Latter-day Saint Life

A glimpse at Relief Society behind the Iron Curtain

A Glimpse at Relief Society Behind the Iron Curtain

Some years ago Sister Packer and I were in Czechoslovakia, then behind the Iron Curtain. It was not easy to obtain visas, and we used great care so as not to jeopardize the safety and well-being of our members, who for generations had struggled to keep their faith alive under conditions of unspeakable oppression.

The most memorable meeting was held in an upper room. The blinds were drawn. Even at night, those attending came at different times, one from one direction and one from another, so as to not call attention to themselves.

There were in attendance twelve sisters. We sang the hymns of Zion from songbooks—words without music—printed more than fifty years before. The lesson was reverently given from the pages of a handmade manual. The few pages of Church literature we could get to them were typed at night, twelve carbon copies at a time, so as to share a few precious pages as widely as possible among the members.

I told those sisters that they belonged to the largest and by all measure the greatest women’s  organization on earth. I quoted the Prophet Joseph Smith when he and the Brethren organized the Relief Society: “I now turn the key in [behalf of all women].”

This society is organized “according to your natures. . . . You are now placed in a situation in which you can act according to those sympathies [within you]. . . .

“If you live up to [these] privileges, the angels cannot be restrained from being your associates. . .

“If this Society listen[s] to the counsel of the Almighty, through the heads of the Church, they shall have power to command queens in their midst” (History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 vols. [1932–1951], 4:607, 605).

The Spirit was there. The lovely sister who had conducted with gentility and reverence wept openly.

I told them that upon our return I was assigned to speak at a Relief Society conference; could I deliver a message from them? Several of them made notes; each expression, every one, was in the spirit of giving—not of asking for anything. I shall never forget what one sister wrote: “A small circle of sisters send their own hearts and thoughts to all the sisters and begs the Lord to help us go forward.”

Those words, circle of sisters, inspired me. I could see them standing in a circle that reached beyond that room and circled the world. I caught the same vision the apostles and prophets before us have had. The Relief Society is more than a circle now; it is more like a fabric of lace spread across the continents.

Too many sisters, however, think that Relief Society is merely a class to attend. The same sense of belonging to the Relief Society rather than just attending a class must be fostered in the heart of every woman. Sisters, you must graduate from thinking that you only attend Relief Society to feeling that you belong to it!

However much priesthood power and authority the men may possess—however much wisdom and experience they may accumulate—the safety of the family, the integrity of the doctrine, the ordinances, the covenants, indeed the future of the Church, rests equally upon the women. The defenses of the home and family are greatly reinforced when the wife and mother and daughters belong to Relief Society.

Editor's Note: This story is found in President Boyd K. Packer's book, A Refuge from the Storm: The Priesthood, the Family, the ChurchThis excerpt was originally published by LDS Living in September 2014.

It is no surprise to anyone familiar with prophecy that the latter days are stormy ones. "We live in a very dangerous world that threatens those things that are most spiritual," writes President Boyd K. Packer. "The adversary is about. His objective is to cause injury."

But there is a place of strength and peace, a true refuge from the storm. In this powerful book, President Packer discusses the priesthood, the family, and the Church, three important forces that, working together, create a haven from the world. 

This apostolic counsel will help you build an unshakable foundation for eternity by strengthening your understanding of core doctrine regarding the priesthood, the family, and the Church.

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