Women in the greater Chattanooga area celebrated 178 years of Relief Society. Relief Society is the women’s organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, one of the largest and oldest women’s organizations in the world. Its motto is, “Charity never faileth” (1 Corinthians 13:8), based on the teachings of Jesus Christ to go about doing good (Acts 10:38).
President Joseph F. Smith taught that Relief Society has its own unique identity and that it was “divinely made, divinely authorized, divinely instituted, and divinely ordained of God to minister” (1914, Church Minutes). Since 1842, Relief Society has engaged in philanthropic efforts around the world and at home, including administering to the temporal and spiritual needs of others. Its work is far-reaching and immeasurable.
In Chattanooga, most recently Relief Society has been involved in tornado and COVID-19 relief efforts. In Utah, Relief Society is a sponsor of Project Protect – a project undertaken by Intermountain Health Care, The University of Utah and Latter-day Saint Charities to make 5 million medical-grade masks in five weeks for health care employees in Utah hospitals and clinics. “Thousands of Relief Society sisters have made more than 5 million surgical masks,” President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said. The clinical masks are now being distributed to Utah health care workers. It was the largest Utah-based volunteer effort since the 2002 Olympic Winter Games.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has now become the largest-ever humanitarian project of the Church,” President Nelson continued. “Any way you want to measure it, this is now the largest. Thus far, we have participated in more than 500 projects in 160 countries now, spending many millions of dollars. Where does all that money come from?” he asked. “Mostly from our members. Their voluntary fast offerings have actually increased – and their voluntary contributions to our humanitarian funds have increased greatly.”
These contributions include those from Relief Society members and others in the greater Chattanooga area, which also made possible a donation of 40,000 lbs. of food to the Chattanooga food bank. Sister Wendy Nelson said, “It seems like [the pandemic] is unleashing this great compassionate heart that people have.” About these times, President Nelson said, “The road ahead will always be bumpy but the destination will be serene and secure. So fasten your seat belt, hang on through the bumps, do what’s right and your rewards will be eternal.”
As we hang on together, what a reason to celebrate 178 years of Relief Society – an organization commissioned for “the relief of poverty, relief of illness; relief of doubt, relief of ignorance – relief of all that hinders joy” (John A. Widtsoe, Evidences and Reconciliations, p. 308).