This week our Relief Society lesson was combined with the Young Women in the ward. On the table stood three large, framed photographs of our three recently graduated Laurels. Next to those were three identical stacks of books, each tied with a ribbon. On the side table were many platters of sliced sweet breads ready to be served. Ladies, welcome to the awesomeness that is Relief Society.
First, the bread was passed around. Someone even took some platters to the Primary sisters. Way to rock it ladies.
The lesson started with a message from one of the Relief Society counselors (the president was out of town) about the mission and purpose of Relief Society. It was short, heartfelt, and beautifully expressed. She then presented these transitioning young women with the stacks of books. Each received an Ensign (Goodbye, New Era!), a Gospel Principles manual, and a nice leather journal.
Next up was the Young Women President who shared a message from a talk (I missed the details on who/when) detailing a general church leader’s transition from young womanhood to womanhood and the part her mother and friend’s mothers played in that time in her life. It was a great message and I so appreciated her focus on what sisters of all ages may have to offer these young women and what these girls can offer Relief Society. Bravo, Young Women President, on not becoming an emotional and somewhat possessive wreck lamenting “losing” your girls. Instead, it was a send-off and a celebration. Here you go little chicks, spread your wings.
We then enjoyed a lovely video compiled by a sister in the ward featuring photos of each girl through the years. Lovely, Christ-centered music played in the background and there were powerful snippets of talks from President Hinckley and Elder Eyring speaking about the wonderful time ahead of these girls and offering encouragement to make the most of this time of life. It was inspiring and touching. Such a good way to make these girls feel special in a Young Women sort of way, and a great way to help the rest of us get to know them a little more.
Then the bishop spoke. I’m a little biased, but I think our bishop rocks. He’s humorous and self-deprecating and makes it very easy to want to listen to and follow his counsel. Great for adults, absolutely indispensable for youth. He shared his thoughts on moving forward and attaining goals, both temporal and spiritual. He encouraged education. He spoke of the wonderful blessing of being able to go anywhere in the world and find sisterhood. He told stories of inspiration and service he’d witnessed in our Relief Society and encouraged the girls to add to their list of worthy goals the goal to become an instrument of service in the Lord’s hands and expressed his testimony of the value of Relief Society in achieving that goal. It was beautiful.
I walked away from that lesson with a renewed love of Relief Society and an excitement for what lies ahead for these girls. But better than that, I walked away with a real desire to reach out to these new sisters, to include them, to nurture them along in the sisterhood of Relief Society. I want to do my part to make the transition as seamless as possible for them. From the feeling in the room afterward, I don’t think I was the only one. I wondered if that wasn’t really the purpose. I mean, sure, those presenting the lesson wanted these girls to be excited about (or, at least, less fearful of, this change), but maybe, just maybe, and just as importantly, they wanted us as Relief Society sisters to be excited about these young sisters. To be mindful of them, to take them under our collective wing and be sure they aren’t lost during this uncertain time. If it was just about making the girls feel special the presidency could have paid them individual visits. Instead, they provided an opportunity for the rest of us to celebrate these girls and be excited about them. It was wonderfully done. And I loved that all of the young women were included. I think if I were a fourteen year old sitting there I would be excited about my time to be noticed and celebrated as a new adult in the church. Maybe it gave them something to look forward to instead of dread.
I don’t recall my own transition from Young Women to Relief Society, but I can be pretty sure it didn’t include any of the fanfare listed above and I’ve not seen it done this beautifully in the interim. I’m wondering what others’ experiences have been and what they’ve seen that’s been useful in helping young women make this transition. What would you like to see? How can we help transitioning sisters feel like a real and integral part of Relief Society?
On the flip side: No reports of anything like this down the hall in Elders Quorum. What are you seeing done for the young men?