Graduating from high school is a significant rite of passage for our youth and can be a time of uncertainty and worry as they look ahead to the next phase of their lives. For Latter-day Saint girls, progressing from the Young Women program into Relief Society often seems intimidating and, at times, even scary. Young women who will continue to attend a regular family ward, rather than a young single adult ward, might find themselves asking, “What do I have in common with these older women? Is there a place for me in Relief Society?”
The answer is a resounding “Yes! There is a place for you! And you have more in common than you might think. Relief Society needs you, and you are an important member of this organization of the Church.”
Parents, Young Women leaders and Relief Society leaders all play a large role in helping a young woman feel excited and joyful about moving ahead into the organization, which will be a large part of the rest of her life.
There are many ways for leaders and parents to help the young women feel eager and enthusiastic about joining Relief Society. It can begin long before a young woman reaches that age. Every mother’s life and example should be a living testimony of the blessings of Relief Society. Fulfilling Relief Society assignments with a happy heart and involving her children, where possible, when she serves others will teach them one of the main purposes of Relief Society without speaking a word. Parents and Young Women leaders should share the amazing story of the organization of the Relief Society with their youth. The organization of Relief Society came about through the vision of inspired strong women, under the direction of a prophet of God, and the early stories of these events are amazing.
Young Women leaders often have a tremendous influence in the lives of the girls in their classes. Their attitudes about being an active member of Relief Society can have a big influence on how the girls in their classes feel about it. They can share personal experiences that show how they have been blessed or have been able to be a blessing in the lives of others through participation in Relief Society. Young Women leaders should encourage and assist the graduating seniors in their classes to make the progression joyfully into Relief Society when the time comes rather than treating it like a death knell.
Relief Society leaders and class members should be friendly and welcome all new sisters with open arms and hearts as they enter Relief Society for the first time. As Sister Linda K. Burton recently wrote, “How I hope that Relief Society is a safe place, a haven and a refuge from the storms of life for every Relief Society sister, no matter her age, marital status, culture or number of years of activity or membership in the Church” (Church News, July 11, 2014).
Sisters, as these young women come into Relief Society, make sure they have a friend to sit with, an arm around their shoulders and an opportunity to participate in the meetings. These young women bring with them talents, gifts and an eagerness to share with others. They can add an enthusiastic spark to Relief Society meetings when given the opportunity. Not only can the adult members of the class have a powerful influence on these younger sisters, but the younger sisters can be positive and loving examples to the older sisters. Those who teach Relief Society lessons can make sure they include the concerns and situations of all age groups as they are teaching. Pairing young sisters with older sisters in class discussions, visiting teaching and in other service opportunities can also be a blessing and help eliminate age barriers.
To those graduating seniors who have already begun attending Relief Society or who are about to begin, embrace this next big step in your lives with joy. As you look around the Relief Society room full of sisters of all ages, ask yourself the question, “What can I learn from these remarkable women?” As you open your mind and your heart, you will be surprised at the friendships you will form with sisters who are older than you but who have much to share in the way of experience and wisdom.
In an article from the Ensign magazine, Sister Carole L. Clark shared an activity in one Relief Society meeting where an 18-year-old and an 81-year-old were asked to discuss their first dates. “Both were pleasantly surprised to learn the similarities between two experiences that were decades apart” (“Knit Together in Love,” Ensign, Oct. 1993).
I promise you that as you make the effort to get to know the sisters in your ward, they will bless your life, and you will be a blessing to them. Jump in with both feet, and let it be known that you are ready to be an active member of one of the oldest and largest women’s organizations in the world. You are an essential part of the work of salvation in the latter days and as a covenant-keeping daughter of your Heavenly Father. You are ready to do your part in building the kingdom of God on the earth. You will be a blessing to many people as you move forward in this next exciting stage of your life. Prepare yourself to experience something wonderful.