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'SOMETHING EXTRAORDINARY'

At the founding of Relief Society on March 17, 1842, Emma Smith, the Prophet Joseph Smith's wife and the organization's first president, told her sisters in the gospel: "We are going to do something extraordinary . . . we expect extraordinary occasions and pressing calls." (Minutes of the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo, March 17, 1842.) In the 150 years since 20 women met in that first meeting, the sisters of Relief Society have done many extraordinary things and done them extraordinarily well. Relief Society has grown steadily in numbers and influence.

During this sesquicentennial year, we celebrate the members of Relief Society - the daughters of God, the women of Zion, the saints in these latter days. We rejoice that Relief Society has grown to more than 3 million members, joined in a sisterhood across the neighborhoods and continents in 135 countries and territories.The Relief Society began on the frontier as women came together to meet the needs of their neighbors and friends. Sarah Kimball and Margaret Cook, married and single respectively, could see that with Sister Kimball's fabric and Sister Cook's sewing skills, they could make shirts for the men building the Nauvoo Temple. From their individual faith and mutual desire to serve came the idea of Relief Society.

Joseph Smith told the sisters: "Said Jesus ye shall do the work which ye see me do. These are the grand key words for the Society to act upon." (Minutes, June 9, 1842.) Relief Society women around the world continue to follow the admonition of the Savior and to bless others in myriad ways.

The sisterhood and support Relief Society women feel also show that when people come together in faith, they can become one in purpose. Contemporary sisters bond together, learning from each other because of varying circumstances. The original Relief Society members lived in diverse situations. They were 11 married women, two widows, six unmarried women and one whose marital status is unknown. They ranged in age from three teenagers to one woman in her 50s.

In Relief Society then and now, every woman is important. Eliza R. Snow, who served as a general Relief Society president, explained: "There is no sister so isolated, and her sphere so narrow but what she can do a great deal towards establishing the Kingdom of God upon the earth." (Woman's Exponent, Sept. 15, 1873.) Across the continents, Relief Society women build the kingdom of God one person and one home at a time.

Relief Society was organized because the women of Nauvoo knew they could do "something extraordinary" when they joined together in their faith, their skills, their commodities and their time.

The events of Relief Society's 150 years make all of us aware of the value of good women. The inspiring accomplishments of sisters past and present motivate all of us to increase our faith and our willingness to serve. In activities of Relief Society sisters throughout time and the world, we see the embodiment of testimony and fortitude. Surpassing tremendous obstacles, women have endured and prospered, sustained by their covenants with the Lord and their unique sisterhood. President Joseph F. Smith explained the importance of this great worldwide sisterhood to all Latter-day Saint women:

"This is an organization that was established by the Prophet Joseph Smith. It is, therefore, the oldest auxiliary organization of the Church and it is of the first importance. It has not only to deal with the necessities of the poor, the sick, and the needy, but a part of its duty - and the larger part, too - is to look after the spiritual welfare and salvation of the mothers and daughters of Zion; to see that none is neglected, but that all are guarded against misfortune, calamity, the power of darkness, and the evils that threaten them in the world." (Conference report, April 1906.)

Through the works of women, done under the auspices of Relief Society, we learn about the core gospel principles of charity, integrity, hard work, education, loyalty and sisterhood. We also learn about Latter-day Saint women's support of families as wives, mothers, grandmothers, sisters, daughters, aunts and friends. In all aspects of their lives, Relief Society sisters make "charity never faileth" more than their organization's motto; they make it the personal motto by which they live.

The Relief Society sesquicentennial is an opportune occasion to recall the individual contributions of Latter-day Saint women and to recommit to the principles upon which Relief Society is based. The First Presidency spoke for all Church members in saying: "We rejoice in the organization of Relief Society, in its mission, and in the good that comes to the entire world because of the women who are its members." (Letter to priesthood leaders, Aug. 1, 1991.)