Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » She Had a Question, 1955

She Had a Question, 1955

By: Ardis E. Parshall - June 03, 2013

When members of the general auxiliary boards visited the stakes in connection with stake conference, local auxiliary officers had an opportunity to ask questions about their callings and the policies and programs of the auxiliary (much as stake members today have an opportunity to ask questions of visiting priesthood authorities at the Saturday evening meeting of stake conference). General auxiliary boards were very seldom able to visit branches in the missions, though, so when mission presidents and their wives (generally limited to missions in the U.S.) visited Salt Lake City for their annual mission presidents’ conference, the auxiliary boards met with them to make presentations and answer questions pertaining to auxiliary work in the missions. There were plenty of questions for the Relief Society in 1955.

Question: Can a Relief Society be organized where there are only two or three women?

Answer: We know of no ruling which specifies a minimum number of women required to form a Relief Society. This is left to the discretion of the mission president. I know of one instance in a foreign-speaking mission wherein an officially organized society has but two members – a mother and her daughter. They meet regularly, study and discuss the recommended courses of study, engage in the compassionate services, hold work meetings and otherwise follow the program subject to the direction and guidance of the Priesthood authorities.

We note in he annual reports increasing reference made to groups of two or three women sometimes called “Home” Relief Societies. We assume these to be groups of women too far removed by distance to participate in an organized Relief Society, who come together regularly with the approval and under the watch care of the mission president, holding regular meetings and studying the Relief Society lessons. However, these women are not officially organized by the Priesthood as a Relief Society. Such groups we understand to be sort of pre-Relief Society units – units which often form the nucleus for Relief Societies that are organized later. We see value in such groups.

Question: What are we to do about women who cannot pay their annual membership dues because they are too poor?

Answer: The general board believes that it is desirable for members to pay dues and that, generally speaking, they are willing to meet this obligation. In those few instances in which a woman is unable to pay her membership dues herself and yet values Relief Society and wishes to hold membership in it, the local Relief Society may meet this obligation for her.

Question: Are lady missionaries to be enrolled as members of Relief Society in the mission, and are they expected to pay membership dues?

Answer: Lady missionaries who are members of Relief Society or wish to become members are to hold membership in the ward in which they hold Church membership. The Relief Society in which a lady missionary holds membership is authorized to pay the membership dues for her.

Question: Is there an age limit for membership in Relief Society?

Answer: No age limits have been placed by the general board for membership in Relief Society. However, Relief Society is for the women (adult females) of the Church. The Y.W.M.I.A. is for the girls of the Church.

Question: When women move into a new branch from another branch or ward, do the members of the new branch vote to accept them as members of the Relief Society?

Answer: Members transferred from one branch or ward to another are already members of the society; therefore, the new branch would not vote to accept them as members of Relief Society. We recommend, however, that the names of transferees be presented and the sisters be formally introduced to the members of the branch and that the members be asked to show by uplifted hand that they accept these sisters as members of the branch society.

Question: Does the sale of garments pertain to Relief Society alone?

Answer: Sometime ago authorization was given by the General Authorities of the Church for stake and mission Relief Societies to enter into contract with manufacturers for the distribution of authorized pattern garments. This is an activity fully endorsed by the general board of Relief Society and one we would be pleased to see extended to all stake and mission Relief Societies.

Question: May a district or branch keep temple clothing on hand for burial of persons who have been endowed?

Answer: This duty has been assigned to the mission; however, where districts having endowed members are far removed from mission headquarters, making it difficult to send clothing in time for burial, it may be advisable to have two medium-priced suits, one for a man and one for a woman, on hand in the district. This decision would rest with the mission president who would be responsible for seeing that the person entrusted with the care of the clothing was a worthy, endowed Latter-day Saint who would safeguard its sacred character. On account of the sacred character of the temple clothing, it is imperative that every safeguard be drawn around it with the view to preventing it from being loosely handled or unnecessarily exposed.

Question: A branch Relief Society wants a sewing machine. Since this branch is financially very poor, what help could they obtain in purchasing it?

Answer: We are advised that the central purchasing department of the Church has made arrangements with the Singer Sewing Machine Company whereby Relief Societies may purchase sewing machines from this company at a discount. If you have any question with regard to this or if you wish some other make of sewing machine, we suggest you write to Mr. Gordon B. Affleck, Central Purchasing Department, 47 East South Temple Street, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Question: Does the general board approve of visiting teaching being done at night?

Answer: According to the Relief Society Handbook, page 55: “It is recommended that all visits be made as soon as possible after the visiting teacher meeting on the first Tuesday of the month. Visits to the home should be friendly, short and timed as opportunely as possible for the women in the home. Relief Society meeting day, Tuesday, is not a good day for visiting as it may interfere with the sisters attending meeting. In no case should the regular monthly visit be made on Sunday, and evening visits are discouraged. Relief Society visiting teachers should not make their visits in company with the ward teachers (Priesthood).”

Question: Would you suggest some welfare program that would fit into the work in the mission?

Answer: Relief Society is a service organization the same as it is in the stakes. Working under the direction of the Priesthood, Relief Society may very properly be called upon to render compassionate services, to sew and process food for welfare distribution, to visit families in distress and make recommendations to the branch president for care of the families, train mothers in home management and generally teach practices of thrift and industry to Relief Society members.

Question: When an endowed member of the Church dies and his family cannot afford temple clothing for burial, how may this be handled?

Answer: If a worthy Latter-day Saint passes away and the cost of necessary clothing cannot be met by the family of the deceased, the presiding Priesthood authority would see that the clothing is made available, the same as he would see to meeting any other welfare need.

Question: Many Relief Societies in missions would like to study the literature of their own countries. May they?

Answer: Where any deviation is made from the prescribed courses of study in missions ,the matter must be referred to the First Presidency. The courses of study planned for missions are all theological in nature.

Question: Many Indian women would like to study the literature lessons but they are too difficult as written in the Magazine. What could be done to simplify them?

Answer: If you procured a high school textbook on literature containing the authors and their works which are being studied in Relief Society, perhaps the lessons could be adapted from them.

Question: Where Latter-day Saint members are not capable of handling the lessons but members of Relief Society who do not belong to the Church are capable, could we use these nonmembers as class leaders?

Question: It is ideal to have all lessons taught by capable members of the Church. The theology lessons and visiting teacher messages must be taught by Church members. With the approval of the Priesthood, however, the social science and literature classes may be taught by nonmembers where it is impossible to find capable class leaders who are members. A caution might be given in regard to these two classes – there might be a tendency to pull down the Constitution with a nonmember class leader, whereas the Latter-day Saint class leader would accept the fact that the Constitution is divinely inspired, and in regard to the literature lessons, a Latter-day Saint class leader would be more apt to emphasize Latter-day Saint viewpoints and the literature which would appeal especially to Latter-day Saints than a nonmember would.



  1. Interesting, especially the prohibition of Sunday visiting teaching and discouragement on evening visiting teaching. In my ten years in Relief Society those have generally been the only times when everyone’s schedules align!

    Comment by HokieKate — June 3, 2013 @ 7:35 am

  2. That highlights changes in home and social conditions over the past two generations,doesn’t it?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 3, 2013 @ 7:56 am

  3. Ardis, In the answers, do we know who “I” is?

    Comment by Gary Bergera — June 3, 2013 @ 9:37 am

  4. I may be able to figure that out, Gary. I’ll get back to you.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 3, 2013 @ 9:59 am

  5. Wow. So many elements of the ladies’ clubs movement, little procedural and language details that date these directions to the end of the era.

    Comment by Amy T — June 3, 2013 @ 10:58 am

  6. A lot of changes in not that many years. Probably half or more of these questions would not even be asked today.

    Also, the bit on the Constitution is interesting. I wonder what these leaders envisioned would be considered as “pulling down the Constitution?”

    Comment by kevinf — June 3, 2013 @ 12:41 pm

  7. So interesting. The last question about ladies who are members of relief society but not of the LDS church points to an era of autonomy that is far removed from anything in my experience.

    Threadjack alert! My first experience with temple clothes was as a young teenager at my grandfather’s open casket viewing/funeral. It’s always struck me as interesting that there’s so much privacy surrounding them, yet they’re openly displayed for non-members to see at funerals. Does anyone know the origin of this custom, or the purpose it’s supposed to serve? As this post makes obvious, for the institutional church, it’s a big deal, but I don’t know that it’s ever been explained anywhere.

    Comment by The Other Clark — June 3, 2013 @ 3:36 pm

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