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The Purpose of Relief Society: Moving His Work Forward

The Relief Society, the world’s longest-running organization for women, has recently made changes to its purpose statement.

"Seek out & relieve the distressed." -Emma Smith

One hundred seventy-five years ago, on March 17, 1842, Joseph Smith formally organized early Latter-day Saint women into an organization called Relief Society. Today, this organization is still blessing the lives of millions of people around the world. Mormon Newsroom has highlighted the purposes of Relief Society in the article “Mormon Women Mark the 175th Anniversary of Relief Society.”

Emma Smith, wife of the Prophet Joseph Smith, was the first Relief Society president; she stated that the purpose of Relief Society was “to seek out and relieve the distressed.” While Relief Society continues to provide much temporal relief around the world, Emma Smith’s original statement on the organization’s purposes “quickly expanded to include the spiritual as well as temporal needs of the Saints.” Although Relief Society still provides women with the opportunity to meet with other women and share spiritual experiences, insights, and guidance, those objectives have been adapted over the years to address changing needs.

As evidence of this, on March 9, 2017, Sister Linda K. Burton, then serving as Relief Society General President, announced a change to the written purpose of Relief Society. The new purpose reads, “Relief Society helps prepare women for the blessings of eternal life as they increase faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and His Atonement; strengthen individuals, families, and homes through ordinances and covenants; and work in unity to help those in need” (see The Purpose of Relief Society).

These changes have been made to further reflect what the Relief Society General Presidency believes Christ would have them focus on. Sister Burton stated, “We were impressed that He would first have us help His beloved daughters understand the doctrine of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, that their faith and righteousness might increase.” These changes are made in the hopes that the sisters of the Church will be able to better understand the divine purpose that every daughter of God possesses.

Read the full Mormon Newsroom article “Mormon Women Mark the 175th Anniversary of Relief Society.”


—Joshua Felix, Mormon Insights

feature image courtesy of lds media library

Find more insights

See a short video to learn more about 175 years of Relief Society.

Learn more about the work of the Relief Society on their homepage.

Learn more about women’s roles in the Church from the Mormon Insights article “The Divine Role of Women in the Church” by Katie Hollingsworth.

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