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5 Big Changes in Relief Society During Linda K. Burton's Presidency

Sister Linda K. Burton became the 16th Relief Society General President on March 31, 2012. Over the past five years, Sister Burton and her counselors—Sister Carole M. Stephens, first counselor, and Sister Linda S. Reeves, second counselor—have served during many significant changes in the Relief Society. Here are just a few significant moments:

1. When the First Presidency announced General Women's Meeting.

In November 2013, the First Presidency announced that the annual general meetings for Young Women and Relief Society would be combined into a General Women's Meeting held the weekend before general conference. In this meeting, Primary girls 8 years old and up along with young women and Relief Society sisters could participate and attend. The general Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary presidencies would conduct. 

“As the women of the Church gather together—sisters, mothers, and daughters—they, their families, and the Church will be strengthened and blessed,” the First Presidency letter states.

2. When the General Women's Meeting became an official session of general conference.

In October 2014, the General Women's Meeting was referred to as the General Women's Session of general conference, making it the first of six sessions each general conference. 

"My beloved sisters, my dear friends and blessed disciples of Jesus Christ, I am honored to have this opportunity to be with you as we open another general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In the coming week the First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles will meet with all the General Authorities and general auxiliary leaders, and the remaining sessions of our worldwide general conference will follow on the coming Saturday and Sunday," President Uchtdorf said during the second General Women's Session.

3. When women Church leaders joined key, leading Church councils.

In August 2015, the Church announced that women leaders would join three major committees within the Church, added their voices and perspectives to Church leadership. Sister Linda K. Burton joined the Priesthood and Family Executive Council, formerly the Priesthood Executive Council. Sister Bonnie L Oscarson, the general Young Women's president, joined the Missionary Executive Council. And Sister Rosemary Wixom, the general Primary president, joined the Temple and Family History Executive Council. 

"It is with a thankful heart that I have been appointed to serve on the Priesthood and Family Executive Council. Good men and women of the Church throughout history have worked together to build a strong foundation for Christ’s restored Gospel to flourish and give hope to a world that is so often without light. It is now more important than ever that we stand together and follow Heavenly Father’s plan to bring his children home," Sister Burton posted to Facebook.

"What a great time to be a woman in the Church where our voices are needed and valued more than ever," Sister Oscarson wrote on Facebook following this announcement.

4. When the Relief Society released it's "I Was a Stranger" initiative.

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"It is our hope that you will prayerfully determine what you can do—according to your own time and circumstances—to serve the refugees living in your neighborhoods and communities," Linda K. Burton, Relief Society General President, challenged the women of the Church during the first session of general conference in April 2016. "As we consider the pressing calls of those who need our help, let's ask ourselves, 'What if their story were my story?'"

The following Monday, the First Presidency released a letter officially announcing the new Relief Society initiative "I Was a Stranger" as well as the launch of a new website to help members better recognize the difficulties refugees face and learn how to serve.

5. When the Relief Society theme got an update.

On March 9, 2017, Sister Linda K. Burton, Relief Society General President, posted to Facebook, announcing that she and her presidency recently updated the Relief Society purpose, adding new wording to reflect several messages that are important for sisters to understand.

The purpose of Relief Society, which previously said, "to increase faith and personal righteousness, strengthen families and homes, and seek out and help those in need" now reads, "to increase faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and His Atonement; strengthen individuals, families, and homes through ordinances and covenants; and work in unity to help those in need."

About this inspired change, Sister Burton said: "When we were newly called as the Relief Society General Presidency, we sought the Lord earnestly to know what essential things He would have us focus on to continue moving His work forward. We were impressed that He would first have us help His beloved daughters understand the doctrine of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, that their faith and righteousness might increase. Second, we considered the critical need to strengthen families and homes and felt that the Lord would have us encourage His beloved daughters to cheerfully cleave to their covenants. When covenants are kept, families are strengthened. Finally, we felt He would have us work in unity with the other auxiliaries and with our priesthood leaders, striving to seek out and help those in need to progress along the path. Focusing on these things helps prepare us for the blessings of eternal life."

BONUS

While these were not changes in the Relief Society, they were major events that affected Relief Society sisters during Sister Burton's service.

The Church's Press released two groundbreaking books about women's history in the Church.

At the beginning of the year in 2016, the Church released a historic and unprecedented new project: The First Fifty Years of Relief Society, a compilation of Church documents that detailed the formation of the largest women's organization in the world: the Relief Society. Many of these documents were written by women leaders in the Church, and many had never been published before.

At the beginning of this year, the Church released another groundbreaking book. Church historians Jennifer Reeder and Kate Holbrook compiled more than 185 years of discourses from LDS women in At the Pulpit. Comprising more than 50 discourses from LDS women, the book spans from the Church's founding to present and includes speeches from LDS women around the world.

The Church celebrated the Relief Society's 175th anniversary.

Founded in 1842 in Nauvoo, Illinois, the Relief Society is the largest women's organization in the world, with over six million members in over 170 countries and territories. This year, the Relief Society celebrated its 175th anniversary. 

On March 17, Sister Burton posted to Facebook: 

Today we celebrate the 175th anniversary of the organization of Relief Society. I love and cherish the opportunity to be a member of this organization! We are all beloved daughters of a loving Father in Heaven. We are dedicated disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ who are a part of a great worldwide sisterhood—over 7 million members in 185 different countries, including these beautiful sisters I met in Hyderabad, India, just a couple of weeks ago.
There are many things to celebrate about Relief Society! We celebrate the faithful sisters who have gone before us. We celebrate our purpose: helping sisters prepare for the blessings of eternal life! We celebrate sisters throughout the world who strive to be faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. We celebrate visiting teachers that faithfully love, watch over, and strengthen each other. We celebrate our part in the work of salvation. We celebrate our sisterhood.
Lead image from Mormon Newsroom