hope remains an effervescent, expectant, happy part of life.'

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Mary Ellen Smoot 

Thirteenth General President of the Relief Society, 1997–2002

“My desire is to plead with our sisters to stop worrying about a phone call or a quarterly or monthly visit, and whether that will do, and concentrate instead on nurturing tender souls. Our responsibility is to see that the gospel flame continues to burn brightly. Our charge is to find the lost sheep and help them feel our Savior’s love.”

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Bonnie D. Parkin

Fourteenth General President of the Relief Society, 2002–2007

After receiving her calling, Sister Parkin prayed to know what the sisters of the Church needed. She felt this answer: “I received a strong witness that we, His daughters, need to know that He loves us. We need to know that He sees the good in us. Feeling His love encourages us to press forward, reassures us that we are His, and confirms to us that He cherishes us even when we stumble and experience temporary setbacks.”

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Julie B. Beck

Fifteenth General President of the Relief Society, 2007–2012

“The ability to qualify for, receive, and act on personal revelation is the single most important skill that can be acquired in this life. … It requires a conscious effort to diminish distractions, but having the Spirit of revelation makes it possible to prevail over opposition and persist in faith through difficult days and essential routine tasks. … We can feel certain that the Lord is pleased when we feel the Spirit working through us. With [personal revelation] we cannot fail; without it we cannot succeed.”

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Linda K. Burton

Sixteenth General President of the Relief Society, 2012–Present

I invite each of us to evaluate how much we love the Savior, using as a measure how joyfully we keep our covenants.

We might test ourselves by asking a few questions. With a little adaptation, these questions can apply to most of us, whether we are married or single, whatever our home situation might be.

  •      When was the last time I sincerely praised my companion, either alone or in the presence of our children?
  •      When was the last time I thanked, expressed love for, or earnestly pleaded in faith for him or her in prayer?
  •      When was the last time I stopped myself from saying something I knew could be hurtful?
  •      When was the last time I apologized and humbly asked for forgiveness—without adding the words “but if only you had” or “but if only you hadn’t”?
  •      When was the last time I chose to be happy rather than demanding to be “right”?