Growing up in the Depression, President Thomas S. Monson watched his mother care for hungry, unemployed men who came to her kitchen door asking for food.
"Mother would welcome such a visitor and would direct him to the kitchen sink to wash up while she prepared food for him to eat. As he wolfed down the food, Mother counseled him to return to his home and family. When he left the table, he had been nourished physically and spiritually."Speaking during the General Relief Society Meeting Sept. 27, President Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency, continued: "But what of today. Are there not hungry souls to feed? Are there not greetings to share? Are there not visits to be made? As I contemplate the Relief Society of today, . . . I turn to our Heavenly Father for His divine guidance."
In that spirit, President Monson provided three goals for "each member of the Relief Society throughout the world" to meet: Gain knowledge through study; make home a heaven and find joy in service.
President Monson was the concluding speaker during the General Relief Society Meeting, which was telecast from the Salt Lake Tabernacle via the Church satellite network to 3,000 meetinghouses in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean. President Gordon B. Hinckley presided over the meeting. Also attending were President James E. Faust, second counselor in the First Presidency, and President Boyd K. Packer, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve. Present as priesthood advisers to the Relief Society were Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve and Elder Harold G. Hillam of the Presidency of the Seventy.
Speaking during the annual meeting for the first time as members of the Relief Society general presidency were Gen. Pres. Mary Ellen W. Smoot, who also conducted, and her counselors Virginia U. Jensen and Sheri L. Dew. Also present were members of the Young Women and Primary general presidencies, members of the Relief Society General Board and former Relief Society general presidents Elaine L. Jack, Barbara B. Winder and Barbara B. Smith and counselors with whom they served.
During his address, President Monson spoke with his usual warmth, sharing touching and sometimes amusing personal accounts. He encouraged the women of the Church: "Remember the past; learn from it. Contemplate the future; prepare for it. Live in the present; serve in it. Therein is the mighty strength of the Relief Society of this Church."
President Monson expanded on the three goals he suggested for Relief Society sisters:
- Gain knowledge through study. "In a vital revelation which has universal impact, the Lord declared: `And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.' "
Continuing, President Monson explained: "During the next two years, . . . members of the Relief Society and holders of the Melchizedek Priesthood will each be studying the teachings of the prophet Brigham Young. The manual has been painstakingly prepared; it is beautifully printed and bound, with highly relevant discussion items featured. The lesson material will be taught during the Relief Society period on two Sundays of the month and likewise to the brethren of the Melchizedek Priesthood for two Sundays. On the remaining Sundays, the conventional matters of Relief Society and priesthood quorum work will go forward.
"My dear sisters, this is your day. This is your time. The holy scriptures adorn our bookshelves. Make certain they provide nourishment to our minds and guidance for our lives."
- Make home a heaven. "Home - that marvelous place - was meant to be a haven called heaven where the Spirit of the Lord might dwell.
"In such a house will be found happy, smiling children who have been taught, by precept and example, the truth. In a Latter-day Saint home children are not simply tolerated, but welcomed; not commanded, but encouraged; not driven, but guided; not neglected, but loved.
"Years pass, and children become more independent. They move away from mother's protective care, but they are ever influenced by mother's teachings, mother's example and mother's love." Continuing, President Monson spoke to women in the Relief Society who are not married. "Death, divorce and indeed lack of opportunity to marry have in many instances made it necessary for a woman to stand alone. In reality, sisters, she need not stand alone, for a loving Heavenly Father will be by her side to give direction to her life and provide peace and assurance in those quiet moments where loneliness is found and where compassion is needed."
- Find joy in service. "At times the call to service extended to a member of the Relief Society is a bit unusual. Such an assignment I share with you in closing."
President Monson then related the experience of a sister to whom he extended a calling when he served as bishop of the Sixth-Seventh Ward in Salt Lake City when the Relief Society Magazine was still being published by the Church. "Prayerfully my counselors and I analyzed the names of the individuals whom we could call to be magazine representative."
He called Elizabeth Keachie to that position, and she and her sister-in-law, Helen Ivory, began canvassing the entire ward, house by house, street by street, and block by block. "The result was phenomenal. We had more subscriptions to the Relief Society Magazine than had been recorded by all the other units of our stake combined," President Monson declared.
Then-Bishop Monson congratulated Sister Keachie and said, "Your task is done," to which she replied, "Not yet, Bishop. There are two blocks we have not yet covered."
President Monson explained that he told her it wasn't necessary because that area was industrial. Sister Keachie insisted on checking herself.
Her persistence paid off. The "two sweet sisters" found a home not visible from the street where lived William Ringwood and his 93-year-old father, Charles W. Ringwood. Their membership records had been in the lost file of the Presiding Bishopric's Office for many years.
Not long after, Charles Ringwood received his endowment in the Salt Lake Temple and, with Elizabeth Keachie serving as proxy, was sealed to his deceased wife.
"Sisters, may we gain knowledge through study. May we make home a heaven. May we find joy in service. By so doing, we shall experience the fulfillment of the Lord's promise: `I, the Lord, am well pleased.' "
Offering the invocation at the General Relief Society Meeting was Primary Gen. Pres. Patricia P. Pinegar; the benediction was given by Delia Rochon, a member of the Relief Society General Board.
A thrilling moment during the evening was during the singing of the closing hymn, "Lord, I Would Follow Thee." As organist Linda Margetts began to play, director Merrilee Webb motioned for the choir - comprised of Relief Society members from the Sandy and Midvale Utah stakes - and congregation to stand together. The blending of thousands of women's voices reverberated throughout the historic Tabernacle on Temple Square.