News Release

Relief Society—now 170 and aging beautifully!

Ronda Wakeley became affiliated with the Relief Society of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Sydney when she was eighteen. This year Ronda joins 6 million women worldwide in celebrating the 170th birthday of the organisation.

"The society was founded in 1842," says Ronda, "to help its members increase faith and personal righteousness, strengthen families and homes, and seek out and help those in need."

"Still today it is doing just that and doing it beautifully," says Ronda, now a grandmother and the current President of the Dural Ward (parish) Relief Society in New South Wales.

Said to be the largest and oldest association of its kind, Relief Society is organized in every Mormon congregation. Young women become part of the society at age eighteen.

"As they participate, they learn life skills that prepare them to meet challenges with faith and confidence," says Ronda. "Mingling with women in all stages of life raises their perspective of what is worthwhile and lasting."
After a Sacrament worship service for all members each Sunday, the women meet together to study scriptures, discuss ways of enriching family life, and organize assistance to others.

"Special activities at other times often include sharing home and garden ideas, lectures on history or cultures, and service in the community," Ronda explains.

She and her two counsellors, as in every ward, make sure that their members are on hand to help with new babies, deaths, and 3motional and health concerns that arise in the families of the other members.

"It is not only the nature of women to want to care for those they know who are in need," says President Wakeley, "but also to reach out to women in the larger scene who are struggling."

In an effort to bring relief to the suffering, many Relief Society units in Australia turned the Relief Society annual birthday party into a service party. What happened in Adelaide is a good example.

On 17 March, 120 women of the Modbury Stake (diocese) put together 100 Baby Bundles, 150 Children's Kits, and 100 Necessity Kits for women in difficult times. The kits and 50 cot quilts made by women from around South Australia were presented to SPARK Resource Centre, which offers practical and emotional support for sole parents and single pregnant women.

The Church's Humanitarian Program provided the funding for the project. MP Frances Bedford (Member for Florey) took part in the project along with Salisbury Mayor Gillian Aldridge and Tea Tree Gully Councillor Matthew Harbinson.

Ms Bedford said, "On behalf of those who will benefit from your service I say 'thank-you'. Helping because you can–-not because you have to--brings with it a sense of belonging; and by strengthening the whole, we all share in a better future."

Looking to the future has been fundamental to Relief Society since its inception. Lucy Mack Smith, one of the original twenty members said, "We must cherish one another, watch over one another, comfort one another and gain instruction, that we may all sit down in heaven together."

"We also sit down together here on earth," says Ronda, explaining the society's unique Visiting Teaching program.

"Sisters, as they often are called, are assigned two by two as special friends to others in the group. Each sister receives a monthly visit from her Visiting Teachers, during which a spiritual message is discussed and experiences are shared. The Visiting Teachers are the first point of contact should one of their sisters suddenly need support beyond that of the family."

"I love Relief Society and everything about it," says Ronda. "It is perfect for women."

Current Relief Society membership is more than six million women worldwide. The Relief Society motto is "Charity Never Faileth". The organization's Declaration of beliefs can be read here . 

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