Relief Society celebrates 180th anniversary

Mar 17, 2022, 10:05 PM | Updated: Jun 19, 2022, 8:56 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – Thursday marks the 180th anniversary of the Relief Society – the women’s organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

KSL’s Carole Mikita talked with President Jean Bingham.

The Relief Society, called by Latter-day Saints the oldest and largest women’s organization in the world with more than 7-million members, was founded on March 17, 1842 in Nauvoo, Illinois, under the direction of Church prophet Joseph Smith. His wife, Emma, was the first president. 

Relief Society General President Jean Bingham called it a restoration and points to the women who were the first disciples of Jesus Christ as examples. 

“In the Savior’s time, the women were focused on trying to relieve suffering,” he said. 

When asked why it is important to mark this moment in the history of this women’s organization, Bingham said, “It’s significant because we have the exact same purpose today that they did 180 years ago. We are a society of women that are looking to relieve, to bring relief to those who are suffering. And there’s so many ways to do that. I think about some of the efforts that we’re focusing on now — literacy, for instance. There’s so many women around the world that need that skill. There are so many challenges with nutrition. How can we help children that have malnutrition and their mothers who are dealing with that?” 

The Relief Society is also helping refugees from many nations.  

“When you think about coming to a new country, you don’t know that, even how to buy groceries. How do you get around the city? What’s public transportation? It’s daunting, especially if you don’t understand the language yet,” Sister Bingham said about helping a family from Afghanistan some years ago. “And to get them to the point where they could become citizens of the United States was such a thrill for them. And it was a thrill for me to be able to have an impact and to see these newcomers be assimilated into the community.”  

They are still friends, she said, adding that they see each other every month. 

To each group of women she interacts with around the world, Bingham says she reminds them to be disciples of Jesus Christ.

“The motto of the Relief Society is ‘Charity Never Faileth.’ In other words, in today’s vernacular, charity is always the answer. I cannot tell you how joyful it has been to meet sisters in the Philippines, in Ghana, in Chile, many places around the world. We have the same needs and the same desires to help one another. And that’s the beauty of Relief Society.” 

Sister Bingham says she hopes that all Latter-day Saint women, young women, and girls who turn 12 in 2022, will participate in a special women’s session of General Conference, which will take place Saturday, April 2 at 6 p.m. 

You can watch that session on KSL TV.

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Relief Society celebrates 180th anniversary