During much of the 20th century, the Relief Society (and other auxiliaries, for that matter) held a full-scale conference of its own in conjunction with General Conference. At the April 1928 conference, the Relief Society sponsored a breakfast for ward and stake Relief Society presidents – the Church was small enough then for a communal meal to be practicable! – and presidents were invited to ask questions of the General Board. Here are some of them:
Question: Is it advisable for Relief Society women to address each other by first names in Relief Society meetings?
Answer: It is preferable that Relief Society women address each other by the last names in Relief Society meetings: e.g., “Sister Jones,” rather than “Mary” or “Susan.” It is more dignified and tends toward better order and discipline.
Question: Is it proper to give help to inactive church members and non-members when in dire circumstances, and who are even undesirable citizens in some respects?
Answer: Nobody should suffer for food and clothing in our communities. At the same time it is not the responsibility of the L.D.S. Church to take care of all of those who are in need. Non-members of the Church are not the responsibility of the L.D.S. Relief Society. The Church, however, has a certain responsibility for its own members, even though they are inactive. In helping the needy the first responsibility is that of relatives, the second is that of the county, and the third is that of churches, lodges, clubs, etc. All cases of dire need should be reported to the county officials, including cases of Latter-day Saints. The L.D.S. Relief Society should cooperate with the county in caring for their own Church needy, and should be willing to contribute relief if the county is not able to supply a sufficient amount for the family. Where non-members of the Church are in dire need, it would be a courtesy for the Relief Society to report this condition to the county, and to continue to report it until the county responds.
Question: Could a good woman who is married out of the Church be made chairman of the burial clothes committee?
Answer: Preferably not.
Question: Could such a woman be made president of a ward organization?
Answer: This question should be invariably referred to the local Priesthood in the community. A decision necessarily would have to depend upon the conditions in the community. In our wards at home, where practically all of the women in the Relief Society are married in the Church, it would be very easy to find a woman forward president who could meet every requirement. In scattered communities, and in the missions, conditions are different, and such questions should be referred to the local Priesthood.
Question: Since all the wards fell short in their annual membership dues collected for 1928,the ward presidents would like to know if it is advisable to take the names of the women from the roll if they are able to pay their dues and do not pay them, or can you advise some way of collecting dues?
Answer: With regard to taking names off the roll, we can only quote you the ruling of the Relief Society as recorded in the Record Book: “Membership in the Relief Society is perpetual. No names shall be removed except by request of the individual, or by a two-thirds vote of the members present at a meeting, and for good and sufficient reasons. It is desirable for L.D.S. women to belong to the Relief Society, even if they are unable, through illness or occupation, to attend meetings regularly.” In answer to this question we would suggest that ward presidents or counselors make it a point to visit all of those people who, through indifference or neglect, fail to pay their dues, and ask them very tactfully if they would like to continue as members of the Relief Society, and if so, if they would like to pay their own dues, or would like to have the organization pay their dues for them, calling their attention to the fact that the dues must be paid by somebody. If these women then request that their names be taken from the roll, the Relief Society is justified in complying with their request, otherwise the names should not be removed from the roll.
Question: What is the Church’s attitude on women wearing their hats in the Relief Society board and other meetings?
Answer: It is customary for the women in the Church to remove their hats in meeting. In some states there is a law against the wearing of hats in public meetings and entertainments.
Question: In the class work in Union meetings, how can the class teacher avoid having the visiting teacher take up too much time in relating experiences, etc.?
Answer: It is the prerogative of a class teacher to direct the work in the class and to limit discussions and questions. Where a class runs away with the meeting, it is really the fault of the teacher.
Question: How can the time allotted for testimony bearing be so managed that everybody who desires can have opportunity to bear testimony? In many of the ward Relief Society meetings the same members speak at every meeting, and in some instances a small percentage of such members take up all of the time which has been allotted for the whole meeting.
Answer: It is suggested that at the beginning of the testimony meeting the president explain that the time is limited and that the testimonies should be as brief as possible, also that time be allowed first to those who were not able to bear their testimonies at the last meeting. In the temple fast meetings which were held a number of years ago, and where there was a rather large attendance, President Smith used to explain at the beginning of the year that it would be desirable for every member in the congregation to bear his testimony at least once during the year, and that no person should bear testimony twice unless there was time to spare, and nobody else desired to speak.
Question: Should credit be given individuals in case of showers or when food is donated for a bazaar or for other ways of getting finance?
Answer: In case of showers which are given as a courtesy to prospective mothers in the Relief Society, and in the form of a social gathering, it would not seem necessary to give individuals credit for gifts they might make on such an occasion. If desirable the secretary might record the number of showers which were given in the ward. Where cash or merchandise is collected, however, for purely charitable purposes, individuals might be given credit for their contribution just as they are for charity contributions generally.
Question: How far should parliamentary rules be observed in Relief Society meetings? We note that very little attention is given in recognizing the president or class leaders, and sometimes two or more are talking at the same time.
Answer: It is desirable that Relief Society members should address the chair (or the president)when they desire the floor in the Relief Society meetings. Where several members are talking at the same time, the president should call them to order. It is the responsibility of the president to see that this does not occur. It would not seem necessary to formally address the class leader in a class discussion.
Question: Should the Relief Society take the responsibility of decorating the meeting house for funerals, or should the work be done by others?
Answer: It has been customary since the beginning for the Relief Society to assist at times of death and burial. The General Board feels that it is most appropriate and a real privilege for the Relief Society to give this service.
Question: Should the ward sacrament set and sacrament linens be kept clean by the Relief Society?
Answer: The sacrament sets are usually cared for and kept clean and sterile by the church custodian or janitor, and while he is usually responsible for the linens, Relief Society women are often pleased to give special attention to these linens, seeing that they are kept laundered and carefully folded when not in use.
Question: Where the ward Relief Society president feels that the regular prices for making and selling quilts is high, and she desires to make the prices lower, is it advisable for her to do so?
Answer: The prices for quilting have been standardized by a committee of the General Board in connection with the stake presidents, and it is felt that they are low enough to suit every community.