Families are strengthened when the adult female members of the family are active in Relief Society. Attendance at Relief Society helps women to know and understand their duties and responsibilities in strengthening homes and families. Relief Society is an organization for women that was inspired by God and was organized after the pattern of the priesthood.
Nearly seventeen years ago at the annual general Relief Society meeting, President Gordon B. Hinckley told the sisters, "You are the guardians of the hearth," and then he introduced "The Family: A Proclamation to the World."
President Hinckley continued, "You are the bearers of the children. You are they who nurture them and establish within them the habits of their lives. No other work reaches so close to divinity as does the nurturing of the sons and daughters of God."
This proclamation has been reinforcing since 1995 the principle that our most important duties are centered in strengthening families and homes. It doesn't matter what other circumstances we have, our responsibility is to strengthen homes and families. I remember being in that Relief Society meeting and hearing the proclamation for the very first time. I was amazed at the width and the breadth of the information contained in it. I was grateful to belong to a church that was - and is - led by Apostles and Prophets under the direction of Jesus Christ.
Sister Barbara Thompson, now the second counselor in the Relief Society general presidency was in the tabernacle for the historic event. She remembers, "That was a great occasion. I felt the significance of the message. I also found myself thinking, `This is a great guide for parents. It is also a big responsibility for parents.' I thought for a moment that it really didn't pertain too much to me since I wasn't married and didn't have any children. But almost as quickly I thought, `But it does pertain to me. I am a member of a family. I am a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a cousin, a niece, and a granddaughter. I do have responsibilities - and blessings - because I am a member of a family. Even if I were the only living member of my family, I am still a member of God's family, and I have a responsibility to help strengthen other families.'"
Yes, we are each responsible to strengthen homes and families, but we are not alone in our efforts. Sister Thompson reminds each of us, "The greatest help we will have in strengthening families is to know and follow the doctrines of Christ and rely on Him to help us."
Relief Society sisters have been instrumental in strengthening homes and families for many years. Sister Bathsheba W. Smith served as the fourth Relief Society general president [from 1901 to 1910], and she saw the need then to strengthen families. She established mother education lessons for Relief Society sisters and included in those lessons counsel on marriage, prenatal care, and child rearing.
In fact, we can see that those lessons supported the teachings of President Joseph F. Smith about the Relief Society helping women in their roles at home: "Wherever there is ignorance or at least a lack of understanding in regard to the family, duties of the family, with regard to obligations that should exist and that do rightfully exist between husband and wife and between parents and children, there this organization [Relief Society] exists or is near at hand, and by the natural endowments and inspiration that belongs to the organization they are prepared and ready to impart instruction with reference to those important duties."
I remember attending mother education lessons as a mother of very young children and gaining much knowledge and hearing much wisdom from other mothers who had more experience than I did. I am grateful for those lessons and the great assistance they gave to me in strengthening my home and teaching my children.
I have a great testimony of the Relief Society and the important role it plays in our lives. I am also very grateful for this great organization and the way it has strengthened me and my family for many years. My mother and grandmothers were members of Relief Society as are my sisters and daughters; I am hopeful that my granddaughters and great-granddaughters will continue this great heritage. I know it is an inspired program to help women strengthen home and families. I am grateful that our Heavenly Father loves all of His daughters so much that He gave us our own organization to bless our lives and to strengthen others.