What I got out of the Relief Society broadcast

Unlike some people I know, I always attend the General Relief Society broadcast–willingly and gladly. But not for any righteous purpose. I just like getting out of the house all by myself. I get out of the house by myself on a fairly regular basis, but due to their tangential religious connection(s), Relief Society meetings are like Get Out of the House Free cards. Not using them just seems like such a waste. Especially with the annual broadcast, which is held in a darkened room, I figure that if nothing else, I could always get a good nap in (if I were so inclined).

My usual habit, though, is to sit in the darkened room and take copious notes of what is said. I have to take notes or otherwise I will never pay attention, and I might miss something important. (No snickering. Sometimes it happens!) The notes have to be copious or otherwise I will lose focus and start thinking about something unedifying and/or irrelevant, and you already know where that sort of thing leads. Also, what if my husband decides to quiz me? (He never has before, but after this post he may start getting suspicious of all these “Relief Society meetings” I’m attending.)

I almost never revisit the notes I take during any church broadcast. It’s something I do purely to keep myself entertained and engaged. I end up writing a lot of what the speaker says, but occasionally I throw in my own commentary–you know, all the stuff I wouldn’t be comfortable whispering to the sister sitting next to me. (Not because it’s inappropriate, mind you, but she’s probably trying to pay attention herself and doesn’t need me interrupting her spiritual reverie or whatever it is she’s having. I sure don’t like when people interrupt me doodling in the margins, “I [heart] my Prophet, Seer & Revelator.”)

I was happy to see Sister Beck conducting–not because it was some pleasant surprise or anything, but because I had the opportunity to meet Sister Beck a few months ago and I have ever since been unable to look upon her with anything but great affection. I found out that she’s a tall woman. For some reason I had been under the impression that she was short. I don’t know why I would have had this impression, as it’s not easy to gauge someone’s actual height from looking at a televised image of a person standing behind a podium–and I wasn’t aware that I’d even had this impression until I saw her face to face and was struck by how wrong my impression had been. I can’t say that I had strong feelings about Sister Beck one way or the other before meeting her, but since meeting her she seems to me taller in every respect. Watching her onscreen on Saturday, I thought, “I like that Sister Beck. (Golly, she’s tall.)”

I just remembered that I had decided a while back that I would refer to Sister Beck as President Beck–mostly just for giggles, not for any political reason–but you can see that in real life I’m having difficulty with this. I think the best I’m going to be able to do is President-Sister Beck. I think I like that better anyway.

So the opening hymn was “There Is Sunshine in My Soul Today.” I only mention this because I’m reminded every time we sing that song that I really, really like that song–which is funny, because I’m totally not the kind of person who walks around with sunshine in her soul, today or otherwise–but I think the main reason I like that song so much is that most of our hymns about Jesus are about him suffering for our sins, and in this one he’s actually smiling. It has a cheering effect on me. But I should really get on with the meeting.

I for one was delighted when President-Sister Beck announced that we wouldn’t be using the name “Home, Family and Personal Enrichment” for our midweek Relief Society meetings anymore. I’ve always pretty much detested that name if only because it was so freaking long. Those of you who know me know how I feel about long names. I keep hoping they’ll change the name of the church to “George” someday. But getting rid of “Home, Family and Personal Enrichment” is certainly a step in the right direction, even if they’re just going to call it “mid-week Relief Society meeting” now. I guess that’s technically just as long as “Home, Family and Personal Enrichment,” but nevertheless it strikes me as a simplifying gesture. Because we have important work to do, and we’re too busy to come up with some frou-frou name! Why, with all the emphasis on local leaders being responsible for their own business, maybe women will feel empowered to call it whatever the heck they like (after counseling with their bishops, of course *cough*).

I appreciated the emphasis throughout the meeting on the importance of individuals and the need for local leaders to craft programs that cater to the specific needs of the sisters in their wards and branches and the inadequacy of large, centralized programs to meet those needs effectively. Maybe it’s a Republican thing, but I just love deregulation.

[Note: That was a joke, kids. If you have questions about the humor or appropriateness of such a joke, counsel amongst yourselves and decide what's funny or not funny. Don't hassle me about it!]

The choir sang “As Sisters in Zion.” I mention this because in my notes I wrote, “Can any arrangement save this song?” But I also noted that I was moved by the repetition of the final line, “Oh, give us the wisdom to truly succeed!” because Sister Beck had just finished talking about true success in Relief Society work, which had nothing to do with numbers and percentages and everything to do with the spiritual and temporal welfare of each sister. We will seem to forget that from time to time, surely–it’s inevitable that we will count visits and calculate percentages and check off lists–but we will also occasionally step back and realize what is truly needful. I loved the quote from Camilla Kimball: “Never suppress a generous thought.” It’s on my list of things to cross-stitch on a pillow, as soon as I start cross-stitching. (I will someday. You just wait.)

I’m not going to comment on every talk that was given, but suffice it to say that I found something I could appreciate in each one. Which is pretty good, considering the attitude I went in with.

I prefer to end on this note: the choir and congregation sang “How Firm a Foundation.” I mention this only because I also often forget how much I love this hymn, and this time I was particularly touched by the third and final verses. In fact, I couldn’t finish the last verse because it made me cry. Now, in the interest of full disclosure, you should probably know that Sister J has been crying at the drop of a hat lately. I cried when I found out my favorite talk show host’s mother had died, and I cried when I forgot my daughter’s piano lesson. That said, I still find these words particularly beautiful.

The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose
I will not, I cannot, desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, I’ll never, no never,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake!

In the context of this meeting this seemed to me not only God’s promise not to forsake us–a promise that has in my own life seemed awfully flimsy at times–but also our own promise not to forsake our fellow travelers. That is the greater purpose of Relief Society and the reason why they make us sit through ninety minutes of cheerleading for Relief Society each September. In practice Relief Society is often not what it’s supposed to be, and that is most likely why we need an annual reminder of how essential our individual participation is to its success–if we are to truly succeed.

This is what I got out of the Relief Society broadcast, despite the fact that I went mainly to participate in the light refreshments afterward. (Our stake really does food right, I have to tell you.) I did not really expect to be spiritually fed, nor had I prepared myself spiritually for the meeting. I put on a dress; that was my preparation. Just so it’s clear that I’m not making myself out to be all noble. I’m just glad I went and I took copious notes and didn’t miss anything important.

On a completely unrelated note, they served us pecan tassies afterward. Also totally undeserved on my part, but delicious nonetheless.

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Comments

  1. StillConfused says:

    “Maybe it’s a Republican thing, but I just love deregulation.” Love it!

  2. For some reason I had been under the impression that she was short. I don’t know why I would have had this impression

    I think I know why: Stalin-era-like cahoots where no one is allowed to (appear to) stand taller than the president of the church.

  3. I couldn’t sing that last hymn, either. I started singing sort of detached and then I realized, “OH, it’s THIS hymn.” I love that hymn.

    I like the verse that starts w/ ‘fear not’ too.

    I loved the meeting.

  4. What I love about that hymn in our hymnbook is that we have SEVEN verses! Most hymnals content themselves with 4, but no, Mormons want to sing about many varieties of affliction. Maybe the complaining Ardis was complaining about on that other thread is some deeply Mormon trait :)

  5. Kathryn Lynard Soper says:

    RJ, will you be my sister-president?

  6. “Sunshine in my soul”? Oh, blast it! And I was so hoping that would quietly disappear.

    And, Kristine, you know darn well that nobody ever sings all seven of those verses!

  7. I do :)

  8. I hereby protest the general cheeriness of this post, and Rebecca J’s failure to use any adjectives-rhyming-with-rapid to describe the meeting or any of its contents.

  9. Stalin-era-like cahoots where no one is allowed to (appear to) stand taller than the president of the church.
    I suspect that the roughly six-foot-tall President Monson feels unthreatened in the height department by the likes of Julie Beck.

  10. 8.
    Golden Star for Kaimi

  11. RE: As Sisters in Zion
    .
    I first heard/noticed this hymn while watching “Sisterz in Zion.” Seeing it change the hearts of the pilgrims from NYC as they sang it with the other EFY attenders gave me a favorable first impression of it that lingers.

  12. I just got this image of Kristine’s congregation ending “How Firm a Foundation” after verse 3 and Kristine going on for four more verses. They have to escort her out of the building. That’s what’s awesome about Kristine.

    I think another reason why I like “There Is Sunshine in My Soul” is because it reminds me of this guy I knew in seminary who would show up to class each morning in his bathrobe. It was his favorite hymn. Don’t ask me why I have such fond memories of Bathrobe Guy. It just impressed me, that’s all.

  13. manaen – You have piqued my curiosity!

  14. Being interrupted while doodling in the margins “I [heart] my Prophet, Seer, & Revelator” is considerably more preferrable to being interrupted while doodling in the margins by someone saying, “I [heart] my Prophet, Seer, & Relevator.”

  15. Rebecca, you and Kathryn should post on the same subjects more often. Puts the fun right back in BCC.

    As an aside, when my husband was chorister we’d sing all of the verses of all hymns. It would have been cool if only the pianist hadn’t turned everything into a dirge.

  16. ” Because we have important work to do, and we’re too busy to come up with some frou-frou name!”
    I would just call it RS2.

  17. Nice post, I’m glad you liked the Relief Society broadcast.

    I found this line a little intriguing:

    “In practice Relief Society is often not what it’s supposed to be”

    It would be interesting to have you elaborate on that.

  18. Unlike some people I know

    Good one, Rebecca. I haven’t made it through the rest of the post yet because I’m still laughing. There is nothing vapid about that opening line.

  19. From now on, I shall refer to it as “the meeting formerly known as Enrichment Night”, or the “meeting which shall not be named”.

    Since I’m in the bishopric, I’ll probably even get to call it that from the pulpit! :)

    Once, anyway!

  20. Ah shoot. I just read Kathryn’s post. Now I’d just be a plagiarist from the pulpit…

  21. Martin, I was just telling folks this morning that we should now refer to formerly-Enrichment meetings as the Meetings That Shall Not Be Named and the leader in charge of coordinating those meetings She Who Shall Not Be Named. Unfortunately, I’m only a librarian. I will need to live vicariously through you and your priesthood (if you don’t mind).

  22. I usually go to all the RS meetings for the same reason — since it’s a church meeting my husband will make sure I can get out of the house without the kids, and I don’t even have to reciprocate. It’s too good to pass up. That said, I didn’t make it to this meeting because we had way too many shopping errands that had to be done before Sunday. I appreciate the recap. I too love How Firm a Foundation, and like Kristine, I sing all 7 verses (or I did when I was chorister — I don’t have quite as much power to decide these days).

  23. I couldn’t make it through that hymn either, and I never cry at hymns. For some reason…

  24. “Get out of House Free” card.

    I’m totally stealing that.

  25. I have also wondered what can save that hymn. I like the lyrics. I tried changed the tune to the other hymns that have that same meter (that passes for fun on a mission). The options are Awake and Arise(8), Come Along (244) and the Time is far spent(266)..none of them are really satisfying. That should be some sort of Ensign continuing article (Can this hymn be saved?)

  26. Kevin Barney says:
  27. Kevin Barney says:

    Sorry abou that. I wrote “raising my arm to the square for changing the name of the Church to ‘George’,” but to be cute I put it in angle brackets, and the blog apparently interpreted that as html or something.

  28. “I appreciated the emphasis throughout the meeting on the importance of individuals and the need for local leaders to craft programs that cater to the specific needs of the sisters in their wards and branches and the inadequacy of large, centralized programs to meet those needs effectively.”

    That is what my wife told me after the meeting – and I personally agree completely with it.

    Also, that verse from “How Firm a Foundation” is one of my favorite from any hymn. The repetition just makes the beautiful message that much more powerful.

    Thanks, Rebecca.

  29. Apparently, Sidney Rigdon was quoting from the last verse of How Firm a Foundation in his July 4, 1838 “Salt Sermon.” Bringing on the Extermination Order and all manner of troubles. Perhaps we should omit it from our hymnal and leave it to the Luterans?

  30. who play it on lutes.

  31. Thomas Parkin says:

    while eating lutefisk. ~

  32. My thoughts on the RS broadcast can be summarized thusly: Everyone, everyone needs to watch/listen/read Sis. Thompson’s talk. Loved it.

  33. I got all choked up and had to stop singing at the end of How Firm too, and also tried very hard to contain eye rolling all through Sisters In Zion. No matter how they try to jazz that song up, it’s always just this side of hokey. I do love “The errand of angels is given to women” though.

    Congrats to you, this made me laugh out loud three times. That’s something!

  34. I remember being in the MTC with Elder Haight on the stand as we waited for the meeting to begin. As we did so, a chorister was leading us in some hymns. He announced that we would next sing “How Firm a Foundation” and was just about to bring us in when we saw Elder Haight struggle out of his chair, step forward, tap him on the shoulder, and tell him something. Then the chorister announced that, at Elder Haight’s request, we would sing the seventh verse.

    Later, in very brief remarks, Elder Haight spoke about the hymns of the church and mentioned how significant that verse should be for us as missionaries. Now I never sing that song without thinking of that charge, of Elder Haight, and of his oft-expressed love for all of us.

  35. I’ve always liked “As Sisters in Zion”, because it reminds me of the history of the RS and the strong women in the early days of the church. Emily Hill Woodmansee, who wrote the text, was in the Willie Handcart company and had a tough life in other ways (I just learned from her wikipedia article that her first husband left his families (plural) permanently after returning from a church mission — for which he had left them…). She was involved in the Women’s Suffrage movement. The other 6 verses of her poem left out of our hymn text (http://www.mormonshare.com/node/16153) show some of the many concerns of LDS women in the early church days. I’m glad we don’t sing those verses, though. The part about angels scanning our aims and our actions from morning till night is kind of creepy.

  36. I meant to add — I love “How Firm a foundation as well” — it also has a great story behind it and I really enjoyed your post — Thanks! I mostly enjoyed the RS broadcast as well, which I watched on the internet on Sunday evening. I’m hoping we can find a way to show it to the RS sisters in our Lagos, Nigeria ward. They usually take a Sunday sometime and show conference sessions here, but they never show the RS or YW broadcasts and I think the women would enjoy hearing these messages.

  37. “As sisters in Zion” has always been one of my favorites because it brings such fond memories. I remember when it was first written, before it was in the hymnbook. I served in a stake calling around that time (early 1980s), and even though my calling was not RS, the stake RS leaders asked me to sing with them as they taught it to the sisters of the stake. So we sang it in the dank basement of an old baptist church in Bainbridge GA. And in the morning room of an old plantation house in Monticello, FL. And in a prefab “portable” building in Madison, FL. And in a “petticoat branch” in Perry, FL where RS had an average age of around 70; an amazing group of women had raised their children, mostly with non-member husbands, and now most of those kids were gone away. It impressed on me how different we all are, and yet how the sisterhood of RS brings us together.

    But maybe I am just a sucker for “hokey.”

  38. psychochemiker says:

    Rebecca.
    You should be grateful that they at least sang a “good” sunshine song. Read about the difference between “good” and “bad” sunshine songs here.

  39. I have fond memories of “As Sisters in Zion,” because at the tail end of my mission, as a first-and-last-time district leader, I used to have the district (in our weekly meeting) sing it in falsetto so the two sisters in our district wouldn’t feel left out.

  40. But maybe I am just a sucker for “hokey.”

    No, Naismith, you just positive associations with the song, and that is a good thing. I appreciate people sharing these stories with me.

    psychochemiker – I appreciated the post you linked to. I’m relieved to have my taste in Sunshine songs validated.

  41. Rebecca, your account of the meeting really made my day. I was very tired that day after a long day at work and then putting on a b-day party for my son. The only thought that got to me to the meeting and the hour-long drive to the church was the fact that my husband quite willingly cleaned up the party aftermath and put the kids to bed because I was going to a church meeting. (He often helps me out, lest you think he is an ogre. However, he was more cheerful about helping because I did have a church meeting!) Anyhow, I was uplifted by the whole meeting. And the last song is my favorite hymn. I love singing the verses that are from the Lord’s perspective. And the final verse moves me so deeply that I can hardly choke out the words.
    I recognize that we don’t all have the same reactions to the same talks, but it cheered me greatly that not everyone frequenting the bloggernacle had a negative experience with the meeting.

  42. Hey Rebecca, I enjoyed the meeting as well. I, like Tiffany, am glad to read a positive experience. But I’m not a bloggernacle fan so much as a Rebecca fan, so I haven’t read too many negative ones.

    Because I just moved, I’m not currently a Visiting Teacher. But, oh how I reflected on my own personal ministries to the sisters I was called to serve during Sister Beck’s talk. Had I poured my soul out in prayer in their behalf? Had I shared enough of myself? Had I behaved as Christ would have? Anyways, I felt the power and responsibility in Visiting Teaching in Sister Beck’s talk. I saw Relief Society as a vehicle for bringing souls unto Christ, including my own.

    P.S. 1. My stake does not do food right. 2. I like all of those hymns. 3. I need to start calling my optional social interactions with friends who happen to be members RS meetings from now on to get those Get Out Of The House Free Cards working for me more regularly.

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