Symbolizing the golden links of the chain that bonds Relief Society sisters throughout the world, women of five continents participated March 14 in a satellite broadcast to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Relief Society.
"Never before have so many women in the world sat down together to pray, sing and speak to each other the feelings of our hearts - to share the ways the Lord has blessed us as women, and as members of His Church," Elaine L. Jack, Relief Society general president, said after she gave a welcome to sisters in five of their native languages - English, German, French, Mandarin and Spanish.Speakers at the broadcast included President Thomas S. Monson, second counselor in the First Presidency (see separate story on this page); Pres. Jack; and her counselors, Chieko N. Okazaki, first counselor; and Aileen H. Clyde, second counselor.
Elders L. Tom Perry, James E. Faust and Dallin H. Oaks of the Council of the Twelve; and Elders James M. Paramore and W. Mack Lawrence of the Seventy also attended the broadcast.
The telecast, originating from Temple Square in Salt Lake City, was beamed by the Church's satellite system to meetinghouses in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Haiti, the West Indies and the Dominican Republic. In addition, the telecast was transmitted to Relief Society sisters in Versailles, France; Frankfurt, Germany; Manchester, England; Johannesburg, South Africa; Sydney, Australia; Auckland, New Zealand; Tokyo, Japan; Seoul, Korea; Taipei, Taiwan; and Manila, Philippines. The broadcast was simultaneously translated into 14 languages.
Sisters worldwide were represented at the broadcast through song, prayers, talks and pictures. Ti-Chien Chen offered the invocation in Chinese and a Polynesian choir sang during the meeting. Videotaped messages of five international Relief Society leaders from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe; Mexico City, Mexico; Seoul, Korea; Sydney, Australia; and Frankfurt, Germany, were shown.
The broadcast also featured Pres. Jack in a videotaped historical tribute from Nauvoo, Ill., the site of the organization of Relief Society on March 17, 1842.
"We are 150 years old, but today we feel new and vibrant," Pres. Jack remarked. "We are full of expectations for our sisters everywhere. . . . Our individual lives, the circumstances of our challenges are as diverse as the countries and cultures we come from. Yet our commitment is the same."
Drawing an analogy of climbing mountains with her family to climbing spiritual mountains, Pres. Jack said: "I have never forgotten the awe and accomplishment I experienced when I stood at the top of a mountain and looked out on this wide and wonderful world.
"Today, my beloved Relief Society sisters, we join hands around the world while we stand on another type of peak. From this pinnacle of 150 years of Relief Society, we survey the rich fruits of charity sown from seeds of faith in 135 countries and territories. How satisfying it is to see testimonies built, individuals blessed, charity developed and exercised, families strengthened and sisterhood enjoyed by over 3 million Relief Society members.
"Your vantage point may actually be a mountain top. It may be the knoll of a grassy plain or a mound of sand in the desert. It could be a favorite stretch of beach or the icy crest of a snow-packed hill. It may be the top step of your own front porch.
"Whatever your perspective, today I ask you to stand arm in arm with me and look up! Let us climb together to new spiritual heights," Pres. Jack admonished. "I ask you to undertake with me a spiritual journey worthy of our best efforts. I ask you to press forward with me in the quest for unparalleled levels of personal spirituality. Let us seek keener vision and stronger hearts. Let us make `Charity Never Faileth' a motto of such personal significance that the whole world will be blessed by us, the daughters of God who are the sisters of Relief Society."
She continued: "With this broadcast we join as we never have before. Never in the history of the Church have the women of Zion been linked so closely together. This is symbolic, reminding us that we come together in the greatest of all causes, the gospel of Jesus Christ."
Pres. Jack counseled the women to look to the Lord, who is the Light, as they climb mountains by overcoming challenges - especially those in their own backyards.
"Show that light to your family, and those who feel like family. . . . Light a torch of faith at home and keep it burning brilliantly even when the night is long and the journey difficult."
With emotion, she continued: "Today, arm in arm and hand in hand, we stand together on sand or rock or the steps of home. We look together in the direction of our heavenly home. May you, a member of Relief Society and my sister, seek and find the loftiest, personal spiritual heights. May the peaks of spiritual awareness fill your soul with joy and inspire you to look up and to press on. And may this ascent we share witness in every home and in every nation `That He lives!' "
Sister Okazaki called on Relief Society sisters to increase their personal spirituality by uniting in sisterhood and by serving others with Christlike love.
"It is the desire in individual hearts that powers not only small, individual acts of service but also the great acts that become mass movements and even revolutions. You have that power, too," she remarked.
Sister Okazaki shared the story of Jesus healing the blind beggar, saying it was a lesson about service for women today. Jesus spat on the ground, rubbed the mud on the man's eyes, and told him to wash his face in the pool of Siloam. (John 9:1-7.)
"Sometimes we think we can't serve because we're not rich enough or not educated enough or not old enough or not young enough. Remember, if we have the desire to serve, then our bare hands, a little spit, and a little dirt are enough to make a miracle."
In her address, Sister Clyde remarked: "We marvel together at our diversity of place, of language, of culture and even of personal description. We celebrate the power demonstrated by this great international society that binds us together with unity of purpose and sisterhood.
"From the beginnings 150 years ago Relief Society has offered women ways to strengthen their own lives and ways to help strengthen the lives of others. The others might be our own family, our neighbor or the stranger who has come to our awareness. The ways sometimes come by assignment and often come from personal initiative. The needs are everywhere and the key to our ability to meet them is Christ's admonition that we love one another as He has loved us."
The combined women's choirs of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Mormon Youth Chorus provided music for the meeting.
Spring flowers decorated the tabernacle and a lighted seal of the Relief Society emblem with the organization's motto "Charity Never Faileth," graced the front of the podium, adding to the significance of the celebration.