Zelophehad’s Daughters

Authenticity in Relief Society

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Sally raised this great question on Eve’s “Relief Society Goes Berserk” thread:

I am teaching RS tomorrow on unity and have been thinking alot about what creates unity. One post mentioned that we don’t have “authentic voices” in RS, we don’t share our struggles because we need to put on our happy faces at church to fit in with the rest of the happy faces.
How can we mourn with those that mourn, comfort those who stand in need of comfort if those needs are carefully kept hidden? I love the “good new minutes” in RS because I feel like I get to know the sisters better, hearning of their joys. But how can we share bad news? I wouldn’t want RS to turn into a session for complaining, especially about others in our lives. So how can we open up to each other so we can better see in each other’s hearts?

11 Responses to “Authenticity in Relief Society”

  1. 1.

    Sally: I’m teaching the same lesson tomorrow, and I’m mostly drawing from this speech by Elaine Jack and this one by Chieko Okazaki.

  2. 2.

    Our RS has a good news minute, but it is ok to tell about sad/bad/unhappy news, too. I call it ‘not-so-good news’

  3. 3.

    Deborah,
    Which speeches are those? I am drawing quite a bit from Virginia Pearce’s “A Heart Like His”. We are told to stick to the lesson manual and not bring in other resource.I try, but the manual just doesn’t seem relevant most of the time.

  4. 4.

    I notice that there are posts about Sunday school and primary lessons. There are probably enough of us teaching RS. It would be so great if we had a place to post our thoughts in preparing these lessons and get ideas from each other. I am always looking for insights into the lessons – I really try to have the sisters leave the class thinking about things in a way they hadn’t before.

  5. 5.

    I think VT, when run right, makes this possible. I think sometimes we need to also be willing to open up during disucssions and share our hard times. That requires us to be willing as well as others to be receptive and RS be a place that is safe.

    Recently our presidency was meeting with a Church leader. He commented that he wished Relief Society and priesthood meetings would be places where we would be able to say to one another, “Sisters, or brothers, I’m struggling right now. Will you help me?” I have been in Relief Society meetings like that. I will always remember the Sunday morning when testimonies were being borne and a single sister shared with us the loneliness of her life. She had experienced betrayal, a divorce, and subsequent financial hardships as she tried to work and raise her children on a small income. Now she knew the pain of loneliness as her grown children were gone from her home. The moment was sweet, the Spirit strong, and I saw sisters rallying around her, doing what we do best: love. The Relief Society room was a holy place that day. It was what every Relief Society room should be for each sister.

    Kathleen H. Hughes, “In Covenant with Him,” Ensign, Nov. 2003, 108

  6. 6.

    Sally: Click on the links in my first comment and it will take you right to them. Jack uses several of the same scriptures as the manual . . .

  7. 7.

    I’ve been wondering about similar questions. I too like Relief Society much better when people talk honestly about their experience and their struggles. But if you encourage that kind of thing, are you in danger of opening up a gripefest? I have to admit that I’m having a hard time thinking of even one instance when I’ve felt the latter has happened in an RS meeting I’ve been in–but that could simply demonstrate that I’m oblivious. ;) The meetings that make me the craziest are the ones in which everyone dutifully recites the “right” answers and you’re left with the impression that no one in your ward ever doubts or gets mad or anything like that.

    But I think it can be challenging to have an environment in which people actually talk. If Sister A says, “I have this problem,” and Sister B immediately responds, “well if you would just listen to the prophet, you wouldn’t have that problem,” it’s not likely that anyone else is going to admit to any problems.

    I also feel like there’s a certain amount of pressure to give stories happy endings. When I’ve shared personal experiences, I’ve frequently found myself falling into that narrative pattern–“I had such-and-such trial, but now it’s all better.” I’ve been trying to do that less, to at times say things like, “this is something that’s still quite difficult for me” instead of tacking a resolution on the end–because I’ve appreciated it when I’ve heard others do that. It’s reassured me that church is for people who are muddling through as best they can, not just for those who’ve figured everything out.

  8. 8.

    So after complaining about my Primary calling in another comment, I just got released today and called to be Compassionate Service Leader (also my first RS calling). Does anyone have experiences or ideas about this concept of “authenticity of relief” that could help me in this calling?

  9. 9.

    I notice that there are posts about Sunday school and primary lessons. There are probably enough of us teaching RS. It would be so great if we had a place to post our thoughts in preparing these lessons and get ideas from each other. I am always looking for insights into the lessons – I really try to have the sisters leave the class thinking about things in a way they hadn’t before.

    That’s a great idea. We’re talking about attempting something along those lines with the lessons from the manual for next year, so stay tuned.

  10. 10.

    Lynette: It’s a great idea — I was thinking about something similar. Want to do a joint ZD/ExII venture of some kind (“Wondertwin powers, ACTIVATE. Form of MEATIER LESSONS”)?

  11. 11.

    Deborah, absolutely! I was actually thinking that we should talk to you all at ExII about this, especially since you’ve done some great RS lesson-related posts in the past. I’ll send you an email.

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