The “Relief” of Relief Society

This morning I called home to chat with my mom while I worked on some cleaning.  I called her cell phone and (not atypically) she didn’t answer.  Whenever she doesn’t answer her cell phone I call the house line, since it’s not uncommon for her cell phone to be on vibrate, in the car, out of battery etc.  However, it seems like whenever I call the house she’s in the middle of doing something important and ignoring my call intentionally, but if I don’t call the other line then I’ll talk to her later and she’ll say “Oh darn!  If you had called the house I was just doing dishes and I would have loved to have talked to you then!”  I’m a big believer in Murphy’s Law, but no really, this is how it works every. single. time.  So I now joke with my mom that I call the house just so that she has important things that need to be done.

Anyways, so today I called the house line after failing to reach my mom on her cell phone and had this conversation –

Person on the other end (not my mom): Anderson residence?
Me: Oh, uhm, hi, is Kerry there?
Person on the other end: Oh hi, is this Brittny?
Me (starting to recognize the other person as a sister in my mom’s ward): Yes
Sister Hendrickson: Yeah, your mom is here but they’re having a wedding in their yard right now which is why she didn’t answer.  But I’ll let her know to call you back ok?
Me: Oh!  Uh, yeah, sure.  Thanks, bye!

Now before you go thinking that I’m a total flake for forgetting that there was a wedding at my parents’ house today… I had ZERO idea there was a wedding there today.  It was Monday morning.  My mom had been out of town all last week. She came home later Friday and spent Saturday helping out at their stake youth conference.  No one in my family had a pending engagement.  Why on earth would I have thought they’d be having a wedding at their house this morning??  Strangely though, I was only moderately surprised.  Like the amount of surprised you might be if someone were to come over and say “Hey, it’s not our friend’s birthday but I thought we’d take them over some cake today anyways.”  It was not what I’d expected, but, sure why not?  That sounded like something that might be going on at my parents’ house.

So later today I got the full story from my mom.  Apparently there is a couple who had been attending my parents’ ward on Sunday who was planning on getting married, but would have to wait for a temple sealing as the woman is getting baptized this coming Saturday.  Things had suddenly worked out this weekend that their family could all be in town and they’d decided to go to the courthouse to get married while they had that support.  When my mom heard this she leaned over to this woman and mentioned, “You know, my husband (the bishop in my parents’ ward) could marry you.”  The sister was gracious and mentioned that they had planned on having a backyard wedding but that things had fallen through.  A few minutes later my mom said, “You know, I have a backyard that you could get married in too.”  And so, it was arranged that the next morning there would be a wedding in my parents’ backyard.

What happened next was pretty cool.  That afternoon my mom sent out on her ward’s Relief Society email that they were having this little impromptu wedding ceremony at their house the next day and wondered if anyone could help make it a little bit special.  By the following morning there was a cake made, flowers arranged, seats set up, bows tied around chairs, gardening done, decorations put up, potted flowers volunteered, food for a luncheon prepared and live musicians arranged.  All to make a special day for a woman these Relief Society sisters barely even knew.

Impromptu wedding
My mom posted more pictures on her Facebook page.

As I was looking at the pictures of this event and feeling so blessed to have come from a ward that would do such a thing, I realized something.  What happened today at my parents home in California was remarkable… because it wasn’t remarkable.  Knowing my mom and the sisters in her ward, that’s pretty much what I would have expected would happen.  Not that I would expect that occasion, but given the circumstances, I was awed but not surprised at the outcome.  As I thought about it, that same thing could have happened in my ward here in Draper, Utah.  It could have happened in Eric’s home ward in Indiana.  It could have happened in my grandmother’s ward in Brisbane, Australia.  It could have happened anywhere where there were Relief Society sisters.  I saw just such service happen in my own ward a couple weeks ago as my ward sprang into action to help Kayson Shelton’s family after his passing.

Tonight as I had these events on my mind I thought I’d look at this month’s visiting teaching message.  This month’s message just happened to focus on ministering to those around us, and I read another story –

At the October 1856 general conference, President Brigham Young (1801–77) announced that handcart pioneers were still crossing the plains and that everyone was to help gather supplies for them immediately. Lucy Meserve Smith wrote that women “stripped off their petticoats [large underskirts], stockings, and every thing they could spare, right there in the Tabernacle, and piled [them] into the wagons.”

As the rescued pioneers began to arrive in Salt Lake City, Lucy wrote, “I never took more … pleasure in any labor I ever performed in my life, such a unanimity of feeling prevailed. I only had to go into a store and make my wants known; if it was cloth, it was measured off without charge.

It struck me that what was unique about what happened in my parents’ ward today, wasn’t the service given as much as the organization of the Relief Society itself.  When the Relief Society was first organized Sister Emma Smith said of it, “We are going to do something extraordinary. … We expect extraordinary occasions and pressing calls.”  What’s amazing, is that these seemingly incredible, insurmountable calls for service, are precisely what the Relief Society was created to fill – “extraordinary occasions and pressing calls”.  Sister Linda K. Burton said, “With practice, each of us can become more like the Savior as we serve God’s children.  … As we do so, we are keeping covenants, and our service, like President Monson’s, will be evidence of our discipleship.”  Sometimes I think we slight the Relief Society as just being about baking casseroles and arranging flowers.  We must remember that when we are doing those things, we are doing precisely what the Savior has asked us to do, to be”… the Lord’s hands here upon the earth, with the mandate to serve and to lift His children, ” as President Monson encouraged us.

Today as I reflected on some of the service given by various Relief Society sisters I felt overwhelmed with gratitude to be part of such an amazing sisterhood here on the earth.  Women have a different way of doing things than men, and I’m grateful that we have a divinely organized society that gives us the opportunity to use our unique talents to bless Heavenly Father’s children all around us.

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